Jose Valverde Rumors

Stark On Madson, Astros, Beane, Nationals

MLB is building momentum toward two 15-team leagues with three five-team divisions per league, according to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. It doesn't appear that the players’ association will agree to expand the postseason unless owners agree to more balanced schedules and divisions, Stark reports. Here are the rest of his rumors…

  • It appears that the Tigers and Rays will pick up their options for Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, respectively, this offseason.
  • Two MLB executives predicted to Stark that Ryan Madson will sign a deal like the one Valverde obtained two winters ago: $14MM over two years plus an option.
  • Multiple teams have expressed concerns about Francisco Rodriguez’s off-field “baggage,” though K-Rod stands out as one of the best free agent relievers of the winter.
  • Stark hears that MLB has been slow to approve incoming Astros owner Jim Crane in order to apply leverage on Crane so that he’ll agree to move the Astros to the American League. Earlier today, Bob Nightengale of USA Today had a report that conflicts with Stark’s article.
  • Friends of Billy Beane say the A’s GM has legitimate interest in the Cubs GM job, though he has an ownership stake and lots of freedom in Oakland.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo will interview managerial candidates this offseason before deciding whether Davey Johnson will return as manager in 2012.
  • First base doesn’t appear to be a priority for Washington, but Rizzo says "you never want to say never” when it comes to possible offseason moves.

Heyman On Cubs, Valverde, Bell, Hernandez

Jon Heyman of SI.com runs through the Cubs’ options for their open GM position and concludes that White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn is “perhaps the most logical choice” for chairman Tom Ricketts. Click here for more rumblings about the Cubs and keep reading for Heyman’s other notes from around MLB… 


Jose Valverde Hires Proformance

Jose Valverde has switched agencies and is now a Proformance client, MLBTR has learned. The closer, who could find himself on the open market this offseason, had previously been a Praver/Shapiro client. 

Valverde has a 2.92 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 4.7 BB/9 and a league-leading 32 saves in 49 1/3 innings this year. The Tigers can exercise a $9MM option for the 33-year-old's services in 2012. Alternatively, they could decline the option and offer arbitration to the projected Type A free agent with the intention of obtaining extra picks in the 2012 draft.

Be sure to check out MLBTR's Agency Database for information about each MLB player's representatives.



Jose Valverde’s 2012 Option

Just about anything could happen between Memorial Day and the beginning of November, when the Tigers have to decide whether to exercise their $9MM option for Jose Valverde. Injuries, trades and the performance of other Detroit relievers could affect the Tigers’ willingness to commit to another year of Valverde, so consider this an early and imprecise look at the closer’s option. 

Valverde

What’s unlikely to change for the 33-year-old is his profile as a hard-throwing right-hander who strikes lots of people out, allows more than his share of walks and works in and out of jams for saves. Since becoming Arizona’s full-time closer in 2007, that’s essentially what Valverde has offered and it doesn’t figure to change in the next five months.

So far in 2011, Valverde has a 3.52 ERA (3.53 xFIP) with 12 saves, 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.  His fastball has averaged 94 mph and he has a 41.3 % ground ball rate through 23 frames.

Those are respectable numbers, but they’re not enough to command $30MM-plus on the open market, as Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera did last offseason. Valverde compares better with the likes of Kevin Gregg, Bobby Jenks and J.J. Putz, who signed two-year deals in the $10-12MM range last year.

Those contracts are worth $5-6MM per season, which makes $9MM seem like a lot for one year of Valverde (unlike most club options this one has no buyout). Plus, there will be even more selection than usual for teams seeking relief this winter, because there’s a deep class of free agent relievers.

Yet it seems unlikely that the Tigers will shy away from Valverde’s option if they believe he’s the best option for them. GM Dave Dombrowski, who’s in a contract year of his own, has shown that he’s willing to move quickly to secure the players he wants, even if it means spending aggressively. 

Last offseason, for example, he signed Joaquin Benoit in mid-November instead of waiting for bargains. That particular deal hasn’t worked out to this point, but it shows that Dombrowski tends to pursue the players he wants, instead of waiting the market out for bargains (Dombrowski also locked Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Inge and Victor Martinez by Thanksgiving). 

There’s no question that $9MM is on the steep side for one season of relief pitching. Plus, the Tigers could potentially obtain draft picks by turning down the option, offering arbitration and allowing Valverde to sign elsewhere. For a team that has given up its share of high draft picks in recent years, collecting an extra pick or two would likely have appeal. 

As a result, the Tigers don’t figure to keep Valverde around for $9MM unless they’re convinced in his ability to perform at an elite level in 2012. But if the Tigers decide he’s the person they want in high-leverage situations next year, it's hard to imagine that an inflated salary would prevent them from keeping their closer for another season.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


Olney On The Bullpen Market

Teams like the Yankees and White Sox are already encountering bullpen problems and it won’t be long before other clubs are looking for relief help as well. The Yankees aren’t optimistic about the current relief market, while Chicago’s search for an effective closer has manager Ozzie Guillen dreaming of Bobby Thigpen. As one GM points out to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, lots of teams will be looking for bullpen help this summer and lots of effective pitchers should eventually become available.

Unless Heath Bell takes a massive discount to stay in San Diego, Olney suggests the Padres will deal him. The White Sox should be considered the early favorites to land Bell, Olney says.

Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Rodriguez and the Blue Jays and Rays relievers could also become available this summer. Jose Valverde will probably stay in Detroit unless the Tigers fall far out of the race, but Michael Wuertz (now on the disabled list) could be on the block even if Oakland contends.


Odds & Ends: Mejia, O’s, McGuire, Rangers, Valverde

Links for Sunday….


Tigers Sign Jose Valverde To Two-Year Contract

The Tigers officially signed Jose Valverde to a two-year contract worth $14MM today. The deal also includes a club option for 2012 worth $9MM.

The 30-year-old Valverde has enjoyed a tremendous run as the closer for the Diamondbacks and Astros over the last three years. In 190.1 innings during that time, he posted a 2.84 ERA with a 10.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. Valverde battled leg injuries in 2009, though he held opponents to a .202/.286/.294 batting line after coming off the disabled list in June.

The Tigers were left with a gaping hole in the back of their bullpen this offseason after losing setup man Brandon Lyon and closer Fernando Rodney to the Astros and Angels, respectively. Because Valverde was a Type-A free agent, Detroit sent their first round pick (#19 overall) to Houston as compensation. The Astros will also receive a supplemental first round pick (#33 overall).

The agreement was first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports last Thursday, with Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com adding the value of the option year later in the day.


Odds & Ends: Lincecum, Reds, Red Sox, Uggla, Molina

Some Tuesday links…

  • After talking to someone familiar with the process, FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi guesses (via Twitter) that Tim Lincecum will file for somewhere between $12-13MM in arbitration.
  • John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer has the Reds' 2010 payroll at just about $70MM at the moment.
  • In a mailbag, Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe says that the Red Sox aren't likely to go out and spend on a high-risk, high-reward pitcher like Ben Sheets after signing John Lackey
  • Joe Frisaro of MLB.com doesn't think the Marlins will look to trade Dan Uggla, even after he agreed to a deal yesterday that makes him the team's highest paid player in 2010.
  • Meanwhile, Frisaro says that Cody Ross is likely headed to an arbitration hearing after negotiations hit an impasse.
  • Tony Massarotti of The Boston Globe wonders if the Red Sox are doing the right thing by going year-to-year with Jonathan Papelbon through his arbitration years.
  • After turning down the Mets' latest offer, ESPN's Buster Olney thinks (via Twitter) that the Mariners might be a good fit for Bengie Molina.
  • MLB.com's Adam McCalvy tweets that the Brewers will continue negotiating with their six remaining arbitration eligible players today, though GM Doug Melvin said that no multi-year deals are in the mix.
  • John Lowe of The Detroit Free Press says it wouldn't be a shock if Justin Verlander sought at least $6MM through arbitration this year after seeking $4.15MM last year. Joe Blanton received just under $5.5MM in his second year of arbitration, so I wouldn't be surprised if Verlander submitted a figure closer to $8-9MM.
  • Meanwhile, Lynn Henning of The Detroit News spoke to some scouts who think Austin Jackson might not be ready for the big leagues, at least at the plate. Jackson is slated to start the year as the Tigers' everyday center fielder.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck tweets that the Jose Valverde deal is official.
  • The Rays aren't close to deals with any of their four arbitration eligible players, reports Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times. Tampa has a self-imposed deadline of noon ET today to get deals done, which is when the two sides must submit their salary figures.
  • In a chat with readers, Tom Boswell of The Washington Post said he heard the Nationals were close to a "trade for a major-league ready pitcher of Jordan Zimmermann quality but it fell through when the other team backed out." He thinks Josh Willingham may have been involved.
  • The Giants haven't confirmed if they're still interested in Miguel Tejada according to Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com, however he spoke to someone who says Tejada remains on the Twins' radar.

How Did Type A Free Agents Do This Winter?

You'd think it would be a good thing to be identified as a premium player at your position, but Type A status is more of a curse than a blessing for some free agents. Teams have to give up a top pick to sign Type A free agents who turn down arbitration, and that scares some clubs away. GMs covet high draft picks since they can become cheap, young contributors within a couple years, so there's a league-wide reluctance to hand over top picks for Type A free agents who aren't elite players.

That's not an issue for Mark Teixeira types – teams will want to sign Hall of Fame caliber talent no matter what – but the Elias system doesn't rank players the way front offices do, so the market for some players is limited by their Type A status. Ask Juan Cruz and Orlando Hudson about the effect the Elias Rankings can have on a player's contract.
This year, however, those who declined arbitration don't have reason to regret their decisions. All the Type A free agents below had multiple suitors and all but Billy Wagner signed multi-year deals. This doesn't mean teams are willing to hand over top picks. Instead it's likely an indication that agents are only letting Type As decline arbitration offers if the players are sure to attract lots of interest on the market. 

But players aren't necessarily handcuffed by the Elias rankings. Some, like Justin Duchscherer and Orlando Cabrera, have negotiated clauses into their contracts that forbid their teams from offering arbitration if they're designated Type A free agents.

Here's a complete look at the deals signed by the group of Type A free agents who turned down their teams' offers of arbitration this winter.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Rolen, Sweeney, Twins

On this date in 1990, the Tigers signed free agent Cecil Fielder after he hit 38 homers as a member of the Hanshin Tigers the year before. Fielder went on to lead the league with 130 HR and 389 RBI over the next three years, landing a five-year, $36MM contract that made him the then-second-highest paid player in baseball history behind Barry Bonds. Believe it or not, Prince is already more than halfway to his father's career total of 319 homers despite having fewer than half as many plate appearances.

Let's see what's being written around the baseball blogosphere…

  • The Phrontiersman goes back in time to see how things would have played out for the Phillies if Scott Rolen signed a contract extension and was never traded away.
  • DRays Bay wonders if Matt Sweeney could take over first base for the Rays if Carlos Pena leaves as a free agent after 2010. Sweeney was acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade.
  • Fack Youk compares Vladimir Guerrero to Hideki Matsui to Nick Johnson, the three biggest DH signings of the offseason.
  • Lookout Landing says the Mariners did just fine to acquire Casey Kotchman, even though Adam LaRoche agreed to a relatively cheap deal yesterday.
  • Meanwhile, Jorge Says No! thinks the Mets may have made a mistake by not signing LaRoche.
  • Nick's Twins Blog wonders if Michael Cuddyer or Joe Nathan could be expendable as Minnesota's estimated payroll will approach nine-figures in 2011.
  • AdamAdkins.net thinks the Tigers will regret signing Jose Valverde.
  • Pinstripes Published takes a look at the market for Johnny Damon, or lack thereof.
  • TurnTwo looks at all the movement going on with the Giants' defensive alignment.

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.