Matt Garza Rumors
The Blue Jays are still interested in acquiring a starting pitcher, but won't say how interested they are in Masahiro Tanaka, the Toronto Star's Brendan Kennedy reports. "I have said that we’re definitely going to inquire on any free-agent pitchers that are out there," is about as specific as GM Alex Anthopoulos is willing to get.
If they don't sign Tanaka (and with the Yankees, Dodgers and other big-payroll teams interested, that might be a tall order), the Jays could pursue pitchers like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza, whose markets have been slow to develop due to the uncertainty over Tanaka's status. Kennedy suggests that the Blue Jays would be in an especially favorable position with regard to Santana and Jimenez, who declined qualifying offers, because the Jays' first-round picks in 2014, ninth and 11th overall, are both protected.
It's still possible, also, that the Blue Jays could acquire a starting pitcher via trade, but Anthopoulos isn't sure whether a trade or free agency will be the best route. "I would say it’s 50-50 at this point," says Anthopoulos. "Free-agent prices tend to change as the winter goes along. I don’t know that I’d say one is more likely than the other at this point."
Paul Blair, one of baseball's all-time greatest defensive players, passed away today at age 69. Blair spent 13 of his 17 Major League seasons with the Orioles, with his superb center field defense playing a key role in Baltimore's success in the late 60's and early 70's. Blair won eight Gold Gloves over his career and accumulated 18.6 defensive WAR over his career (according to Baseball Reference), tied for 58th-best all-time. While he was best known for his glove, Blair also enjoyed a few impressive years at the plate, including hitting .285/.327/.477 with 26 homers for the O's in 1969. Blair won four World Series rings in his career --- with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970, and with the Yankees in 1977-78. We at MLBTR express our condolences to Blair's family and loved ones.
Here's the latest from Camden Yards...
- The Orioles will focus on free agent starters like A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo rather than Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, according to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Pitchers like Burnett or Arroyo have "a track record of stability [and] can be signed to shorter-term deals" than Jimenez, Santana and Garza, Encina writes. The Orioles "aren't high" on Garza in general.
- Also from Encina, the O's may put their closer search on hold for now and focus on other needs. For the time being, Tommy Hunter projects as Baltimore's closer.
- Minor league right-hander Mike Wright drew attention at the July deadline and MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko notes that the O's aren't keen to trade Wright. A rival scout isn't high on Wright's potential, telling Kubatko that Wright is "a back-of-the-rotation starter in the majors, at best." Wright, who turns 24 in January, was taken in the third round of the 2011 draft and he posted a 3.26 ERA, 3.54 K/BB rate and 8.3 K/9 in 150 1/3 IP for Double-A Bowie in 2013.
- The Orioles are hesitant to trade young starters like Wright or Eduardo Rodriguez, but Kubatko notes that they might have to make such a move to acquire a rotation upgrade if they won't pursue Tanaka and have doubts about the free agent market. Kubatko says that Jeff Samardzija is still "a potential trade target" for Baltimore, though the Cubs would surely ask for young pitching in return.
- Kubatko and Encina both reiterate Dan Duquette's claim that the Orioles won't be part of the market for Masahiro Tanaka, since Tanaka will be out of the team's price range.
A look at the AL and NL West..
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that he's in on two of Masahiro Tanaka, Ervin Santana, and Matt Garza.
- The Mariners are showing continued interest in Santana, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
- Franklin Gutierrez says that he had other offers, including one from the Indians, but "didn't think twice" about other opportunities when the Mariners called him, tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com.
- Even after adding Joaquin Benoit, free agent pitcher Josh Johnson, and trading for outfielder Seth Smith, the Padres might not be finished, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com.
- Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com wonders if the Dodgers can bank on second baseman Alexander Guerrero. Los Angeles signed the Cuban standout this winter to a four-year, $28MM deal that can increase to $32MM with incentives.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says that not much has changed since the winter meetings, writes Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
Some say that the big-money closer is becoming extinct, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that reports of the species' demise might be premature since the supply is overwhelming demand this offseason, depressing some free agent prices. While Grant Balfour's two-year, $15MM was surprisingly low to some, Joe Nathan netted a two-year, $20MM deal at age 39. Here's more from Rosenthal's latest column..
- A trade remains possible for the Red Sox, who are checking in with teams that need starters, sources say. Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster appear the most expendable, but the Sox could get a bigger return if they moved John Lackey or Felix Doubront.
- The Royals seem unlikely to trade designated hitter Billy Butler or any of their relievers after signing free-agent second baseman Omar Infante. Royals GM Dayton Moore wants to pounce after adding Infante, left-hander Jason Vargas and outfielder Norichika Aoki and would love a shot at re-signing free agent Ervin Santana if his market somehow collapses.
- The Rangers do not appear seriously involved in trade discussions for Rays ace David Price at the moment. If they strike out on Shin-Soo Choo, Masahiro Tanaka, and Price, they simply would preserve their prospects and financial resources for later moves.
- The Angels seem to be holding off on a DH like as Raul Ibanez until they know how much they will spend on a pitcher. That pitcher could be right-hander Matt Garza as they have heavy interest in him, sources say. That pitcher could also be Tanaka.
- The Rockies got more trade inquiries on Jordan Lyles than any player at the winter meetings and Brandon Barnes was a popular target, too, according to a source.
Now that the Winter Meetings are over, here are the top ten remaining free agents from Tim Dierkes' Top 50 list, with updates on each.
3. Shin-Soo Choo. The acquisitions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran by the Yankees, Curtis Granderson by the Mets and Corey Hart and Logan Morrison by the Mariners have helped define the market for Choo. One report recently indicated he Rangers had a seven-year offer on the table. Not everyone agreed, but in any case, the Rangers remain interested. The Astros, Diamondbacks and Reds do not appear to be in the mix. The Tigers could be another possibility, although ESPN's Jerry Crasnick recently wrote that their acquisition of Rajai Davis ruled them out.
5. Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka's status will likely become clearer once an agreement on the posting system is ratified tomorrow. If Rakuten decides to post Tanaka, the Diamondbacks could be serious suitors, as could the Cubs. Tanaka is also the Yankees' "top choice." The Dodgers might also be a possibility, but their interest doesn't appear to be as strong as expected.
6. Ervin Santana. The Tigers are reportedly interested in Santana, and the Diamondbacks have met with his agent. The Mets probably dropped out of the race when they agreed to terms with Bartolo Colon. The Yankees do not appear to be interested.
7. Matt Garza. Unlike Santana, Garza didn't receive a qualifying offer, which may improve his market, since teams won't have to worry about losing a draft pick. The Angels and Twins have been connected to Garza, although Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says his team doesn't have an offer out for Garza, and the Twins don't want to give Garza a four- or five-year deal. The Diamondbacks have repeatedly been connected to Garza, and Arizona could be a good landing spot, particularly if the D'Backs don't come up with Tanaka or Santana.
9. A.J. Burnett. The Pirates still believe Burnett is deciding between re-signing with them or retiring, although the Orioles have shown interest, and Burnett's offseason home is in Maryland. It's been almost two months since Burnett said he would take "a week or so" to decide whether to continue playing or retire.
11. Ubaldo Jimenez. The Indians want Jimenez to return, but it's unclear whether they'll make a big enough commitment to re-sign him. The Orioles might also be a possibility. Note that the last five names on this list are pitchers -- with Tanaka unable to sign, Burnett a question mark, and David Price and Jeff Samardzija looming on the trade market, the free-agent market for pitching has been slow to develop.
14. Stephen Drew. Drew and Jhonny Peralta were the only big names on the shortstop market, and Peralta has already signed with the Cardinals, so Drew is a huge fish in a tiny pond. The Yankees need a second baseman after Robinson Cano and Omar Infante signed elsewhere, and a return to the Red Sox would still make sense, with Drew at shortstop and Xander Bogaerts at third. The Mets don't seem to be serious contenders.
17. Nelson Cruz. Cruz rejected a qualifying offer and is reportedly looking for a deal that pays $16MM or more a year, which may be a lot to player with limited defensive ability and scary offensive indicators. Cruz wants the Rangers to offer a three-year deal, but so far, they're only offering two. The Mariners continue to be connected to Cruz, even after adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.
23. Bronson Arroyo. Four teams have reportedly offered Arroyo two-year deals, but Arroyo, like Cruz, seems to be holding out for three. The Twins are still a possibility even after their signings of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and their re-signing of Mike Pelfrey. The Mets and Reds are contenders as well.
25. Grant Balfour. The Indians just agreed to terms with John Axford, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted (via Twitter) that one likely scenario for the rest of the bullpen market had Joaquin Benoit going to the Padres and Balfour heading to the Orioles. The Boston Herald's Jen Royle, meanwhile, reports that the Orioles have offered Balfour a three-year deal, but Balfour wants three years with a vesting option (Twitter links). In any case, the Orioles look like Balfour's most serious suitors by far right now, although Royle suggests the Mariners could also come into play.
On this date in 1980, the Yankees made Dave Winfield the highest-paid athlete in all of sports with a ten-year, $16MM contract. In the intervening four decades, a ten-year MLB contract is now worth something in the neighborhood of $240MM (Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols) to $275MM (Alex Rodriguez). Meanwhile, $16MM will only buy you one year of Hiroki Kuroda or two years of Marlon Byrd this offseason, per MLBTR's Transaction Tracker. As you rush out and buy your child a bat, a glove, and every baseball instructional video ever made, here's today's American League news and notes:
- The Rays feel justified in giving James Loney the most lucrative free agent contract during Andrew Friedman's tenure, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays value Loney's defense, quality at-bats, clubhouse presence, and his left-handed bat which balances a predominantly right-handed lineup.
- Also from Topkin's article, the Rays will now turn their attention to adding bench and bullpen pieces with catcher Jose Lobaton and outfielder Matt Joyce as possible trade chips.
- The market for Matt Garza is strong because of his 2013 season, AL East pedigree, and not being attached to draft pick compensation, tweets CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
- The Angels believe they can sign both Garza and Raul Ibanez and still fall below the $189MM luxury tax threshold, writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes the Angels' interest in Ibanez stems from his career slash line of .349/.407/.522 in 327 plate appearances at Angel Stadium.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Astros are still in the market for a first baseman and could turn to the Nationals' Tyler Moore.
- Despite the signing of Joba Chamberlain, the Tigers' preference is to have Bruce Rondon set up closer Joe Nathan, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Royals are to be commended not just for signing Omar Infante away from the Yankees, but also strengthening their ballclub immediately at a reasonable cost, opines Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan.
The Rangers made headlines today by selecting Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Before going on to NFL stardom, Wilson was selected by the Rockies as a second baseman in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and Colorado retained its rights to Wilson until this morning. Wilson will report to Spring Training and talk to the Rangers' minor leaguers in a motivational capacity. "We decided if he ever wanted to play again, he'd be a guy that we'd want with us," Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller told reporters, including MLB.com's Richard Justice. The Wilson selection isn't a gimmick, ESPN's Richard Durrett writes, and Jon Daniels is excited to have Wilson's winning qualities in the organization, though Daniels stressed that the club isn't trying to distract Wilson from his NFL goals. Here's more out of the AL West...
- Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz remain unsigned, which is good news for the Rangers, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes. The Rangers like both players and are hoping that their asking prices drop the longer they stay on the market. Daniels said that his team's pursuit of Choo was "unchanged" from yesterday.
- There is a chance that Michael Young could rejoin the Rangers if both parties see a fit, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez tweets. Texas dealt its longtime franchise staple to the Phillies last offseason and Young was subsequently dealt to the Dodgers in August.
- Despite recent rumors linking the Angels to Matt Garza and Raul Ibanez, general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times) that his team doesn't have any outstanding offers to free agents.
- In a special piece for FOX Sports, new Mariners first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison wrote about the experience of being traded to a new team. Morrison's piece is particularly fascinating in that it was written prior to the trade that sent him to Seattle. LoMo says he doesn't have any ill feelings toward the Marlins organization, adding that contrary to public opinion, owner Jeffrey Loria was "great and generous" to Morrison and his family. Loria allowed Morrison and his family to use his personal plane to get to Kansas City for the funeral of Morrison's father.
- The Astros spoke to the Marlins about Morrison and also pursued Corey Hart and Mike Morse, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Jose Veras rejected the Astros' initial contract offer but the two sides still share a mutual interest in a reunion.
- The Yankees, Indians, Braves, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians were all involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before the Athletics sent the right-hander to the Rockies, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
The Tigers have discussed trading Austin Jackson to the Yankees in exchange for Brett Gardner, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports. Both players have been above-average fielders in center over their careers and have comparable career batting lines, though Gardner is a better base-stealer and Jackson has more doubles pop. Jackson turns 27 in February, is projected to earn $5.3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility and he'll hit free agency after the 2015 season; the 30-year-old Gardner is projected to earn $4MM and he'll be a free agent next winter. I'm not sure this deal makes sense for the Tigers unless they don't think they can sign Jackson (a Scott Boras client) to an extension, or if they aren't interested in extending Jackson. From the Yankees' side, they like Gardner enough that they probably wouldn't move him for a very similar player, albeit a younger one.
Here are some more items from all five AL Central franchises...
- The Twins have increased the value of their two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey from $10MM to $12MM, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The Rangers and Giants have also shown interest in Pelfrey, Neal reports.
- Also from Neal, the stumbling block between Matt Garza and the Twins seems to be Garza's demands for a four- or five-year contract, as Minnesota isn't willing to make that long a commitment due to injury concerns. That said, Neal isn't counting the Twins out of the Garza race yet as he hears the team is still in the hunt (Twitter links). You can read more about the Twins' hunt for pitching here.
- The Royals could continue to shop Billy Butler since "Before too long, the DH spot has to be a rotating position for us. It really does," a club official tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. For one, the Royals may use Salvador Perez at DH to keep his bat in the lineup when he isn't catching, plus added DH days would help keep Perez healthy. Even if Butler isn't dealt this offseason, Dutton doesn't believe the Royals will sign him to an extension once his current deal is up. It was reported earlier today that Butler's name had come up in trade talks with the Blue Jays.
- The Royals, Indians and Rangers are among the teams interested in Shaun Marcum, ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets. Marcum underwent surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome in July and his agent updated MLBTR's Tim Dierkes on the recovery process last month.
- The White Sox are looking to cut their payroll from just under $119MM in 2013 to between $89MM-$99MM range for 2014, ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla writes, with the $99MM figure being the likelier of the two. Despite the cuts on the Major League side, GM Rick Hahn said the club will reinvest the saved money into extra spending on the draft and international signings.
- In other AL Central news from earlier today, the Tigers reached an agreement with Joba Chamberlain and the Indians were battling with the Padres over Joaquin Benoit.
10:33am: The Twins are "working hard" to add one more starting pitcher to the club after signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Bronson Arroyo and Mike Pelfrey are definitely among the names the Twins are pursuing. Earlier this morning, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweeted that while some teams and agents are packing up and heading home, Twins GM Terry Ryan isn't leaving Orlando yet. Said Ryan, "I'm open for business."
Minnesota has also been linked to Matt Garza recently, though it's unclear how serious their interest is, as the Angels and Diamondbacks are said to be the favorites in that race. The Twins know his asking price, however, and they know Garza himself better than many of his suitors. Minnesota drafted Garza in the first round of the 2005 draft but traded him in 2007.
Matt Garza's name has begun to pick up a bit more this week, with the Diamondbacks and Twins both having been linked to the right-hander. Here's the latest on Garza...
- Per MLB.com's Steve Gilbert, D-Backs GM Kevin Towers attempted to throw cold water on the idea that his club is the frontrunner for Garza. "I don't think so, no," Towers said. "I wouldn't say that we're that close on anything right now at this point in time on the free-agent front."
- There's a growing feeling among executives that Garza will sign soon, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, who tweets that the D-Backs and Angels are viewed as the favorites.
- According to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link), however, the Angels aren't expecting to sign anyone today, so it doesn't appear Garza is close to signing with them.
- If Garza agrees to a deal by week's end, it doesn't look like it'll happen at the Winter Meetings. Garza's agent has left Orlando, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, who tweets that the Twins "know the price" for the righty.
- Heyman also mentions the Twins and adds the Angels to the mix of teams interested in Garza (via Twitter), noting that there's still nothing close.
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick also hears that the Angels are in the mix for Garza, noting that despite a sizable asking price, the lack of draft pick compensation attached to Garza is a plus for the Halos and other interested parties (Twitter links).
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Diamondbacks are definitely talking to Garza, but they still have a lot of work to do.
- ESPN's Jayson Stark hears that Matt Garza's camp is telling interested parties that he could sign within the next 24 to 48 hours (Twitter link). There's been a lot of Diamondbacks buzz, Stark adds.
Zach Links contributed to this post.