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At the outset of the offseason, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes published his annual list of the top 50 free agents with predictions. So far 43 of those 50 players have signed (or agreed to sign) new contracts, though Mike Napoli's deal with the Red Sox is on hold due to a hip problem. Here's the latest on the seven remaining unsigned players.
- Michael Bourn (#3) – The 29-year-old center fielder has drawn recent interest from the Rangers, but not much else. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently looked at some potential suitors for Bourn, who will require draft pick compensation to sign.
- Kyle Lohse (#10) – Despite being the best starter left on the market, the 34-year-old Lohse hasn't drawn much public interest. The Red Sox and Angels had interest during the Winter Meetings, though they've since moved on. The Rangers have not discussed him. Like Bourn, Lohse is attached to draft pick compensation.
- Adam LaRoche (#15) – The Nationals and LaRoche were inching towards a new deal as of last week. The Orioles are not in the mix. The 33-year-old is also attached to draft pick compensation.
- Rafael Soriano (#17) – Teams don't love the idea of surrendering a draft pick for a reliever, so interest in the 33-year-old remains tepid. The Dodgers and Red Sox are not interested, and the Tigers downplay their chances of signing him.
- Shaun Marcum (#19) – There's a healthy market for the 31-year-old right-hander, with the Mets, Twins, Padres, and Cubs showing interest. The Brewers have not discussed a possible reunion, however.
- Joe Saunders (#25) – The Orioles, Mariners, Padres, and Mets have all talked to the 31-year-old Saunders recently. The Twins made an offer to the left-hander this offseason as well.
- Jose Valverde (#44) – Valverde, 34, said he was unsure if he would pitch in 2013 back in October. The Tigers will not bring him back and there has otherwise been zero interest this winter.
It's the middle of the night, but news rarely stops coming in over the course of baseball's Winter Meetings. Here are some links from around the baseball world for those who are still awake…
- One of the reasons that Sean Burnett's two-year, $8MM deal with the Angels was so affordable was because he had surgery to remove a bone spur this offseason, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times. For comparison, Jeremy Affeldt signed for three years and $18MM.
- Danny Knobler of CBS Sports writes that the Phillies have a list of five center field targets that includes Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, Dexter Fowler, Curtis Granderson and Ben Revere. This is the first they've been linked to Revere, who Knobler says the Twins will move for young pitching despite already having traded Denard Span.
- Scott Boras told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he's spoken to Giants team president Larry Baer about established closers like Rafael Soriano and Jose Valverde (Twitter link). There doesn't seem to be a match there in my opinion, given Sergio Romo's excellence and reports that the Giants are at their payroll threshold.
- The Rays have hired former Astros scouting director Bobby Heck as as special assignment scout, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
It's been a busy morning for the Tigers, who announced today that they're bringing back Jhonny Peralta, Octavio Dotel and manager Jim Leyland. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski recently addressed the media, discussing the 2012 team and the Tigers' offseason plans. George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press has the highlights from the briefing (all links go to Twitter):
- The Tigers won't bring back Delmon Young, since they expect Victor Martinez to DH in 2013. Jose Valverde won't return either, according to Dombrowski.
- The Tigers will tender Brennan Boesch a contract, but they're in the process of removing Don Kelly from the 40-man roster. Dombrowski wasn't prepared to discuss the future of non-tender candidate Ryan Raburn.
- The Tigers want to re-sign free agent right-hander Anibal Sanchez, Dombrowski said.
- Free agent catcher Gerald Laird could return, but that's not a sure thing.
- Hard throwing relief prospect Bruce Rondon draws lots of trade interest, according to Dombrowski. "You would not believe the number of clubs that call me about Rondon," the GM said.
- Earlier today John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press took a position by position look at the upcoming offseason for the Tigers.
The Tigers’ season ended in disappointment, but that shouldn’t overshadow a tremendous season in Detroit. This team had its share of memorable moments in 2012, even if the Giants captured the championship. Here are some Tigers-related links…
- Anibal Sanchez said he's open to signing anywhere as a free agent this coming offseason, Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press reports. GM Dave Dombrowski has said re-signing the right-hander is a priority for the Tigers this winter.
- Jose Valverde said he's not yet sure where he'll be pitching next year, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports. The free agent reliever said he'd like to re-sign in Detroit if possible. "I think everybody wants to play for the Tigers. Great teammates, great owner."
- There are indications that Tigers manager Jim Leyland will return for at least one more season, Chris Iott of MLive.com reports. "We're going to talk about some things in a day or so and I'm sure they'll have some type of an announcement," Leyland said, adding that the Tigers will be the final team he manages. Dombrowski has said Leyland would be welcome as the team's manager in 2013.
- However, Leyland spoke of his Tigers career as though it were already in the past, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com writes.
The Tigers, now just two wins away from advancing to the World Series, have the day off before hosting the Yankees in Detroit tomorrow night. Here are some links from the only division in baseball that did not feature a 90-win team in 2012…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski built Detroit's starting rotation for the postseason and it's working, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com writes. "These four guys have the capability of shutting down anyone when they're throwing good," Dombrowski said of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez.
- John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press examines the dynamic between Jose Valverde, the closer who can no longer be relied upon, and Jim Leyland, the manager who must juggle egos and matchups as a result of Valverde's poor performances. In my opinion Valverde's free agent stock has diminished considerably this past month. If MLB executives share this view, agent Scott Boras could have difficulty finding serious interest in his new client.
- Twins senior director of minor league operations Jim Rantz announced that he will retire at the end of the year, the team announced. Rantz, 75, has been a member of the Twins' organization since its inception in 1961.
The Tigers overtook the White Sox in the standings yesterday and now have a one-game lead in the AL Central with seven games to play. Here’s the latest from Detroit, where the Tigers will host the Royals this afternoon…
- Agent Scott Boras, who now represents Jose Valverde, told John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press that his client can continue closing for many years to come. "Closers are good in their mid-30s, not in their mid-20s," Boras said. The Tigers don’t have an obvious internal alternative to the 34-year-old Valverde, who’s eligible for free agency this offseason.
- Lowe and Free Press writer George Sipple note that the Tigers might not have room for Brennan Boesch on next year’s team. The 27-year-old will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason but he's a non-tender candidate.
- The Tigers have a $6MM club option for Jhonny Peralta in 2013 and they probably won’t find anyone steadier for that price, Lowe and Sipple write. I expect the Tigers to exercise the option.
- It’s not easy to see where Delmon Young would fit on next year’s Tigers team, the Free Press writers note. Victor Martinez is expected to return in 2013, which means the Tigers aren’t a logical landing spot for Young, who hits free agency this winter.
- Anibal Sanchez could be a fit in Detroit next year, but the Tigers would have to re-sign him as a free agent.
Jose Valverde said he has hired Scott Boras to represent him this offseason, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press reports. The 34-year-old right-hander will hit free agency in a matter of weeks when his multiyear contract with the Tigers expires.
Valverde downplayed the significance of the switch, saying "people change agents all the time." Last August Valverde switched agencies, leaving Praver/Shapiro for Proformance. The Tigers exercised their 2012 option months later, delaying Valverde’s free agency by a year.
In 65 innings this year, Valverde has a 4.02 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He has 31 saves and an average fastball velocity of 93.3 mph. Be sure to check out MLBTR's Agency Database for information about each MLB player's representatives.
The Tigers announced that they have exercised their 2012 club option for Jose Valverde. The 33-year-old will earn $9MM next year instead of becoming a free agent (his contract did not include a buyout).
Valverde posted a 2.24 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and a 42.9% ground ball rate in 72 1/3 innings in 2011. He converted all 49 of his save opportunities and led the American League in saves and appearances. His average fastball checked in at 93.9 mph, down from 95.2 mph in 2010. Valverde, who signed a two-year, $14MM contract with Detroit after the 2009 season, projected as a Type A free agent this offseason.
Dan Mennella examined the fantasy baseball implications of the move at CloserNews.com, your source for fantasy updates on MLB relievers.
Links for Thursday afternoon, before what may be the final baseball game of the 2011 season…
- The Tigers are expected to pick up Jose Valverde’s $9MM option for 2012 soon, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (Twitter link).
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears from Alan Nero, the agent for Chien-Ming Wang, that a new deal between the right-hander and the Nationals is likely. The Nationals are Wang's first choice and negotiations are "routine," according to Nero. Washington GM Mike Rizzo confirmed yesterday that the sides are working toward a new contract.
- Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush will stay on under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter).
- Melissa Segura of SI.com hears that baseball’s upcoming collective bargaining agreement could include a cap in the $2-2.5MM range for international signings (Twitter link). It’s not clear whether the cap would apply to all countries or just the Dominican Republic.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things — innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on — it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.