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Josh Donaldson Rumors
The Blue Jays acquisition of Josh Donaldson last offseason has been said to be due to the dogged persistence of Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post echoes that sentiment, noting that Yankees GM Brian Cashman touched base with Billy Beane regarding Donaldson early last offseason. Cashman, however, was told that Donaldson simply wasn’t available in trades. Anthopolous, though, continued his pursuit despite being told the same. “Alex is and was certainly relentless,” Athletics assistant GM David Forst told Sherman. “That is his personality. But we didn’t trade Josh to make Alex go away.” Forst adds that the A’s had a list of Blue Jays players they had strong interest in, and eventually the Jays offered enough from that list to make them cave. Donaldson’s MVP-caliber season notwithstanding, Forst said the A’s still believe the players they got in the deal have bright futures that will even out the transaction in the future. Sherman notes that Franklin Barreto — who is ranked among the game’s top 50 prospects or so — and Kendall Graveman held particular appeal to the A’s.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Brad Boxberger‘s recent comments about potential overuse from the Rays sparked some controversy, but agent Scott Boras tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he believes Boxberger is a good fit for the Rays and will benefit from a more defined role in the future. “[Manager Kevin] Cash has given him an opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it and become an All-Star, and when you have things like that happen for a young player, you’re in a good place,” said Boras. The agent, however, acknowledged that the Rays may eventually struggle to keep Boxberger for financial reasons — a comment that is less a reflection on Boras’ reputation than it is of the Rays’ well-documented payroll constraints. Boxberger has saved 36 games this season, and a full 2016 season as the Rays’ closer would set him up for a hefty payday in 2016 which could soar by 2017. Comparatively, Greg Holland received $4.675MM for his first arb-eligible season in 2014 with just 67 career saves under his belt. That figure jumped to $8.25MM in 2015. Boxberger has already saved 39 games in his career and offers similarly high strikeout numbers, albeit with a higher ERA as well.
- Also from Topkin, the Rays are shutting down Nate Karns for the remainder of the season due to tightness in his right forearm. Karns and Cash both feel that the issue isn’t serious in nature, and Karns added that at a different point in the season he might’ve pitched through the pain. With Tampa Bay having fallen out of playoff contention, though, it makes sense for Karns to focus on his health. Rookie catcher Curt Casali may also see his season shut down, Topkin notes, due to a lingering hamstring injury.
Ben Cherington, who recently stepped down as GM of the Red Sox, spoke at Saberseminar in Boston on Saturday (joking that the forum was “a progressive event that even invites the unemployed“) and was unusually candid about his work with the Sox and about being an executive for a big-league team. Here’s a bit of what he had to say, via Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Tim Britton of the Providence Journal (Twitter links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9).
- Cherington says he misjudged how Hanley Ramirez would transition from the infield to the outfield. “We didn’t know what he would be defensively,” Cherington says. “We made a bet based on the history of what players look like going from middle infield to outfield. … It hasn’t gone well.” Ramirez has rated as well below average in left field, and his defensive struggles this season have coincided with a decline on offense, arguably making Ramirez one of MLB’s worst position players while still in the first year of his contract.
- Cherington adds that the Red Sox contacted Billy Beane and the Athletics about trading Josh Donaldson last offseason, only to be told the A’s weren’t interested in dealing Donaldson. They did, of course, ultimately trade him to Toronto, and Cherington says he credits the Blue Jays for their persistence.
- Instead, the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to play third, a move that hasn’t worked out thus far. Cherington says he didn’t necessarily expect the run-scoring environment at Fenway Park to be a boon for Sandoval, but instead was mostly focused on filling what had been a “black hole” at third. Sandoval has hit fairly well at home this season, batting .304/.347/.451. But he’s batted just .216/.271/.337 on the road.
- Some of Cherington’s mistakes as GM came as a result of rushing decisions, he says.
- One of the most crucial aspects of being a GM is interacting with team ownership, Cherington says, noting that it’s a sensible and necessary part of the job.
- Cherington seems happy with the state in which he left the Red Sox’ farm system, saying that there are prospects who can turn out to be special players and also areas of organizational depth.
- One decision Cherington says he won’t rush is determining the next step in his career. Instead, he’ll take his time in making that decision.
Though Clay Buchholz figures to draw plenty of interest on this year’s trade market, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald opines that the Red Sox should be steadfast in their refusal to trade him. Lauber notes that Buchholz, earning $12MM in 2015, is slated to earn $13MM and $13.5MM via club options over the next two seasons — bargain rates for a pitcher with his talent, even if it comes with inconsistency and injury risk. Meanwhile, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a different approach, opining that the Red Sox owe it to themselves to at least entertain offers for Buchholz. MacPherson looks back to last year’s return for 1.5 years of Jeff Samardzija and notes that 2.5 years of Buchholz could bring a similarly strong return. Though the team will need pitching in 2015, MacPherson writes that Buchholz’s value is unlikely to ever be higher, and a team willing to pay for the type of pitching he’s been doing over his past 10 starts (2.33 ERA) may very well make too good of an offer to refuse. MacPherson wonders if old friends Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, now with the Cubs, would be interested in parting with some premium young talent to acquire Buchholz.
A few more notes from the AL East…
- Prior to the Red Sox‘ signing of Pablo Sandoval last year, the team inquired with the Athletics about Josh Donaldson but were told he was not available, reports Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. That would seem to line up, to some extent, with comments from A’s officials early last winter indicating that little consideration would be given to moving Donaldson. (“That would be stupid,” one official told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser last October.) Donaldson, of course, wound up with the division-rival Blue Jays and is enjoying a monster season.
- With Ivan Nova now healthy and back in the Yankees‘ rotation, Adam Warren will shift into the team’s bullpen, the right-hander tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. As Feinsand notes, Warren was the likeliest candidate to do so, given his recent success in the bullpen and the fact that he’s already exceeded last year’s innings total while working as a starter.
- Bud Norris has struggled a good deal for the Orioles this season, but there’s no current talk of removing him from Baltimore’s rotation, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Some have speculated that Norris is pressing in light of his upcoming free agency, and as Connolly writes, Norris indirectly touched on that topic following another rough start Monday. “I don’t know where my future’s gonna take me,” he said. “All know is I can handle what’s in front of me right now and trying to work through this is the No. 1 priority and getting back out there and helping my team win games.” Norris said he’s not worried about the possibility of losing a starting spot to Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson, but Connolly wonders how long the club will stick with the struggling veteran.
- Manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli, that the Orioles are trying to get Norris on a roll. “That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Showalter. “He has some periods where he’s pitched well, but not as consistent as he did for a long period of time last year, and will again. I try to keep in mind we haven’t even played half the season yet and Bud will do some good things for us.”
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated that he’s working hard to add pitching this summer in an appearance on Sportsnet 590 The FAN (article via Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith). And he left little doubt that he sees the club as a buyer.
“We still need to make upgrades in the rotation and the bullpen, that goes without saying,” said the Jays GM. “I’d love to land both. What we come away with or don’t come away with, I have no idea. Clearly we’re looking to be active. We’re looking to add and make the club a lot better.”
As Nicholson-Smith explains, there is at least some hope of an internal boost as well. Just-promoted rookie Matt Boyd is interesting enough to get a showcase, and the club expects to welcome Aaron Sanchez back from the DL in the near future. While Toronto anticipates that Sanchez will start, Anthopoulos says his role will depend upon the state of the rotation. And there’s even some possibility — albeit, perhaps, fairly remote — that Marcus Stroman could attempt a late-season return, though the team will surely err well on the side of caution with the prized righty.
Interestingly, Anthopoulos also discussed his broader strategy on the market, citing legendary investor Warren Buffett in saying: “It’s better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.” As Nicholson-Smith notes, value-based dealing was something of a hallmark of the GM’s earlier years, but it seems that his outlook has evolved somewhat.
One undoubtedly high-quality and high-value asset that the Blue Jays possess is the contractual control over third baseman Josh Donaldson, who can be retained via arbitration through the 2018 season. That makes an extension more a future consideration, per Anthopoulos. “There’s no sense of urgency since we still have him for a very long time,” he explained.
The Blue Jays‘ acquisition of Josh Donaldson now appears to be one of GM Alex Anthopoulos’ better moves, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. The third baseman has 15 homers and an outstanding .312/.372/.604 slash line through his first 227 plate appearances, and Donaldson’s 3.0 fWAR (entering today’s action) is topped only by Bryce Harper. Donaldson is controlled through 2018 and looks to be a cornerstone piece for the Jays both now and in future seasons. Here’s some more from around the American League…
- Adrian Beltre left today’s game with a sprained left thumb and while x-rays were negative, he’ll very likely be placed on the 15-day disabled list, MLB.com’s Dave Sessions writes. The Rangers have enough internal infield options that they aren’t likely to explore outside help unless Beltre is forced to miss an extended period of time. The 36-year-old Beltre has been having a down season (.257/.294/.408 in 221 PA) but was still providing his customary excellent third base defense.
- The much-maligned Tigers bullpen has become a strength for the team, Mlive.com’s James Schmehl writes. Detroit’s relievers entered Sunday with a 2.91 ERA, the seventh-lowest bullpen ERA in baseball. Advanced metrics (3.69 FIP, 4.07 xFIP) paint a more pessimistic view of the bullpen’s performance, yet the Tigers will happily take it after some frustrating relief breakdowns in recent years.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told reporters (including Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) that his team will make the sixth overall pick in the amateur draft based on talent, and won’t be scared off from taking a player due to injury concerns. This could be a reference to Brady Aiken or Michael Matuella, two top draft prospects who recently underwent Tommy John surgery. ESPN1500’s Darren Wolfson tweets that the Twins and other clubs recently received some new information about Aiken and that Minnesota was “very high on” Aiken last year.
- Rule 5 Draft pick Taylor Featherston is appreciating his time in the majors as a learning experience, though as Fangraphs’ David Laurila points out, having Rule 5 status isn’t necessarily a good thing for a player’s development. Featherston has just one hit in 33 PA with the Angels and has appeared in just 25 games for the club. He must remain on the Halos’ Major League roster all season or else be offered back to his old club (the Rockies) for $25K.
- Also from Laurila’s notes piece, veteran catcher Eddy Rodriguez had more or less called it a career and planning to take a year away from the game before being offered a minor league contract from the Yankees. “When the pinstripes come calling, it’s hard to say no,” Rodriguez said. He is already unofficially working as a player-coach and mentor at the Triple-A level and seems a lock to find a coaching job once he finally hangs up his cleats.
Over the last two seasons, Josh Donaldson has quietly been one of the best players in baseball, finishing third in fWAR among position players in the last two years, behind only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen. That doesn’t mean, however, that his new team, the Blue Jays, should rush to sign the MVP Sports Group client long-term.
As a Super Two player, Donaldson’s salaries through 2018 will be determined by the arbitration process, and the Blue Jays’ victory over Donaldson in his first arbitration case this winter was a crucial one. Not only was there a significant gap between the number Donaldson camp proposed ($5.75MM) and the Blue Jays’ proposed figure ($4.3MM), but the arbitator’s decision in favor of the Blue Jays will affect not only Donaldson’s 2015 salary, but his salaries from 2016 through 2018 as well.
Donaldson’s statistical profile (offensive numbers that are very good but not obviously spectacular, combined with superb defense) likely made him somewhat underpaid this time through the arbitration process. That effect might wear off somewhat in coming seasons as he moves to a much more homer-friendly ballpark in Toronto than the one he had in Oakland — he hit .255/.342/.456 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 2014, and bumping those numbers up somewhat would help him as he enters arbitration for a second time. Still, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweeted that a source estimated Donaldson’s arbitration loss this winter might cost him a full $6MM over the next three years. That guess might, if anything, be low.
On top of that, the Blue Jays already control Donaldson throughout what could well be the rest of his prime. Since he got off to a late start to his big-league career, he won’t be eligible for free agency until after his age-32 season. Any extension beyond that would only buy out seasons beginning with age 33. In other words, the Blue Jays have a very good situation with Donaldson, and they have little reason to press their luck with an extension unless it’s a very favorable one. Donaldson isn’t a 23-year-old superstar who figures to be in his prime in his first free agent seasons. He’s a 29-year-old superstar who’s very likely in his prime right now.
If the two sides were to begin discussing a deal, finding a close comparable for a Super Two player like Donaldson would be difficult. We can begin, however, with his likely arbitration salaries through 2018, which might total somewhere around $35MM-$40MM if he maintains impressive offensive totals. Donaldson’s camp could point to Kyle Seager‘s recent seven-year, $100MM extension as a possible model for a Donaldson deal, and that wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable, given that Seager’s deal began in what would have been his first year of arbitration salary, and with a salary of $4MM (although Seager, not being a Super Two player, was a year closer to free agency than Donaldson is). For the reasons mentioned above, though, that seems like a lot of risk for the Blue Jays to assume.
The Blue Jays, then, could hypothetically look at recent deals for Jason Kipnis and Matt Carpenter that each guaranteed about $52MM for six years. Both those deals occurred when the players had between two and three years of service time, but neither Kipnis nor Carpenter were Super Two players, so their arbitration years would likely have been less lucrative than Donaldson’s figure to be. That would likely mean that a Donaldson extension would either require a somewhat higher total, or give away fewer years of free agency.
Perhaps something along those lines could work, although it might be hard to find an equilibrium where the Jays felt like they were taking on an appropriate amount of risk and Donaldson’s camp felt like he was getting a large enough total to forgo free agency following the 2018 season, which might be his only attempt at a significant free-agent payday. Then there’s the fact that Donaldson and the Jays already went to an arbitration hearing — hearings can be tough for some players to take, and could make future extension talks difficult. As Braves assistant GM John Coppolella recently told MLBTR’s Steve Adams, “If you look at the history of players who have gone to arbitration hearings, for whatever reason, very few remain with the same team for the long term. I don’t think the hearings are contentious per se, but the process isn’t exactly friendly and heartwarming.”
If Donaldson and the Blue Jays were to have interest in an extension, then, it wouldn’t be impossible to negotiate one, but it would be tricky. And given Donaldson’s age and years of control remaining, the Jays shouldn’t have much urgency to negotiate a deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Looking to get some more insight into the trade that sent Brandon Moss from Oakland to Cleveland, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with Athletics assistant GM David Forst and manager Bob Melvin about the swap (Oakland received second base prospect Joe Wendle in exchange). Though Wendle has never ranked as a Top 100 prospect according to outlets such as Baseball America, ESPN, etc., Forst said that the A’s don’t concern themselves with prospect rankings. Rather, the A’s have been enamored with Wendle for more than a year and tried to trade for him in the past. “He is a high-contact hitter. He plays good defense. He has an outstanding makeup. We like him,” Forst explained. Melvin explained that the A’s very much like Moss, but were hoping to get a bit younger. Candidly, the Forst told Pluto that the A’s feel Ike Davis can replace Moss’ bat at a cheaper price.
A bit more from Pluto’s interview and the rest of the AL West…
- Forst told Pluto that the Athletics never discussed Josh Donaldson with the Indians. Oakland targeted a few select teams, and the Blue Jays were at the top of their list of potential trade candidates, he added. Meanwhile, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star chimed in on that same trade (via Twitter), noting that Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said that his initial hope was to acquire Donaldson and move Brett Lawrie to second base, but it eventually became clear that Lawrie had to be included in the return to obtain Donaldson.
- The Rangers offered Joba Chamberlain more than the $1MM base salary he received on his new deal with the Tigers, but Chamberlain elected to return to Detroit, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Earlier this morning, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters that Chamberlain had received more lucrative offers elsewhere but “really wanted” to be a Tiger again.
- Also from Heyman (on Twitter), infielder Elliot Johnson will receive a $900K base salary if he makes the Rangers‘ big league roster. Johnson signed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite yesterday, the team announced.
- Drew Butera‘s Major League experience and the fact that he’s out of options make him the favorite to win the Angels‘ backup catcher job, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. However, Fletcher does quote manager Mike Scioscia, who says he’s also been impressed by candidates Carlos Perez and Jett Bandy. “All of these guys have shown on the defensive side they are ready for the challenge,” said Scioscia.
- Astros catcher Jason Castro recently spoke to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about the feeling of seeing his name floated in trade rumors for much of the offseason. “I think if you focus too much on it, you kind of drive yourself crazy,” said Castro, who called trade rumors “part of the offseason.” The White Sox and Rangers were among the teams with interest in Castro, per Drellich. Castro’s spot with the Astros became secure again once the team dealt Carlos Corporan to the Rangers. Castro and Hank Conger will see the bulk of the time behind the plate for Houston.
The Mariners’ defeat of reliever Tom Wilhelmsen today ended this offseason’s arbitration season. This year, 14 players went to arbitration hearings, with the players winning six times and teams winning eight. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, here are the results.
|Player||Team||Player Amt.||Team Amt.||Player won?|
|Alejandro De Aza||Orioles||$5.650MM||$5.000MM||No|
|Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||$5.750MM||$4.300MM||No|
|Danny Valencia||Blue Jays||$1.675MM||$1.250MM||Yes|
A few notes:
- Via MLBTR’s 2014 Arbitration Tracker, only three players (Andrew Cashner, Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin) had hearings last year, so 14 hearings this year marks a dramatic spike. No players had hearings in the 2012-2013 offseason, and seven players did in 2011-2012. The number of hearings this offseason was the most since 2001, although not everyone is convinced this is the start of a trend, according to the Associated Press. ”Just as I didn’t think [2012-2013] was the start of a trend when we had no hearings, I do not think any conclusions can be drawn at this point from the increased number of hearings this year,” says MLB chief legal officer Don Halem.
- The Pirates alone took three players to arbitration, as many as all teams combined in the previous two offseasons.
- Teams will pay the 14 players who went to arbitration $57.925MM next season, saving a total of about $1.5MM versus the midpoints between those 14 players’ proposed figures and those of their teams.
- There appears to be no obvious pattern in which players won and which lost (which isn’t necessarily surprising, since the terms of each arbitration hearing are set ahead of time by the teams and agents who determine the figures, and not by the arbitrators). As CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman notes (via Twitter), better established players (like Josh Donaldson, Neil Walker and Mat Latos) mostly lost their hearings, while players coming off mediocre or poor seasons, like Pedro Alvarez, Mark Trumbo and Mike Minor, won theirs.
- In terms of overall dollar value, Donaldson might be the player most affected by the result of his hearing, which he lost. There was a fairly large gap (over $1.4MM) between his proposed figure and that of the Blue Jays. Donaldson is also a Super Two player in the midst of his first year of arbitration eligibility, and his salary for 2015 could impact his salary in the next three seasons after that.
The Yankees‘ primary focus with trade acquisition Nathan Eovaldi will be on improving his offspeed offerings, writes Dan Martin of the New York Post. Despite Eovaldi’s imposing velocity, the 25-year-old generates a surprisingly low number of strikeouts. And, while he struggles more against left-handed hitters, his lack of whiffs isn’t as a result of any platoon issue (6.5 K/9 vs. RHB in his career; 6.0 K/9 vs. LHB). He’s already begun working with pitching coach Larry Rothschild on improving those pitches and would do well to improve his change-up to give him a true out pitch versus lefties. As it is, lefty hitters have batted .466 with a .655 slugging percentage against Eovaldi’s change in his career. The Yankees, Martin writes, were drawn to Eovaldi because of his velocity (95.9 mph fastball from 2013-14), age and the durability he showed in 2014, throwing 199 2/3 innings.
A few more notes from around the AL East…
- Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini isn’t worried about the team’s addition of Pablo Sandoval, he tells Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. “I take it as a positive for my career,” Cecchini explains. “I get to hang out with a great player like that and work with him in spring training. That has to help me. It’s easy to say, ‘Where is my spot?’ but I can’t worry about that. You have to create your own opportunity.” Of course, creating that opportunity won’t be easy, barring an injury to Sandoval. And even in that instance, left fielder Hanley Ramirez could slide over to third base, as the Sox have tremendous outfield depth. Cecchini acknowledged to Abraham that a position change or trade could be the eventual outcome. “You hear that kind of stuff. But I don’t look too much into it. … I understand Pablo is in front of me but I hope I can do something to help.”
- The Blue Jays had two scouts watch Matt Albers‘ recent workout, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Albers turned down multiple offers to sign with the White Sox, according to Nicholson-Smith, though it’s not clear if Toronto was one of the teams to make an offer. Shortly after Albers signed, the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich tweeted that Albers had offers from four teams besides the ChiSox.
- Nicholson-Smith also spoke with someone familiar with the arbitration process who estimated that the Blue Jays‘ win over Josh Donaldson in yesterday’s arbitration hearing may have saved the club upwards of $6MM over the next several winters, as each salary is based upon the previous year’s figure (Twitter link).
FEB. 13: Donaldson has lost the hearing and will earn $4.3MM in 2015, according to Heyman (Twitter link).
FEB. 12: The Blue Jays and third baseman Josh Donaldson had an arbitration hearing today, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet tweets that a decision should be announced tomorrow, which was the case with the team’s previous arb hearing against fellow corner infielder and fellow MVP Sports Group client Danny Valencia. (Valencia won his hearing.)
Acquired from the Athletics in a blockbuster deal that sent third baseman Brett Lawrie and prospects Franklin Barreto, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman to Oakland, Donaldson is arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. The 29-year-old late bloomer has a compelling case in his first trip through arbitration, as he’s batted .277/.363/.477 with 53 homers for the A’s over the past two seasons. Those efforts have netted the former Cubs farmhand a fourth-place and an eighth-place finish in the past two MVP votings, respectively.
Donaldson, who was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $4.5MM in 2015, filed for a $5.75MM salary, while the team countered at $4.3MM (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). He’ll now earn either that $5.75MM figure or the $4.3MM figure, depending on which way an arbitration panel leans.
Donaldson is a Super Two player, meaning that he’ll be eligible for arbitration four times instead of the standard three. He’s under control through the 2018 season and will be arbitration eligible three more times.