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A pair of rival executives described Padres GM A.J. Preller as “all over the map” when asked by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Preller, Rosenthal writes, is furiously exploring both trade and free agent possibilities to boost his new club’s offense. According to Rosenthal, Preller was in contact with the Braves about Jason Heyward prior to their trade with the Cardinals, and he’s also called on Jay Bruce and Matt Kemp in addition to showing legitimate interest in Pablo Sandoval. One of Preller’s colleagues estimated to Rosenthal that the San Diego GM has had “baseline discussions” on at least 200 players this offseason. Suffice it to say, Padres fans should likely expect some form of significant move in Preller’s first offseason at the helm.
Elsewhere in the division…
- Trade talks regarding Miguel Montero have not escalated significantly since Russell Martin came off the board and signed with the Blue Jays, reports the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro (the Montero portion comes at the bottom of the article). However, the D’Backs have spoken to the White Sox, Cubs and Dodgers about Montero, who is owed $40MM over the next three seasons.
- MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart was recently in the Dominican Republic, and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson is in Mexico scouting some of the top international teens on the market. The D’Backs are hoping to make waves on the international front soon, he adds.
- The Rockies are still interested in re-signing Brett Anderson to a more team-friendly deal than the $12MM option they declined, tweets the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders. However, the Royals and Astros are interested in adding Anderson under similar circumstances, he adds.
- Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans said on KNBR radio yesterday that his team is very interested in both Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Moncada (via Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle). However, Evans wouldn’t commit one way or another when asked if his club had the money to sign both Tomas and Sandoval.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Brett Anderson | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Colorado Rockies | Houston Astros | Jason Heyward | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Matt Kemp | Miguel Montero | Pablo Sandoval | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Yoan Moncada
Here’s the latest on Yasmany Tomas, the 23-year-old Cuban slugger who is among the exciting international players demanding attention:
- Tomas is growing tired of the “dog-and-pony show” and wants to sign as soon as he can but he is being urged by others to show patience, sources tell Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Phillies, Royals and Padres have shown the most interest in landing him, though the D’Backs and Mariners “lurk as possibilities,” and Atlanta is also in the mix. The Giants have seen Tomas four times, Passan adds.
- The Padres are still in on Tomas up to around the $70MM level, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs hears (Twitter link).
- The Braves are set for a private workout and should be considered part of the sweepstakes, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. As Heyman noted earlier today, Tomas has a visa and could be in attendance at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported recently that several dark horses could be in the race, and Atlanta would certainly qualify.
- The Phillies are increasingly concerned with the defensive part of the equation on Tomas, reports MLB.com’s Paul Hagen. The club is “backing off” somewhat, despite generally being viewed as the front-runner to land him. Philly sees Tomas more as a DH, per Hagen, but could be more intrigued if his asking price begins to creep down.
- Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com echoes those thoughts (Twitter links). He says the team believes in Tomas’s bat, but is worried about both his defense and conditioning and is not interested in guaranteeing him nine figures.
- For his part, Ben Badler of Baseball America sees the Giants and Phillies as the most likely landing spot for Tomas. A rival executive tells ESPN.com’s Jayston Stark (Twitter link) that he believes the Phils remain the easy favorite, with Stark noting that the bidding on Tomas has been making “furious progress.”
Here are the day’s minor signings from around the league:
- The Mariners have acquired minor league right-hander Sam Gaviglio from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielder Ty Kelly, the teams announced. Gaviglio, 24, had a 4.28 ERA with 8.3 K/0 and 3.0 BB/9 in 136 2/3 innings at Double-A this season. He made 25 appearances, with 24 being starts. Kelly, 26, hit .263/.381/.412 with 15 homers and 11 steals at Triple-A. The former Orioles draftee has a lifetime .280/.402/.409 batting line in 841 PA at that level.
- Left-hander Omar Duran has agreed to a minor league deal with the Tigers that includes a Spring Training invitation, MLBTR has learned. Duran, 24, had spent his entire career in the Athletics organization, never moving above the Double-A level. But he was consistently productive last year after matching his double-digit strikeout marks with manageable walk totals.
- The Royals announced that they have acquired outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Padres in exchange for left-hander Kyle Bartsch (Twitter link). Fuentes, 23, was one of the four players San Diego received from the Red Sox in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. The 23-year-old former first-rounder batted .294/.363/.416 with five homers and went 25-for-28 in stolen base attempts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. Bartsch, also 23, spent this season at Class-A Advanced Wilmington where he notched a 2.29 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 55 innings of relief, showing effectiveness against both lefties and righties.
- The Rangers have added catcher Chris Gimenez and righty David Martinez to minor league deals with invitations to camp, the club announced. Gimenez, 31, bounced around quite a bit last year and ultimately managed a .241/.313/.328 line over 128 plate appearances at the big league level — the sixth year in a row that he spent at least some time on an active roster. Martinez, 27, has just 18 1/3 big league frames to his credit and had spent his whole career with the Astros. He has worked in a swingman capacity in the upper minors in recent seasons.
Earlier today, the Royals bid farewell to slugger Billy Butler, who signed a three-year, $30MM deal with the A’s. It wasn’t surprising to see Butler head elsewhere after KC turned down his one-year, $12.5MM club option (our own Steve Adams actually predicted the exact terms of Butler’s new contract), but the loss still stings for the Royals. This afternoon, Royals GM Dayton Moore spoke with reporters about how the club will proceed without the the longest-tenured member of Kansas City’s roster. After watching the former All-Star sign a hefty three-year, $30MM deal, I asked Moore if he considered exercising the club option on Butler and trading him rather than letting him leave via free agency and getting nothing.
“That’s something talked about but the timing of it really didn’t allow us to do that,” Moore said. “There was nobody really willing to do that at the time. We just finished playing [in the World Series] and three days later we had to make a decision. If we would have found a viable trade partner it’s something we would have done, or looked at. I don’t know if we would have done it because I’m not sure what the package would have been, but it’s something we certainly looked at.”
Ultimately, Moore admits that he misread the market when it comes to Butler, but over the years he has learned that free agency is always difficult to predict and “hindsight is 20/20.” Even after declining the option, Moore felt that he had a good chance of retaining Butler, but things just weren’t meant to be. Now, the Royals will have to fill the void in their lineup and they’ll explore all opportunities. Moore hopes that he can take care of his right field need and some of the DH at bats with one signing, but he won’t pigeonhole himself.
“We like our flexibility, for certain.” Moore said. “It could be one guy or we could guys a day off like [Alex] Gordon or Lorenzo [Cain] or Omar [Infante].”
The Royals, Moore says, will search hard for a right-handed bat with some pop, but he also spoke at length about Kansas City’s needs in the starting rotation. That lines up with a report from Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, noting that the club has checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester. Royals fans might be sad to see Butler go, but Moore insists that the club still has “plenty of room to sign a free agent or two.”
The Royals have now officially waved goodbye to long-time DH Billy Butler, who signed a three-year pact with the A’s that was announced this morning. Kansas City had its chance to keep him, of course, but declined a $12.5MM club option on the right-handed hitter, preferring instead to pay him a $1MM buyout.
Here’s the latest out of Kansas City:
- In a piece discussing the anticipated loss of Butler, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star indicates that the team remains intent on making impact additions to its roster, particularly to the rotation. The club has had at least opening discussions with agents for Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Jason Hammel, and Jon Lester, writes McCullough.
- Francisco Liriano is also a consideration for the Royals, as are many other arms in the mid-tier of free agents, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. And trade possibilities are also being explored. The team is still dabbling in the markets for Lester and Shields, Heyman notes, but seemingly has eyes for Liriano and Santana
- Torii Hunter is a definite target, says Heyman. The team believes that he is still a reliable bat and sees him as a quality fit.
- Kansas City is considering utilizing Carlos Peguero in a time-share in right field and at DH, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of FOX Sports Kansas City. That plan would be particularly interesting if the team could pair the left-handed-hitting Peguero with a veteran right-handed bat of Hunter’s ilk.
Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.
- While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
- The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
- Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
- As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new notes column posted looking at a number of situations around the league. Here are some quick highlights…
- The Mariners are on the hunt for a right-handed bat, but they prefer Nelson Cruz to signing Hanley Ramirez or trading for Matt Kemp. Justin Upton is also somewhere on their wish list and is potentially available. Rosenthal writes that the Mariners “are going to do something” of significance to address that search.
- The Phillies are doing background work on the makeup of Red Sox prospects Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts and Matt Barnes, Rosenthal hears, fueling some speculation about a Cole Hamels trade. Rosenthal says the Sox are disinclined to move Vazquez or Blake Swihart, however, and previous reports have indicated that the team is loath to consider parting with Betts. As others have noted, Rosenthal feels that Hamels would likely require the Red Sox to exercise his 2019 option ($20MM) in advance, bringing the total he is owed to $110MM over the next five years.
- The Padres are continuing to listen to offers for Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy, with Kennedy being the most likely of the three to go. Kennedy is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $10.3MM in 2015, and the Royals are interested in the right-hander. Rosenthal also speculatively lists the Rangers as a club to watch in the Kennedy market.
- A reunion between Nick Markakis and the Orioles seemed like a foregone conclusion at one point, but the two sides still aren’t close to a deal and talks are said to be merely “inching along.” Rosenthal wonders what’s taking so long but does note that the O’s are considering Yasmany Tomas and still working with Cruz as well, so it seems fair to speculate that having three options in the corner outfield is slowing the Markakis progress. As Rosenthal notes, the longer the wait, the more likely it is that Markakis explores other options more seriously.
- Since the publication of that column, Rosenthal has tweeted that the Orioles might be willing to move Bud Norris, who is projected by Swartz to earn $8.7MM in 2015. Norris is a free agent next season but pitched well in 2014, posting a 3.65 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent ground-ball rate in 165 1/3 innings. Rosenthal also hears that the O’s have gotten “moderate” interest in Ubaldo Jimenez, although with $38.75MM remaining on his contract, I’d imagine he could only be swapped for another bad contract.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Andrew Cashner | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Bud Norris | Christian Vazquez | Cole Hamels | Hanley Ramirez | Ian Kennedy | Justin Upton | Kansas City Royals | Matt Barnes | Matt Kemp | Mookie Betts | Nelson Cruz | Newsstand | Nick Markakis | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Seattle Mariners | Tyson Ross | Ubaldo Jimenez | Yasmany Tomas
Billy Butler, the longest-tenured member of the Royals’ roster, finally got to experience a postseason run with the team after years of false hope and a near-miss. However, the team bought out Butler’s $12.5MM club option, so “Country Breakfast” may be looking for a new home coming off a disappointing season.
Even in a down season, Butler hit .271 with a .323 on-base percentage. Both marks are better than the league average for hitters, and he’s typically posted significantly better marks. In the four years prior to 2014, Butler’s average sat between .289 and .318, while his OBP sat between .361 and .388. A lifetime .295/.359/.445 hitter, Butler has always been a good source of average and OBP.
Butler has a pair of 20-homer seasons under his belt, including a 29-homer campaign as recently as 2012. From 2008-13, he averaged 18 homers per season despite playing his home games at the very spacious Kaufman Stadium. It’s not unreasonable to think that moving to a smaller park that is more hitter-friendly would up his home run production.
At just 28 years of age (29 next April), Butler is among the youngest free agents on this year’s market. He’s also been highly durable, never having been placed on the disabled list and averaging 158 games per year over the past six seasons. His age and spotless injury history make it easier to write off his 2014 slump as a fluke than if he were on the wrong side of 30 with a troublesome injury history.
Butler rarely strikes out (14.5 percent for his career, 15.9 percent in 2014), and his 82.5 percent contact rate in 2014 was well above the league average. His deflated numbers seem mostly attributable to a dip in his batting average on balls in play and a sharp drop in his homer-to-flyball ratio. Players rarely see their power disappear at Butler’s age, giving further reason to hope for a rebound. His numbers were better from June 1 through season’s end — .282/.333/.417 — and he wasn’t the recipient of a qualifying offer.
While Butler’s career marks are solid, there’s no getting around the fact that he was a full-time designated hitter who didn’t hit well in 2014. Butler finished the season with below-average marks in context-neutral stats like OPS+ (95) and wRC+ (97). While even those marks would be an improvement over some teams’ DH production from 2014, it’s tough to market a below-average bat as a full-time DH. Agent Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency will need to emphasize Butler’s track record of solid production and paint 2014 as an aberration.
Most will see Butler as a strict DH at this point. He’s totaled just 623 1/3 innings at first base over the past four seasons combined, and he’s never graded out as a plus defender at the position. Unsurprisingly, he’s also been about five to six runs below average per season on the basepaths, according to Fangraphs.
While Butler has historically been a solid contributor in terms of average and on-base percentage, his 6.8 percent walk rate in 2014 was a career-worst. And, he’s never shown the plus power that one would ideally prefer to see from a full-time DH. He did post a .197 isolated power mark in his 29-homer season in 2012, and he registered a .191 mark in 2009 when he hit 21 homers and 51 doubles. Still, even excluding his down 2014 season, Butler has a .161 career ISO, which is more good than great.
Butler and his wife, Katie, have two children. Together, the couple started the Hit It A Ton hunger relief campaign in which Butler donated $250 for every homer he hit and $125 for every double he hit — money that he urges fans and businesses to match, with the proceeds going to the Bishop Sullivan Center and St. James Place in Kansas City.
Butler is well-liked by teammates with the Royals. Raul Ibanez described Butler as “fun-loving” to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times this October. Butler is popular among Kansas City fans and drew high praise from manager Ned Yost for his intelligence and professionalism, per MLB.com’s Phil Rogers.
Because he’ll most likely be viewed strictly as a designated hitter, Butler’s market should be confined to American League clubs with openings at DH (though one report did note that an NL club showed interest). That would seem to eliminate the Red Sox (David Ortiz) Tigers (Victor Martinez) and Yankees (Alex Rodriguez/Carlos Beltran). The Twins (Kennys Vargas) have a younger option at DH as well.
The White Sox, Mariners and Blue Jays were all linked to Martinez, so they stand as reasonable fits for Butler, who could be seen as an alternative. Seattle has been linked to Butler on the trade market in each of the past two offseasons. The Indians received some of the worst production in baseball at DH last year, so they seem like a fit if they’re able to move Nick Swisher or are comfortable playing him in right field (with David Murphy slotting into a reserve role or being traded). The Angels make sense if C.J. Cron‘s OBP woes are enough to instill doubt. Baltimore, too, could be a good fit if Nelson Cruz walks, and the A’s don’t have a set DH either.
Of course, Butler has been vocal about his desire to remain with the Royals, and a return to Kansas City certainly cannot be ruled out. He’d have to settle for a lower annual value than that of his $12.5MM club option, however. The two sides have reportedly already had at least one meeting, with the Royals said to prefer a two-year deal.
Lengthy multi-year deals for strict DHs tend to be reserved for elite bats coming off strong seasons, but Butler is younger than the typical free agent. Age is one of the primary factors on the open market, and it’s for that reason that I can envision him landing a few multi-year offers.
I can see Butler taking a one-year deal with a solid annual value if no multi-year deals that his camp deems acceptable materialize, but I can also see him receiving a three-year pact at a smaller AAV. Overall, Butler’s been a plus hitter in a large park with just one below-average offensive season under his belt dating back to 2009. A one-year deal worth $12-13MM or so might be on the table, but I can also see three-year offers from a team that feels he can return to his ways as a strong OBP source with respectable, albeit non-elite pop.
Rumors circulated last week that the Orioles had made a three-year, $30MM offer to Butler, although GM Dan Duquette steadfastly denied that report. That figure is one of many that I’d kicked around with Tim Dierkes of MLBTR prior to the GM Meetings. If he’s truly received an offer in that range and not accepted, then perhaps this prediction will be inaccurate. But a three-year, $30MM contract was my previous expectation, and I’m sticking to that pick.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has this week’s edition of his Minor League Transactions feature up, which, as usual, features several recent minor league signings. Here are a few highlights from his piece, as well as other minor moves from around the league…
- After releasing him on Friday, the Nationals have re-signed lefty Matt Purke to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. Purke has never thrown to the potential that the team saw when they gave him a massive bonus to sign out of the 2011 draft, but now he will have a chance to rehab from Tommy John surgery without occupying a 40-man roster spot.
- The Dodgers have acquired right-handed-hitting outfielder/first baseman Kyle Jensen from the Marlins, the clubs announced. Jensen, 26, has yet to see playing time at the MLB level, but slashed .260/.331/.481 with 27 home runs last year in the PCL. Miami will receive cash or a player to be named later in return.
- The Phillies have signed right-hander P.J. Walters, according to Eddy. The 29-year-old comes with 152 innings of big league experience, though he’s struggled to a 6.28 ERA in that time. Much of that work came with the 2012-13 Twins, where he posted a 5.79 ERA in 101 innings. Walters has a 4.70 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 735 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level.
- The D’Backs and left-hander Justin Marks have agreed to a minor league deal, also per Eddy. The 26-year-old Marks picked up his first two big league innings in 2014 and has a lifetime 5.02 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in Triple-A. Marks struggled overall in 2014 but was previously excellent against lefties, holding them to a .191/.301/.268 batting line in 2013. He, along with Vin Mazzaro, was one of two players acquired by the Royals from the A’s in exchange for David DeJesus back in 2010.
- The Brewers announced last week that they have re-signed outfielder Jeremy Hermida and infielder Pete Orr to minor league deals. The 30-year-old Hermida once carried a significant amount of promise — he was the 11th overall pick in 2002 and hit .296/.369/.501 as a 24-year-old in 2007 — but hasn’t seen Major League action since 2012 with the Padres. Orr, 35, has seen MLB action parts of eight seasons, most recently with the Phillies in 2013. He is a career .257/.289/.328 hitter that is capable of playing all over the diamond. He hit .301/.329/.423 with the Brewers in Triple-A last year.
- The Marlins have inked indy league second baseman Omar Artsen, Eddy reports. The 24-year-old Artsen spent last season playing in the Pecos League where he boasted a gaudy stat line of .397/.480/.576 with nine homers and 52 steals in 353 PA.
The Braves, Cubs, Giants, Red Sox, Royals and Twins are six of the teams thought to have asked for Justin Masterson’s medicals or otherwise checked in on the right-hander, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). Though Masterson is coming off an injury-plagued season, he is drawing significant interest and could find a two-year deal on the open market. The Indians, Masterson’s former club, are also reportedly in the mix for the 29-year-old.
It’s no surprise that Masterson is generating this much free agent buzz, as the righty averaged 199 IP from 2010-13 and was one of the game’s best starters during the 2013 season. As MLBTR’s Zach Links noted in his Free Agent Profile of Masterson, a team could be in for a major bargain if the righty regains his old form. Whether he signs for one year or two, Masterson seems destined for a short-term deal as he’s banking on that return to form and the opportunity to set himself up for a more expensive multiyear deal next winter or after the 2016 season.
The six teams Crasnick lists present an interesting array of suitors, incorporating the two pennant winners, three teams looking to return to contention in 2015 and the rebuilding Twins, who can offer Masterson a pitcher-friendly ballpark to help rebuild his value. Team defense is also undoubtedly a big factor for Masterson, an extreme ground ball pitcher with a 56.6% career grounder rate.