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Kendrys Morales Rumors
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark has asked commissioner Bud Selig to conduct an investigation regarding comments made by several anonymous executives to ESPN's Buster Olney for a column penned by Olney this week, the MLBPA announced in a press release. Olney's column featured a number of front office executives stating (on the condition of anonymity) what they would pay free agents Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew on an annual basis. The comments violate baseball's collective bargaining agreement, which has language designed to prevent executives from commenting on specific players and their values/contract goals, as it could depreciate a player's market value. Within the release, Clark issued the following statement:
"I am angered that numerous, anonymous baseball executives have blatantly and intentionally violated our collective bargaining agreement by offering to ESPN comments about the free agent values of Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. These statements undermine the free agent rights of the players and depress their market value. Today, I have called upon the Commissioner's Office to investigate immediately and thoroughly the sources of these statements and to take appropriate action to enforce our agreement."
Morales and Drew, two of the more prominent free agents on this year's market, each remain unsigned due largely to the fact that each is tied to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year qualifying offer at the end of last season.
This isn't the first instance of this type of investigation in the past year, as Major League Baseball also looked into comments made by Dodgers owner Magic Johnson regarding Robinson Cano. Back in October, Johnson was quoted as saying, "Though I can't talk about it, that other guy in New York is going to get paid. Not by us, but he's going to get paid."
This most recent wave of comments is clearly a bit more telling due to both the number of people who were willing to offer their take to Olney and the specific nature of their responses. At the time of the Cano situation, GMs around the league told Olney that they felt their comments had been monitored more closely in the past year than any time in recent memory.
There was more bad injury news out of Oakland, as top Athletics prospect Addison Russell has torn his right hamstring and will be down for at least a month, according to a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). Though Russell was not necessarily expected to contribute much at the MLB level this year — he had started his age-20 season at Double-A — a prolonged absence will certainly be unwelcome news for an Athletics club that could hypothetically look to Russell for a late-season boost or audition for 2015. Here are a few more stray notes from the day:
- There is a sense that the free agent market for Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales could be thawing, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Multiple clubs have gone to scout the pair, says Heyman, and Morales in particular seems to be drawing increased activity. Heyman cites the Orioles, Mariners, and Brewers as teams thought to have interest, with the Pirates also a potential landing spot.
- Free agent starter Freddy Garcia has been throwing to Drew and Morales, Heyman adds. Though Garcia has received minor league offers since being cut loose by the Braves, he is holding out in hopes of signing straight into a MLB role.
- The Twins will be among the teams with the most cash to spend through international bonus pools and the amateur draft. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN provides some updates on the club's current direction (Twitter links). Minnesota still has several hundred thousand dollars of uncommitted international cash to work with, and has narrowed its options for the 5th overall pick to eight players (most of whom are pitchers).
- As expected, Braves reliever Cory Gearrin will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2014 season, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported yesterday (via Twitter). The 27-year-old was a useful arm last year, throwing 31 innings of 3.77 ERA ball after notching 20 innings at a 1.80 ERA clip in 2012. Though the club has already filled in for Gearrin in the immediate term, his loss takes another depth piece away from an organization that has suffered more than its share of recent pitching injuries.
- One reason that Pirates reliever Vin Mazzaro may have cleared waivers is simply that he stood to be paid nearly twice the league minimum salary. "Once you go to spring training, you’ve spent almost all the money you’re going to spend," a general manager told Olney. "There aren’t many teams with a lot of extra money lying around."
- That same fact has a bearing on the situations of compensation free agents Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales. Olney polled executives around the league, finding that none were willing to pay either player at the qualifying offer rate of $14.1MM. The highest figure he heard was $10MM to $12MM AAV for Drew and a $8MM to $10MM rate for Morales on a multi-year deal, with most respondents landing well shy of those amounts. There were many other concerns raised as well, ranging from those players' injury histories to questions about their commitment to a new team (e.g., would they play through a late-season injury?) and worry about "the layoff and need for a modified spring training."
- Turning to the podcast, Olney spoke with Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who said that the team left its playoff run determined to return with focus. Instead, Huntington said that his concern entering the spring was how to keep positive energy flowing after the front office was criticized for its quiet offseason. Huntington said that the team wanted to do more, but that there "wasn't the right move out there" and he felt the organization needed to continue to "stretch when it's appropriate, stay disciplined when it's appropriate." Looking ahead, the GM said that, "if need be we can go outside because of the depth of our player development system."
- Huntington also discussed his team's well-publicized use of defensive shifts, saying that it is all about "maximizing our chances to put balls in play and turn them into outs" and indicating that much of the work is in shading out of the standard alignment. The approach for each situation is developed through what he calls a "multi-tiered process" within the organization.
- Olney also chatted with newly extended Twins closer Glen Perkins, who is under team control through 2018. Perkins said that he made clear to his agent as far back as his first extension that he was happy to take a deal and stay in town rather than "pric[ing] myself out" of the organization. The lefty says that maximizing money is not the most important thing, and saw value in the possibility of a World Series run with his hometown club while providing for his family's future when he had the chance. He kicked things off by suggesting a new deal to his agent, with a deal coming together quickly thereafter.
- Asked for his opinion on the idea of players accepting so-called team-friendly deals, Perkins said that the chances of upside are met (and often exceeded) by the possibility of "blowing your arm out." It becomes somewhat easier to take on risk as a player's earnings rise throughout their career, Perkins noted, but looking for "a little more" is tough when "you're always one pitch away." His ultimate advice to players is hard to disagree with: "get yours while you can."
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a lengthy new column up that takes a look at the hot start for the Giants' offense as well as an impressive sweep of the Red Sox by the Brewers this weekend. Beyond that, it has quite a bit of info on the top two remaining free agents and come contract extensions. Here are some highlights from his latest work…
- Scott Boras is telling tems that he could soon land a deal for Kendrys Morales, a source tells Rosenthal. However, some of the interested parties are debating between signing him (and fellow Boras free agent Stephen Drew) now or waiting until after the June draft. Rosenthal points out that this could potentially save a club multiple picks, as the signing team wouldn't have to surrender a 2015 draft pick, and if they offer a multi-year deal, they won't have to forfeit a 2016 pick to fill the hole on the free agent market next offseason.
- The Indians have been trying to extend Jason Kipnis for the past two years, but Kipnis and agent Dan Horwits of the Beverly Hills Sports Council rejected offers in the $15MM range (following Kipnis' two-month debut in 2011) and $24MM range (prior to the 2013 season).
- The main hangup in extension talks between the Dodgers and Hanley Ramirez isn't the average annual value but rather the length of the contract, says Rosenthal. Ramirez is likely to receive an AAV in the $22-25MM range, but the length of the contract is a concern for the Dodgers given Ramirez's lengthy injury history.
- Surgery remains an option for Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun as he battles nerve damage in his right thumb, but general manager Doug Melvin said to Rosenthal that going under the knife wouldn't even guarantee that the damage could be repaired. For the time being, Melvin said the team "is not overly concerned" about Braun's injury.
The 2014 season is about to get underway in earnest and two of MLBTR's Top 50 free agents remain on the shelf. Stephen Drew (No. 14) and Kendrys Morales (No. 28) are still looking for homes months after rejecting one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offers from their respective teams. The qualifying offer system, now in its second year, appears to be getting quite a bit of criticism from agents and players around baseball, but that's nothing new. Last winter, I asked Adam LaRoche for his thoughts on being linked to a compensatory pick and having to wait until after the holidays to sign.
"I think that it did [affect me]," said LaRoche, who inked a two-year, $24MM deal with a mutual option with the Nationals rather than the three year pact he wanted. "That's coming from people a lot smarter than I am that explained it to me. I think it affected a couple of other players worse than me, there are a lot of solid ballplayers out there still looking for a job. It definitely hindered some teams from going after some guys…I think there were two or three, maybe four teams out there that it did affect as far as teams that were interested me but didn't want to give up that pick."
As you might expect, after conversations with high-level MLB executives, it seems that front offices are short on empathy for the predicament of the Scott Boras duo. Executives recognize that the qualifying offer system favors clubs, but at the end of the day, they feel players and agents are responsible for anticipating demand appropriately before making their decision.
"It's certainly advantageous to the clubs, so I can understand why certain players wouldn't like it," said one National League executive. "No one is forcing them to reject a one-year, $14MM offer which is pretty darn good and see if they can do better. Honestly, that's just their reading of the marketplace telling them what to do and if it doesn't go the way they anticipated then they just misread the marketplace."
That might be a reasonable view for some, but Boras vehemently disagrees, recently telling ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that he feels as though Morales and Drew are "in jail" rather than true free agents. From Boras' view, the system is having an unforeseen ill effect on the free agency process. From the club's view, everything is going as planned.
"People keep talking about unintended consequences with the new system and I don't think they're unintended at all," one American League exec opined. "I don't understand why anyone went into the current system thinking there weren't going to be lags in the market or thinking that teams wouldn't give second thought to [second tier] free agents."
The AL exec and others were quick to note that the qualifying offer system has not hampered the true cream of the free agent crop. When the Mariners wanted to sign Robinson Cano, for example, their main deliberation was over cost and not the compensatory draft pick they would have to forfeit to the Yankees. While Cano, an elite player at a premium position who was universally considered the top free agent prize of the winter, didn't have to give any thought to accepting the QO, executives argue that someone like Morales should have thought it over. While Morales is an offensively gifted switch-hitter, his possibilities were limited since his appeal is mostly as a DH. Teams would argue that this was all obvious in November and perhaps should have informed Morales and Boras to make a different choice.
Of course, the current qualifying offer system is only a couple of years old but the concept of a restricted MLB free agency has been around for much longer. The current QO construct replaced the widely reviled "Type A/B" system, which placed the better free agents in one of two tiers based on seemingly arbitrary criteria. A team losing a Type A player would receive the signing club's top pick plus a newly-generated supplemental pick in the sandwich round (between rounds 1 and 2). A team losing a Type B player would get a sandwich pick, but nothing from the club signing the player. Agents and players were vocal about their frustrations with that system and executives that spoke with MLBTR expressed similar thoughts. One executive called the formulas used to determine Type A or B (or C, pre-2006/07 offseason) status "antiquated" while another said that the system was "wrought with abuse and handshake offers" to circumvent its consequences. While teams got used to that process over time, executives seem to appreciate the simplicity of the new system. And as one high-ranking executive told MLBTR, the new system helps to "protect the middle reliever." The old system would routinely lump a solid, but not spectacular reliever in the same group as an elite batter or starting pitcher, making free agency a frustrating process. Now, under the current system, no team in their right mind would put a $14MM+ offer on the table for a seventh-inning reliever.
As Drew continues to look for a home, it has been reported that he would take a one-year deal from the Tigers in the neighborhood of the $14.1MM figure that he turned down just months ago. While plugging Drew in for injured shortstop Jose Iglesias has to have some appeal to Detroit, the idea of sacrificing a pick for a one-year rental is surely unpalatable. The execs who spoke with MLBTR said that they would be very unlikely to sign a QO free agent if they were only getting one year out of him, but each of them also conceded that they would consider it under the right circumstances. If their club was right on the cusp of contending and losing a pick – projected to be towards the bottom anyway – made the difference, they would give serious thought to pulling the trigger. This winter, Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz both wound up signing one-year deals while attached to draft compensation, so those execs surely aren't alone in that thinking. Meanwhile, all of the executives said that they would not rule out a player strictly because he was tied to draft compensation.
After watching Ubaldo Jimenez, Santana, Cruz, Morales, and Drew struggle to find homes for 2014, some have assumed that the QO system will be drastically overhauled in the 2016 Collective Bargaining Agreement. While it's bound to be a high-priority discussion for the union, executives caution that it's far from an automatic to be changed.
"I don't know if it will be changed, but I think if they want it changed, they'll have to give something substantial back," the AL exec said. "Now, whether that's something like an extra year of arbitration, I'm just not sure. I don't think the owners would just give it back to the players, it's something that [the owners] bargained and negotiated for."
Here's the latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:
- The Mariners have made a series of attempts to re-sign DH Kendrys Morales since he turned down their qualifying offer, but the Mariners' proposals probably reflected the reality that if they re-signed Morales, they would lose the compensatory draft pick they would gain if another team signed him. Some Mariners personnel believe the team's greatest need right now is another hitter.
- After Jose Iglesias' injury, the Tigers' shortstop options (Danny Worth, Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez) do not impress scouts. The Tigers likely won't pursue free agent Stephen Drew, and trade target Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks doesn't look likely either. Rosenthal speculates the Tigers could look to Clint Barmes of the Pirates or Tyler Pastornicky of the Braves instead.
- The White Sox are excited about Maikel Cleto, who they recently claimed off waivers from the Royals. He's now throwing 96-98 MPH down in the zone with good secondary pitches. Since Cleto is out of options, the White Sox had originally considered trying to sneak him through waivers after they claimed him, but now that seems very unlikely.
- The Reds are worried about their depth of starting pitching, but they don't have enough room in their budget to make a significant addition.
Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew both share the same agent (Scott Boras), the same predicament (unsigned free agents with draft pick compensation attached), and the same frustration over their situation, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. "Nothing I can do," Morales told Cafardo. "I don’t understand, but I’m just waiting for something." Morales and Drew work out together for five hours each day, six days a week. "We don’t talk too much about what we’re going through," said Drew, who turns 31 today. "We talk about other things mostly, but he’s been a good guy to work out with and go through this with." Cafardo opines that the pair reside in baseball prison, adding that Morales makes sense for the Mariners, Brewers, and Pirates, while the Mets remain the best fit for Drew. Also from his Sunday Baseball Notes column:
- According to Cafardo, there are scouts and front office people who feel the best fit for Drew is actually New York's other team: the Yankees.
- The Yankees are a little cautious about dealing catcher Francisco Cervelli since they believe he's the best option to start if something should happen to Brian McCann.
- Manny Ramirez is eyeing another MLB comeback and is working out in Miami with Miguel Tejada, but the 12-time All-Star has an image problem to overcome. "He's poison," one National League GM told Cafardo. “I know he's changed his life around and his personality has changed, but I doubt anyone would take the risk, especially with a 42-year-old player. I think a lot of teams would pardon one PED offense, but two? I doubt it, but crazier things have happened. Never take away the fact he was one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever."
- In a separate article, Cafardo reports, with the renaissance of Grady Sizemore and the very good camps of Bryce Brentz and Corey Brown, the Red Sox's outfield depth could lead to a trade. Mike Carp is the leading candidate to be dealt because of his ability to also play the infield corners. The Tigers, Brewers, and Pirates have reportedly shown interest in the 27-year-old.
Top pitching prospect Julio Urias, just 17, will start the Dodgers' spring training game today against the Padres, the team has announced. Urias has never pitched above the Class A Midwest League, where the lefty posted a 2.48 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings last season. That in itself was an accomplishment, given that it was only Urias' age-16 season, and he was pitching in a full-season league. Baseball America's Prospect Handbook 2014 ranks Urias the Dodgers' third-best prospect, noting that he throws 91-96 MPH, has an advanced approach to pitching, and could make quick progress through the minors. The Dodgers will surely have him start the season in the bush leagues, but even starting a big-league spring training game is quick progress indeed for a 17-year-old. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Mariners are still trying to re-sign DH Kendrys Morales, ESPN's Jim Bowden tweets. They still would like Morales to reduce his price, however. Morales, of course, is still a free agent because the qualifying offer has depressed his market. Bowden also tweets that Felix Hernandez has been in touch with Morales and says that Morales would like to return if the two sides' financial differences can be resolved.
- Veteran Xavier Nady is back with the Padres, the team that drafted him, as an NRI, and he's trying to enjoy all the baseball he has left, writes MLB.com's Corey Brock. "I'm thankful for every day to put this uniform on," says Nady. "I know it doesn't last forever, but it's sure been a lot of fun." Nady also looks back to the beginning of his career, when he signed with the Padres in 2000 as a second-round pick out of UC-Berkeley and was immediately promoted to the Majors, where he went 1-for-1 in his only big-league at-bat before heading to the minors for the first time the following season.
Though Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz have both caved and agreed to one-year deals after their free agent markets were significantly weighed down by their rejection of qualifying offers, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew have no such plans to do, agent Scott Boras tells ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Instead, the two plan to continue working out while awaiting multi-year deals, and could hold out until after the June amateur draft to do so (after which the draft compensation will no longer apply).
Boras feels that the qualifying offer system has "basically prevented them from free agency," opining that the system has instead placed both players "in jail." He offers criticism both of the system and of those who feel that his clients simply made a poor decision by not accepting a qualifying offer. Says Boras:
"Everybody talks about these players turning down these (one-year) qualifying offers like they're village idiots. The reason is, they don't want to be in the same position again next year. If I'm a good player, I'm going to take the prospect of free agency. If I'm one of these players, I'm not on the train to free agency — I'm on the ferris wheel of multiple qualifying offers. It is circular. There is no escape hatch to the system."
Whether or not one agrees with Boras' assessment of the system, there's certainly truth to the fact that players coming off strong seasons don't want to sign a one-year deal and find themselves in the same situation a year later. Players want security and stability both for themselves and their families; the prospect of either being separated from your family for a year or continually moving your family around the country does not appeal to many.
From my view, it's rather telling that Jhonny Peralta, who is nearly 11 months older than Drew and coming off a season in which he served a 50-game suspension for PEDs, was able to secure a four-year, $53MM contract while Drew remains unemployed. There's something to be said about contending teams with significant payrolls simply not feeling a need to add a shortstop, but one would imagine that Drew's market would improve significantly were the qualifying offer not attached. That's not to say he'd have received as large a guarantee as Peralta, but a reasonable three-year deal seems like it should have been attainable. A one-year deal, even at a higher rate than the average annual value he might receive on a three- or four-year deal, doesn't seem practical for a 30-year-old shortstop coming off a solid season.
While some believe that Mariners ownership isn't happy with Morales and Boras for turning down their $14.1MM qualifying offer earlier in the offseason, Zduriencik says there are no grudges held. "It strictly has to do with where they're at (in negotiations) and where we're at," Zduriencik told Heyman.
Morales has been connected to his former team all offseason, but the most recent report on him prior to tonight's piece from Heyman stated that the Mariners have "little or no" money left to spend on another free agent. Robinson Cano, he of a ten-year, $240MM contract, has gone on record as stating that the he'd like to see his new club sign Morales and Ervin Santana. However, Santana has since agreed to a deal with the Braves. Morales, for the time being, is working out at the Scott Boras Training Institute in Miami as he waits to find a home for the 2014 campaign.