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Leonys Martin Rumors
Each offseason, teams and fans alike spend the winter projecting a 25-man roster on paper in an attempt to plot out as accurately as possible the way in which a season will progress. Oftentimes, a roster is more or less set from an early standpoint. Those expectations fluctuate based not only on player movement — trades and free agency, of course, have a strong impact on roster construction — but also on elements such as spring performances, injuries and early season success/struggles. Rarely do rosters, and the roles occupied by the players on that roster, shake out the way in which most pundits expected.
In many cases, the changes within a roster can come with significant financial implications for the players who find themselves in a more prominent role. Those who find themselves receiving the short end of the stick, of course, can see their future fortunes diminished.
It’s early in the 2015 season, but already we’ve seen some shifts in role and/or playing time that will make some players considerably wealthier in arbitration, as well as some that figure to severely damage a player’s arbitration case.
Rising Earning Power
Adam Ottavino: Typically, players like Ottavino are the ones that the Cardinals find rather than let go, but St. Louis tried to get the now-29-year-old Ottavino through waivers in 2012 and lost him to the Rockies. Ottavino has been a revelation in the Colorado bullpen, boosting his velocity and ditching his changeup for a devastating slider that has turned him into a late-inning weapon. Ottavino was recently named the new closer by manager Walt Weiss, and he’ll have a chance to head into his second trip through arbitration with a bucket of saves under his arm. The difference between entering arb as a setup man and entering as a closer could be worth millions.
Jeurys Familia: The same role change that benefits Ottavino will do the same for Familia, who entered the season setting up for Jenrry Mejia. However, an 80-game suspension for Mejia and Bobby Parnell‘s recovery from Tommy John surgery have opened the door for Familia to take the reins in the ninth inning. He’s notched a 6-to-1 K/BB ratio in his first 4 2/3 innings this season, and while he hasn’t necessarily secured the job through season’s end — Parnell or Mejia could reclaim the job later in the year — a season resembling last year’s 2.21 ERA in the ninth inning would yield a significant arbitration payday. Zach Britton, for example, parlayed one elite season as a closer into a $3.2MM payday this year, though the two aren’t perfect comparables. (Britton was a Super Two and didn’t have multiple strong seasons under his belt, as Familia theoretically will.) Ottavino landed a $1.3MM salary his first time through arb after a strong season of setup work, however, giving a rough idea of the potential gap between the two roles.
Lorenzo Cain: Entering last season, Cain was the Royals’ No. 8 hitter and didn’t get into the lineup on an everyday basis, as he split time with Jarrod Dyson in center field. Cain didn’t hit higher in the batting order than sixth until June 17 last season, but he’s batted third every day and started in center each game for the Royals this year. Cain doesn’t have the power one would typically expect from a No. 3 hitter, but his preposterous defense will keep him in the lineup every day, and hitting in the heart of the order will lead to plenty of RBI opportunities. A Gold Glove and a career-high in RBIs (which wouldn’t be hard to come by, as it currently stands at 53) will go a long way toward bolstering his $2.725MM salary.
Evan Gattis: The transition from catcher/outfielder in the National League to DH/outfielder in the American League should afford Gattis with the opportunity to see more playing time and therefore accumulate more counting stats to pad his first arbitration case this winter. While it’s true that he probably has more value behind the plate — that type of offense from a catcher is indeed quite rare — defense isn’t as highly rewarded via the arbitration process as good old fashioned homers and RBIs. Gattis has struggled to open the year, but career-highs in home runs, RBIs and most other counting stats wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Leonys Martin: Martin’s role may not appear different on the surface, as he still figures to man center field on an everyday basis if healthy. However, Martin received just 40 games in the leadoff spot in 2014, spending the bulk of his time occupying the 7th and 8th slots in the Rangers lineup. Manager Jeff Banister declared Martin his leadoff hitter and voiced confidence in his ability to handle the role, even after struggling out of the gate in 2015. Martin’s dropped to eighth in each of the past two games, but Banister said that decision was “tinkering” to give the lineup “a different look,” rather than anything permanent. Martin averaged 3.76 plate appearances per game in 2014 but has averaged 4.4 per game in 2015. Over the course of 150 games, that comes out to an extra 150 to 155 games, that’d be an extra 96 to 100 plate appearances for Martin — a valuable increase in opportunities to boost his counting stats as he wraps up a five-year, $15.5MM contract and heads into arbitration for the first time.
Jordan Schafer: The former top prospect broke camp with the Braves as a reserve outfielder in 2014 and started just 13 games all season before the Twins claimed him on waivers in early August. Schafer impressed the Twins enough that there was never any real thought to non-tendering him (despite a marginal track record), and he outplayed Aaron Hicks in Spring Training to earn a regular role in center field to begin the season. Schafer is in a platoon with Shane Robinson, and he’ll have to hold off Hicks, Eddie Rosario and perhaps even Byron Buxton to keep his playing time, but he’s unquestionably been presented with a better financial opportunity than he was in Atlanta.
Declining Earning Power
Wilin Rosario: After spending the bulk of the past three seasons as Colorado’s everyday catcher, Rosario will now transition to a part-time role in which he’ll be used as an occasional first baseman against left-handed pitching. Rosario will also make sporadic appearances in the outfield and behind the plate. Rosario’s power has never been in question, but he’s regarded as one of the game’s worst defensive backstops and will be without a regular role of which to speak. The decrease in playing time is a critical blow to his earning potential, as his $2.8MM salary won’t be increasing by much if the early stages of the season are any indication of his playing time. Rosario has seven plate appearances in six games thus far.
Welington Castillo: Manager Joe Maddon can refer to the Cubs’ combination of Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo as his “three-headed catcher,” but Castillo, formerly Chicago’s starting catcher, and his agent would likely describe the situation much more colorfully behind closed doors. Castillo took home a $2.1MM payday in his first trip through the arb cycle this winter, but like Rosario, he’s seen virtually no plate appearances in 2015. Castillo has appeared in four games and picked up seven PAs. Now that they’ve been through the arb process once, the raises awarded to Rosario and Castillo will be based almost solely upon their 2015 results, so their pay bumps figure to be rather paltry in nature.
Brett Cecil: Cecil was tabbed to as the Blue Jays’ closer to enter the season, but he relinquished those duties to 20-year-old Miguel Castro almost instantly. Cecil’s diminished velocity played a role in that decision, and while he may work his way back into the ninth inning, he looks like he’s tabbed for a setup role in the immediate future. A full season of saves would be a boon for next winter’s arbitration case, but that looks unlikely now.
Ruben Tejada: The Mets have had a hole at shortstop since Jose Reyes departed, and while Tejada got the chance to fill the void last year, it’s Wilmer Flores getting that opportunity this year. Tejada started 105 games in 2014, but it seems highly unlikely that he’ll come anywhere near that number in 2015, barring injuries around the diamond. Tejada’s light bat limited his earning power in the first place, but a lack of regular at-bats will further limit the raise he’ll receive on this year’s $1.88MM salary.
Peter Bourjos: Lights-out center field defense gave Bourjos a chance to pick up quite a few plate appearances early in his Cardinals tenure, but the club quickly departed from the notion of giving him more regular at-bats in 2014, promoting Randal Grichuk and giving more playing time back to Jon Jay. To this point, Bourjos has had just two plate appearances, though his glove has gotten him into five games. The complete evaporation of playing time makes a significant raise on his $1.65MM salary difficult to envision. Bourjos’ elite glove is strong enough that he could start for a number of teams, but it’s also a luxury and a late-inning weapon for St. Louis, so it’s difficult to envision them moving him into a more financially favorable situation.
Jesse Chavez: Despite the fact that he excelled in the rotation for Oakland last year, Chavez lost his starting spot midseason after the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and, eventually, Jon Lester. Many, myself included, believed he had a strong case for the rotation heading into 2015, but the final three spots behind holdovers Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir went to Jesse Hahn, Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman. Chavez’s 2014 breakout should indicate that he’ll be a perfectly useful reliever in 2015, but 20-30 starts would’ve done quite a bit more for his earning power.
Everth Cabrera: Cabrera’s fall in San Diego was somewhat remarkable, as he went from leading the NL in steals in 2012 and earning a 2013 All-Star nod to a 50-game suspension for PEDs, a dismal 2014 season and an eventual non-tender. He’s latched on in Baltimore and has been starting at shortstop with J.J. Hardy rehabbing from injury, but a reserve role is in the cards for E-Cab, making it difficult to envision a substantial raise on his $2.4MM salary, which was a slight decline from last year’s $2.45MM in the first place.
Note: This post isn’t including role changes for players who will not be arbitration eligible following the 2015 season. Players such as Carlos Martinez and Tony Cingrani, for example, will certainly see their future arbitration outlooks impacted if their recent role changes are permanent, but it’s difficult enough to know whether or not all of these changes will hold throughout the current season, let alone through the 2016-17 seasons.
While news of Cuban ballplayer Rusney Castillo continues to dominate the news cycle, the human trafficking side of Cuban imports also made headlines. Eliezer Lazo entered a guilty plea in connection to the smuggling of over 1,000 Cubans, including Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin, reports Curt Anderson of the Associated Press. The article covers some of the sordid details involved in this human trafficking case.
- In related news, a lawsuit brought against Martin by a Mexican baseball academy associated with Lazo will likely be dropped as a result of the criminal case. The Estrellas baseball academy alleged that Martin agreed to pay them up to 35% of his major league contract, but Martin only paid $1.2MM of his $15.5MM deal.
- The Braves and Cubs discussed a proposal that would have sent Edwin Jackson to Atlanta in return for B.J. Upton, writes Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. The deal would have served as a straight swap of albatross contracts. The sides apparently weren’t close to finalizing a trade but could re-open talks over the offseason. It appears this was probably the rumored trade first reported on August 9.
- In what is likely to become an ongoing “will they, won’t they” story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer speculates about moving on from Ryan Howard. The club currently has Darin Ruf taking the occasional start in left field while Howard blocks his playing time at first base. Philadelphia seemingly needs to decide which of three players possess the higher upside – Howard, Ruf, or left fielder Domonic Brown. Given Howard’s age, 34, and rapidly diminishing numbers – he had a .678 OPS before today’s home run – it’s fair to wonder if Howard should be the odd man out. Corner infield prospect Maikel Franco could also figure in the mix before long.
- We at MLBTR seek to find answers for the pressing questions such as “Does Rusney Castillo know Jay-Z?” Castillo, who is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports and Brodie Van Wagonen of CAA, does indeed know the mogul, according to the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber.
Mike Napoli could bring a bit of added intensity to the plate when he faces C.J. Wilson this season. Wilson recently posted Napoli's phone number on Twitter, a response to an alleged comment made by Napoli about how he was looking forward to homering off of Wilson this season. Napoli was not amused by the joke and, though he didn't recall making the initial statement, vowed to indeed try and take Wilson yard. Eighty years after Babe Ruth hit his famous "called shot" in the World Series, if Napoli does indeed homer off of Wilson this season, can we call it the Prank Called Shot?
Some (more serious) news from around the AL West…
- Coco Crisp said he wouldn't have re-signed with the Athletics had he known he was going to be moved to left field, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Yoenis Cespedes will start the year as Oakland's center fielder, and Crisp said the promise of the center field job was one of the reasons he signed with the A's over the Rays, who couldn't promise Crisp regular time in center due to B.J. Upton's presence. Crisp did say that he was glad to be back with the A's and, in regards to the position switch, says he has to "go out here and just accept it."
- The Rangers feel Leonys Martin needs more development and are "concerned about [his] lack of instincts," tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, though the club still recognizes his talent. The Cuban outfielder signed a five-year, $15.5MM deal with Texas last May and hit .295/.362/.421 in 343 minor league PAs, going all the way from rookie ball to an eight-plate appearance cup of coffee with the Rangers in September.
- Hong-Chih Kuo was released earlier today by the Mariners, though if the southpaw clears waivers, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times believes the M's could re-sign Kuo to a minor league contract.
- Also from Condotta, the Mariners are still figuring out what to do with Lucas Luetge, a left-handed reliever taken from the Brewers in last winter's Rule 5 draft. Kuo's release could help Luetge find a spot in the Mariners' bullpen, though the M's also have Charlie Furbush, Cesar Jimenez and George Sherrill competing for roles as left-handed relief options.
- For some news about the Angels, check this compilation of Los Angeles Notes from earlier tonight on MLBTR.
Ichiro Suzuki's streak of ten consecutive 200-hit seasons will likely end this year, since he's 49 hits away from 200. But as the Mariners point out, Ichiro has picked up at least 49 hits in a month six times in his career. Here are some more notes from the AL West…
- The A's will need to make a 40-man roster move tomorrow, when they add Neil Wagner to their active roster, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). They'll have room on the 25-man roster once Jerry Blevins clears waivers tomorrow.
- The Rangers expect Nelson Cruz to miss three weeks with a strained left hamstring, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (on Twitter). The Rangers could consider Lance Berkman of the Cardinals, but GM Jon Daniels indicated that he expects to find help from within the organization.
- Wilson notes that Leonys Martin will take Cruz's roster spot for now and that a Berkman deal seems unlikely (Twitter links).
- As Kevin Baxter of the LA Times explains, the Angels have been playing better partly because of Vernon Wells' increased productivity. The offseason acquisition started off slowly and his season line is still just .216/.249/.393, but he has four multi-hit games in his last six contests.
Now that top prospects Eric Hosmer and Jose Iglesias are in the majors, Jon Heyman of SI.com examines the minors’ top prospects. Mariners infield prospect Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick behind Stephen Strasburg two years ago, is "over-rated'' and without a clear defensive position in the opinion on one NL executive. Here’s Heyman’s latest from around the league:
- The Giants and Mets don’t appear to be talking about Jose Reyes at the moment, but the rumors won’t stop until the calendar flips to August or another team acquires the shortstop. Heyman hears from one person who believes the Mets would “have to” send Reyes to San Francisco if they could get pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in return.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes suggested Wheeler as a possible target for the Mets last week.
- In off-field news, Heyman reports that the Mets are getting more interest than expected from buyers interested in a minority stake in the team.
- The Rangers hope Cuban outfield prospect Leonys Martin, who signed last week, can help them in 2011.
- The Reds were among the teams that bid on Martin, according to Heyman.
A few items of note on Friday night as Derek Lowe's bid for the Majors' second no-hitter of the week falls by the wayside …
- Rangers prospect Leonys Martin can opt out of his five-year contract and choose to go through the arbitration process if he has enough service time to qualify for arbitration before the contract expires, MLBTR has learned. Martin, 23, is a Cuban defector whose deal with Texas became official on Tuesday.
- Angels reliever Jason Bulger, who was designated for assignment on April 27, cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
- Diamondbacks right-hander Daniel Hudson was part of the ill-fated trade between the Padres and White Sox in May 2009 that was vetoed by Jake Peavy, according to Dan Hayes of the North County Times (via Twitter). Peavy later accepted a trade to the South Siders at that season's deadline, but that package did not include Hudson. Instead, Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell went to the Friars. Hudson was later dealt to Arizona at the 2010 trade deadline in exchange for Edwin Jackson.
- The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire at season's end, and hard-slotting for draft picks could be implemented in the new CBA, writes Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Hard-slotting would affix a set price to each draft pick and preclude drafted prep players from using the threat of going to college as bargaining leverage. One scouting director told Mayo he expects to see more players sign this year since it could be their last chance to negotiate a hefty signing bonus.
Who knew first place could be this uncomfortable? The Rangers lead the AL West, but they're tied with the Angels, just a game ahead of the A's and just two games ahead of the Mariners. Here's the latest on the defending American League champions…
- Some rival scouts told Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that if recently-signed Rangers outfield prospect Leonys Martin were available in the upcoming draft, he'd be one of the most highly-coveted players around.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears from Rangers officials that Martin is a "plus defender with a good arm," who is "instinctive" and "has a chance to have an impact on the bases."
- The Rangers called up Mark Lowe and optioned Pedro Strop to the minors in an effort to improve their bullpen, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. I'm guessing we'll hear lots about the Rangers' 'pen at MLBTR this summer unless it gets healthy in a hurry.
- Brandon Webb, who is trying to pitch in the majors for the first time in over two years, will throw out of the bullpen and work on his mechanics instead of pitching in a game at extended Spring Training tomorrow, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.
WEDNESDAY: Martin's five-year Major League deal includes a $5MM signing bonus, tweets Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan confirms that the deal is official, noting that Martin is likely to start at Double-A. By the way, Martin is represented by Praver/Shapiro.
TUESDAY: The Rangers' contract with Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin is official, tweets Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald. The deal is worth $15.5MM over five years. The Rangers currently have a full 40-man roster, so they'll have to clear a spot for Martin.
Martin, 23, defected from Cuba last year and established residency in Mexico. Back in September, Baseball America's John Manuel wrote that Martin's "best tools are his speed and defense." ESPN's Jorge Arangure Jr. tweeted in March that Martin is "considered an elite prospect." ESPN's Buster Olney talked to three talent evaluators about Martin in April, with one saying he's "similar to Juan Pierre, with a better arm." Another called him a "capable, average major league center fielder," questioning the price paid by Texas.
May 2nd was a busy day for transactions 25 years ago, back in 1986. Current Red Sox manager Terry Francona signed with the Cubs and the Yankees signed Tommy John as a free agent. Here’s the latest from around the league…
- Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin is working out at extended Spring Training in Arizona and his deal with the Rangers should be completed this week, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- The Mets announced that top pitching prospect Jenrry Mejia has a complete MCL tear of the right elbow. Though surgery has been recommended, Mejia will likely seek a second opinion before having an operation.
- Heath Bell told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he helps his kids with their homework instead of reading trade rumors. Unfortunately for Bell, the rumors will really be heating up in July once school’s out. Of course trade rumors are nothing new for the Padres’ All-Star closer.
The Rangers and Angels are currently tied for first place in the AL West, with 11-6 records. The latest from the division:
- For what seems like the hundredth time, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik explained why he is not looking to trade ace Felix Hernandez. His latest comments came today on the Brock and Salk Show on 710 ESPN Seattle.
- The Rangers made a series of roster moves today, purchasing Brett Tomko's contract, recalling catcher Taylor Teagarden, putting Mason Tobin on the DL, and optioning Michael Kirkman. In the opinion of Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, they're likely to create a 40-man roster spot for Tomko by moving Wilmer Font to the 60-day DL.
- Leonys Martin awaits a work permit before his $15.5MM deal with Texas can be made official, reports Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald (link in Spanish). A source close to the negotiations told Ebro, "Everything should come through in one or two weeks, but the deal is still on, without any problems."
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer fills us in on Brandon Wood, who was recently designated for assignment by the Angels. Spencer says Wood "is a shortstop in his heart and mind," and likes the Padres and Diamondbacks as fits for him. For a look at other possible matches for Wood, check out my article from earlier today.