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Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checked in with Max Scherzer, who is missing former teammate Rick Porcello. Scherzer, of course, left the Tigers in free agency to sign with the Nationals in January. Porcello, meanwhile, was shipped from the Tigers to the Red Sox in December. Scherzer still texts a lot with Porcello, and they have had conversations about free agency.
“He understands the business of the game really well and what teams are trying to accomplish,” said Scherzer. “As most players, he’s motivated by money as well. What works is going out there and having one motivation and that’s winning. And those things will take care of themselves.”
Cafardo has talked with a few baseball executives who believe Porcello will walk from the Red Sox and do exactly what Scherzer did – go to the highest bidder. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Rockies tried to trade Jhoulys Chacin but couldn’t find a buyer, so they released him last week. The 27-year-old was a victim of Coors Field, where his ERA was 4.21 as opposed to a much more palatable 3.24 on the road. Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays, and Blue Jays have been looking for a veteran starter and may be considering him.
- Braves people insist that they will not entertain a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, but a few executives expect that Atlanta will be thinking differently if they are out of contention at the trade deadline. The Braves are eyeing 2017 as their relaunch, so Cafardo doesn’t see the need for them to hang on to a top closer like Kimbrel in the interim.
- Dan Uggla has an April 1st opt-out on his minor league deal with the Nationals and his play this spring is giving GM Mike Rizzo something to think about, but roster space is an issue. If Uggla doesn’t make the cut in Washington, Cafardo suggests that the Angels, Braves, Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Padres, and Rays could all justify bringing him aboard.
New Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki says being an older free agent is like being an older dog in a pet store, Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal writes. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones,” says Ichiro. “When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.” The 41-year-old Ichiro’s offseason training routine helps him stay relevant, Lefton writes. Ichiro works out at the Orix Buffaloes’ home park in Japan, with a pitcher who throws batting practice for him and another player he plays catch with. Ichiro might take 150 swings against live pitching each day in the offseason. Here are more notes from the National League.
- GM Doug Melvin has recently discussed an extension to his contract with the Brewers, although it’s unlikely he and the team will agree to one before the season starts, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Melvin’s contract expires after the 2015 season. Counting his previous job with the Rangers, Melvin has now been a GM for about two decades, and it sounds like he remains at least somewhat enthusiastic about continuing. “I still think I’m good at what I do and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I like the draft-and-development part of the job and that’s something we’ll always have to do in our market.”
- The fact that he’s with the Dodgers now doesn’t mean Jimmy Rollins can’t relate to fans who dislike them, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “For a long time – you don’t hear ‘Beat the Dodgers,’ you don’t hear ‘Beat the Lakers,’ even the Clippers now – it’s ‘Beat L.A.,'” says Rollins. “It’s everything L.A. stands for. . . . I’ve heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side.” This isn’t the first interview Rollins has given about how strange it can feel for a player to spend years with one organization and then abruptly switch to another, but his perspective on a common but little-discussed situation is still refreshing to read.
Dodgers righty Brandon League is expected to miss at least a couple of months with a right shoulder injury, manager Don Mattingly told reporters including MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick (via Twitter). An MRI revealed that there was sufficient injury to require League to be shut down, though it appears he will avoid surgery for the time being.
League, 32, figured to be a fairly important piece in the Dodgers pen. Though he is undoubtedly overpaid as he enters the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $22.5MM pact, League is nevertheless a plenty viable arm. Last year, he tossed 63 innings of 2.57 ERA ball, compiling a 3.40 FIP in spite of just 5.4 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 because he also managed to induce groundballs at a ridiculous 67.5% clip.
League’s deal includes a vesting option that will not almost certainly not vest. Of course, that was quite unlikely regardless since the clause was tied to games finished, requiring League to be the last Dodger to toe the rubber at least 55 times this year. Barring a run of unpredictable events, that was not going to happen anyway.
The news on League is perhaps most troubling for what it means for the Dodgers’ overall pitching depth. Already compensating for injuries to Kenley Jansen and starter Hyun-jin Ryu, the team is looking somewhat thin on established, healthy arms. Of course, with plenty of trade candidates amongst their positions players, the Dodgers could conceivably swing a deal or two to fill some innings.
Much is still unknown about how (or if) the pending addition of Hector Olivera will impact the 2015 Dodgers. The Cuban infielder could struggle in his first taste of American pro ball and require more time in the minors than expected, or Olivera’s slightly-torn UCL in his right elbow could become a major issue and put him on the disabled list. As the Dodgers already have Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick manning third and second base, they don’t even have any immediate need for Olivera’s services, and could be planning to only give Olivera significant playing time in 2016.
On the other hand, what if Olivera demolishes Triple-A pitching and forces the Dodgers’ hand for a promotion? While Olivera is a versatile player, it’s hard to believe he’d see much time at first base given Adrian Gonzalez‘s presence or in left field given how the Dodgers already have an outfielder surplus. Kendrick over four years younger than Uribe and has a longer track record of consistency and durability, so it would be a big surprise to see Kendrick lose his starting job for any reason other than an injury.
If the Dodgers decide to find a place for Olivera, therefore, it will likely be at the hot corner. Uribe is a free agent after the season, and many have speculated that with Olivera on board, the Dodgers are already planning for a future without the 14-year veteran. As Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins are also both pending free agents, it’s possible the 2016 Dodgers infield could consist of Olivera, Corey Seager and Alex Guerrero, with Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner in super-sub roles.
With all this in mind, could L.A. consider cutting ties with Uribe early and start shopping the 36-year-old on the trade market this summer? If Uribe starts until Olivera is called up, then Uribe’s first month or two of the season could essentially be an audition for other teams. Turner and Hernandez could become the top fill-in third base options if Olivera were to struggle; both men hit well in 2014, especially Turner and his .897 OPS over 322 plate appearances. (Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently opined that the Dodgers didn’t need Olivera since they already had a cheaper comparable in Turner.)
Hamstring injuries limited Uribe to 103 games last season, though he still hit .311/.337/.440 with nine homers in 404 plate appearances. While that slash line was undoubtedly aided by a .368 BABIP, it was Uribe’s second consecutive solid year at the plate (a .769 OPS and 116 OPS+ in 2013), continuing an unlikely career turn-around after his production fell off the table in 2011-12. While his hitting has yo-yoed over the last four years, however, his defense has been uniformly tremendous. Since the start of the 2010 season, Uribe’s 41 Defensive Runs Saved are the fifth-most of any third baseman in baseball and he has the best UZR/150 (25.4) of any player who has played at least 2500 innings at third. Between that stellar glove and his improved bat, Uribe’s 8.6 fWAR over the last two seasons has been topped by only 28 players.
With all this in mind, you could argue that the Dodgers would need to see significant evidence from Olivera before they considered giving up on Uribe. Even keeping Uribe in a bench role would be a fit for L.A. since they certainly have the payroll capacity to afford a $6.5MM backup, and he plays an “integral” leadership role in the clubhouse.
Still, as we’ve already seen from the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi regime, no move can be ruled out for the Dodgers’ roster. If the team’s starting pitching depth becomes tested (i.e. Brandon McCarthy or Brett Anderson‘s significant injury histories, or Hyun-Jin Ryu’s bad shoulder), Uribe could be an intriguing trade chip for a starter. Or, as the Dodgers are having trouble finding takers for Andre Ethier, they could sweeten the pot by adding Uribe to the mix, though contract size could still be an issue.
Looking at contenders with a possible hole at third base, the Indians, Tigers, Royals and White Sox are all going with young players who have yet to prove themselves as surefire contributors. For these four teams, acquiring Uribe for a pennant race wouldn’t spell the end of, for example, Nick Castellanos or Mike Moustakas as a “third baseman of the future” since Uribe could leave in free agency next winter anyway. Beyond the AL Central, the Giants are relying on Casey McGehee to repeat his solid 2014 season, though it’s near-impossible to see the Dodgers swing a trade with their arch-rivals.
For the moment, Uribe is staying put in Los Angeles. If Olivera (or even Turner) starts swinging a hot bat, however, don’t be surprised if the Dodgers start exploring deals. The Dodgers’ overflow of talent in both the infield and outfield gives them a number of options if they need to patch holes in their rotation or bullpen, and Uribe might be the most realistic trade chip of the bunch.
Photo courtesy of Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports Images
4:46pm: The Mets are also intrigued by Rockies left-hander Rex Brothers, writes Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. A team official told Rubin at the Winter Meetings that Brothers was of interest to the Amazins, and that interest is apparently still alive. The 27-year-old Brothers will earn $1.4MM this year after a down season in 2014. Last year, he struggled to a 5.59 ERA as his control spiked and he posted a career-worst 6.2 BB/9 rate.
Brothers was excellent, however, from 2011-13, especially when considering his home park. In that time, he notched a 2.82 ERA with 11.2 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 out of the Colorado ‘pen. He’s had a good Spring Training thus far and is under team control through 2017. Brothers has a career 2.40 ERA on the road compared to a 4.51 mark at Coors Field.
As Rubin notes, the Rox also have southpaw Boone Logan, though his contract seems especially prohibitive for the Mets; Logan is owed $5.5MM this year and $6.25MM in 2016.
4:01pm: The Mets are “keeping an eye on” three Dodgers left-handed relief options — J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez and Adam Liberatore — in case any of the three become available, reports Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter).
The Mets have a known need for a bullpen lefty following Josh Edgin‘s Tommy John surgery and have been connected to Baltimore’s Brian Matusz on multiple occasions this spring. Of course, Matusz sounds to be more available than any of the three Dodger southpaws, based on Saxon’s wording.
Howell would seem to have a spot in the Dodgers’ bullpen locked down, as the former Ray has posted a 2.19 ERA over the past two seasons with Los Angeles and is entering the second season of a two-year, $11.25MM contract signed following a strong first year with the Dodgers. Besides that fact, Howell is slated to earn $4MM this season, and the Mets reportedly aren’t even comfortable with Matusz’s $3.2MM salary, so it’s hard to envision a great fit with Howell.
Rodriguez and Liberatore, however, could conceivably be more available, and neither would cost much more than the Major League minimum in terms of salary. Rodriguez, 23, was the Dodgers’ second-round pick in 2012 and reached the Majors that same season. However, despite a strong 2013 followup to his brief 2012 cameo, (2.32 ERA, 10.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9), Rodriguez saw just 14 regular-season innings with the Dodgers last year. Rodriguez struggled to a 4.40 ERA in Triple-A’s hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2014 and was slowed by a strained shoulder muscle as well. With just one year, 120 days of MLB service time, Rodriguez likely wouldn’t be arbitration eligible for another two years, making him an understandably appealing target.
It’s unclear how the new front office views Rodriguez, but the old regime clearly had some concerns over his readiness. The former front office invested significantly in free agent relievers last winter (including Brian Wilson and Chris Perez — neither of whom panned out) and quickly optioned Rodriguez to Triple-A after a rough patch in late April. New president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, GM Farhan Zaidi and VP Josh Byrnes may have more faith in Rodriguez and be reluctant to part with him.
As for Liberatore, the Dodgers only acquired him this offseason. The 27-year-old had previously been with the Rays, so it was hardly surprising to see Friedman pull both Liberatore and Joel Peralta from the Rays organization in a trade with his former colleagues. Liberatore is older for a prospect, but he has exceptional numbers at the Triple-A level, where he’s worked to a 2.40 ERA in 146 1/3 innings. His most impressive work came in 2014, when he worked to a 1.66 ERA with 11.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 65 innings.
For what it’s worth, both Liberatore and Rodriguez have had excellent Spring Training campaigns, combining for 13 innings of scoreless relief. That likely doesn’t mean much, and considering the fact that both have Minor League options remaining, there’s no pressure for the Dodgers to move either, even if they don’t break camp in the bullpen. Also to be considered is the fact that relief help is a need for the Dodgers themselves, particularly in the wake of an injury to closer Kenley Jansen that may only sideline him through mid-April but could leave him on the shelf into mid-May. The Dodgers have a number of contracts they’d like to shed (e.g. Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena) but the Mets would hardly seem to be in a financial position to sweeten the pot by taking on some salary in a trade.
This week, Jeff talks Dodgers with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, exploring the team’s changes under new front office leadership and attempting to sort out where the busy organization is headed. Jeff also checks in with MLBTR’s Zach Links about his spring training travels.
The MLB Trade Rumors Podcast runs weekly on Thursday afternoons.
The Dodgers have had an incredibly busy offseason under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi. Indeed, as MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker shows, the new Los Angeles regime has racked up about thirty deals of some kind or another.
Many of those, of course, were not major moves. But the Dodgers have obviously not been shy about making significant transactions to add and remove veterans from their roster — a topic that I discussed at length with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times for today’s MLBTR Podcast. (Keep an eye out for that to post later today.)
Sticking to the most impactful deals, I thought it would be interesting to get a sense of how the MLBTR readership views the work of the new LA leadership. (We’ll treat the interconnected Kendrick and Gordon deals as one for purposes of this poll.)
Olivera figures in the mix at second or third, but with so many other options there — and given the risk that he brings — was this a wise allocation of resources?
Anderson has always been productive when healthy, but can he stay on the hill?
Can McCarthy continue his success from late last year and avoid his own injury woes?
Rollins is still a solid performer despite his age, but will he hit a wall at age 36?
Acquire second baseman Howie Kendrick from Angels for starter Andrew Heaney after acquiring Heaney, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, reliever Chris Hatcher, and catcher Austin Barnes from Marlins in exchange for middle infielder Dee Gordon, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas, and a player to be named
Giving up Gordon while adding Kendrick upgraded the team in the near term but sacrificed control, and the team passed on a chance to plug a young arm into the back of a rotation that arguably lacks depth.
As Hernandez discusses on today’s podcast, this move has the biggest chance for blowback potential from the fan base; was it a shrewd business move or will the organization regret parting with a prominent star?
(Click here for results.)
Earlier today, Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera reportedly struck a six-year, $62.5MM agreement with the Dodgers. A late entrant onto the free agent market, Olivera ultimately landed the ninth-largest guarantee of the offseason.
Here are some reactions to the signing:
- The Dodgers’ move for Olivera was set in motion, in part, by other international happenings, says Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com (links to Twitter). After losing righty Yoan Lopez to the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers elected not to incur future spending restrictions by going after Yoan Moncada. The club then turned its focus to inking Olivera and Pablo Hernandez, neither of whom was subject to spending caps. But that leaves Los Angeles positioned as the “team to beat” for pitchers Yadier Alvarez and Vladimir Gutierrez in the next signing period, says Gammons.
- Olivera represents a move that prioritizes roster flexibility, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, but also demonstrates that the Dodgers will seek to marry advanced analysis with budgetary muscle. It remains to be seen how things will play out, of course, but Passan says that the rest of the league is on notice: the Dodgers are intent upon a long-term strategy as both the smartest and the richest organization in the game.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs voices a similar sentiment, positing that Olivera is unlikely to offer much of an upgrade to the club for 2015, if he does at all. Instead, the club was able to plunk down a large amount of cash in order to prepare for 2016 and beyond.
- The club’s long-term plans for Olivera are not dependent upon whether top prospect Corey Seager can stick at the shortstop position in the long run, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Olivera is believed to be capable of playing at second, third, or first, making him a flexible option depending upon where Seager ends up. The club currently employs pending free agents up the middle and at the hot corner, so figures to have plenty of options in charting a course after seeing how things progress in 2015.
- Los Angeles primarily sees Olivera as a third baseman, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. To some extent, the club was buying at that position early given its evaluation of next year’s free agent class at third, says Sherman.
- Of course, it remains to be seen what that means for incumbent Juan Uribe and the rest of the infield mix for the present season. While Uribe could conceivably move to a utility role, such a move would have implications for fellow infielders Justin Turner, Alex Guerrero, and Enrique Hernandez (and, in turn, the team’s already-full slate of outfielders). Needless to say, the Dodgers figure to remain busy over the coming months and beyond.
The Dodgers have reportedly landed yet another high-profile Cuban talent by agreeing to a six-year, $62.5MM contract with infielder Hector Olivera. The deal contains a $28MM signing bonus and is pending a physical. Olivera is represented by Greg Genske of the Legacy Agency.
Olivera reportedly has a slight UCL tear in his right elbow, and the deal provides protection for the team in the event that it proves problematic. Los Angeles would pick up an option for a seventh season at the price of just $1MM in the event that Olivera needs Tommy John surgery at some point during the six guaranteed seasons. That type of clause is, of course, most associated with pitcher John Lackey, whose free agent deal with the Red Sox included a similar provision that ultimately gave the team a valuable additional season of control.
Olivera’s signing process was a long and often controversial one, including an agent change, contested reports of a damaged UCL (which now seem to have had validity) and a wide spectrum of possible contracts ranging from four to six years in length and between $30MM to over $70MM in value. In the end, Olivera and Legacy have to be pleased to have landed an agreement near the highest end of those projected deals. The Dodgers outbid several teams for Olivera’s services, as the Padres, Marlins, Braves, Giants, Mariners, Yankees, Twins and A’s were said to have varying degrees of interest.
The signing represents the Dodgers’ most expensive dip yet into the Cuban market. The club has also added Yasiel Puig ($42MM), Alex Guerrero ($28MM), Erisbel Arruebarrena ($25MM) and Pablo Fernandez ($8MM) within the last three years, yet they’ve managed to add this significant international talent without going over their international bonus pool limit. While clubs like the Red Sox or Diamondbacks are prevented from signing international players for more than $300K until July 2017 for exceeding their pools, the Dodgers have largely targeted players who aren’t pool-eligible, like the 29-year-old Olivera.
Beyond the UCL rumors, some scouts were also concerned that Olivera missed over a season in Cuba recovering from a blood clot in his arm, and he played mostly DH after returning to action in 2013. Still, MLB scouts were very impressed with Olivera’s right-handed hitting approach, his ability to play at either second or third base, and his potential to contribute right away, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler notes. In a more detailed scouting report available to BA subscribers, and Badler writes that Olivera “compares favorably to the two top recent Cuban signings who received major league contracts, Yasmany Tomas and Rusney Castillo.”
Olivera still needs to obtain a visa, and as Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan notes, he’ll likely need about a month in the minor leagues, so May is probably the earliest we’d see Olivera in a Dodgers uniform. L.A. has no need to rush Olivera as they already have Juan Uribe at third and Howie Kendrick at second; ironically, of all Olivera’s suitors, the Dodgers were perhaps the team least in need of immediate infield help. With Uribe and Kendrick both free agents after the season, however, it seems that Olivera will replace one (probably Uribe, as most feel Olivera is best suited to third) as the Dodgers’ long-term solution.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez first reported the signing, while Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted financial details. Robert Murray (via Twitter), Sanchez (via Twitter), and J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group (also on Twitter) reported details of the injury clause.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Hall of Fame baseball writer Nick Peters, who covered the Giants for 47 years, has died, Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee writes. Peters was 75. He worked for the Bee, the Oakland Tribune, the Berkeley Gazette and the San Francisco Chronicle, covering a total of nearly 5,000 games. The BBWAA honored him with a Spink Award in 2009. Breton writes that Peters had an especially good relationship with Barry Bonds, who Peters had known from being around the Giants since Bonds was child following his father Bobby and godfather Willie Mays. “Nick was known not only for his writing talent and encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, but also for his mentorship of many young reporters who rose through the ranks of sports journalism,” write the Giants in a statement. “He will be deeply missed by the entire Giants organization and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lise and the entire Peters family.” Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins‘ new interview with FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal offers an unusually candid look at what it’s like to change teams. Rollins spent 19 seasons in the Phillies organization before heading to Los Angeles. That involved quite a mental adjustment, as Rollins explains. “It was real tough in the beginning to give in to the LA thing, the Dodger thing, the wearing of blue, being the best organization in pro sports. That’s their belief,” he says. “Now I’m part of that product. But it was tough – 14 years on the other side, learning to . . . I can’t say hate, that’s a strong word . . . but learning to want to beat the brakes off anything with L.A. and Dodger blue in it.”
- Sam Deduno, who’s out of options, appears to have a good shot at making the Astros‘ roster because he can relieve, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. Deduno is competing with Roberto Hernandez and Asher Wojciechowski for the fifth spot in the Astros’ rotation, but he has a better chance than either of the other two of making the roster because he can head to the bullpen if he doesn’t get the rotation job. The Astros have two bullpen openings. One will likely go to a lefty (perhaps Joe Thatcher), but Deduno could win the other spot.