- Though C.J. Wilson has been an oft-speculated trade candidate this winter, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that Wilson is likely to open the season with the Angels. Much has been made of the Angels’ left field platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry — I’d personally contend that second base is a greater need, anyhow — but Wilson himself spoke to Fletcher and voiced a belief that the club’s rotation will be what determines its successes in 2016. Wilson noted that a team “[doesn’t] need 10 Mike Trouts,” as he went on to discuss the club’s depth of rotation candidates and some of the questions that surround them — himself included. Wilson said that on a personal level, he won’t be satisfied unless he approaches his 2013 results — a 3.39 ERA in 212 1/3 innings — but he’s more concerned with team success anyhow. “I’ve had all the individual success I need in my career,” Wilson told Fletcher. “The only thing left for me is the World Series. Anything less than that is not going to be enough.”
The Angels have announced a trade to acquire corner infielder Jefry Marte from the Tigers in exchange for second baseman Kody Eaves. Marte had been designated for assignment to clear roster space for the signing of Justin Upton.
To create a 40-man spot, Los Angeles designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. The 23-year-old had only just been claimed off waivers. He’s bounced around quite a bit of late and could be destined for another team unless he clears this time.
Marte, 24, debuted last year for Detroit, slashing .213/.284/.413 with four home runs in 90 plate appearances. Marte cracked the Baseball Prospectus top 100 prospects list before the 2009 season, but his development took some time. After a middling 2014 campaign at Double-A, he put up strong results in 2015 at the Triple-A level. In 399 plate appearances there, he carried a .275/.341/.487 batting line and swatted 25 long balls.
Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Eaves reached the High-A level last year, putting up a .248/.308/.387 slash in his 575 plate appearances. He also stole 21 bases on the year. Eaves was a 16th round pick in the 2012 draft.
While the majority of the 156 players that filed for salary arbitration last week have agreed to terms with their teams, either on a one-year deal for 2016 or on an extension, the cases of more than 20 players remain unresolved. You can track the status of each case using MLBTR’s 2016 Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of all of today’s smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post (all referenced projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)…
- The Angels and right fielder Kole Calhoun have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $3.4MM, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Calhoun, whom Swartz projected to earn $3.6MM, had filed for a $3.9MM salary, while the team had countered with a considerably lower $2.35MM sum. His eventual salary comes in a good bit north of the $3.125MM midpoint between those two sums. The 28-year-old Calhoun qualified for arbitration as a Super Two player by the narrowest of margins this offseason, as he finished the year with two years, 130 days of service time, meaning he landed precisely on the cutoff. As such, this will mark the first seven-figure salary of his young career. However, if the quietly solid outfielder continues at his current trajectory, there will be plenty more to come. Over the past two seasons, Calhoun has batted .263/.316/.435 with 43 home runs and high-quality defense in right field, resulting in his first Gold Glove Award in 2015. With Calhoun’s case now resolved, the Halos have avoided arbitration with all of their eligible players.
The Orioles have acquired first baseman/outfielder Efren Navarro from the Angels in exchange for cash considerations, the teams announced today. In order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Navarro, Baltimore announced that it has designated outfielder L.J. Hoes for assignment.
Navarro, 29, was designated for assignment last week to clear a roster spot in Anaheim for right-hander Al Alburquerque, who signed as a free agent. Navarro has seen Major League action with the Angels in four of the past five seasons, totaling a .246/.303/.324 batting line in 280 plate appearances. He’s hit just one home run in that time, though he’s shown a bit more pop in the minors, where he is a .316/.378/.449 hitter with 32 home runs in 2344 plate appearances at Triple-A. Navarro hasn’t hit much with the Angels, but he’s posted solid walk and strikeout rates (7.5 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively). He’s also graded out reasonably well in both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved at first base and in left field in his small samples of work at each position.
Navarro will, presumably, join the competition for corner outfield playing time in Baltimore. The Orioles currently have Hyun-Soo Kim as one option (in left field — they’re said not to like his arm in right), with Nolan Reimold, Mark Trumbo, Henry Urrutia, Dariel Alvarez and Ryan Flaherty among the other options that could conceivably see some time in right field. Trumbo, of course, is best suited for first base or DH work, but he does have considerable experience in the outfield. As a left-handed bat, Navarro could conceivably pair with Reimold to form a platoon, should not additional outside option be brought in by GM Dan Duquette and his staff. That looks like somewhat of an uninspiring group, on paper, but the Orioles took a piecemeal approach to their corner outfield situation last season, creating some precedent for such measures, and the team has spent heavily in other areas, perhaps limiting its offseason spending capacity.
Hoes has had good success at the upper levels of the minor leagues, including a .299/.388/.399 batting line in parts of four seasons at the Triple-A level. The 25-year-old was originally a third-round pick by Baltimore back in 2008, though the O’s traded him to Houston in the 2013 Bud Norris swap. Hoes was designated for assignment by Houston this offseason, though, and picked up in a trade similar to today’s transaction back in November. In spite of his solid on-base percentage and batting average in Triple-A, Hoes has batted just .237/.289/.329 in 337 Major League plate appearances.
The Angels announced today that they have claimed infielder Ronald Torreyes off waivers from the Yankees and designated left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise for assignment in order to clear room on the 40-man roster.
Still just 23 years of age, Torreyes has made his rounds throughout Major League Baseball over the past calendar year. The versatile infielder opened the season in the Astros organization before being designated for assignment in May and traded to the Blue Jays. Toronto, however, held onto him for less than a month before Torreyes was traded to the Dodgers, where he would finish out the season. Torreyes batted .261/.308/.347 between Double-A and Triple-A across the three organizations and even got a brief cup of coffee with the Dodgers’ big league club later in the year, collecting a pair of hits in eight trips to the plate. However, his travels continued when he was designated to make room for Kenta Maeda in L.A., leading to his trade to the Yankees.
Despite the large quantity of jerseys which Torreyes has collected in the past eight months, this marks the first time that he’s even been placed on waivers. Prior to this, there had been trade interest in him throughout the league, which speaks to the fact that multiple clubs at the very least consider him to be a useful depth piece. The Angels were 20th in the pecking order, which means 19 other clubs passed on adding Torreyes. However, the Halos have a definite need for some infield depth and have been steadfast in their refusal to exceed the luxury tax barrier, so it’s not a surprise to see them pursue some depth at an affordable rate. Torreyes has seen most of his professional defensive work come at second base, though he does have significant experience at shortstop (144 games) and third base (65 games) as well. He’s also seen a bit of time in the corner outfield.
As for LaFromboise, the 29-year-old had a very nice year with Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates organization last year, working to a 2.98 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings. He also recorded eight innings at the big league level, during which he yielded just one run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. LaFromboise has a generally strong track record at the Triple-A level and has also had a fairly reasonable degree of success in his brief Major League time, having pitched to a 4.03 ERA with a 23-to-5 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings. This past season, he held lefties to a .218/.255/.366 batting line with a 36-to-5 K/BB ratio between the Majors and minors. He also held righties to just .190/.285/.294, though that was in large part due to a .218 batting average on balls in play; he’s been significantly more hittable against right-handed batters in the past.
- The Mets re-signing of Cespedes should go a long way towards restoring fan trust in the organization, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The club has taken a lot of flak in recent years for perceived penny pinching and a failure to make big, meaningful moves in the offseason. Much of that can be blamed upon the Bernie Madoff scandal. It should encourage fans to see the team take advantage of a unique opportunity. Although Cespedes signed at a “discount,” the minimum commitment of $27.5MM in 2016 is still a substantial investment for the Wilpons.
- The deal is sensible for the Mets, writes Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. Using values provided by FanGraphs, Hoffman notes that Cespedes’ 2015 was worth over $50MM. Expecting regression, Hoffman estimates Cespedes will be worth about $20MM in each of the next few campaigns. While the one-year opt out means the Mets could be renegotiating next offseason, Cespedes will only trigger the opt out if he has a valuable season.
- Based on past performance, Cespedes could be a disaster in center field, writes Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs. However, Sullivan dives beyond the surface – 900 innings in center field spread over his major league career – to find other players like Cespedes. His biggest asset is superior arm strength. Two center fielders who rely on arm rather than range are Marcell Ozuna (-3 UZR/150) and Leonys Martin (15 UZR/150). Sullivan supposes that experience could help Cespedes run better routes and his elite arm can help to avert a complete disaster. Ozuna seems like a much more likely optimistic outcome than Martin.
- If the Mets won the deal, the Nationals and Angels were the losers, writes Mark Townsend of Yahoo. Cespedes was the last top-of-the-line free agent on the market. Now teams will sift through the decent remaining options like Dexter Fowler, Howie Kendrick, and Ian Desmond. The Angels have a particular need for firepower to fit around Mike Trout. In my opinion, Fowler and his high OBP would be an excellent fit batting ahead of Trout. Meanwhile, the Nationals pursuit of Cespedes always struck me as merely opportunistic. They didn’t have an obvious need for Cespedes. In my mind, they may have been assuring the Mets paid something to reacquire him.
Major league baseball has determined Rangers’ starter Yu Darvish was not involved in the gambling ring operated by his brother, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The story broke last week, although at no point in time was Darvish directly implicated. Based on the most recent reports, Darvish remains on pace to return to the Rangers in mid-May.
Here’s more from the western divisions:
- Dodgers’ outfielder Andre Ethier is set to earn 10-and-5 rights in April, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. The club has long been rumored to be shopping the outfielder who has two years and $38MM guaranteed on his contract. He could also earn an additional $15MM in 2018 via a vesting option (550 PA in 2017). After a shaky 2014 that saw him relegated to a bench role, Ethier rebounded in 2015 with a .294/.366/.486 line over 445 plate appearances. However, the team used him in a strict platoon. The Dodgers may find it difficult to find a suitor unless they pick up a large portion of his remaining contract. On the plus side, the platoon role almost ensures he won’t trigger his vesting option. Now that Dexter Fowler is the top free agent outfielder on the market, the Dodgers may find it easier to shop Ethier.
- Teams have asked about Angels’ starter C.J. Wilson, tweets Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Per Heyman, clubs view Wilson as a buy-low candidate, but the Angels have yet to receive an acceptable offer. I would add that the team’s starting pitching depth is a bit of a concern. While they have eight starting pitchers on the 40-man roster, names like Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, and Andrew Heaney are either coming of a bad season, recovering from injury, or unestablished at the major league level. However, escaping from part of the $20MM owed to him in 2016 could help the club address another position.
- Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton will have his playing time carefully managed in 2016 due to knee inflammation, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Hamilton received a cortisone shot on Thursday. GM Jon Daniels described the joint as structurally sound. The aftermath of two surgeries could result in occasional flare-ups like this. Texas has plenty of outfield depth, particularly on the farm where Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Lewis Brinson, and others wait in the wings. Gallo and Mazara are on the 40-man roster.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has downplayed Colorado’s interest in free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. In recent days, there have been several reports linking the Rockies with Gallardo as one of three finalists. While Bridich characterized talks as merely “checking in,” Saunders speculates that a signing could still come. At the very least, there appears to be some degree of mutual interest.
The Brewers, Angels, and Rangers are among the teams that have at least some level of interest in outfielder Austin Jackson, according to a report from ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Meanwhile, he adds, the Cubs could conceivably bring Jackson back “for the right price.”
We haven’t heard much at all on the market for Jackson, who has endured a tough run of late but remains an intriguing player as he nears his 29th birthday. He’s queued up behind Dexter Fowler among center fielders, and Fowler could well be waiting to see what happens with Yoenis Cespedes before he commits to a contract.
But Jackson is a notable free agent in his own right. He entered the offseason placing 35th on the top-fifty list of MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, landing with a one-year, $12MM prediction. As Dierkes noted at the time, it has always been unclear whether Jackson would land with some kind of multi-year arrangement or instead take a one-year pillow deal in hopes of finding a bigger contract next winter.
At his best, Jackson has delivered pop and speed to go with a quality glove in center — rather a difficult mix to find. Indeed, he tallied over 15 rWAR in his first three years in the league. Things have trended downward since, as Jackson owns a cumulative .269/.319/.382 batting line since the start of 2013.
While teams probably won’t be expecting a return to his established ceiling, even the diminished Jackson looks to be a useful performer. He’s still a capable center fielder with near a league-average bat, and has traditionally performed about as well against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. And it isn’t difficult to see the reasoning behind the interest from the clubs that appear in Crasnick’s report.
As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in today’s podcast (around the 21:00 mark), in fact, Jackson looks like a nice fit with Texas since he could fill in all across the outfield. Los Angeles has long been seeking a solution in left field, while the Brewers’ could certainly stand to add a solid veteran in center — potentially with the hope of flipping him at the deadline or extending a qualifying offer after the season. And Chicago obviously was interested enough to add Jackson late last year. He’d possibly add an up-the-middle option to the Cubs’ outfield mix, especially if the team were to strike a trade involving Jorge Soler.
Richards had filed at $7.1MM, with the team countering at $5.3MM. He’ll obviously land slightly to the high side of the mid-point, although it’s worth noting that MLBTR had projected an even higher $6.8MM salary for the second of his four trips through arbitration.
The 27-year-old set himself up nicely with a well-timed 2014 breakout in which he posted 168 2/3 frames of 2.61 ERA ball. Though he took a step back last year in terms of both results and peripherals, Richards did significantly enhance his earnings by upping his output to a fairly robust 207 1/3 innings.
Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus, who accepted a qualifying offer from Houston this November rather than test the free-agent market, tells Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle that he’d like to remain an Astro until retirement. “As I stand here right now, I’d like to see myself in Houston for the rest of my playing career,” said Rasmus. “I would really like that. I think that would be great for my family. I enjoy it here. I think there’s great people, great atmosphere that they’re trying to create — the organization as a whole wanting to win and putting good players on the field.” That may seem a lengthy goal for a player on a one-year deal, though it’s worth remembering that Rasmus has previously expressed that he may not want as lengthy a career as many players. Early in the 2015 season, Rasmus said he may only want to play through the 2018 season, voicing a desire to leave time in his life for his wife and daughters. It’s not clear if Rasmus has rethought his future following a seemingly very positive first year in Houston, but his comments will certainly be worth recalling come season’s end as he prepares to re-enter the free agent market.
Here’s more on the Astros and their division…
- The left wrist and index finger pain that plagued Astros infielder Marwin Gonzalez over the final month of the season and into the playoffs has subsided this winter, he tells the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich. The switch-hitting Gonzalez’s swing was severely hampered when batting as a left-handed hitter, he explained, but he was able to hit for the first time this offseason yesterday and expects to be good to go when Spring Training rolls around. Gonzalez, a former Rule 5 pick, has emerged as a very solid utility option for Houston and had his best season in 2015 when he batted .279/.317/.442 with 12 homers while playing all four infield positions and left field as well. He avoided arbitration by settling on a $2MM salary last week.
- John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group explores the parallels between Andrew Lambo’s arrival in the Athletics’ organization and the arrival of Brandon Moss several years ago. As Hickey notes, both were 28-year-old left-handed hitters that had converted from the outfield to first base and had consistent track records of power in the minor leagues. Lambo spoke to Hickey and acknowledged that he’s aware of the comparison, noting that it’s hard not to be, considering the fact that he knows Moss from the pair’s days together in the Pirates organization. Lambo tells Hickey that he feels recovered from the plantar fasciitis that plagued him in 2015. He’ll hope to earn a 25-man roster spot in Oakland, though as Hickey notes, the presence of Yonder Alonso as a left-handed-hitting first baseman and Coco Crisp in left field could cloud his chances to break camp with the club.
- The removal of Efren Navarro from the Angels’ 40-man roster to clear space for right-hander Al Alburquerque creates a potential path to a roster spot for Rule 5 pick Ji-Man Choi, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The 24-year-old Choi lost his 40-man spot with the Mariners last spring when he suffered a fractured leg in Spring Training but remained in the organization and returned late in the season to bat .290/.388/.406 in 89 minor league plate appearances. Choi, a left-handed bat, has a lifetime .280/.379/.401 slash at Triple-A and has gaudy numbers against right-handed pitching throughout his minor league tenure. As Gonzalez notes, however, the acquisition of a left fielder — either via free agency or trade — would likely push Daniel Nava into the role for which Choi could currently vie.