Mark Ellis Rumors
Mike Hegan, a longtime former player and broadcaster, passed away on Wednesday at age 71. Hegan posted a .712 OPS in 2452 PA over 12 seasons with the Yankees, Brewers and Athletics from 1964-77, picking up a spot on the 1969 AL All-Star team as a Seattle Pilot (before the franchise moved to Milwaukee) and earning a World Series ring with the A's in 1972. After retirement, Hegan moved to the broadcast booth and spent 12 seasons as a Brewers TV broadcaster before moving to his hometown of Cleveland in 1989 and spending 23 seasons calling Indians games on both TV and radio. The MLBTR staff sends our condolences to Hegan's family and friends.
Here's the latest from around the majors...
- Masahiro Tanaka's posting period opened this morning and the Yankees have already contacted Tanaka's agent Casey Close, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. Earlier today on MLBTR, we collected more Tanaka-related news, and I opined that Tanaka's market may be larger than expected.
- The Mariners will also be "a factor" for Tanaka, a baseball official tells Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News. “They have a following in Japan. They enjoyed what they had when Ichiro (Suzuki) was on the team. They want the chance for moves like getting [Robinson] Cano to pay off. And they envision [Felix] Hernandez paired with Tanaka at the top of the rotation," the official said.
- The White Sox are confident that the torn left UCL that sidelined Adam Eaton for half of the 2013 season is no longer a problem, GM Rick Hahn told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes. “The elbow injury wasn't something we felt, and our medical people felt, would be a long‑term issue....We certainly paid attention to what he looked like coming back from that injury, but it was the kind of thing that shouldn't be a lingering issue," Hahn said. Hayes also talks to Eaton himself about his recovery from the injury. Chicago acquired Eaton as part of the three-team trade with the D'Backs and Angels that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona and Tyler Skaggs/Hector Santiago to L.A.
- The Cardinals' low-profile additions of Peter Bourjos and Mark Ellis could pay big dividends and make the team better in 2014, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer opines.
- The Reds' window for making a big trade "may be closing," MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes. The team should make a few moves in January, however, and could add a free agent bat if a discount price can be found.
- Former Mariners GM Bill Bavasi contacted SB Nation's Rob Neyer about Bavasi's trade of Shin-Soo Choo to the Indians in 2006. While Bavasi said he was under pressure from Seattle's upper management to improve the club, he doesn't excuse himself for moves that backfired, saying "the Choo and [Asdrubal] Cabrera trades were a product of my own stupidity and good work by the Indians."
- Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith lists three potential suitors for 10 of the top remaining free agents.
- Finally, it was on this day in 1919 that arguably the most important trade in baseball history was agreed upon --- Red Sox owner Harry Frazee's deal to sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees. CBS Sports' Dayn Perry has some of the history behind the infamous sale, and MLB FanCave tweeted a picture of the actual transfer contract.
MONDAY: Ellis' contract guarantees him $5.25MM and contains more than $1MM worth of incentives, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Ellis obtains the same base salary that he had in 2013 and, when combined with the $1MM buyout he received from the Dodgers, has exceeded the amount of money he could have earned had Los Angeles simply exercised the option.
SUNDAY: The Cardinals have a one-year deal in place with free agent second baseman Mark Ellis, with a physical and subsequent announcement expected later this week, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). Ellis is represented by TWC Sports.
Ellis, 36, spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers' primary second baseman, but hit the open market when Los Angeles declined declined a $5.75MM club option for 2014. Last year, he hit .270/.323/.351 in 480 plate appearances. As has come to be expected, Ellis continued to display stellar defense, putting up +7.6 UZR/150 and +12 DRS per The Fielding Bible in 2013. That bumped his value into the range of about one-and-a-half to three wins above replacement, depending on which WAR recipe you prefer.
Looking at the list of available second baggers, Ellis was probably the best overall option left on the market at this point. While other players offered more attractive age or upside, Ellis has been a consistent contributor for nearly a decade. With Omar Infante and Juan Uribe coming off the board in recent days, Stephen Drew is arguably the only free agent, non-first baseman infielder left on the market who should be counted on as an above-average regular next season.
St. Louis had been expected to add a veteran option that could play up the middle, and Ellis should fit in well in the Cardinals infield mix. 23-year-old prospect Kolten Wong figures to have the inside track to the everyday job at the keystone. But Ellis offers both a veteran alternative and a platoon option to pair with Wong's left-handed bat. Over his 5,500+ MLB plate appearances, Ellis has a .777 OPS against lefties and a .700 OPS against same-handed hurlers. Wong has, unsurprisingly, posted somewhat better numbers against righties in the early stages of his professional career. Ellis could also spell Matt Carpenter at third, notes Rosenthal (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Former first-round pick Brian Anderson has come full circle, deciding to try his hand as an outfielder again. Anderson tallied 355 big league games from 2005-09, mostly for the White Sox, before switching to the mound in 2010. He battled injuries as a pitcher, and tells MLBTR now, "I'd love to get back on the field again." Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The White Sox are "determined" to acquire a catcher before the Winter Meetings are through, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com tweets.
- The Cardinals today met with Mark Ellis' agent, Jamie Murphy of TWC, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter). The Cardinals currently have youngster Kolten Wong penciled in at second base, but Ellis might allow Wong to start the season in the minors, or might provide an insurance policy in case Wong struggles. Maybe it's too early to read too much into it, however -- Slusser notes that Murphy has met with many teams.
- Jhonny Peralta takes care of the Cardinals' offensive void at shortstop but he comes with plenty of question marks, writes Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The Pirates are looking for a first baseman, but they say they could just stick with Gaby Sanchez there, reports MLB.com's John Schlegel. "I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with Gaby as our answer. We're not," says GM Neal Huntington. Huntington does note, however, that Sanchez pounds left-handed pitching and struggles against right-handers. It seems unlikely that the Pirates would go into the 2014 season with Sanchez as their primary first baseman against righties.
Tim Dierkes and Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Royals, Rays and Dodgers are all interested in second baseman Mark Ellis, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Rosenthal goes on to opine that at the moment, Ellis isn't a great fit for the Rays -- a point with which I agree. Ben Zobrist figures to play second base regularly in 2014 given the outfield of Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus and Matt Joyce as well as the presence of Yunel Escobar at shortstop.
The Dodgers turned down a $5.75MM club option on Ellis earlier in the offseason, but he could make sense for them as an insurance policy in the event that Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero isn't ready to take the reins as the team's everyday second baseman right out of Spring Training. The 36-year-old Ellis slashed .270/.323/.351 for the Dodgers in 2013 and played strong defense at second base, as he's done throughout his career.
Ellis' slash line isn't particularly strong (it translated to a wRC+ and an OPS+ of 92), but even repeating those somewhat pedestrian numbers would be a marked improvement for the Royals. Kansas City's second basemen combined to bat just .240/.296/.306 as a collective unit in 2013. Emilio Bonifacio projects as their current starter, and while he was solid for Kansas City after coming over from Toronto, he's been an inconsistent performer throughout his career.
The Royals are very interested in Carlos Beltran, but the Yankees remain the favorites to sign him, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. "I think at this point it would be an upset if he didn’t end up there," one executive tells Sherman. The Yankees have thus far been unwilling to give Beltran a three-year deal, but they could eventually land him by giving him three years or by paying heavily for two. Regardless of the Yankees' current issues, the perception of the Yanks as a winning organization matters to Beltran, even though they won fewer games than Kansas City did last year. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Sherman writes that the Mets are no longer interested in free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who missed last season with Tommy John surgery, because of concerns about his health. The Mets are looking for an upgrade over Ruben Tejada at shortstop.
- Furcal himself says that the Mets, Red Sox, Marlins, Pirates, Nationals, Rockies and other teams have shown interest in him, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (link in Spanish).
- After failing to find common ground on a contract extension, the Padres would listen to offers for Chase Headley, Sherman reports. The question is how he should be valued -- Headley hit .286/.376/.498 in a terrific 2012 season, then came back to earth with a .250/.347/.400 season in 2013.
- Even after landing Ricky Nolasco, the Twins will continue to strongly pursue free agents and trade possibilities, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The Twins have been connected to any number of starting pitchers, including Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes and trade targets Homer Bailey and Jeremy Hellickson. They've also been tied to catchers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski.
- The Twins aren't the only suitors for Hughes, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Royals are also making "a strong push" for the former Yankees righty. Hughes is expected to receive a two-year deal, with the Mariners and Angels potentially being involved along with the Royals and Twins. Berardino also points out that Hughes' agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, also represents Jason Vargas, who recently signed a four-year deal with Kansas City.
- The Royals need a second baseman, and a team official recently told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton that the Royals think Mark Ellis "has something left" (via Twitter). Ellis, 36, hit just .270/.323/.351 last season with the Dodgers, but he's a consistently-above-average defensive player.
- Carlos Santana of the Indians would like to play in the field more, but the Indians already have good options at catcher in Yan Gomes and at first base in Nick Swisher. Instead, then, Santana would like to try third base, and Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the Indians are interested in the possibility, in part because Santana is taking initiative rather than complaining. (He's working out at third at the Indians' Dominican facility.) Whether Santana can field at third base is an open question -- he hasn't played more than a handful of games at the position since 2006, when he was in the Dodgers' minor-league system. If the Indians have any confidence he can play there, though, they might be less inclined to pursue a righty-hitting third-base type this offseason. Lefty-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall, who struggled last season, currently sits atop the Indians' depth chart at third.
The Marlins are looking to fill voids at second base, third base, and catcher this offseason and it appears that GM Dan Jennings has a level of flexibility that predecessor Larry Beinfest did not, writes Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily. For their second base opening, Miami has discussed Mark Ellis, who would also provide the club with some needed veteran leadership.
The 36-year-old had his $5.75MM club option declined by the Dodgers after they finalized their deal with Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero. Ellis batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers and, as usual, he was a standout defender at second base. Ellis posted marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. The Tigers also have Ellis on their radar.
The Marlins have also approached the Red Sox about 22-year-old third baseman Garin Cecchini, even though he would appear to be similar to Colin Moran, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Cecchini spent time in Advanced-A and Double-A in 2013, hitting a combined .322/.443/.471 with seven homers. Baseball America ranked Cecchini as the seventh-best prospect in the Red Sox's system heading into the 2013 season. One executive covering the Arizona Fall League told Gammons that the youngster “has sneaky power that will play in the big leagues and will keep increasing in pro ball.”
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that the Rays have some interest in Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland, who could be deemed expendable in the wake of Texas' acquisition of Prince Fielder. The Rangers, of course, covet David Price, and including Moreland in a package for him (presumably as a somewhat minor component) could take a potential destination away from the Mets in their shopping of Ike Davis. Here's more out of the AL East...
- Within that same piece, Martino writes that the Fielder-Ian Kinsler swap may not impact the Robinson Cano market as much as many initially thought. Cano is markedly better than Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, so if he wants to be a Ranger or Tiger and the price isn't crazy, those players shouldn't preclude Texas or Detroit from striking a deal.
- The Red Sox seem to be letting Mike Napoli's market develop before deciding what their final offer to him will be, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).
- Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald spoke with Red Sox GM Ben Cherington who told him that the team is "in a position to be a little choosy, a little selective" in its search for a new catcher. Cherington says the Sox are interested in a "small handful of free agents" and has also actively pursued trades at catcher.
- On Brian McCann's recent five-year contract with the Yankees, Boston catcher and close friend of McCann, David Ross, told Lauber: "He told me, I think it came down to years. When you add an option for six, it puts you at almost $100 (million), that’s a game-changer." Cherington wouldn't indicate to Lauber how far the Red Sox were willing to go in negotiations.
- Mark Ellis is considered an option for the Orioles, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, but Baltimore has yet to reach out to the second baseman.
- Kubatko also reports that the Orioles don't have any immediate interest in first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones, who was designated for assignment by the Pirates yesterday.
- One more from Kubatko, who reported last week that the Orioles won't look to re-sign left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who never appeared with the O's after signing a two-year deal prior to the 2012 season. Wada fell victim to Tommy John surgery and didn't make it to the big league level in Baltimore. Executive vice president Dan Duquette told Kubatko: "I think that the Wada chapter is over with the Orioles. We're just going in another direction ... I'm sorry that it didn't work out, but it's time to move on."
The Orioles have been one of the most mentioned teams on MLBTR with the club trying to decide whether to extend or trade Matt Wieters and approaching the Cardinals about a J.J. Hardy-Shelby Miller trade. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com weighs in on those and other topics in a "Because You Asked" column:
- The Hardy-Miller talks were just preliminary, but not unexpected because of the Orioles' quest for starting pitching and the Cardinals' need for a shortstop. Kubatko sees the O's acquiring a starter and keeping Hardy.
- Wieters is not untouchable and the Orioles are willing to trade him, but are not feverishly shopping the catcher. Financial constraints are compounding the Wieters situation, as the front office is trying to figure out how to accomodate within their budget the pursuit of free agents like Carlos Beltran and arbitration raises for Wieters and others (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $41.2MM for eight arbitration eligible players).
- There is no progress in negotiations with outfielder Nate McLouth. The Orioles are concerned with other clubs offering him a two-year deal. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted two years and $10MM for McLouth to which a person in the Orioles organization, when asked by Kubatko late in the season, responded: "Well, he won't be getting that from us."
- Kubatko suggests the Orioles swallow hard and give McLouth a two-year contract since they did so for Wilson Betemit. If re-signed, Kubatko doesn't necessarily see McLouth as the full-time starter in left, but a valuable fourth outfielder, occasional DH, pinch-runner, and defensive replacement.
- The Orioles like Carlos Beltran and see him as a great fit; but, will have to outbid some big spending teams, which they haven't done historically.
- One option worth debating to free up payroll space for Beltran, according to Kubatko, is trading Jim Johnson and his expected $10.8MM arbitration salary. The Orioles have said they intend to keep their closer.
- Kubatko spoke with someone in the organization recently who steered him away from Scott Kazmir, as if the Orioles have no interest. The O's, however, do have interest in Tim Hudson.
- There is a definite possibility Brian Roberts will return to Baltimore. If not, Mark Ellis is on the club's radar as an alternative because he won't command a three-year deal like Omar Infante.
The Dodgers announced on Twitter that they have declined their options on Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano. Ellis' contract contained a $5.75MM club option, and Caupano's deal contained an $8MM mutual option. Each player will receive a $1MM buyout.
Ellis, 36, batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers this season. As is typically the case, he was a standout defender at second base, posting marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. I speculated earlier today that the Dodgers may be able to trade Ellis to a team in need of an upgrade at the keystone position, as his $5.75MM option was plenty reasonable, but the veteran will now be able to negotiate with any club.
Capuano, 35, pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 105 2/3 innings for the Dodgers this season. While his role with the club was uncertain early on, injuries opened up a rotation spot, and 20 of his 24 appearances for the Dodgers wound up being starts. A .334 batting average on balls in play shows that Capuano was the victim of some poor luck, and his FIP reflects that, projecting that his ERA should've been closer to 3.55.
The Dodgers showed a clear readiness to move on from Ellis when they inked Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year $28MM contract on Oct. 22. In terms of pitching depth, they can afford to let Capuano go in search of higher-profile options, given the presence of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Stephen Fife.
Tim Lincecum could be making his last start with the Giants tonight and he tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he would like to remain a Giant but is open to other options. "I've always said I'd like to see the relationship go further. But until I know what's on the table, I can't really dismiss anything else. I try to take advice from my agent and do something that's going to make me happy as well," Lincecum said. He also noted that he is open to pitching anywhere, be it away from the west coast or in a warmer climate. Lincecum has an edge over at least one other notable free agent hurler, as over 62% of MLBTR readers polled would prefer to sign Lincecum over Ubaldo Jimenez.
Here are some more news items from baseball's California squads...
- Speaking of last starts with the Giants, Barry Zito pitched five innings of two-run ball on Wednesday to earn a win in what was very likely his final outing in the orange-and-black. The veteran southpaw told reporters (including MLB.com's Chris Haft) that his time in San Francisco was "95 percent great and the other 5 percent terrible," and Zito was widely praised by his teammates. Zito posted a 4.62 ERA after signing a seven-year, $126MM deal with the Giants that is widely regarded as one of the worst contracts in baseball history. At age 35, Zito says he has "no idea" if he'll try to continue his career next season, saying a decision will come later.
- Athletics owner Lew Wolff discussed how the A's have (again) rebuilt themselves into contenders, how he works with general manager Billy Beane, and the Oakland stadium situation as part of a wide-ranging interview with MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom.
- Mark Ellis' excellent second base glove and his veteran leadership have made him an underrated part of the Dodgers' success, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon writes. Ellis turned 36 in June and has a .264/.317/.343 batting line in 466 PA, so it's questionable if the Dodgers will exercise their $5.75MM team option on Ellis for 2014. Whether L.A. keeps him or not, Ellis said he intends to play next season.
- Earlier tonight, we collected a batch of Angels-related notes.