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Padres pitcher Josh Johnson had Tommy John surgery Thursday, MLB.com’s Corey Brock notes. The surgery marks the end of another lost year for Johnson, who the Padres signed to an $8MM deal over the offseason. Because Johnson will start fewer than seven games this year, the Padres will have a $4MM option on him for 2015. It’s not yet clear whether they’ll exercise it, however. “We still have a lot of hurdles to clear before we make a decision on that,” says assistant GM A.J. Hinch. Here are more notes from the National League.
- After being designated for assignment by the Pirates, Travis Ishikawa became a free agent and signed with the Giants, who sent him to Triple-A Fresno. That’s an assignment with which Ishikawa is familiar, Bryant-Jon Anteola of the Fresno Bee reports. Ishikawa also played for Fresno in the 2008 and 2011 seasons. Ishikawa is, of course, aiming higher than Triple-A, however. “When I was looking around, the Giants made contact, and I noticed there wasn’t a lot of left-handed hitting on the bench up there,” he says. “Figured this was a good chance to get back up there and try to repeat what I was able to do before with the Giants.”
- Matt Garza, now with the Brewers, “[ran] out of hope” when he was with the Cubs, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “You go through three years of constantly hoping (with the Cubs), you kind of run out of hope,” he says. “You come to a team like this [the Brewers] where every day we’re going to win. We’re not going out to hope to win. We’re going out with the attitude we’re going to win.” Garza, who signed a $50MM contract with Milwaukee in the offseason, defeated his former team on Friday.
Sticking with the Cubs didn't work out for Matt Garza, and now the Brewers starter wants to "kick their teeth in every time I get the chance," Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Garza isn't as angry as that makes it sound, though — he's just an energetic player looking for motivation. Wittenmyer notes that the Cubs had previously offered Garza a five-year extension that might have been worth around $65MM, but the two sides couldn't settle on a deal, and the Cubs ended up shipping him to the Rangers in the middle of last season. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- The Royals offered Carlos Beltran $42.5MM this offseason, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. That's only a bit below the $45MM Beltran received from the Yankees. (MLBTR's Steve Adams recently looked back the moves the Royals were able to make in an offseason that featured the departure of Ervin Santana but the additions of Omar Infante and Jason Vargas, both on four-year contracts.)
- The Indians plan to have Justin Sellers, who they recently acquired in a minor trade with the Dodgers, start at shortstop for Triple-A Columbus, writes Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer. The Indians are fans of Sellers' fielding. Top prospect Francisco Lindor will start the season at Double-A Akron, perhaps bumping Sellers into a utility role at Triple-A if Lindor plays well enough to earn a promotion there.
It is not often that things line up quite so cleanly as this, but after a roller-coaster offseason, three of the market's top starters all landed quite similar overall guarantees. It would be too much, perhaps, to argue that the market valued them identically; after all, each signed at different points in an always-changing market, agreed to various terms that impact the overall value of their contracts, and had differing situations with regard to qualifying offers. Nevertheless, it seems fair to suggest that Ricky Nolasco, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez were each valued in rough proportion to one another.
Yet each pitcher brings a very different set of risks and benefits to their new deals. (Player name links are to MLBTR's Free Agent profile series; deal links are to reported signing, which includes contract details.)
Ricky Nolasco (age 31; received four years, $49MM from Twins) — Nolasco is durable and solid, having made at least 31 starts in each of the last three regular seasons while consistently maintaining a walk rate hovering just above 2.0 BB/9. While his overall results have been less than stellar, Nolasco has tended to post much better ratings by advanced metrics than ERA, and finally saw the results to match last year. Has he been unlucky, or does he just give up a lot of solid contact? Either way, Minnesota has put its money into a pitcher who has about as good a record of durability as could be hoped.
RISK: disconnect between advanced metrics and results
Matt Garza (age 30; received four years, $50MM from Brewers) — Garza has been consistently above-average … when healthy. Striking out batters consistenly in the range of about eight per nine, and holding down walks to less than three per nine since maturing as a pitcher, Garza's results are hard to argue with. (He has not ended a season with an ERA above 4.00 since his rookie year.) But a string of injuries held him to 103 2/3 innings in 2012 and 155 1/3 in 2012. If healthy, there is every reason to believe that Garza will continue to be an excellent (albeit not dominant) starter, but therein lies the rub.
BENEFIT: reliably above-average performance
Ubaldo Jimenez (age 30; received four years, $50MM from Orioles) — Unlike either of the previous two hurlers, Jimenez has at times been amongst the most dominant starters in the game. He has been an unquestioned ace over complete seasons (earlier in his career, with Colorado) and parts of seasons (the second half of last year, with Cleveland). In between, however, Jimenez has posted some genuinely unsightly stat lines. While his 2011 campaign may have taken a downturn due to some bad luck, he was terrible in most respects over the entirety of 2012, as he lost both his control and his ability to register strikeouts. Like Nolasco, Jimenez has been supremely durable. But if his new club can count on at least 180 innings, of what quality will they be? Jimenez showed flashes of both good and bad last year, and it remains to be seen which side defines his tenure in Baltimore. [Note: Orioles also gave up a first-round draft choice to sign Jimenez.]
BENEFIT: durability, upside
So, MLBTR readers: putting aside the particulars of their new teams' situations, which of these three similarly-priced investments do you think was money best spent?
White Sox great Frank Thomas will appear as a studio baseball analyst this season for Los Angeles-based Fox Sports 1, The Associated Press reports. While Thomas has done pregame and postgame analysis locally in Chicago for the last three years, he describes the new position as "more a call to the big leagues." The slugger also offered his thoughts on how deciding not to use PEDs may have impacted his career. "I probably lost another two MVPs. I lost probably another 150 home runs or so, if you think about it," Thomas assessed. Here's more late-night central notes:
- The Twins made Matt Garza a three-year, $42MM offer this offseason and were willing to add a fourth year as a vesting option, a club source tells 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick was the first to report the terms (via Twitter).
- Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals is scheduled for an examination of his throwing shoulder after experiencing pain this week, The Associated Press reports. GM John Mozeliak confirmed the development means Garcia is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. The starter went down for surgery in May after doctors discovered a labrum tear in his left shoulder.
In the wake of reports that the Angels made a four-year, $52MM offer to Matt Garza in December and pulled it before he could respond, Garza himself confirmed to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy that the Halos did make (and quickly pull) an offer. Garza says that he was on vacation with his wife, celebrating their anniversary: "I was on vacation with my wife and I didn’t want to be disturbed, and it was like, ‘Here it is, we’ll pull it in a certain amount of hours.’ I didn’t have a chance to respond, so I just said, ‘Whatever. It is what it is.'" Garza wound up receiving a slightly smaller guarantee from the Brewers ($50MM), though his deal could be worth as much as $67MM if his fifth-year option triggers and he maxes out his contract's incentives. Garza told McCalvy that upon meeting Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, he felt the club genuinely wanted to sign him, and that was a big factor in his decision.
Here's more from the AL West…
- Don't rule out a return to the Mariners for Kendrys Morales, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo hears that the Pirates aren't willing to forfeit the draft pick they would need to sign Morales. He also hears that Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette can't get the financial go-ahead from owner Peter Angelos to meet Morales' asking price.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News wonders if it would be the best fit for all parties if Nelson Cruz returned to the Rangers on a one-year deal. Grant speculates on some contract specifics that could allow Cruz to earn more than the $14.1MM qualifying offer he rejected, and wonders it the two sides could agree in advance not to go the qualifying offer route next offseason.
- Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis knows the timing of the flexor tendon injury that has shelved him for the last season-and-a-half was horrible (he was three months from free agency), but the 35-year-old is keeping his head up, writes ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett. Rather than lament his misfortune, Lewis instead said that he prefers to count his blessings: "Baseball has given me the opportunity to play and make good money and do it as long as I have."
- Athletics lefty Tommy Milone might appear to be behind Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray, Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin on the depth chart, but he's been assured by manager Bob Melvin that he's in the running for a rotation spot, tweets John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. The A's currently have six starters for five rotation spots, but there's been little talk of them trading an arm.
MLBTR joins many others in offering its condolences to the family and friends of Jim Fregosi, who passed away today at age 71. Though he was a part of several organizations during his 53-year run in professional baseball, Fregosi will perhaps be remembered best for his important role in the Angels organization. He went to the team in the 1960 expansion draft, saw time during their first season of competition, and then spent nearly a decade as the club's shortstop. After wrapping up a stellar playing career, Fregosi got his start as a big league manager with the Halos at age 36. The club retired his number 11 in 1988.
Here are a few notes on the current Angels ballclub:
- Team owner Arte Moreno covered a number of topics today in an interview with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Though recent reports on the team's ballpark lease negotiations have been positive, Moreno said that discussions are now "at a stalemate." That does not mean that the club is pushing for a new stadium — Moreno said "we haven't crossed that line yet" — but the owner said he has a deadline "in mind" for negotiations to conclude before he looks at other options. "We don't know how long it's going to take for that land to be profitable," he said. "We have the fourth-oldest stadium in baseball. It still has the original plumbing, electrical, concrete. It's going to cost between $125MM and $150MM just to keep it serviceable."
- The team did in fact offer free agent starter Matt Garza four years and $52MM, said Moreno, slightly more than the amount that Garza ultimately signed for with the Brewers. But Garza declined the offer, believing he could land a bigger deal.
- On the speculation that manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto faced the axe after a disappointing campaign, Moreno said that he remained confident in both men. "Mike has been here for 14 years, and I tried not to look at the capsule of one season," said Moreno. "He's been a winning coach. And I like the front office team Jerry has assembled. They're smart, they communicate well, and I like what our minor league staff is doing." The owner added that Dipoto deserved a chance to build out the team's talent pipeline, while offering a stark assessment of its stockpile of arms. "You look at our system, and there's no pitching coming in," he said. "You go to the cupboard, you're hungry and there's nothing in the cabinet."
- Moreno indicated that the team could cross the $189MM luxury tax line, but said "it has to be for the right guy." He continued: "If we get out of the box good, we get to the All-Star break and someone becomes available who could really enhance the team, we'll do our best to get him." With payroll currently standing at about $173MM for luxury tax purposes, Moreno indicated that the club was comfortable continuing to spend at a high rate but did have limits. "The reality is we have an operating budget below the threshold, we made money last year, and we're not interested in being in the red financially," he said.
- Of course, the contract status of star Mike Trout is an important aspect of the team's future financial standing. Extension negotiations are ongoing, said Moreno. "I can't say anything is close, but I'm optimistic by nature," he said. "It always gets down to the numbers. He likes it here, and we like him. We have four more years of control, and the farther you take someone out on a contract, the more risk the team assumes."
- Indeed, the numbers on a prospective Trout deal remain a fascinating topic to watch. ESPN.com's Buster Olney weighed in on the issue in an appearance on WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via Jerry Spar of WEEI.com). The club is feeling the pressure to sign Trout before his free agent horizon gets too close, said Olney, and baseball sources say that a 12-year, $400MM deal would not be an unfair target for the young superstar. Asking several GMs what they thought Trout could land on a one-year deal, Olney was given prices in the range of $35MM to a remarkable $50MM.
Let's take a quick look at a few brief-but-relevant notes on some high-profile free agents, the first two of whom remain unsigned:
- The Mets do not have an offer on the table for free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, reports Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Indeed, New York has made no offers to Drew, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
- It has long been clear that Ervin Santana's asking price has dropped from its one-time nine-figure level. But his market value has now dropped so far that Santana may only be asking for three years at present, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.
- The Angels offered Matt Garza a four-year deal for about the same money he ultimately received from the Brewers, tweets Olney. Los Angeles pulled the deal when Garza did not act upon it, however.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that back at the Winter Meetings, the Angels offered Matt Garza a four-year contract similar to the deal he eventually he inked with the Brewers last week. However, owner Arte Moreno typically wants a quick response to free agent offers, so the Angels didn't leave the offer on the table for long (Twitter links). The Halos have added Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs this offseason and inked a returning Mark Mulder to a minor league deal. Here's more from the West divisions.
- Rangers southpaw Joe Ortiz will miss three months of the season after he was hit by a motorcycle in Venezuela, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Ortiz, who was a pedestrian at the time of the frightening accident, has a broken bone in his left foot.
- The Astros announced that top prospect and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel has had an emergency appendectomy. General manager Jeff Luhnow said in a press release that Appel isn't expected to miss much time: "He will report to camp on time. Once he arrives in Spring Training, we’ll see where he is at health-wise and take it from there. We anticipate that he will either be ready to work out at the start of camp or very close to ready." The Astros also announced that waiver claim Raul Valdes will be out four to six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
- Former Dodgers starter Chris Capuano figures to be a bargain this offseason, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan writes. ESPN's Buster Olney recently noted (on Twitter) that Capuano is now only asking for a one-year contract. Sullivan suggests that could make him a better buy than someone like Bronson Arroyo, even though Arroyo is perceived as being more durable. In October, the Dodgers paid Capuano a $1MM buyout rather than picking up an $8MM option, suggesting that they did not believe he was worth $7MM to them. The Steamer projection system, however, projects that Capuano will be approximately as valuable as Arroyo, Tim Hudson or Phil Hughes.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
JAN. 28: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports the complex details of Garza's fifth year option (all Twitter links). The Brewers hold a $5MM option on Garza for the fifth year that will drop to just $1MM if Garza spends more than 130 days on the DL in any 183-day period throughout the life of the deal (183 days is the length of one regular season). However, the option will vest for Garza at $13MM if he pitches 110 games over the first four years of the deal, is not on the disabled list at the end of the 2017 season and throws at least 115 innings in 2017.
Sherman adds that Garza will also receive an additional $500K for reaching 190 innings and 30 games in each year of the deal. Each year of the contract contains $2MM in deferred money without interest.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes (Twitter links) that the complex nature of the fifth-year option illustrates the Brewers' concerns over Garza's long-term health, and he adds that other teams shared those concerns.
JAN. 26: The Brewers drew plenty of criticism for not adding a single free agent on a Major League deal this winter, but that changed on Sunday when principal owner Mark Attanasio announced at the team's On Deck event that they've reached an agreement with right-hander Matt Garza. The Brewers have since announced the four-year deal with a fifth-year vesting option via press release.
The contract reportedly guarantees Garza $50MM and contains a $13MM vesting option for a fifth year plus $4MM worth of incentives, meaning the CAA Sports client can earn up to $67MM over five years in Milwaukee.
GM Doug Melvin told the crowd (as tweeted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Todd Rosiak), "I know we are a stronger team today." Melvin also said ironing out the contract details is what held up the announcement, Rosiak tweets.
This marks another late-offseason, impactful starting pitching signing from GM Doug Melvin and Milwaukee. Last year, the club nabbed Kyle Lohse on a three-year, $33MM deal after he languished on the market due to draft-pick compensation. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently examined, signing free agents late in the offseason is becoming a habit for Melvin and the Brewers. Dierkes noted that 40 percent of Major League free agent deals issued by the Brewers over the past five seasons have come in January or later, and this contract boosts that number to 42 percent (11 of 26). This instance is different than all others, however, as the club will give Garza the largest guarantee it has ever made to a free agent.
Garza will not cost the Brewers draft pick compensation, as will be the case for fellow top arms Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Given the draft-pick drag on their value, Garza's deal could temper expectations for those two starters.
MLBTR's Steve Adams profiled Garza after the 2013 season, predicting that he would land four years and $64MM on the open market. While he got the years, Garza fell $3MM per year short of that salary target. In the end, Garza will receive only a $3MM greater guarantee than that given to Ricky Nolasco by the Twins for the same term. He lands an identical pact (in terms of dollars and years, at least) to the contract Edwin Jackson signed last year with the Cubs.
Garza's strong track record on the hill has been accompanied by injury questions that presumably limited his value on the open market. As Adams detailed, Garza suffered a stress fracture in his right elbow as well as a lat strain. All said, Garza has only pitched 259 innings over the last two years.
Previously, however, Garza had been a workhorse. Over the 2008-11 period, Garza made at least 30 starts and threw at least 184 2/3 innings a season. His cumulative ERA over that stretch was 3.72, and he averaged 7.6 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Since that time, though his innings are down, Garza has largely prevented runs at the same level. (He has a 3.86 ERA across the 2012-13 period.)
Garza will add to a Brewers rotation that already featured Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta. Each of those pitchers is controllable beyond the 2014 season (Gallardo's contract contains a $13MM option with a $600K buyout), meaning that Melvin and his staff may have effectively set the Brewers' rotation for the next two seasons by inking Garza. Though they'll face steep competition in the form of the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates, the Brewers figure to boast a solid rotation with full seasons from Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, meaning they should fare significantly better in 2014 than they did in 2013.
MLB.com's Brewer Nation blog first reported Milwaukee's interest in Garza. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was the first to report the agreement, pending a physical (via Twitter). The Brewers then issued a statement to say the deal was not quite finalized before Attanasio announced the sigining on Jan. 26. Rosiak relayed the info of Attanasio's announcement, and his colleague Tom Haudricourt tweeted the news of the fifth-year option and its role in delaying the deal. McCalvy tweeted the financial details, and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that Garza will earn $12.5MM annually.
Steve Adams and Edward Creech contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio opened Brewers On Deck, the team's annual winter fan festival, earlier today by announcing the signing of right-hander Matt Garza (#7 on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). The four-year, $50MM contract also includes deferred money, $1MM per year in incentives, and a $13MM vesting option for 2018. The total take for Garza could total $67MM over five years. In other Brewers news and notes coming out of Milwaukee today:
- "I was expecting an open market, and that’s what I got. I’m really happy I’m a Milwaukee Brewer," Garza told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (Twitter link), in an impromptu news conference. Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provides a transcript of Garza's comments including this tidbit: Brewers fans heard about the deal before he did because he was attending his son's basketball game.
- GM Doug Melvin said the Brewers' interest in Garza dates back to the Winter Meetings and his addition provides rotation depth, but will wait until Spring Training to see how the starting five shakes out, Rosiak reports (Twitter links).
- Melvin told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee the lack of draft pick compensation attached to Garza was a very important factor in the signing (h/t Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Twitter).
- Ryan Braun was in attendance at the fan event and continues to be apologetic for his actions which led to his 65-game suspension, writes Rosiak. "I don’t ever know if I could apologize enough for what’s occurred, you know?" said Braun. "I just continue to move forward and obviously I’ll be apologetic. I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can’t. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me." Braun refused to divulge further details of why he was suspended saying he addressed everything last November at a team-sponsored food drive and "I think I addressed it pretty specifically in the statement that we gave (in August)."
- Braun also offered praise for his newest teammate, Garza, according to McCalvy. "I’m excited about it," Braun said. "I think he could be a difference-maker. Facing him over the last few years, I think he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. One of the toughest at-bats. Great stuff. Very competitive — a fiery competitor, which is something I think could benefit the whole pitching staff and our whole team."
- Mark Reynolds says he signed with the Brewers because of the starting opportunity at first base, playing in the NL, and the fan support in Milwaukee, Rosiak tweets.
- Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has yet to begin a throwing program, but he expects to be ready for Opening Day, tweets McCalvy.
- In response to a fan's question about payroll, Melvin said (as tweeted by Rosiak), "Ask Mark." To which the principal owner replied, "Wallet is a lot lighter now."
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets his approval of what Melvin and the Brewers have been able to accomplish this offseason: spent money on a starting pitcher, filled the hole at first base with a solid combinaton of Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, kept right-hander Tyler Thornburg (the Mets' reported price for Ike Davis), and their draft picks.