Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors
It's unclear if the Dodgers' extension talks with Hanley Ramirez have progressed since they were reported to be in the "early stages" three weeks ago, but Ramirez made one thing clear today. After arriving at camp a day early, Ramirez told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he wants "to be a Dodger for life."
Ramirez declined any further comment on a potential extension, but he did say that he had treatment this winter on a damaged nerve in his back that is believed to have been the source of last season's hamstring woes. That balky hamstring limited Han-Ram to just 86 games, but when he was on the field, there were few better players in the game. Ramirez batted .345/.402/.638 with 20 homers in just 336 plate appearances last season and was worth more than five wins above replacement despite the missed time.
An extension for Ramirez would take perhaps the top free agent from the 2014-15 crop off the market before he's ever given the chance to test it. The Dodgers made an aggressive push to keep Clayton Kershaw from hitting free agency with last month's $215MM extension, and presumably, they're highly motivated to keep Ramirez in Dodger Blue as well.
Should Ramirez hit the open market, next offseason could be a rare free agent class where there are plentiful option at shortstop. J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera are all set to hit free agency following this season. (Notably, however, the market may have gained a major buyer today with the news that Derek Jeter will retire from the Yankees after the season.) Those names join Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Brett Gardner and Colby Rasmus as the top (relatively) young position players in next year's free agent class.
The Dodgers are nearing an agreement with Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (Spanish link). Arruebarruena, who defected from Cuba last year and established residence in Haiti, is traveling to the United States to take a physical, according to Rojas' source.
The 23-year-old Arruebarruena has six seasons of professional experience in Cuba's Serie Nacional and therefore is not subject to the spending restrictions placed on international amateurs. He is free to sign with any club for any amount.
Arruebarruena is considered an elite defensive shortstop, but most scouts have serious questions about his bat. Though Arruebarruena batted .320/.367/.520 in 306 plate appearances in Cuba from 2011-12, Ben Badler of Baseball America spoke with multiple scouts at the time of his defection and noted that many questioned whether Arruebarruena could manage a .220 average or .300 OBP in the Majors. He's also not a particularly fast player, further limiting his offensive upside. Given all of that info, it's not difficult to see why Arruebarruena has drawn comparisons to fellow Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias.
This would mark the third significant Cuban signing for the Dodgers in the past two years, as the team has also inked Yasiel Puig and Alexander Guerrero. The Dodgers appear set in the infield with Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez, Guerrero (or Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon or Miguel Rojas) and Adrian Gonzalez. However, a deal for Arruebarruena would likely be made with an eye on the long-term. Badler noted in his write-up that the defensive wizard would almost certainly require some minor league seasoning to hone his offensive skills, possibly having to begin at the Double-A level.
The Dodgers have avoided arbitration with closer Kenley Jansen, with the two sides agreeing to a $4.3MM salary for the coming season, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Jansen, 26, is a client of Wasserman Media Group.
Jansen's settlement amount comes in just above the mid-point between the hurler's $5.05MM filing figure and the team's $3.5MM counter. He falls a full half-million dollars shy of the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Though Jansen has been among the most dominant relievers in the game -- last year, in 76 2/3 innings, he maintained a 1.88 ERA with 13.0 K/9 against just 2.1 BB/9 -- he has not racked up quite the save tallies (28 last year and 25 in 2012) of several other big-name closers who earned more in their first run through arbitration.
MONDAY: Maholm's contract enables the longtime starter (he has just one career MLB relief appearance) to earn his potential $5MM in incentives whether pitching from the rotation or the pen, MLB.com's Ken Gurnick reports. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has indicated that Maholm may not make the rotation to start the year if Josh Beckett proves ready and able to take the fifth slot.
The incentive clause sets out an interesting point system. Maholm will earn two points for each game started, 1.5 points for a relief appearance of two or more innings, and one point for an appearance of less than two innings. The full $5MM is earned upon reaching 60 total points. While the complete alignment of points and cash along the rest of the scale remains unreported, Gurnick adds that Maholm's 26-start tally from a year ago (52 points) would land him $3.5MM under his new deal.
SATURDAY: Though they didn't land Masahiro Tanaka, the Dodgers did add some depth to their rotation on Saturday, as they announced the signing of lefty Paul Maholm to a one-year deal. Maholm, a client of agent Bo McKinnis, reportedly receives a $1.5MM base salary and can earn up to $6.5MM via incentives.
The framework for an agreement appeared to be in place this morning, when Hernandez reported that the starter had a locker prepared and was present in the Dodgers clubhouse, apparently to take a physical. However, confirmation wasn't available until now.
Maholm's eventual contract comes in significantly smaller than the one-year, $7MM deal that he was predicted to receive by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. While Maholm wasn't in the top tier of this winter's free agent starters, it comes as a surprise that the Dodgers were able to sign him for just a $1.5MM guarantee in an offseason in which Jason Vargas, a fellow 31-year-old lefty, received a four-year, $32MM contract. Vargas has the better track record of durability and has spent most of his career in the AL, so he likely has the edge. However, they've posted strikingly similar results for their careers: Maholm checks in with a lifetime ERA of 4.28, while Vargas' mark is 4.30. Maholm has struck out 5.8 batters per nine innings and walked 2.9 per nine for his career, compared with Vargas' rates of 5.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. In addition, Maholm was good for 153 innings in 2013, while Vargas managed 150 frames.
In effect, the Dodgers have swapped in Maholm for Chris Capuano, with whom they cut ties early this offseason via a $1MM buyout. Capuano is one of the few back-end types still available now that Maholm is off the market. Among top-tier pitchers, of course, both Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez remain on the board.
Maholm figures to give the Dodgers an option for the fifth slot in their rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu and Dan Haren. Josh Beckett will also be in the mix for that spot, though he's had health issues for the past two seasons. Chad Billingsley could challenge for that slot as well, but he won't be healthy until the summer as he rehabs from 2013 Tommy John surgery. Maholm is open to the idea of pitching out of the bullpen in the event that Beckett is healthy, manager Don Mattingly told reporters (via Gurnick on Twitter).
Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times first reported the signing, and Jim Bowden of ESPN was the first to tweet the $1.5MM base salary. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com was the first to report that the deal contained incentives (via Twitter), and Hernandez added (also on Twitter) that Maholm's salary could top out at $6.5MM.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
11:38am: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports (via Twitter) that there's "no way" Santana signs today. Dierkes' source says that there are three to four teams with serious interest.
10:59am: Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca hears from a source that Santana did indeed move closer to striking a deal this weekend. However, the Blue Jays "aren't the ones driving the sudden turn in his market," according to Davidi.
7:58am: The Orioles aren't close to a deal with Santana at this time, a source tells Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
MONDAY, 7:12am: Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that there's no interest in Santana from the Twins, but he hears that the Orioles, Mariners, Dodgers, Yankees and Indians have all inquired on Santana within the past few days. Of course, the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm over the weekend, so they may no longer be in the market for another starter.
SUNDAY: Free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana seems to finally be heading toward a deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Blue Jays and the Orioles have both been in touch with Santana. Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, meanwhile, tweets that the Orioles will strongly pursue Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez this week.
Santana, of course, is coming off a strong 2013 season in which he posted a 3.24 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 211 innings with the Royals. His path to a new team has been blocked, however, first by the uncertainty regarding Masahiro Tanaka's destination, and now by the fact that the team that signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick. As Rosenthal points out, the Jays' No. 9 and No. 11 picks are protected, which means they would only have to forfeit their No. 49 overall pick. The Orioles would lose their top draft choice, at No. 17.
Rosenthal notes that the Orioles are unlikely to be able to sign A.J. Burnett, as reports earlier this weekend indicated. They were among the finalists for Bronson Arroyo, but Arroyo recently agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks.
The free-agent market for starting pitching has been slow to develop this offseason, but now that Masahiro Tanaka has chosen a team, signings are trickling in. Two recent NL West contracts demonstrate how uncertain that market can be. The Diamondbacks agreed to terms with Bronson Arroyo on a two-year, $23.5MM deal that includes an option for 2016, and the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm for one year and $1.5MM guaranteed, with the chance to make up to $5MM more in incentives.
There are clear differences between the two pitchers -- Arroyo is a righty and Maholm is a lefty, and Arroyo has been the more durable of the two. That's a trend that might not persist, given that Arroyo is five years older than Maholm. But Maholm did miss a start in September due to elbow soreness (although an MRI revealed no structural trouble) and he pitched 49 fewer innings than Arroyo last year.
Arroyo and Maholm aren't that different, however. They're both low-upside, pitch-to-contact types who give their teams decent chances of winning as mid-rotation or back-of-the-rotation starters. And statistically, they're reasonably similar.
One could actually make the case that, over the past three seasons, Maholm has been better than Arroyo. As Fangraphs' David Cameron noted yesterday (via Twitter), Maholm appears to be quite a bargain in comparison. (I made a similar observation at my own blog.)
Others have noted the huge disparity between Maholm's contract and that of Jason Vargas, who received four years and $32MM from the Royals earlier this winter. Like Maholm, Vargas is a 31-year-old, pitch-to-contact lefty. Vargas has produced 4.5 WAR over the last three seasons, compared to 4.6 for Maholm.
The common thread here may be the perception that Arroyo and Vargas are more likely to give their new teams 200 innings. (Vargas only pitched 150 last season after missing time due to a blood clot, but he threw at least 201 in both 2011 and 2012.) If that's the case, however, the market seems to be overreacting. In theory, a team could easily get two Maholm-type fragile pitchers and hope for them to combine for 250 or so decent innings, rather than paying Arroyo or Vargas many times more. A team would have to clear an extra spot on its roster that way, but that seems like a small matter compared to the savings in dollars.
In fact, in a way, this seems to be what the Dodgers are doing -- they'll have Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren for the first four spots, and then Maholm, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley will soak up the remaining innings. (Beckett and Billingsley are both returning from injury.) If Arroyo posts 200 innings, that's surely useful, but given that his innings aren't the highest quality, a team should be able to compensate for reduced back-of-the-rotation certainty with greater depth.
Among Arroyo, Vargas and Maholm, Maholm is probably the outlier. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes' projection for Arroyo's contract was almost exactly on the money, while Maholm's contract, at least the guaranteed portion, falls well short of Dierkes' projected one year and $7MM. Perhaps teams are simply extremely concerned about Maholm's elbow. (In fact, that seems at least somewhat likely, given Maholm's apparent openness to pitching in relief. One would think a pitcher of his caliber would be able to find a sure starting job somewhere.)
If not, though, Maholm's deal doesn't bode well for a pitcher like lefty free agent Chris Capuano. Capuano's value has been similar to Vargas or Maholm the past three seasons (with 4.8 total fWAR), but he only pitched 105 2/3 innings last year due to a series of injuries, and he has two Tommy John surgeries in his past. Given Capuano's tendency to pitch reasonably strong innings when healthy, though, he could give his next team great value. Maholm's contract could be a bargain for the Dodgers, and the team that picks up Capuano could be in line for a bargain as well.
The Diamondbacks didn't ultimately land Masahiro Tanaka, but the club feels that Paul Goldschmidt significantly helped their pursuit of the Japanese ace, Jules Tompkins of ArizonaSports.com reports. When the Diamondbacks met with Tanaka, they brought Goldschmidt along. "It was very interesting to watch the interaction between Tanaka and Goldy, it was very clear -- even though the language barrier was there -- that Tanaka was impressed that he was there," says Diamondbacks executive Ken Kendrick. "And he asked him several questions through the interpreter about our club and about Arizona." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appreciates the confidence the organization showed in giving him a three-year contract, writes MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. "The organization has shown confidence," Mattingly says. "I think it says that to fans, it says that to me and more importantly it says that to the players. It lets them know that we feel like this guy can do the job." Mattingly notes that one thing his contract doesn't give him is security -- compared to the Dodgers' enormous payroll, Mattingly's contract is "a drop in the bucket," so if they feel the need to fire him, the contract likely won't constrain them.
- In addition to the obvious cultural differences, Tanaka will have to adjust to a number of other factors as he prepares for his debut with the Yankees, Anthony McCarron of New York Daily News writes. That includes the size of the ball and the textures of the mounds, as well as more power-centric opposing lineups.
If things went differently, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson could have found himself on the pages of Pro Football Rumors rather than MLBTR. Gibson was a standout wide receiver at Michigan State in 1977 and in an effort to increase his leverage with the NFL, he returned to the baseball diamond for the first time since high school, writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic. When the Tigers drafted Gibson with the 12th pick in the 1978 draft, they allowed him to finish out his senior season but made him give up on the NFL. Here's more out of the NL West..
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly says that newly-acquired starter Paul Maholm knows he might wind up pitching in relief if Josh Beckett is healthy and named the fifth starter, tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
- Diamondbacks newcomer Bronson Arroyo might not give Arizona the kind of production they were hoping to get out of a rotation addition this winter, but he should give them plenty of innings, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
- Randall Delgado is out-of-options, but the Diamondbacks won't let him get away, tweets Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona. The D'Backs want to keep all of their assets so if he's not in the starting five, they'll slot him in the bullpen.
One prominent American League player told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he believes players put quite a bit of pressure on Alex Rodriguez to withdraw his lawsuit against the union. “It didn’t go over too well and Alex heard about it a lot. Nobody ever understood it. He did the right thing by dropping it,” said the players. Someone who knows A-Rod well believes that he's planning on resting up his hip for the year and coming back strong. Cafardo doesn't doubt that the third baseman can make a comeback, but he wonders if the Yankees might just eat the remainder of his contract and cut him loose. Here's more from today's column..
- There is mutual interest between the Pirates and Kendrys Morales, but the Bucs may prefer to find their first baseman via trade. Cafardo cites the Mets’ Ike Davis, the Blue Jays' Adam Lind, and the Rangers' Mitch Moreland among the possibilities.
- There's lots of competition for Suk-Min Yoon out there and while the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Diamondbacks are among the interested clubs, one National League GM says that the pitcher could go to anyone.
- The Mariners' interest in Nelson Cruz has not waned but the number of years remains the sticking point in talks.
- The Mets remain the best bet to land Stephen Drew, but he still receives text messages from Red Sox teammates hoping that he'll return.
- The Dodgers still have an outfield surplus with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig in tow, but they don't appear to be in any hurry to break it up.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke is on the record with his assessment of rotation-mate Clayton Kershaw's seven-year, $215MM megadeal, telling Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that Kershaw will earn "maybe ... a little more than I thought, maybe a million a year more." The always-frank Greinke says the deal is likely fair for both sides, though he adds that Kershaw's opt-out clause, which could allow him to enter the free-agent market at age 30, may tilt the pact in favor of the pitcher. "The opt-out is big ... That's the main reason you might say it will be better [for Kershaw]," Greinke said. Greinke, of course, has an opt-out clause in his own contract that could see him hit the free agent market again after the 2015 season. Here's more from baseball's Western divisions:
- The Diamondbacks will likely send whoever loses the battle for their shortstop job to the minors, GM Kevin Towers told Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, with veteran Cliff Pennington expected to make the club as a backup. Towers is already indicating that Didi Gregorius may be the favorite over Chris Owings, however, noting his strong play in 2013 as a rookie.
- Athletics stars Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes both say they'd like to remain with the A's beyond their current years of team control, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Cespedes reportedly turned down longer-term deals with other clubs for his current four-year deal with Oakland, which will allow him to become a free agent again at age 30. However, he says his preference will be to remain with the A's if he receives equivalent offers from Oakland and another club at that time.