Kendrys Morales Rumors
Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler, a member of the players' association's executive subcommittee, says that Major League Baseball and the players' union are unlikely to address the qualifying offer issue before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. "The CBA won't be reopened," says Ziegler. "There's no way it's a big enough deal to do that right now. I haven't heard any rumblings that's even realistic."
Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew have all struggled to find markets after declining qualifying offers this offseason. Cruz signed a one-year deal with Baltimore that guarantees just $8MM, and Santana appears set to sign a one-year deal in the $14MM range with either Toronto or Baltimore. Morales and Drew remain unsigned well into spring training, and there's little indication that either of them will sign soon.
MLBPA head Tony Clark has also expressed concern about the qualifying offer, but like Ziegler, he suggested that the CBA would not be reopened. "There's certain criteria that's going to have to be met for a CBA to be opened up (before then) and I'm not sure that's happened," Clark told the Associated Press in February.
As expected, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker both won't be ready for Opening Day, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters (including MLB.com's Greg Johns) yesterday. Iwakuma is dealing with a strained tendon on his right middle finger and will be sidelined until mid-to-late April, while Walker has been shut down for a week with shoulder inflammation. With Seattle's rotation thinned, it will only increase speculation that the M's could increase their interest in Ervin Santana. Here's some more from the M's...
- While the Mariners could still use a pitcher and a right-handed bat, two sources tell CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that the team has "little or no loot left to spend," which GM Jack Zudriencik wouldn't confirm. A lack of payroll space could explain why the Mariners haven't extended offers to Santana or Kendrys Morales, and didn't make an offer to Nelson Cruz (before he signed with the Orioles) despite interest in all three players.
- Missing Iwakuma and Walker early in the season could particularly hurt the Mariners since they play the A's 10 times before May 7. "If Walker and Iwakuma miss the month of April, with our schedule that month it could get ugly," a Mariners source tells Heyman. Robinson Cano and at least one other M's player expressed the opinion that Santana would be a great fit, while Cano would also like to see the switch-hitting Morales brought back. "I'm not going to lie. We need an extra bat, especially a right-handed bat," Cano said. "We have many left-handed hitters. We need at least one more righty. You don't want to face a lefty pitcher with a lineup of seven left-handed hitters."
- The Mariners have sent scouts to watch young Rays pitchers, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The two clubs recently came close on a trade that would've sent Nick Franklin to Tampa, though Topkin believes that the M's can find a better fit elsewhere for the young infielder.
- Danny Hultzen will miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from major left shoulder surgery, but the highly-regarded prospect tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that he's optimistic about his recovery and resuming his pro career.
The Orioles introduced new outfielder Nelson Cruz today, and MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli has a transcript of the press conference. Cruz, of course, settled for a one-year, $8MM deal with Baltimore after previously declining a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers. "It was a frustrating process," said Cruz, "but I'm happy for the decisions that I made. I'm really excited for the opportunity." Here are more notes from the O's and the rest of the AL East:
- We learned previously that the Orioles had made a competitive offer for free agent starter Bronson Arroyo before he signed with the Diamondbacks, and now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has the details. Baltimore ultimately offered Arroyo a $21.5MM guarantee over two years, including a third-year option that could have brought the total value to $33MM. The pitcher instead signed with Arizona for a $23.5MM guarantee, but his deal can only max out at $30MM if his option is exercised.
- Though agent Scott Boras softened his strong words towards the Blue Jays in comments today, he continued to implore the team to open its pocketbooks by saying that Toronto has a "rare opportunity" to add impact free agents because of its protected first-round draft picks, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (interview via Jeff Blair of Sportsnet 590 The FAN). In addition to its advantageous draft situation, Boras argued that the Jays have the "flexibility in the long term" to backload contracts.
- Boras said that client Stephen Drew could significantly upgrade the team's second base position, and that Drew would be willing to shift to the other side of the bag "if the club came and made the position a long-term one for him." Meanwhile, Boras argued that the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales would offer a better option against lefties than incumbent DH Adam Lind, who Boras said could be dealt for pitching. Toronto could recoup a future draft choice via qualifying offer when those players' deals end, the agent added.
- In spite of (or, perhaps in part, because of) their success last year, the Red Sox are sticking with their strategy of "caution and strict sensibility," writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince. "We recognize that our goal is to be as good as we possibly can be in 2014 but also 2015 and 2016 and beyond," explains GM Ben Cherington. "To do what we want to do, year in and year out, there has to be integration of young players. We're not going to force that unless we're reasonably confident those guys can contribute right away."
The calendar will turn to March soon, but our #6, #14, and #28-ranked free agents remain unsigned. The primary factor in the delay for Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales is that signing any one of them requires the new team to forfeit its highest unprotected draft pick and its associated bonus pool money, because these players were among 13 to turn down a one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offer in November. Earlier draft picks are more valuable, of course, so let's take a look at the pick each team would have to forfeit to sign one of these three free agents. The 2013 slot value for each pick is also provided; those numbers will increase for 2014. 2014 draft order information comes courtesy of River Ave. Blues.
As many have pointed out, the current system provides a major incentive for teams to sign multiple compensation free agents. Now that the Orioles have surrendered their #17 pick for Ubaldo Jimenez and their #52 pick for Nelson Cruz, they could sign Santana, Drew, or Morales with the smallest draft pick cost of any team. In theory, teams at the bottom of this chart should be willing to offer at least several million more than a team near the top, assuming a desire and need for one of the three free agents. It's why Drew makes so much sense for the Mets.
These three free agents have a good reason not to sign a one-year deal right now, with the season less than a month away, even though Cruz did so recently. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently pointed out, a player must be with his team for the entire season to receive a qualifying offer. Santana could sign a one-year worth $15MM or so and make it official on March 22nd, and not have to worry about being saddled with another qualifying offer after 2014. On the other hand, losing the ability to make a qualifying offer lowers his value to the signing team, to some degree.
If any of the three compensation free agents is willing to wait until June 5th to sign, the draft pick compensation issue goes away and the players can be signed without forfeiture of a pick. The old teams, the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners, would not gain a supplemental round pick in that scenario. If those teams perceive that threat to be real, it provides an incentive for them to explore deals to bring back Santana, Drew, and Morales, respectively.
The Orioles continued what has been an incredibly busy seven-day span by announcing the signing of slugger Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal. Cruz's contract contains a base salary of $8MM, plus $750K in incentives -- a disappointing outcome for a player who declined a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers and at one point reportedly sought a four-year, $75MM deal. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that Cruz rejected two- and three-year offers this offseason, although the timeline of those offers is unclear. Cruz is represented by the Wasserman Media Group.
Cruz, 33, hit .266/.327/.506 in 456 plate appearances in 2013. A 50-game suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis scandal shortened his season. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted in profiling Cruz in early November, however, that didn't stop Rangers manager Ron Washington from offering praise for Cruz as a teammate and a clubhouse presence.
The Rangers will now receive what is currently the No. 30 overall pick in the 2014 draft as a result of Cruz signing elsewhere. The Orioles, meanwhile, will sacrifice the No. 55 pick. Losing the No. 17 pick when they struck a deal with Ubaldo Jimenez likely made it easier for the Orioles to sign Cruz, since they would no longer have to give up a first-round draft choice in order to do so. In addition to Cruz and Jimenez, the Orioles have also signed Korean righty Suk-min Yoon to a three-year deal in the past week.
The Cruz deal is another win-now move for the Orioles, who are trying to build on an 85-win 2013 season and string together more wins before the potential departures of Chris Davis and Matt Wieters following the 2015 season. Cruz will serve as the Orioles' primary designated hitter, and he will also likely occasionally see time in the outfield. The transition to Camden Yards and the other hitter-friendly parks of the AL East should be a good move for Cruz, whose drastic home/road splits have drawn some criticism this offseason.
Of the remaining free agents, Cruz's pact with the Orioles most obviously affects Kendrys Morales. The Orioles reportedly had interest in Morales, so now the already-small number of interested bidders for Morales appears to be even smaller. Also, Cruz signing for one year and $8MM will likely make it even more difficult for Morales, a similar player, to get a sizeable deal.
The size of the deal will also likely increase skepticism throughout baseball about the qualifying offer process. That Cruz received so little was surely due in part to the fact that he had draft-pick forfeiture attached, and one year and $8MM is by far the smallest contract to which a qualifying offer player has agreed.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says he has "zero expectations" for former top prospect Jesus Montero, who arrived to Spring Training 40 pounds over the team's target weight for him. The Mariners assign each player such a figure prior to each offseason, but sources tell Divish that Montero has yet to meet one since joining the club in a 2012 trade. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," Montero admitted. It's another hurdle the DH will have to conquer after a 2013 season marred by injury and a Biogenesis-related suspension. Here's more out of the AL West:
- The Mariners' interest in Kendrys Morales may depend on the ability of Corey Hart to stick in the outfield, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Hart has logged time in the outfield in the early days of Spring Training, and if he can handle a job there, it could open up the DH spot for Morales.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers aren't pursuing Ervin Santana (Twitter link). A recent report named Texas as one of three clubs with strong interest in the hurler.
- Sam Fuld may face long odds to make the Athletics' roster out of Spring Training, as the team already has four outfielders and probably won't carry another, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee. Fuld agreed to a minor league deal with the A's early this month.
- The Angels may rely heavily on their bullpen in 2014, as they enter the season with major question marks behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the rotation, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes.
MLBPA head Tony Clark is worried about the qualifying offer system that has led Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Ervin Santana to remain on the free agent market into spring training, the Associated Press reports. "The way the free agent market has played itself out over the last couple of years suggests that draft pick compensation and the free agent market in general is a concern that we're paying attention to, obviously," Clark says.
Clark says he plans to make qualifying offers a "topic of discussion." It does not appear, however, that the union will address the issue before the current CBA expires following the 2016 season. "There's certain criteria that's going to have to be met for a CBA to be opened up (before then) and I'm not sure that's happened," Clark says.
The qualifying offer topic is in the news today in part because of of the surprisingly small deal Nelson Cruz received from the Orioles. Cruz, who had rejected a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers before hitting the open market, will receive just $8MM plus a possible $750K in incentives.
Earlier today, a report indicated that the Orioles' pursuit of switch-hitting, first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales had picked up steam in recent days. Here are the latest rumblings on both Morales and fellow bat-first free agent Nelson Cruz, a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Though each of the reports appears to be consistent with the idea that the two players' fates are intertwined, they differ somewhat as to where things stand:
- The Orioles are talking with both Morales and Cruz, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. A deal with one of the two "could happen soon," Rosenthal adds.
- Baltimore is divided internally as to which is the better target between Morales and Cruz, MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko tweets. Regardless, says Kubatko, nothing is imminent.
- Both the Orioles and Mariners have Morales above Cruz on their target lists, sources tell Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The two clubs are both chatting with the two sluggers, according to Bowden.
- Morales and Cruz both declined qualifying offers, meaning that signing clubs will sacrifice a pick to sign them. But both the O's and M's already decided to part with their top, non-protected pick for other signings. So, if Morales and Cruz were to sign with Baltimore and Seattle -- regardless of which player signs with which team -- the former would give up its second-round choice while the latter would remain neutral. If the Mariners were to sign Morales, they would neither gain nor lose a choice since he turned down their qualifying offer. If they sign Cruz but lose Morales, they would lose each of their two top unprotected picks, which would include the compensation choice otherwise obtained for allowing the latter to walk.
The Orioles have been oft-connected to free agent slugger Kendrys Morales this offseason, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the club's interest in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client has picked up in the past few days.
The reason for Baltimore's heightened interest is twofold, according to Connolly. First, the Orioles' reluctance to part with their first-round pick is no longer a concern, as they forfeited the No. 17 overall selection in order to sign Ubaldo Jimenez earlier this week. Secondly, while Morales had previously been seeking a deal for as many as four or five years in length, Connolly's sources now indicate that Morales and Boras would be willing to settle for a short-term deal with an opt-out clause. Connolly writes that the Orioles may even be able to land Morales on a two-year deal with an opt-out after the first season.
Such a deal is essentially a one-year deal, with a player option tacked on to serve as a safety net in the event that Morales gets hurt or struggles in his first season with Baltimore. Connolly likens the deal to another one-year deal/player option negotiated by Scott Boras -- Adrian Beltre's 2010 contract with the Red Sox. Like Beltre, Morales is looking to leave Seattle's pitcher-friendly environment in hope of demonstrating his power skills in a more hitter-friendly setting.
Should a one-year deal and player option be reached, Baltimore would almost certainly make a qualifying offer to Morales were he to opt out, which could restart this entire draft pick compensation cycle for Morales and Boras (in that instance, he would likely be coming off a season with better numbers, however). As such, Connolly looks at the situation as potentially forfeiting a second-round pick in 2014 (No. 55 overall) to move up a round higher in the 2015 draft by adding an additional pick via Morales' departure.
With the trade that sent Andrew Cashner to the Padres and Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs now over two years distant, R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at its background and how it has played out to date. While both players have proven that their talent plays at the big league level, each still comes with questions. Nevertheless, the trade appears to have been quite an equal swap at this point, he opines.
Here's more from the National League:
- The Mets hesitation with respect to shortstop Stephen Drew relates to the team's valuations of him and internal option Ruben Tejada, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo. "At the numbers he's looking for," a source told DiComo, "we don't think he's worth it compared to what we have." At this point, a trade of Ike Davis is a more likely outcome than the signing of Drew, says DiComo.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said today that a platoon was possible at second base, a prospect that Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times questions. Both Alexander Guerrero and Dee Gordon -- the two likely platoon options -- are converting from shortstop, and each brings lots of uncertainty to the table. Guerrero, the club's most expensive offseason acquisition, has reportedly had some struggles moving to the other side of the bag, but putting his right-handed bat in a platoon role would significantly limit his plate appearances.
- In spite of a resoundingly successful 2013 campaign, Pirates GM Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle will both go into the season without a contractual assurance that they'll be around for another. As Rob Biertempfel of the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review reports, Owner Bob Nutting said today that extensions for the two are not a major priority, though he indicated that he'd be amenable to talks at the right time. "What they've done for the organization in good and bad times really is tremendous," said Nutting, "and I hope they're with the organization for a long time. My expectation is they're going to be critically important pieces of this organization as we go forward."
- Nutting also indicated that the Pirates would still consider giving up a draft pick to sign a free agent, Biertempfel further reports. "Certainly nothing is off the table," he said. "But at the same time, we need to recognize that a first-round draft pick is a meaningful source of talent for a team like the Pirates. We want to be smart and cautious." The Bucs have spoken with first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales, Biertempfel notes, though the extent of the team's interest remains unknown.