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Kansas City Royals Rumors
The Royals announced Tuesday that they have officially signed right-hander Edinson Volquez to a two-year contract with a mutual option for the 2017 season. The contract reportedly guarantees Volquez $20MM, including a $7.5MM salary in 2015 followed by $9.5MM in 2016 and a $3MM buyout on the $10MM mutual option.
A $20MM contract represents a win for Volquez and his representatives with the Wasserman Media Group — last week, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Volquez was seeking precisely that figure. Volquez, 31, earned a two-year deal thanks to a strong season in Pittsburgh in which he posted a 3.04 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 192 2/3 innings, to go along with a 50.4% ground ball rate. His peripherals lagged behind his ERA, with figures of 4.20 for both his xFIP and SIERA, and the Pirates were a terrific fit for a pitcher like Volquez, thanks to their shift-heavy infield defense and their good framing tandem of Russell Martin and Chris Stewart, not to mention well regarded pitching coach Ray Searage. Volquez’s control, in particular, still is a weakness, with five straight seasons with BB/9 rates exceeding 4.0 before 2014.
That doesn’t mean the Royals overpaid, however, or that Volquez can’t successfully eat innings in Kansas City. His stuff is excellent, with a mid-90s fastball that at times ranged into the high 90s last year, to go along with a curveball that he used very effectively. Also, Volquez has managed to pitch at least 170 innings in each of the last three seasons despite his control issues. Heading into the offseason, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Volquez would get two years and $18MM, only a bit less than he actually received.
While he may not replace James Shields in terms of production, Volquez figures to slot into the space that was previously occupied by “Big Game James.” He’ll join Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie in manager Ned Yost’s rotation. While Volquez will undoubtedly miss Martin’s framing and the Pirates’ infield shifts, it’s also worth noting that he’s joining one of the best defensive clubs in baseball and will again call a pitcher-friendly park home, so there’s a good chance that he can pitch well enough to live up to his guarantee.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the deal was complete (Twitter links). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo initially tweeted that the two sides were close. Heyman tweeted the final contractual details.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
That the Phillies are interested in dealing away first baseman Ryan Howard and some portion of his contract is well-known. Howard, of course, is in the middle of a huge extension that still includes two years and a guaranteed $60MM (including a $10MM buyout of a $23MM club option in 2017). That contract includes a “most favored nation” clause that allows Howard to match the no-trade terms in Cliff Lee‘s deal, under which the player is permitted to designate all but nine clubs for no-trade protection.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports the details on Howard’s current list of competitors. The nine teams to which Howard cannot prevent a trade are the Tigers, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. Crasnick suggests that the teams listed are not particularly strong potential suitors for Howard, as most are either small-payroll clubs and/or lack a present need for a player of Howard’s ilk.
The list seems curious from a strategic perspective, in my view, since it includes only American League clubs. The prevailing sentiment around Howard seems to be that he might have some limited trade value as a designated hitter and left-handed bench bat, but it appears exceedingly unlikely that any National League team would have interest in adding him as a regular first baseman. And payroll is not likely to prevent any teams from pursuing Howard, as Philadelphia is expected to eat most or all of his remaining salary regardless of where he is dealt.
If anything, it could be that the list is simply made up of the American League teams that Howard would most like to play for. His money is earned, after all, and it is unlikely that he would be able to exert enough leverage to convince an acquiring team to provide him with some added benefit in exchange for waiving his no-trade protection. (The notion of demanding a guarantee of his option, for instance, seems far-fetched.) Rather than using the NTC as a means of opening the door to extracting concessions, then, the reported list seems to suggest that Howard is open to being dealt to a place where he is wanted and where he would like to play.
Reading the tea leaves for intent is only so possible and so useful, of course. And the bottom line remains the same: nine of the fifteen A.L. clubs can add Howard without receiving his permission.
In a revealing piece, Medium.com’s Joe Lemire profiles MLB agent Josh Kusnick’s rare birth defect and the life-threatening complications he faces to this day. Kusnick — the agent for Michael Brantley, Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Clevenger and Adrian Nieto, among others — was born with a defect called bladder exstrophy, which has led to 42 surgeries in his life despite the fact that he is just 32 years of age. Though Kusnick faces constant trips to the hospital, he remains in contact with his players while there, Brantley tells Lemire, and he even once negotiated a minor league deal for client Philippe Valiquette from his hospital bed. Lemire writes that Kusnick delayed his 43rd surgery in order to attend the 2014 Winter Meetings. I had the pleasure of meeting Josh at the meetings in San Diego and, along with the rest of MLBTR, would like to wish him the best of luck in his next operation on Wednesday of this week.
Here are some more notes from around the game…
- Though he won’t be eligible to sign until July 2, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has already drawn significant interest from the Mets, Blue Jays and Angels, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter). His father, of course, is the same Vladimir Guerrero that won an MVP with the Angels in 2004 and made nine All-Star teams in a 16-year career that saw him bat .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs.
- The Braves made a similar offer to the one-year, $5MM contract that Aaron Harang signed with the Phillies early in free agency, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). However, at the time, Atlanta was told that Harang had other offers for more money and more years.
- Former Orioles and Indians GM Hank Peters, who passed away at the age of 90 this weekend, took a big gamble on John Hart, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Peters plucked Hart — then a third base coach with managerial aspirations — off the diamond and gave him a front office gig because he felt strongly about Hart’s ability to evaluate players. Hart discusses the transition with Hoynes as well as his role in architecting the 1989 Joe Carter trade with the Padres. Hart assisted Peters in that deal prior to taking the GM reins himself and insisted that the trade couldn’t be made without acquiring both Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga — two critical components to the Indians’ 1995 World Series appearance.
- The Royals have announced the retirement of longtime assistant general manager Dean Taylor. Taylor’s front office career began with the Royals back in 1981, as he worked his way from administrative assistant to assistant director of scouting. Taylor’s other stops around the game include working as an assistant GM during the Braves’ excellent run in the 1990s as well as Brewers GM from 2000-02. Taylor returned to the Royals in 2006 and spent the final eight seasons of his career there. Josh Vernier of FOX Sports Kansas City tweets that assistant GM J.J. Picollo will assume Taylor’s duties as vice president/assistant GM, and director of player development Scott Sharp has been promoted to assistant GM as well.
JAN. 5: Madson will earn $850K if he makes the big league club and has the opportunity to earn up to $150K via incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Madson, 34, hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2011 because of elbow issues. In that season, Madson established himself as one of the game’s most promising closers, pitching to a 2.37 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 48.8% ground ball rate in 60 2/3 innings for the Phillies. When a reported four-year, $44MM deal fell through between the two sides, he joined up with the Reds on a much smaller contract, but he never made it to the mound.
Even with his injury woes, teams were still anxious to sign Madson, a reliever boasted a half-decade of strong late inning work. The Halos gave Madson a deal worth $3.5MM in guaranteed money prior to the 2013 season, but he was only able to make one brief Advanced-A appearance all year long. After that, the All Bases Covered client sat out 2014.
The right-hander pitched to a 2.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 329 2/3 innings from 2007-2011. In parts of nine seasons with the Phillies from 2003-11, the veteran posted a 3.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a 47.7% ground ball rate.
James Shields is expected to get at least five years and $100MM, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Two executives tell Rosenthal that Shields already has a $110MM offer in hand. As Rosenthal notes, however, rumors of an $110MM offer don’t mean that Shields will ultimately sign for that much or more. For example, there were rumors of a $65MM offer for Chase Headley, who ultimately settled for less from the Yankees.
It’s still not clear who will sign Shields. The Marlins and Diamondbacks feel Shields is out of their price range, Rosenthal writes, and the Giants, Padres and Red Sox don’t currently seem highly motivated, either. And the Royals, who have spent on several players already this offseason, don’t appear likely to re-sign Shields. It’s possible that one or more of those teams has more interest than it’s letting on, however. Rosenthal also suggests the Tigers, Yankees and Angels as possibilities, although Shields hasn’t been closely connected to any of those teams.
Mark Polishuk recently polled MLBTR readers about Shields’ likely destination, and the results reflect the uncertainty that seems to exist throughout the industry. Less than 20% of you feel the Giants will sign Shields, followed by the Red Sox, Yankees, and “Other,” which got over 10% of the vote, even with 13 teams in the poll.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick kicked off the new year by running down MLB’s 15 most interesting people for ’15. Among names like incoming commissioner Rob Manfred and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon, Padres GM A.J. Preller is highlighted as one of baseball’s names to watch. The GM has overhauled the entire team, prompting new acquisition Matt Kemp to term him a front office “rock star,” a designation that is hard to argue with. Here’s more from around baseball…
- Yesterday, Mark Bowman of MLB.com raised the possibility that the Braves could pull Luis Avalan out of trade discussions after moving fellow southpaw Chasen Shreve. However, he also notes that James Russell could take over as the top lefty out of Atlanta’s ‘pen if he can show that his struggles against left-handed batters are a thing of the past. Avalan is under control through 2018, making him appealing to other clubs but also an asset that Atlanta might like to keep.
- With eleven pending free agents, the Orioles will be facing some major questions soon, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com writes. The O’s have five position players, four relievers, and two starting pitchers that can hit the open market after the 2015 season. Some are calling for them to start making moves now as a preemptive strike, but that would likely hamstring them for 2015. The O’s could instead wait and see how the first half of the season goes, then start making trades at the deadline if they’re not looking the part of the contender. Alternatively, Baltimore could let those players go and spend the money elsewhere. Those eleven players will earn $56.6MM in 2014, meaning that they could do a lot with that money in the offseason.
- The Royals love their hard throwers at the back end of their bullpen and they acquired another one in right-hander Jandel Gustave. Alan Eskew of Baseball America looks at what Kansas City can expect out of the 22-year-old. The Red Sox selected Gustave sixth overall in the Rule 5 Draft from the Astros, then sent him to KC for cash.
The Royals designated infielder Ryan Jackson for assignment earlier this week, the team announced. The transaction frees up a 40-man roster spot for Edinson Volquez, whose two-year, $20MM contract with Kansas City became official on Monday.
It’s been a busy offseason for Jackson, who has gone from the Padres to the Dodgers to the Royals in less than two months. He also changed addresses multiple teams last winter, when the Astros selected him off waivers from the Cardinals in November 2013 and then traded him to San Diego a month later. Jackson, 26, made 25 plate appearances for St. Louis in 2012-13 and he has a .268/.338/.363 career slash line over 2459 minor league PA.
Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
- The Blue Jays, Athletics, Cubs, White Sox and Angels are interested in Stephen Drew to play second base but don’t want to pay his $9MM-$10MM asking price, Sherman writes. There’s concern that Drew’s poor 2014 season marks the beginning of a serious decline. “Fine, you want to say June and July [last year] were spring training for him, well, how about August or September? There was never a time in which he looked like a major league hitter,” says one executive. The Yankees could have interest in him, but want to commit to Didi Gregorius at shortstop and could have concern Drew would provide an easy distraction from those plans, even if he’s signed as a second baseman. Earlier this month, we guessed Drew would get a one-year, $7MM deal.
- The Royals signed Alex Rios this offseason even though Rios rejected a trade to Kansas City last summer, Sherman says. The Rangers tried to trade Rios to the Royals, but Rios requested that Kansas City exercise his 2015 option as a condition of the deal. The Royals said no, so Rios used his no-trade clause to stop the trade. Rios thus spent the entire season with the Rangers, refusing a chance to join a team in the midst of a playoff race.
- There have already been rumors of the Padres trading Wil Myers to Philadelphia in a Cole Hamels deal, and Sherman writes that San Diego would, in fact, consider dealing Myers, who they might feel isn’t good enough defensively to handle center field.
As we inch toward the new year, the market for middle infielders has yet to truly take off. Jed Lowrie has returned to Houston on a three-year contract, and Korean slugger Jung-ho Kang may or may not be Pittsburgh-bound after the Pirates submitted the most aggressive posting fee ($5MM). Here’s the latest on what’s left of the middle infield market…
- The Yankees, Royals, Rays and Blue Jays have all kept in touch with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s camp, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Each of those clubs has an existing option at shortstop, meaning Cabrera would likely have to shift to second base to join any of those four teams. The Yankees and Blue Jays present the best hitting environments of those choices, if Cabrera is looking for a one-year deal, but he could simply go to whichever club is willing to offer the largest number of years, as well.
- The Cubs are among the clubs that are showing interest in Stephen Drew, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Chicago is somewhat of a surprising team to be linked to Drew, as they have Starlin Castro at shortstop and can use Javier Baez or Luis Valbuena at second base. Valbuena or Drew could also slot in at third base, but that spot figures to be assumed by top prospect Kris Bryant at some point in 2015.
- In an update to his weekend piece on the Padres‘ interest in Japanese shortstop Takashi Toritani, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Friars have yet to make a formal offer to the 33-year-old. Toritani is Japan’s most durable player, having played every inning of his club’s past 1,444 games, and he comes with an excellent defensive reputation as well. He’s a career .285/.372/.412 with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers, though some question whether or not his bat can transfer to Major League Baseball.
- Meanwhile, Heyman tweets that while the Padres and Blue Jays are still interested in Toritani, there’s a “decent” chance that he ends up returning to the Hanshin Tigers next season.
Contract length isn’t necessarily a guarantee of job security. Over the years, we’ve seen countless examples of teams who have made surprising management changes in the wake of an unexpected losing season (such as the Braves firing ex-general manager Frank Wren) or simply due to new candidates coming onto the market (such as the Cubs firing Rick Renteria when Joe Maddon became available). Similarly, some managers and GMs aren’t troubled by being a so-called “lame duck” entering their last year under contract. Some have unofficial handshake deals to continue on in their roles as long as they wish, or some actually prefer a one-year deal — i.e. former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland — if they aren’t sure how much longer they want to remain in baseball.
For other executives and bench bosses, however, an expiring contract can indicate that they’re under significant pressure to get results in their last year under contract. Here’s a list of managers and GMs who are believed to be entering the last year of their contracts in 2015. (I say “believed to be” since some clubs keep front office contract terms private, so there could be a few more GMs who are also entering their last guaranteed season, or perhaps some of the names on this list have already been quietly signed to extensions.) As always, a big tip of the cap to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for many of these details.
- Blue Jays: John Gibbons’ rolling contract will guarantee his 2015 team option on New Year’s Day, and also add another club option to his deal that covers the 2016 season. The relationship between Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopoulos is known to be a firm one, though with the Jays so clearly set on contending in 2015, a disappointing record could lead to some questions about Gibbons’ future with the team.
- Braves: Atlanta’s late-season collapse cost Wren his job, though manager Fredi Gonzalez retained his spot in the team’s dugout. This is an interesting situation to monitor given how the Braves’ trades of Justin Upton and Jason Heyward indicate that they’re at least partially rebuilding, though the additions of Shelby Miller and Nick Markakis hint that they intend to stay competitive. All indications are that the Braves plan to contend when they move into their new ballpark in 2017, so if the team will look to somewhat tread water until then, Gonzalez could be safe.
- Brewers: Doug Melvin has been Milwaukee’s general manager since September 2002, taking over a struggling franchise and helming them to two postseason appearances (in 2008 and 2011) during his tenure. Since that most recent playoff berth, the Brewers have posted two winning seasons sandwiched around a poor 2013 season for an overall 239-247 record. The club’s payroll cracked the $100MM threshold last year and projects to do the same in 2015, so the Crew will be expected to rebound from last season’s second-half struggles. Another middling record won’t cut it in the increasingly-competitive NL Central, so it’s possible Melvin could be on the hot seat if the Brewers aren’t in contention. That said, given Melvin’s history with the team, I’d guess he’ll receive a two- or three-year extension to give him a bit more time to get things on track.
- Mets: Terry Collins’ role in his first four seasons as the Mets’ manager has been to act as a teacher and mentor to the club’s young players as the Amazins have been rebuilding. All signs point to 2015, however, as the season when the Mets are looking to again become a factor in the playoff race. If the Mets get off to a slow start, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Collins fired in favor of a manager who can theoretically help the team take that next step.
- Nationals: Matt Williams is technically entering his walk year, though the Nats hold team options on the manager’s services for 2016 and 2017. Barring a total collapse in Washington next year, Williams isn’t going anywhere.
- Padres: Bud Black is the rare manager who has lasted in his position through both an ownership change and four different general managers. Though Black has only posted two winning records in his eight seasons as San Diego’s manager, he is still regarded by many as one of the game’s better skippers, and it’s indeed hard to fault Black given the Padres’ front office instability and sub-par rosters during his tenure. 2015 will be a different story, as new GM A.J. Preller has made several major acquisitions to help revamp the Padres’ lineup. Black has said he’s not worried about not having an extension in place, and while he probably has reason to feel secure given how long he’s lasted in San Diego already, another losing season could convince the new-look Padres to make a change on the bench.
- Phillies: The Jimmy Rollins trade indicates that the Phillies are finally embarking on a much-needed rebuild, and it appears that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be the one to oversee it as he enters the last year of his contract. You’d think the Phils would’ve already made a change if they wanted a new face to usher in this new era for the team, though it’s worth noting that the Phillies’ upper management situation is also in flux as general owner David Montgomery is on leave while undergoing cancer treatments. (Former GM Pat Gillick is filling in for Montgomery in the interim.) It could be that Amaro’s future in Philadelphia won’t be addressed until his contract is actually up, or when Montgomery has recovered enough to resume his duties.
- Royals: Ned Yost could hardly have made a better argument for a new deal by leading Kansas City to within a game of a World Series title. Royals GM Dayton Moore hinted that Yost’s contract would be addressed later in the offseason, so it’s probably just a matter of time before Yost is extended beyond 2015.
- Tigers: Dave Dombrowski is entering the last year of his contract as Detroit’s general manager, president and CEO. Given his track record with the Tigers, it’s safe to assume that Dombrowski is one of those “has the job for as long as he wants” executives and he’ll get an extension sooner rather than later.
The original version of this post incorrectly indicated that Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill and GM Dan Jennings were heading into the final years of their contracts. In fact, both are already under contract through 2018. Hat tip to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.