Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors
The MLBTR staff extends our condolences to the friends and family of NBA Hall-of-Fame player and coach Bill Sharman, who passed away today at age 87. Sharman is best known for his legendary basketball career but he also played in the Dodgers' minor system from 1950-55, doing well enough to earn a late-season callup in 1951. Sharman was a so-called "phantom ballplayer" (a player who spends time on a Major League roster but didn't actually appear in a game) yet his status afforded him a unique spot in baseball history. The entire Dodgers bench was ejected for arguing a call on September 27, 1951, thus making Sharman the only player to ever be ejected from a Major League game without appearing in one.
Here are some items from around the NL West, starting with Sharman's old team...
- J.P. Howell and Nick Punto are the only two of the Dodgers' free agents who Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles predicts will be back with the team next season. Saxon also predicts the Dodgers will decline Mark Ellis' $5.75MM club option and their side of Chris Capuano's $8MM mutual option.
- Letting that mostly veteran free agent group go is one of Saxon's five ways the Dodgers can reach their stated goal of getting younger in 2014. Other methods include trading Andre Ethier and acquiring David Price and Elvis Andrus.
- The Rockies will explore signing Jesse Crain if he's healthy and will look to re-sign Matt Belisle to a longer-term deal, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes. Colorado has a $4.25MM option on Belisle for 2014 but Renck says the team will look to lower Belisle's base salary for next season in as part of a new contract.
- Renck also outlines several other Rockies offseason needs and notes that while they couldn't manage to sign Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu, the attempt at least showed that the club is trying and is willing to spend this winter.
- Also from Renck (via Twitter), he is "fascinated" by the Nationals' reported hiring of Matt Williams and notes that the Rockies came close to hiring Williams as manager last year before going with Walt Weiss.
- Even before their offseason moves have really begun, the Rockies and Giants are two of three teams projected by ESPN's Jared Cross (Insider subscription required) to have the best chance of improving by at least 20 wins in 2014. Cross also suggests a pair of free agents who could help the two clubs.
- A number of Padres topics are explored by Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune during a live chat with readers, including whether the Angels' Mark Trumbo would be a realistic trade option for the Friars as they look to add power to their lineup.
- USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that Dave Duncan is a "perfect fit" as the Diamondbacks' pitching coach and that we should "keep an eye on" him as a candidate for the job. Duncan took a leave of absence from the Cardinals in 2012 and recently said that he isn't interested in serving as a pitching coach again.
- In other NL West news from earlier today, the Giants officially announced Tim Lincecum's new contract....Lincecum's feelings about re-signing are included as part of a collection of Giants notes....the Padres designated southpaws Colt Hynes and Tommy Layne for assignment....MLBTR's Steve Adams wrote a Free Agent Profile of Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson.
Brian Wilson didn't want to sign with a team until he felt that he was competely recovered from Tommy John surgery, and his late-season numbers with the Dodgers show he was just that. Wilson looked better than ever after signing with the Dodgers for just $1MM on July 30, serving as a lights-out member of the team's bullpen down the stretch and into the NLCS. His strong showing should position him for a nice free agent deal.
Small sample or not, Wilson was flat-out dominant in 2013. Between the regular season and the postseason, The Beard/Agent Double-Zero allowed one run on 12 hits and six walks with 21 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
Pitchers don't typically get their velocity back immediately following Tommy John, and Wilson's heat certainly wasn't at its peak upon his return. The good news, however, is that Wilson is an absolute flamethrower, meaning that "sub-par" velocity for him translates to a 93.2 mph average heater. That mark ranks him 11th among potential free agent right-handers with at least 10 innings pitched. Two of those arms -- Matt Lindstrom and Jose Veras -- could see their club options exercised. Others such as Joba Chamberlain and Carlos Marmol are coming off dreadful seasons. And teams will probably be more focused on Jesse Crain's shoulder than his 94.5 mph fastball.
Wilson has averaged at least 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings in each season dating back to 2008, and his ground-ball rate has never dipped below the league average in a full season.
Looking at his splits, Wilson has actually been better against lefties in his career, and it's tough to say that he's benefited from all of his innings in the spacious AT&T Park when his career 2.98 ERA on the road trumps his 3.21 home mark.
For teams that still place a heavy emphasis on "proven" closers, Wilson fits the bill. The Beard has registered 171 career saves -- a mark that only Joe Nathan, Kevin Gregg and Fernando Rodney can top among potential free agents. Gregg melted down in the season's second half, and Rodney has Wilson bested by exactly one save despite being five years older.
Wilson won't come attached to a draft pick, as it's highly unlikely that the Dodgers would tender him a $14.1MM qualifying offer.
I've already referenced it, but teams are evaluating Wilson on a sample size of just 19 2/3 innings. It's impossible to tell how his surgically repaired arm will hold up over a full season's workload. He appeared in back-to-back games five times but never pitched three consecutive days for the Dodgers. If he's looking for a ninth-inning gig, the ability to pitch three in a row will be critical.
Wilson's command was solid in 2013, but he's averaged 3.9 walks per nine innings in his career and was at a whopping 5.1 BB/9 in his last full season (2011). Even prior to his Tommy John surgery, his fastball velocity had dropped, as he was at 94.3 mph in that same command-challenged 2011 campaign -- down from 95.9 mph in 2010 and 96.6 mph in 2009.
The 2011 struggles with his command and velocity could be due to the beginning of his elbow issues -- he did spend a month on the shelf with an elbow strain that year. However, we haven't seen a full season's work out of him since, so stastically speaking, there's not much evidence to suggest that the elbow was the lone culprit.
Much has been made of Wilson's eccentric personality, which is seen as a positive by most of his teammates. Whether touting his epic beard or playing dominos with Juan Uribe and his other teammates, Wilson keeps the clubhouse light-hearted and fun. Wilson is as passionate about being a good teammate as he is a good pitcher. He enjoys mentoring younger pitchers and is a known workout fiend. During games, Wilson will often track the action in a scorebook from the bullpen. In high school, Wilson lost his father, an Air Force veteran, to cancer. Brian honors his father's memory with charitable contributions toward the Air Force Academy.
Wilson has the misfortune of entering free agency alongside a very strong group of relievers that includes Nathan, Rodney, Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit. While he's the youngest of the bunch, Wilson also comes with the most uncertainty, as he's yet to pitch a full season since recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.
With so much competition, Wilson (and his peers) may struggle to find a ninth inning job on a two-year deal. He'd open his options considerably by showing a willingness to pitch on a one-year deal. If that were the case, his agents might be able to convince a team with a closer-in-waiting to delay the less-experienced arm's promotion to the ninth inning for a year. Others that have unspectacular incumbents, such as the Angels and Ernesto Frieri, may be willing to demote their current option to the eighth inning if Wilson can be attained.
If his goal is to sign a multiyear pact, Wilson and agents Dan Lozano and Matt Hannaford of the MVP Sports Group would be wise to pounce early in the offseason rather than shop around for the best fit. Doing so would maximize their chances at multiple years. Given the large amount of free agent closer options, it's better to act quickly than be left standing in January and taking a one-year deal.
Wilson will, to an extent, control his own fate this offseason. A team isn't likely to guarantee three years based on just 19 2/3 innings of work, no matter how impressive they were. Should he decide he wants a two-year contract, Wilson could find a deal similar to Joe Nathan's two-year, $14.75MM contract with the Rangers if he signs early in the winter (as Nathan himself did in Nov. 2011).
In my mind, the better play for Wilson, Lozano and Hannaford is to maximize his earnings on a one-year contract and enter the open market next season. A look at MLBTR's list of 2015 free agents shows that Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Jason Motte, Chris Perez, J.J. Putz and Sergio Romo are the best surefire closers set to hit the market. Grilli and Putz will be 38. Johnson and Perez are current non-tender candidates based on their salaries. Motte is an unknown coming off 2013 Tommy John surgery. Rafael Soriano could be on the market, or his option could vest if he finishes 62 games next season. If Huston Street pitches well, his $7MM option will be exercised. If not, he won't be competition for Wilson anyway.
Wilson's relative youth gives him the luxury of taking a one-year contract and then positioning himself as the next offseason's top two closers, ironically alongside his Giants successor, Romo. My expectation is that Wilson will sign the same one-year, $8.5MM contract inked by Ryan Madson two years ago (perhaps with some additional incentives), then hit the market and look to cash in big in the 2014-15 offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Since Dodgers ownership clearly doesn't trust manager Don Mattingly, they should either fire him or trade him to one of the four clubs with managerial vacancies, opines Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. L.A. may or may not find a taker for Mattingly. Even though he has fans in the Nats front office, Rosenthal writes that the general perception is that he's not the best in-game manager.Here's the latest from the NL West..
- Mattingly intends to honor the final year of his contract as manager with the Dodgers, his agent told Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Furthermore, there is renewed hope on both sides that he will continue on beyond 2012, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Agent Ray Schulte said he expects to meet with team president Stan Kasten in the next "few days."
- Mattingly still hasn't heard from Kasten since the season ended and is waiting to meet with him, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, the skipper is still looking for a multi-year deal (link).
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke with Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans about the club's two-year, $35MM extension for Tim Lincecum. Evans broke down his reasons for giving The Freak such a hefty deal and pointed out that if the club retained him with the qualifying offer both this year and next year, the total amount would have been roughly $29MM, not far off from what they gave him.
- Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com wonders if Lincecum's lucrative new deal is a baseball or a marketing decision. In all likelihood, it was a little from column A and a little from column B as the Giants legitimately needed to fortify the back-end of their rotation this winter.
The Red Sox have acquired outfielder Alex Castellanos from the Dodgers in exchange for minor league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and cash considerations, the teams announced. In order to make room on their 40-man roster, the Red Sox have designated right-hander Pedro Beato for assignment.
Castellanos, 27, was designated for assignment when the Dodgers claimed Mike Baxter off waivers from the Mets. The first big leaguer produced from North Carolina's Belmont Abbey College since Hal Haid pitched in the 1920s, Castellanos has a .171/.186/.390 batting line in just 43 big league plate appearances -- all with the Dodgers. Originally a 10th-round pick of the Cardinals back in 2008, he was traded to the Dodgers in 2011 for Rafael Furcal and cash considerations. In 846 career appearances at Triple-A, Castellanos is a .291/.382/.525 hitter with 36 homers and 35 stolen bases. Baseball America ranked him among the Dodgers' Top 20 prospects prior to the 2012 (19th) and 2013 (11th) seasons.
Hazelbaker, who turned 26 in August, slashed .257/.313/.374 with 11 homers and 37 steals (in 44 attempts) at Triple-A Pawtucket this season. He hasn't ranked among BA's Top 30 Red Sox prospects since the 2010-11 offseason, though BA did name him the South Atlantic League's fastest baserunner in 2010. Indeed, the Ball State product is 194-for-245 (79.2 percent) in stolen base attempts throughout his minor league career.
Beato, who turns 27 on Sunday, pitched 10 innings for the Red Sox this season and allowed four earned runs (five total) on 12 hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. In 89 career innings between the Mets and Red Sox, the Dominican hurler has a 4.55 ERA with 5.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate. He's averaged a solid 92.4 mph on his heater in those 89 innings and was up to 93.1 mph with the Sox in 2013.
At today's news conference, new Reds skipper Bryan Price said that no decision has been made on whether Aroldis Chapman will be a starter or reliever going forward. However, Price did say that pitchers "get better by throwing innings. I haven't changed that philosophy," according to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Here's more from around baseball..
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty says that he's not shopping second baseman Brandon Phillips, but he stopped short of guaranteeing that he'll be with the club by the start of Spring Training, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. "[Phillips] texted wanting to know if we were trading him. I told him that I have not spoken to anybody about that," Jocketty said. "I'm not talking to any clubs about him." Earlier today, Charlie Wilmoth previewed the offseason ahead for Cincinnati.
- The Royals are reportedly willing to listen on Billy Butler this winter, but Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star notes that GM Dayton Moore is always open-minded to all opportunities.
- The Dodgers scouted Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka three days ago and could become major players for him, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The hurler is among the very best starting pitchers available on the open market this winter.
The Twins announced today that they have added Hall of Famer and St. Paul native Paul Molitor to their Major League coaching staff. Molitor has been an oft-rumored candidate to be Ron Gardenhire's successor in the Twin Cities media, but with Gardenhire receiving a two-year extension, Molitor will oversee baserunning, bunting, infield instruction/positioning and assist with in-game strategy from the dugout. He has previously served as the Mariners' hitting coach and coached with the Twins under manager Tom Kelly in 2000-01.
Here's more on the managerial/coaching front from around the league...
- The Dodgers announced that the options of coaches Davey Lopes, Rick Honeycutt and Tim Wallach's were exercised for 2014. Hitting coach Mark McGwire was already under contract for next season. It's an apparent indication that the Dodgers would prefer for Mattingly to stay, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), as a new manager would want to have some say in his staff. However, the renewal of the coaches' contracts wouldn't preclude a promotion for Wallach (link).
- The Dodgers have fired bench coach Trey Hillman and advanced scout Wade Taylor, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). Both were close with manager Don Mattingly, who said at a press conference yesterday that his return in 2014 wasn't a guarantee just because his option vested and added that he wanted his entire coaching staff to return in 2014. The dismissal of Hillman and Taylor figures to add to the tension between Mattingly and the Dodgers brass.
- Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times tweets that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti informed Hillman of his dismissal, but Mattingly, who hired Hillman, was not involved.
- John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press runs down a list of candidates for the recently vacated Tigers managerial position. Former Pirates manager and current hitting coach Lloyd McClendon is the leading in-house candidate, but Lowe contacted Dusty Baker and Eric Wedge, both of whom expressed interest in the job. GM Dave Dombrowski said yesterday that the Tigers would hire someone with either Major League or Minor League managerial experience, adds Lowe, which seemingly takes former Detroit backstop Brad Ausmus out of the running.
- The Nationals have intereviewed Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale for their managerial vacancy, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Hale is the fifth candidate interviewed by the Nats (and third external candidate). He has previously interviewed for managerial openings with the Mariners (2009), Blue Jays (2011) and Cubs (2012). Kilgore adds that the Nationals were impressed by Hale's interview.
- The Rangers announced yesterday that they have hired Tim Bogar as their bench coach. The 47-year-old Bogar spent 2012 managing the Angels' Double-A affiliate and spent the 2009-12 seasons filling the positions of Major League first base coach, third base coach and bench coach for the Red Sox.
The Dodgers announced that they have designated pitcher Peter Moylan for assignment. The move will create space on the 40-man roster for the newly-acquired Alexander Guerrero.
In 14 big league appearances this season, Moylan posted a 6.46 ERA with 3.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. In his seven big league seasons with the Braves prior to coming to L.A., Moylan had a career 2.59 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9. He spent the bulk of 2013 in the minors, where he posted a 2.74 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 38 outings.
To keep track of Moylan and everyone else in DFA limbo, check out the MLBTR DFA Tracker.
WEDNESDAY, 7:20pm: The Dodgers confirmed the signing via press release.
TUESDAY, 1:15pm: Guerrero will indeed be a free agent following the conclusion of his contract and won't be eligible for arbitration, according to Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. Hernandez adds that the contract contains a clause that prevents the Dodgers from sending Guerrero to the minor leagues without his consent after the first year of the contract (Twitter links).
10:48am: The Dodgers have agreed to terms with Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero on a four-year, $28MM contract that could reach $32MM via incentives, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez (on Twitter).
Early reports that pegged the Dodgers and Guerrero agreeing to a seven-year, $32MM pact proved to be premature. More recently, it was reported that he was nearing a five-year, $32MM contract with the Dodgers after switching over to agent Scott Boras, but bidding was said to be "wide open" once again shortly thereafter.
By talking the Dodgers down to four years at a similar (and potentially identical) guarantee, Boras has managed to commit only his client's age-27 through age-30 seasons. Guerrero, who will turn 27 this December, will be able to hit the open market entering his age-31 season, which should allow him to sign another strong contract if he is able to live up to his potential.
Guerrero batted .290/.402/.576 with 21 home runs in 328 plate appearances in his final season in Cuba's Serie Nacional. That line, along with the .316/.406/.586 that he slashed from 2010-12 in his age 23-25 seasons (h/t: Obstructed View), was enough for Boras to compare Guerrero's power to that of Dan Uggla. While that comp should be taken with a grain of salt, the bar is set pretty low for Guerrero in the Majors, at least among his new peers; Major League second basemen slugged just .376 this year as a group. It should also be noted that Ben Badler of Baseball America did call right-handed power Guerrero's best tool in his late July scouting report (BA subscription required and recommended).
Guerrero also drew interest from the Giants, Rangers, Red Sox, Twins and Reds, but ultimately wound up signing with the first team to which he was connected. With this agreement, the Dodgers seem to have taken themselves out of the running for Robinson Cano, though they could conceivably move Hanley Ramirez to third base and play Guerrero at shortstop. That seems unlikely, as it has long been rumored that the team has no intentions of pursuing Cano on the free agent market, and partial owner Magic Johnson controversially confirmed that thinking to reporters earlier this month. Guerrero's signing also seems to point to the fact that Mark Ellis' $5.75MM club option will be declined in favor of a $1MM buyout.
Guerrero is the second major Cuban star to sign in the past week, as the White Sox recently signed first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu to a record-setting six-year, $68MM contract.
With Dodgers brass addressing the media today following their defeat at the hands of the Cardinals in the NLCS, manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times, that his $1.4MM option for the 2014 season vested when the Dodgers won the National League Division Series. However, Mattingly added that his return in 2014 wasn't a sure thing, as he didn't enjoy his status as a lame-duck manager on a one-year deal in 2013. He said that he would like his entire coaching staff to return as well, but GM Ned Colletti declined comment when asked if he felt the same (All Twitter links).
As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle notes (on Twitter), Mattingly's delivered his candid comment while sitting just six feet away from Colletti. Schulman adds the following quote from Mattingly, noting that he's basically challenging ownership and Colletti to give him a contract extension: "I love it here, but I don't want to be anywhere I'm not wanted."
Mattingly's contract status has been an ongoing narrative for quite some time, given the Dodgers' surge to the NL West title and an NLCS berth following a dreadful start. Given the plethora of open managerial positions around the league -- the Nats, Mariners, Tigers, Reds and Cubs are all hunting for new skippers -- Mattingly figures to have plenty of leverage in negotiating an extension with the Dodgers. He'd also have ample opportunity to find a managerial position with another club, should the Dodgers stick to their guns and try to keep him on a one-year deal.
The most meaningful lesson to be learned from this postseason is to stop giving mega-contracts to first basemen, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Six first basemen are earning at least $22MM (Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira, and Joey Votto). Sherman believes the jury is still out on the deals given to Gonzalez and Votto, but believes the other four are disasters which, given the opportunity to amnesty Fielder, Howard, Pujols, and Teixeira for nothing in return, each team would do so just to be free of the contractual albatross. But, Sherman posits the true test of whether the era of first basemen receiving mega-contracts is over will be two offseasons from now when Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are scheduled to become free agents.
- Speaking of Pujols, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller details how the Cardinals were able to overcome his loss and the retirement of Tony LaRussa to return to the World Series in just two years.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains the franchise's method as "The Cardinal Way," which he defines as an organizational model of success (scouting, drafting, and developing players and shaping their personalities to fit into a winning environment) and an attitude (trust, subjugating ego, working together, and always pulling in the same direction).
- The Dodgers should model their organizational plan after the Cardinals and have already begun to do so, according to ESPNLos Angeles.com's Mark Saxon. The difference between the two clubs in the NLCS was the Cardinals' power arms, Saxon asserts, and most of them were drafted out of college. He points out 21 of the Dodgers' 40 selections in the last draft were pitchers and 31 of the 40 picks came out of colleges.
- Yasiel Puig is too important to the Dodgers' future to have his mistakes excused because of his enormous talent and enthusiasm, opines Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.
- The Phillies have a satisfying problem with Cody Asche and Maikel Franco, two young and homegrown talents, competing for the third base job, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb.