Lorenzo Cain Rumors

Central Notes: Royals, Frazier, Chapman, Reds, Indians

The Royals should employ “selective memory” regarding their successful 2014 playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. During the Wild Card game, the Royals were just a few outs from elimination against the Athletics. A series of improbable events led to a remarkable comeback victory. Without that first win, Ned Yost would be a punching bag in the media due to questionable decisions, Mike Moustakas would have entered the offseason with another disappointing season on his resume, and Lorenzo Cain would have failed to gain national acclaim. The postseason success also allowed the Royals to bolster their payroll, which should help in 2015.

  • The Reds have two more arbitration players – Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The club continues to talk to agents of both players in an effort to find a middle ground. Per GM Walt Jocketty, “we’re going to keep working on it this weekend and see if we can make some progress.” Both players have fairly substantial differences in their submitted figures. Frazier asked for $5.7MM compared to the club’s offer of $3.9MM in his first season of eligibility. Chapman’s camp submitted for $8.7MM while the Reds countered at $6.65MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM payday for Frazier and $8.3MM for Chapman.
  • The Reds are “pretty much done” with free agent signings, reports Sheldon. Cincinnati inked reliever Burke Badenhop earlier today and signed former closer Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. Jocketty left the door open, saying he’ll see if “something pops up,” but it’s unlikely.
  • Patience allowed the Indians to acquire and develop three of their semi-homegrown stars, writes the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. Michael Brantley was a player to be named later in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. It took him six seasons to breakout at the major league level. In 2010, Corey Kluber was acquired in a three team trade. As we know, he also took awhile to reach his ceiling. Catcher Yan Gomes is another important trade acquisition for the club. Cleveland sent pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto in exchange for Gomes and Mike Aviles. All three players never ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game, and they’re all under club control through at least 2017.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

With more than 30 players still needing to settle arbitration situations (as of Tuesday morning, that is), word of agreements should continue to steadily pour in over the weeks. All of the outstanding situations — as well as those that have already been settled — can be monitored using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker. For today’s minor agreements, we’ll keep track of them in this post as well, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • Miguel Gonzalez has agreed to a $3.275MM contract to avoid arbitration with the Orioles, Heyman tweets. That number lands just $50K over the sides’ filing mid-point, and less than $500K shy of the projected figure. Any way you cut it, it’s a handsome first-year arb-eligible payday for the 30-year-old righty, who took a circuitous path to establishing himself as a solid big league starter. As the arb tracker shows, Baltimore now needs to resolve just two cases: Zach Britton and Alejandro De Aza.

Earlier Updates

  • Also avoiding arbitration with the Royals was outfielder Lorenzo Cain, who will earn $2.725MM next year, according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (Twitter links). Cain can also earn $25K for reaching 505 plate appearances and would pick up $50K with an All-Star selection. Cain had a breakout season last year, putting up about five wins above replacement on the back of a .301/.339/.412 slash, 28 steals, and outstanding center field defense. He had filed at $3.6MM in his first year of arb eligibility, with the club countering at $2MM. MLBTR/Matt Swartz had projected Cain to earn $2.3MM, but he lands slightly above that — aided in part, no doubt, by his quality postseason work.
  • The Royals and Mike Moustakas have agreed to a $2.64MM contract for the 2015 season, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Moustakas, who had filed at $3.1MM compared to the team’s $1.85MM filing number, will come in a bit north of the $2.475MM midpoint between those figures. The 26-year-old Moustakas hit just .212/.271/.361 in 2015, though he did manage 15 homers and also tacked on five more in the postseason. His salary will fall just $60K shy of Swartz’s $2.7MM projection, though Heyman tweets that Moustakas can boost his salary a bit, as he’ll earn an extra $10K upon reaching 550 plate appearances.
  • As the Arb Tracker shows, the Royals still have four remaining cases: Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera.

Minor Moves: Marte, Pridie, Lee, Daley, Gimenez, Sizemore, Carpenter

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game:

Earlier

  • Righty Matt Daley was has been outrighted by the Yankees, per the International League transactions page. Daley had been designated for assignment yesterday, and apparently went right onto waivers.
  • Catcher Chris Gimenez of the Rangers has cleared outright waivers and is at least exploring the possibility of electing free agency, according to a tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. If he does hit the open market, the Rays would have interest, says Topkin.
  • The Yankees have re-signed infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league deal, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (via Twitter). He will go right onto the Triple-A disabled list. The 29-year-old, who has not seen significant MLB action since 2011, was released just over a week ago by New York.
  • Reliever David Carpenter has accepted an outright assignment with the Angels rather than electing free agency, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 26-year-old righty — not to be confused with the Braves pitcher of the same name — was designated for assignment a week ago today. Over 49 Triple-A innings this year, Carpenter has a 2.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.
  • The Yankees have announced that they’ve unconditionally released infielder Brian Roberts, who they designated for assignment at the end of July. The Yankees also placed catcher Brian McCann on the 7-day concussion DL and recalled Austin Romine to take his place on the active roster. The Yankees signed Roberts to a one-year, $2MM deal before the season, but he hit just .237/.300/.360 in 348 plate appearances with them.
  • The Marlins have selected Brad Penny‘s contract, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Penny will start tonight against Alfredo Simon and the Reds. Penny is ultimately replacing Jacob Turner on the roster (although, officially, the Marlins cleared space for Penny by optioning Edgar Olmos to Triple-A New Orleans). As MLBTR’s Steve Adams points out, it’s questionable whether Penny will be better than Turner in the short term, even before considering the years of control Turner has left. Penny did pitch well in five Triple-A starts, however. Tonight will be his first big-league appearance since 2012, and his first appearance with the Marlins since 2004.

Brad Johnson contributed to this post



Transaction Retrospection: The First Greinke Trade

Zack Greinke made quite a few headlines this offseason by becoming the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in Major League history (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The former No. 6 overall selection in the draft signed a six-year, $147MM with the Dodgers.

Greinke has long been a high-profile arm, thanks largely to his 2009 American League Cy Young Award. His 9.3 wins above replacement (Fangraphs version) that season were the most by any pitcher since Randy Johnson's 2004 season.

So it's no wonder that Greinke had a long list of suitors when it became evident that the Royals were going to trade him. Nor is it surprising that Greinke commanded a young shortstop, a young center fielder and a pair of right-handers that had both been first-round picks.

On December 19, 2010, the Royals traded Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar (24 years old at the time), center fielder Lorenzo Cain (24), right-hander Jake Odorizzi (20) and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress (23). Each player in the deal had recently ranked in Milwaukee's Top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America. Let's take a look at each on an individual basis… Greinke

The Major League Side

  • Zack Greinke: Greinke joined Shaun Marcum as one of two offseason acquisitions for the Brewers that offseason, as the team clearly had an "all-in" mentality entering the final season of Prince Fielder's contract. He broke a rib that offseason playing basketball, limiting him to 171 2/3 innings, but he pitched to a 3.83 ERA with an NL-best 10.5 K/9 when healthy. The Brewers ultimately finished with a 96-66 record, netting them an NL Central Division title. Greinke got his only taste of postseason baseball that year but allowed an unsightly 12 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. The Brewers lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals, who would go on to win the World Series. Greinke hurled 123 more innings for the Brew Crew in 2012, pitching to a 3.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 before being traded to the Angels. GM Doug Melvin landed Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena in that deal, but that's a whole different post.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: Betancourt hit a paltry .252/.271/.381 with the Brewers but still totaled 584 plate appearances in spite of that sub-par production. His defense was also well below-average, and the result was a mere 0.4 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. Betancourt did manage to swat 13 homers that season — the second-highest mark of his career — but his lack of plate discipline and poor glove mitigated most of that value. He would go on to re-sign with the Royals as a free agent the following offseason and is now in the Phillies organization as a non-roster invitee.
  • Alcides Escobar: Milwaukee's No. 3 prospect at the time of the trade (per BA) Escobar has blossomed into the Royals' everyday shortstop, posting fWAR marks of 2.2 and 2.6 in his first two seasons with Kansas City. He doesn't walk often (4.2 percent), but he's posted a respectable .274/.311/.368 triple slash line with Kansas City. That includes significant improvement from 2011-12, as his OPS+ jumped from 74 to 98 between the two years. He's developed into an elite base-stealer, collecting 61 swipes in 75 tries (81.3 percent). In 2012, he went 35-for-40 (87.5 percent). The Fielding Bible evaluates Escobar's defense at +12 runs during his time with Kansas City, while Ultimate Zone Rating feels he's been closer to average. Still just 26 years old, Escobar has room for growth.
  • Lorenzo Cain: Cain's arrival as Kansas City's everyday center fielder was delayed by the acquisition of Melky Cabrera. Groin and thigh strains have cost Cain 98 games between his two seasons with the Royals, but he looks poised to take the reins as the team's everyday center fielder in 2013. It's a small sample, but Cain has a .266/.315/.410 batting line in 267 plate appearances with the Royals. His seven homers and ten steals translate to a 162-game average of 17 homers and 25 steals — a well-above average combination of power and speed for a center fielder. In 726 1/3 career innings in center, UZR/150 rates him at 14.4 runs above average, and The Fielding Bible agrees at +15 runs. He's excelled in the Minors for the Royals and is in the midst of an impressive Spring Training showing, but he'll already be 27 on April 13. Kansas City needs to let Cain play in order to determine if they have a long-term piece this season.

The Prospect Side

  • Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi made his big league debut for Kansas City in 2012, but totaled only 7 1/3 innings. Those will likely be the only innings he ever throws for the Royals, as GM Dayton Moore included the now-22-year-old in the James Shields trade. Odorizzi is BA's No. 92 prospect in all of baseball, and he ranks 45th on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's version of the same list. BA ranks him fifth among Rays prospects, praising his four average pitches (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) but noting that he lacks a true out pitch. Both BA and Mayo agree that Odorizzi has a chance to become a reliable No. 3 starter, but his ceiling is limited by average offerings across the board.
  • Jeremy Jeffress: Jeffress' star has fallen considerably since he ranked as BA's No. 100 prospect prior to the 2009 season. Now 25 years of age, the Royals traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations this past November. Jeffress pitched 82 innings for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate and maintained his strong strikeout rate (9.3 K/9) but walked too many (4.7 BB/9) and allowed nearly a hit per inning as well. He received a pair of call-ups to the big league club but walked 24 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He has the potential to be a power arm late in games, but he'll now look to fulfill that upside elsewhere.

In the end, the Brewers got an ace-caliber pitcher and an NLCS berth in exchange for the four prospects they dealt. Greinke managed to net them a trio of prospects including a new, promising shortstop to replace Escobar. Kansas City turned Greinke into an everyday shortstop, a promising center fielder and a pitching prospect that helped them acquire a new ace-caliber pitcher (Shields). However, the Royals are better positioned to compete with this top-of-the-rotation arm than they were the last time they had one.

Both teams fell a bit short of their best case scenarios (Milwaukee didn't win a World Series, and Kansas City cut ties with Jeffress for next to nothing), but this is a trade that definitely reaped benefits for each side.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Blue Jays Notes: Cooper, Drabek, Rasmus, D’Arnaud

The Blue Jays are looking for a closer this offseason and Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun says the team has checked in on free agents Francisco Cordero and Matt Capps. Heath Bell is another option for the Blue Jays, who had interest in Jonathan Papelbon before he signed with the Phillies. Here are more notes on the Blue Jays, who have yet to make a major move so far this offseason…

  • The Blue Jays would listen to offers on 24-year-old first baseman David Cooper, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Cooper, the Blue Jays' first round draft pick in 2008, debuted with the team in 2011 and posted a .678 OPS in 81 plate appearances. He won the Pacific Coast League batting title with a .364/.439/.535 line this past season, adding nine home runs and 51 doubles.
  • Blue Jays president Paul Beeston isn't a fan of the posting system and Elliott suggests Toronto's interest in Yu Darvish is "lukewarm." 
  • The Yankees are interested in Kyle Drabek, according to Elliott. Drabek started the season in the Blue Jays' rotation before being demoted to the minor leagues. He had a standout season in 2010, but struggled with command in the Majors (6.3 BB/9) and in the minors (4.9 BB/9) in 2011.
  • The Royals have some interest in Colby Rasmus because of concerns that Lorenzo Cain may not be ready for an everyday role, Elliott reports. 
  • The Phillies have discussed ways of re-obtaining Travis d'Arnaud, the Double-A catcher who arrived with Drabek in the 2009 Roy Halladay trade. As Elliott points out, the Blue Jays would need a ton to part with this year's Eastern League MVP.

Central Notes: Tigers, Cain, Cubs, Barmes

The Tigers signed Jhonny Peralta to a two-year deal on this date in 2010. The shortstop responded with 21 homers and a .299/.345/.478 line in 2011 and the Tigers won their division. Here's the latest from baseball's central divisions, starting in Detroit…


Royals Notes: Sanchez, Chen, Myers, Cain

We’ve known for a while that the Royals’ offseason will revolve around their hunt for starting pitching. GM Dayton Moore made a major move today, obtaining Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera. Here are some notes on the trade, plus  a look at what’s next for Kansas City:

  • Royals GM Dayton Moore indicated to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that his top prospect position players will stay put this offseason (Twitter link).
  • Moore told reporters he’d like to re-sign Bruce Chen, according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).
  • The Royals are still looking for starting pitching after today’s trade, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter). However, the Braves don't appear to be a fit any longer, since the Royals will rely on Lorenzo Cain in center field and are reluctant to part with Wil Myers.
  • Dave Cameron of FanGraphs explains that Sanchez's reliance on high pitches makes him a decent role player, rather than a "long term rotation savior."

East Notes: Thome, Braves, Red Sox, O’s

The Phillies made one of the first notable signings of the offseason the other day, inking Jim Thome to a one-year deal. Here's some more on Thome and the rest of the game's Eastern division teams…


Jurrjens Talks Stall Between Royals And Braves

Yesterday we learned that the Braves are open to moving Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado, and that they've already had trade talks with the Royals. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star reports that talks have stalled however, likely because Kansas City does not want to include top prospect Wil Myers in the deal.

Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal Constitution says (on Twitter) that Atlanta is not actively shopping Jurrjens and Prado, but they will listen to offers for any player on their roster without ten-and-five no-trade protection. Dutton says the Braves offered the Royals a two-for-two deal: Jurrjens and Prado for Myers and Lorenzo Cain. Kansas City is open to moving Cain, he added. That deal would add close to $10MM to the Royals' payroll next season, eating up a big chunk of what they have available to spend this offseason according to Dutton. The Braves are trying to unload some salary, which they managed to do earlier in the week by trading Derek Lowe to the Indians.

Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports notes (on Twitter) that it shouldn't be tough for Atlanta to find a taker for Prado if they're really motivated to move him. The Blue Jays, Tigers, Twins, Cardinals, and Dodgers could all use an upgrade at second base. Troy Renck of The Denver Post speculates (on Twitter) that the Rockies could get involved, possibly using Dexter Fowler or Charlie Blackmon as trade bait. Both outfielders are from Georgia.


Braves Open To Trading Jurrjens, Prado

The Braves have told some teams they would be willing to move Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado in a trade, a Major League source tells MLB.com's Mark Bowman.  Atlanta is known to be looking for a power-hitting outfielder and possibly a new shortstop, so either could be acquired in a Jurrjens/Prado trade, or at the very least the Braves could pick up some salary relief — both Jurrjens and Prado are arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter.

The Braves and Royals have already discussed a Jurrjens trade, and the Braves have an interest in minor league outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Wil Myers, amongst several other prospects in K.C.'s deep farm system.  The Royals are known to be targeting veteran starting pitching on the trade market this winter so the two sides would seem like a fit as trading partners.  As Bowman notes, Cain could be seen by the Braves as a future center field option if Michael Bourn isn't signed to an extension.

Jurrjens was an All-Star in 2011, though the right-hander struggled badly (a 5.88 ERA) in the second half of the season and spent time on the DL with a knee injury.  While Jurrjens' health is a question mark, Myers also took a minor step back (a .745 OPS in Double-A) in 2011 after being ranked as the 10th-best prospect in the sport in Baseball America's preseason rankings.  Myers is still just 20, however, and was converted to the outfield this year after spending his first two pro seasons as a catcher.

After an impressive 2010 season that saw him finish ninth in NL MVP voting, Prado took a step back in 2011, hitting .260/.302/.385 as Atlanta's everyday left fielder.  Prado's ability to play left, third, first and second base would make him an intriguing trade possibility for a number of teams, especially since he could be available at a somewhat buy-low price.