Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors
The Astros may not have a realistic shot at winning next season, but they can offer playing time and have a bright future, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. "Someone looking to win a World Series title next year may not think about the Astros as the first place to go sign," says GM Jeff Luhnow. "But having said that, we also have an opportunity."
Luhnow also says the Astros could make a major move if the right opportunity presented itself. "If it’s the right situation for the right player, the right length of years. Houston’s a big city," he says. "We’ve got the capacity to compete with the big boys ultimately, and whether or not we start this year or next year after that, I think eventually it’s coming." Whether a top-notch free agent would be willing to come to Houston at this point is an open question, however. Here's more from around the big leagues.
- The Astros aren't likely to acquire first baseman Ike Davis in a trade with the Mets, Drellich writes. Drellich also notes that the Astros did not have interest in Marlon Byrd, who recently signed with the Philles. Still, the Astros are hoping to add a power bat at first base or in the outfield, and they're open to finding one via free agency or trade.
- The Athletics' signing of Nick Punto doesn't mean they're likely to deal Jed Lowrie, writes the New York Post's Joel Sherman. Punto "has nothing to do with Jed Lowrie. Jed is our starting shortstop," says A's assistant GM David Forst. Lowrie is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.
- Brian Wilson wouldn't mind returning to the Dodgers as something other than a closer, as long as they pay him like one, Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times tweets. Wilson was excellent down the stretch for the Dodgers last season, but they already have a very good closer in Kenley Jansen.
- Free agent Jamey Carroll is attracting interest, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. The infielder will be 40 in February, but he does not want to retire. Carroll hit .211/.267/.251 in 249 plate appearances with the Twins and Royals last season.
- Lefty Randy Wolf is on the comeback trail after sitting out the 2013 season, and he plans to audition for MLB teams later this month, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets. Wolf posted a 5.65 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 157 2/3 innings with the Brewers and Orioles in 2012.
General Manager Brian Cashman told reporters, including Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger (on Twitter), that you can rule out the Yankees signing Brian Wilson after his agent told the team he won't shave his beard. While you ponder that, here's the latest on Wilson..
- Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) hears that the most interested teams are the Giants, Dodgers, Indians, Tigers, Rockies, Mariners, and Red Sox. The Reds could also jump in, depending on whether Aroldis Chapman moves to the rotation.
Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Sulia link) says that Mike Napoli would be a strong fit for the Rockies. Renck believes that the Rockies could land Napoli by doling out big dollars on a medium-term deal and suggests last year's ill-fated three-year, $39MM pact as a starting point. Meanwhile, Colorado also likes cheaper alternative Michael Morse. More from the NL West..
- Giants GM Brian Sabean told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter) that nothing is imminent pitching-wise. Right now he's only discussing concepts of dollars and years with agents. Sabean added that he would go to three years for the right guy.
- Schulman (link) also spoke with Josh Johnson's agent who said that he only discussed a deal for his client with the Giants "in passing."
- The Dodgers have made outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford available, but they're also getting inquiries on Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Of course, of the four, the Dodgers are most reluctant to trade Puig.
The Mariners have expressed interest in Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). It was reported last week that the Dodgers are open to moving Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford this winter.
Kemp, 29, nearly won the National League MVP in 2011 and was selected to the All-Star team in 2012 but hit only .270/.328/.395 in 290 PA for the Dodgers in 2013. The outfielder still has plenty of trade value, but he is owed $128MM through the 2019 season and Los Angeles may have to foot some of the bill if they move him. Health has been an issue for Kemp in recent years - he played 106 games in 2012 and just 73 last season. Of course, the Dodgers can afford to move one of their outfielders thanks to last year's emergence of Yasiel Puig.
Here's a look at today's minor moves from around baseball.
- The Tigers have signed catcher Ronny Paulino to a minor-league deal, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Paulino, 32, hit .250/.337/.348 in limited action at the minor-league level in 2013. He last appeared in the Majors with the Orioles in 2012, and he has a career big-league line of .272/.324/.376.
- The Dodgers have signed catcher J.C. Boscan to a minor-league deal and invited him to spring training, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweets. Boscan hit .232/.297/.270 in 258 plate appearances for the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa affiliate in 2013. He has 30 career big-league plate appearances.
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com hears the Mets aren't considering a reunion with Scott Kazmir. Earlier today, we heard that the Indians don't expect to hang on to the left-hander as he's likely to command a multi-year pact and they're not willing to go beyond one. Here's more from around baseball..
- Royals manager Ned Yost told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter links) that his priorities are starting pitching and second base. Yost also indicated that Carlos Beltran, Brandon Phillips, and Ervin Santana have popped up in discussions.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti is scheduled to talk to agent Dan Lozano about two of his clients, closers Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Cleveland is looking into out-of-house closing options after parting ways with Chris Perez.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he's looking to add "400 innings" to the rotation this winter, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has scouted Masahiro Tanaka extensively and hopes to be in the mix for him, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
- If Carlos Ruiz really has a two-year, $20MM offer on the table, then he probably shouldn't let it sit for too long, opines MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).
- Nationals assistant GM and VP of player personnel Roy Clark has the club to take a job with the Dodgers, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
Over the next few months, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
The league is full of young closers nowadays, and they all seem to be entering their first year of arbitration at the same time. There are seven different pitchers with at least 16 saves in 2013 who are entering arbitration for the first time, nearly a quarter of the entire league’s closers. Craig Kimbrel has already been discussed in a previous article and his case is far stronger than any of the other pitchers. Aroldis Chapman has a pretty unique case, if not a better one, because he has been an elite closer for two years and will be opting out of a large contract to go through arbitration. Mark Melancon is different than the others as well, because he only really was a closer in the second half of this season, and only due to injury. However, there are a number of similarities between Ernesto Frieri, Steve Cishek, Greg Holland, and Kenley Jansen, and this article will be about the cases for each of them. The model only sees arbitration salaries of $3.4MM for Frieri and $3.2MM for Cishek, while it sees $4.9MM for Holland and $4.8MM For Jansen. In this article, I will explain why the model is making these predictions and discuss whether the actual salaries will diverge this much.
For relievers, the primary determinants of their arbitration salaries are the number of saves they had in their platform season, and the number of saves they had before their platform season, as well as the number of holds in their platform season and pre-platform season. To a lesser extent, platform-year ERA and pre-platform year ERA are important as well, and innings and strikeouts all play a key role too.
Holland has the most platform year saves of the group, with 47 this past year, on top of the 20 pre-platform saves he had. This number along with his 1.21 ERA explains why he had the largest salary projection of this group at $4.9MM. Although Jansen had fewer saves than the others with 28, his 1.88 ERA was better than Cishek’s 2.33 and far better than Frieri’s 3.80 this past season. Combining that with his 2.22 ERA pre-platform (better than the other three) and his 16 holds, and Jansen is projected nearly as high as Holland, with a $4.8MM estimate. Jansen’s 34 pre-platform saves were also the highest of the four, and his 21 pre-platform holds stood only behind Holland’s 27.
Frieri did have 37 saves in 2013 and 23 more beforehand, which is definitely a good case. Although his 3.80 ERA is high for a closer, his 98 strikeouts are way more than Cishek’s 74, but less than Holland’s 103 and Jansen’s 111. Cishek had 34 saves in 2013 with 18 pre-platform. Frieri is projected to get $3.4MM and Cishek is projected for $3.2MM.
The record for closers entering their first year of eligibility still belongs to Jonathan Papelbon at $6.25MM (until Kimbrel breaks this record). His 41 platform year saves and 72 pre-platform saves puts him well ahead of this group. Even Bobby Jenks’ 30 platform year saves were augmented by his 87 pre-platform year saves, putting him ahead of this group when he got a $5.6MM salary back in 2009.
Looking for pitchers who had similar pre-platform saves as well as platform saves is important, since anyone with three years of closing will have earned more than this group of four will. Holland’s 47 platform year save count and 20 pre-platform year save count are a pretty unique pairing, so it will tough to find a perfect comparable. Everyone with over 40 saves in recent memory during their platform years had more pre-platform year saves.
Brian Wilson’s 38 platform-year saves and 48 pre-platform year saves make for an interesting comparable. In 2010, he earned $4.46MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Of course, his 2.74 ERA is far worse than Holland’s 1.21, so there seems to be a good chance that Holland could top this salary. On the other hand, if pre-platform year saves becomes important, than perhaps J.J. Putz’s 2007 numbers of 36 platform-year saves and 10 pre-platform year saves could be a floor—but he only earned $2.7MM. Given how stale that number is at this point, I don’t see Putz’s name coming up in negotiations. I think that Holland will have a hard time arguing for anywhere over $5MM, which is what John Axford earned last year after accumulating 35 platform year saves and 71 pre-platform year saves, so I think that the $4.9MM estimate is probably about right for him.
For Jansen, his 28 pre-platform saves are on the low side, but his 16 holds, 1.88 ERA, and 111 strikeouts augment his case. He also 34 pre-platform year saves and his 2.22 ERA and 236 strikeouts before his platform year are a strength as well, in addition to the 21 holds he had already accumulated. Andrew Bailey’s 2012 arbitration salary of $3.9MM could come up as a comparable for him. He had 24 saves in his platform-year but 51 in his pre-platform year, so he could be argued to be a ceiling for Jansen based on the pre-platform save total. However, his 3.24 platform-year ERA is far behind Jansen’s 1.88 and Jansen’s holds could help make up for the gap in pre-platform saves. Especially given the fact that Bailey had only 41 strikeouts in his platform season, I could see $3.9MM being a floor for Jansen.
Another potential comparable could be Chad Cordero, who received $4.15MM back in 2007. Although this is a stale number at this point, the 29 saves that Cordero had in his platform year are similar to Jansen’s 28, and even though his 62 pre-platform year saves beat Jansen, his 3.19 ERA and 69 strikeouts fall short of him. Furthmore, Jansen’s holds are really unique for a guy who has mostly been a closer and give him a small leg up on other names that keep coming up. In the end, something in the $4.8MM neighborhood could be a good bet, though I could see him ending up with less than this if platform year saves become too large of a factor.
Looking for comparables for Frieri is tricky if the high ERA comes into play. Even though he accumulated 37 saves in 2013, the 3.80 ERA that went along with them is abnormally high for a closer. In recent years, few such pitchers have met their criteria. Axford had a 4.68 ERA going into last year’s negotiations, which yielded him $5MM, but given that he had 71 pre-platform saves, that would dwarf Frieri’s 23, despite the similar number of saves during their platform years. Chad Cordero’s name might make some sense as well, when he earned $4.15MM in 2007, but his 62 pre-platform year saves are also too many to make for a good comparable and an ERA of 3.19 isn’t so bad either.
Another name that could come up in the negotiations over Frieri’s salary is Juan Carlos Oviedo, who had a 4.06 ERA in 2009. He only had 26 saves though and no pre-platform saves. These factors got him only a $2MM salary, which probably is way below what Frieri will receive. Brian Wilson keeps coming up as a ceiling for Frieri. He had 38 platfrom year saves and 48 pre-platfrom year saves, so he has Frieri on the pre-platform year saves, and his 2.74 ERA is much better as well. His $4.46MM salary will almost definitely exceed Frieri’s.
It’s hard to pick anyone who makes sense in between these numbers so really anywhere from $2MM to 4.4MM seems possible for Frieri. Of course, I suspect he’ll be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, so I think that the $3.4MM projection is about right.
Cishek had 34 saves last year, but with only 18 pre-platform saves, he probably has a weaker case than these other closers. Pre-platform year saves matter a lot for first-time eligible closers, so looking for his comparables will entail limiting this. Akinori Otsuka seems to line up in some ways, but his projection is very stale. Back in 2007, he earned $3MM after recording 32 saves and a 2.11 ERA, but he only had 3 saves prior to his platform year. Since Cishek’s ERA was 2.33, it could be that $3MM becomes a floor for Cishek. On the other hand, David Aardsma received $2.75MM in 2010 after recording 38 saves, but those were the first of his career. Given his 18 career holds are similar to Cishek’s 16, and his 2.52 ERA is also near Cishek’s, I could see the Marlins trying to hold down Cishek’s salary by suggesting this comparable.
Of course, if Cishek can downplay the importance of pre-platform saves, he may be able to sneak Brian Wilson’s $4.46MM salary into the argument. Wilson had 38 platform year saves, which is similar to Cishek’s 34, and his 2.74 ERA was higher than Cishek’s 2.33. However, I suspect the 48 pre-platform saves will make it hard to make this argument. Cishek coming in near $3.2MM as he is projected, just above Otsuka’s $3MM and Aardma’s $2.75MM seems likely.
Overall, despite the uncertainty and the difficulties in finding perfect comparables, it seems like the model is probably about right on all four of these guys. Although they each may be used as comparables for each other if one or two sign earlier than the others, drawing their salaries closer together based on the similarities between their platform year and pre-platform year saves, I suspect that the large gap in ERA and strikeouts ends up pushing them further apart, as well as Holland’s standout headline of 47 saves.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We've already had one batch of NL West notes today on MLBTR, a collection of Giants notes and Tim Dierkes broke down Juan Uribe's free agent profile. Here is even more news from around the division...
- The Padres will likely discuss an extension with Chase Headley during the GM meetings, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). As Heyman notes, there is "no evidence [the] sides have ever been close to" an agreement. Headley is set for free agency following the 2014 season and while his name has surfaced in trade talks, the current belief is that the Padres will keep him and hope he can return to form following a disappointing 2013 season.
- An informal poll of six scouts reveals clear preferences for Adam Eaton over A.J. Pollock and Chris Owings over Didi Gregorius, The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro writes. The Diamondbacks could deal one of their young center fielders or shortstops for help in other areas this offseason, though one scout notes that Arizona would be left with solid players no matter who they dealt.
- It's a little unusual that Clayton Kershaw hasn't signed a huge extension with the Dodgers yet, though ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon notes that if Kershaw isn't comfortable signing for a decade or longer, that could be in the Dodgers' best long-term interest.
- It has been rumored that the Dodgers could trade from their surplus of outfielders this offseason but GM Ned Colletti told reporters (including MLB.com's Ken Gurnick) that they have a lot of question marks, health-wise. Colletti pointed to last season's pitching injuries as an example of how you can never have enough roster depth: "We went to Spring Training with eight starting pitchers and everybody said we needed to trade some of them. Pretty soon we didn't have enough. We'll see what happens. We have to have big league coverage."
- Also from Gurnick, the Dodgers have an interest in bringing back Juan Uribe on a short-term contract. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicts Uribe will find a two-year, $12MM deal in free agency but that even could be a bit long given that Hanley Ramirez might be moved to third if Alexander Guerrero works out best as a shortstop rather than as a second baseman.
- Ryan Vogelsong has received interest from multiple teams and there's no guarantee he'll re-sign with the Giants, MLB.com's Chris Haft writes. Haft also explores some other free agent options as part of the mailbag piece.
Prior to the season, there was speculation the Dodgers could release Juan Uribe, eating the $7MM remaining on his contract just to open up the roster spot after he played at replacement level from 2011-12. However, Uribe made over 100 starts for the Dodgers in 2013 and was incredibly valuable, posting the fourth-best WAR among all free agents.
Uribe was worth 5.1 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs, a number topped in 2013 by only three other free agents: Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Shin-Soo Choo. No other position player even came close to Uribe, with Marlon Byrd checking in at 4.1.
How did he do it? In large part through defense. Playing mostly third base, Uribe posted a UZR/150 of 35.3 in 900 1/3 innings. Only four other players exceeded 30 this year, and their defensive excellence is uncontested: Shane Victorino, Juan Lagares, Gerardo Parra, and Manny Machado. Uribe's hot corner defense is no fluke, as he's posted strong UZR numbers there in each season since '09. Another stat, defensive runs saved from The Fielding Bible, had Uribe at 15. That figure was tied for the 15th best in baseball. The National League Gold Glove at third base went to Nolan Arenado, and rightfully so, but Uribe was one of three finalists along with David Wright. The Fielding Bible's panel of ten experts ranked Uribe's defense sixth in baseball at third base this year, behind only Arenado in the NL.
Uribe has the versatility to play all around the infield, though it's been a while since he's played anything other than third base regularly.
One reason Uribe was able to pick up 102 starts (and 132 total games) for the Dodgers this year is that he had a solid year with the bat as well. Uribe hit .278/.331/.438 in 426 plate appearances. He's always had pop, with a career isolated power mark of .167 and eight seasons of double digit home runs. He hit a career-best 24 bombs in 2010 with the Giants, leading to his contract with the Dodgers. This year, Uribe was able to hit for average while also drawing enough walks to create a solid OBP. Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), which is park and league-adjusted, measures a player's total offensive value against the league average. Uribe's 116 figure this year means he was 16% better than the league average hitter, and it ranked eighth among third basemen with at least 400 PAs. By this measure, Uribe had a better year with the bat than Pablo Sandoval, Chase Headley, Kyle Seager, Pedro Alvarez, Martin Prado, and other starting third basemen.
Uribe made significant contributions to the 2005 White Sox and 2010 Giants, so his pair of World Series rings are well-deserved. He did not receive a qualifying offer from the Dodgers this offseason, so signing him will not involve forfeiting a draft pick.
Uribe was a terrible hitter from 2011-12, hitting .199/.262/.289 with six home runs in 474 plate appearances. His contract looked like a big mistake after the first two years, and he took criticism for being out of shape. Uribe endured a left hip flexor injury in May 2011, and hit the DL again in July with a similar injury. In September 2011 he had surgery for a sports hernia, giving hope for a rebound in '12 when he showed up to camp in better shape and healthy again. However, he hit the DL in May for a wrist injury and was marginalized as the season wore on. Hanley Ramirez's thumb injury in March 2013 created an opportunity for Uribe to play regularly at third base. Even after a stellar 2013, no one has any idea how many useful seasons the 34-year-old Uribe has left.
Uribe posted a ridiculous 25.6% walk rate in April this year, settling in at a more Uribe-like 5.0% for the rest of the season. He also had a .322 batting average on balls in play this year, compared to a career BABIP of .282. It's reasonable to expect Uribe to draw fewer walks and have fewer hits drop in next year, pulling his OBP down toward his career .299 mark. Projections suggest Uribe may not even be a league average hitter in 2014. If he reverts to being a .200 hitter with no power, Uribe may be nothing more than a defensive replacement.
Juan and his wife Ana reside in the Dominican Republic in the offseason with their four children. Juan was a second cousin of Jose Uribe, a shortstop who played in the Majors from 1984-1993 and died in a car crash in 2006. Juan was signed by Rockies scout Jorge Posada, Sr., father of the Yankees catcher, in 1997. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez described the signing in this 2010 article.
Uribe is a big hit in the clubhouse. In 2010, Ann Killion of Sports Illustrated wrote, "Uribe is beloved, always happy, consistently upbeat." Uribe's teammates have been singing his praises for many years.
The Dodgers may be open to bringing Uribe back on a one-year deal, after the first two years of their initial commitment went so poorly. Otherwise, a team with unsettled plans in the short-term at third base would make sense for Uribe, which could mean the White Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Angels, Marlins, and Phillies. I'm not sure if any teams would consider Uribe as a semi-regular second baseman, but in that case the Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Royals, Braves, and Rockies could be factors. Uribe may be best served filling an Eric Chavez type of role, in whom the Yankees, Angels, and Diamondbacks are interested according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Uribe benefits from a weak free agent market for third basemen. He's as much of a starting third baseman as anyone else in the group.
The question with Uribe: one year or two? On one hand, the bar for a two-year deal is quite low. Utility infielders and other part-time players routinely get two years, and Uribe's performance in 2013 suggests he can contribute regularly. On the other hand, Uribe's contract with the Dodgers three years ago was the first multiyear pact of his career, and the first two years went horribly. In the end, I think Uribe will get a two-year, $12MM deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick checked in with 21 general managers, assistant GMs, player personnel people, and scouts to get their take on some of the biggest storylines of the winter. Here's a look at some of the highlights..
- Almost everyone sees Robinson Cano staying put with 19 votes for the Yankees, one vote for the Dodgers, and one for the Cubs. Nearly everyone sees Cano getting a seven- or eight-year deal worth $160MM-$230MM and no one expects him to approach the $300MM figure he was asking for from the Bombers earlier this year. It should be noted that the GM that picked the Cubs said that he has no inside info to support that pick.
- Nine execs see Masahiro Tanaka landing with the Dodgers while six chose the Yankees. All but a handful of those surveyed think his payout will exceed the $60MM Yu Darvish got from the Rangers. Tanaka is ranked as the top available pitcher by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes.
- Seventeen of the 21 participants in the survey say David Price will get traded this winter. Where will he land? The Rangers got nine votes and the Dodgers got four nods with one vote each for the Nationals, Cardinals, Angels, and Astros.
- Opinions were somewhat split on whether Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo fChoo will provide better value over the course of their next deals. Twelve execs said Ellsbury, eight voted for Choo, and one GM declined to vote, saying that neither one will match what they get.
- When asked to pick the best pitcher between Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez, ten execs chose Garza. Most seemed to agree that the lack of quality starting pitching available will lead to all three being overpaid. One American League scout seemed to like Jimenez on some level but was skeptical of him long-term. "Ubaldo has the best chance to give you impact in the short term, but I am not buying him over the course of 3-4 years," the scout said.
- When asked which former Yankees prospect has a better chance of succeeding elsewhere with a change of scenery, Phil Hughes was the overwhelming choice over Joba Chamberlain.
- Crasnick asked the execs which aging pitcher had the most left in the tank between Roy Halladay, Hiroki Kuroda, and Tim Hudson. Kuroda had the backing of 12 people surveyed, Hudson got eight votes, and Halladay had just one exec in his corner. "Maybe the chances of [Halladay] coming back aren't real good if you look at it objectively," a scout said. "But if the guy wants to [keep pitching] and be successful, I wouldn't put it past him."