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Max Scherzer Rumors
The Giants are out of the hunt for free agent starter James Shields, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). San Francisco never was in on Max Scherzer, and that remains the case, per the report.
But while an impact free agent arm is not in the offing, the team is still “trying to work a deal” to land outstanding utilityman Ben Zobrist from the Rays. A recent report from Peter Gammons had suggested that match on the veteran, who could potentially plug in at left field for the Giants while serving as a key depth piece throughout the infield. Always a potential piece of trade bait, the pending free agent became a more obvious target when Tampa agreed to terms with Asdrubal Cabrera.
GM Brian Sabean said recently that his organization has limited financial flexibility after re-signing Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo. It appeared at that time that the club would be choosing between a significant addition in the outfield against one in the rotation, and today’s report suggests that San Francisco is perhaps more focused on its lineup.
It would, perhaps, be foolish at this point to rule out entirely the possibility of more aggressive spending given the team’s recent World Series windfall. But the club already appears set to exceed last year’s payroll, and an attempt at two significant additions would bring it well past historical levels, if not even within sight of the luxury tax line.
It’s been a little over two years since the Marlins and Blue Jays completed the mega-trade that sent $163.75MM in major league veterans north of the border for a bundle of prospect joy. The Marlins were roasted for the decision at the time, but it’s looking wiser by the day, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Not only did the move clear much needed payroll (since used on Giancarlo Stanton), it also accounts for a lot of the top talent in the organization. In addition to Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Justin Nicolino, the Fish netted seven more players using pieces traced to the original trade with the Jays.
- Brewers prospect Devin Williams is now represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Williams was the Brewers second round pick in 2013, and Heyman adds he’s one of Milwaukee’s top 10 prospects. Williams, 19, pitched to a 4.48 ERA with 8.95 K/9 and 2.71 BB/9 in the rookie level Pioneer League.
- The White Sox are still looking into trading outfielder Dayan Viciedo, writes Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Needs include bullpen and bench depth.
- The ongoing Max Scherzer saga could greatly affect the Tigers in 2015, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com. Per Beck, the Tigers are likely to let Scherzer walk if another club shows heavy interest. If he continues to float on the market as he is now, there will be increasing pressure to bring him back. Owner Mike Illich is known for his penchant to reward players who have performed well in Detroit.
- Left field is an obvious hole for the Rangers, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The internal candidates are Michael Choice, Ryan Rua, and Jake Smolinski, but don’t be surprised if additional depth is added. The club is also expected to add a catcher to compete with Robinson Chirinos.
- Shortstop continues to be a glaring flaw on the Mets roster, writes Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Last year, the club was unsuccessful upgrading over Ruben Tejada. This time, Wilmer Flores is the guy on the hot seat, with Tejada still in the picture too. My own take: unless the Mets can pinch Troy Tulowitzki, they’ll enter the season with Flores and Tejada. In the grand scheme of major league shortstops, neither projects to be terrible. Meanwhile, if they wanted Stephen Drew, they’ve had plenty of opportunities to acquire him over the last 14 months.
Jose Molina is the “Strangest But Truest Man Of The Year,” writes Jayson Stark of ESPN. Last season, Molina was the first player aged 39 or older since Ricky Henderson to record more stolen bases than extra base hits in a season. Of course, while Henderson swiped 36 against 20 extra base knocks, Molina managed just three and two respectively. Check out Stark’s post to learn more strange but true facts about Molina and others.
- Buster Olney, writing for ESPN Insider (subscription required), evaluated 11 players and managers at a career crossroad. Among them was new Red Sox hurler Rick Porcello, whose performance in media hungry Boston will set the stage for his first foray into free agency. The former Tiger is a command and control specialist with a career 4.30 ERA. Last season was his best, with a 3.43 ERA and strong peripherals. A repeat performance will presage a tidy payday.
- Top free agent Max Scherzer is a potential fit for 11 clubs, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. Justice describes the use case for each potential. From my own perspective, none of the potential fits is particularly compelling. Either budget or need seemingly provides a barrier. Still, if history has taught us anything, somebody is going to pay for Scherzer. Even if they’re bidding against the Mystery Team.
Twins youngsters Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are still among the top prospects in the game, despite losing most of 2014 to injuries, writes Jim Callis of MLB.com. Buxton suffered a concussion and injuries to both wrists last season, while Sano missed the season after requiring Tommy John surgery. Callis doesn’t see a promotion for either prospect until next August or September since the pair have to make up for lost development time. Of course, considerations such as Super Two eligibility also come into play.
- The Blue Jays have Francisco Rodriguez on their radar but still prefer to fill their ninth-inning void via trade rather than free agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Last week, Heyman reported that the Jays were prioritizing the closer position and looking at the trade market to fill the need. A few days later, MLBTR readers voted in favor of K-Rod when he was pitted against Rafael Soriano and Casey Janssen in a Free Agent Faceoff of the market’s top remaining closers. Of nearly 15,000 respondents, more than 39 percent preferred Rodriguez.
- Earlier this morning, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported that the Orioles are maintaining some level of interest in both Colby Rasmus and Ichiro Suzuki, and he now adds Nori Aoki‘s name to that list as well (Twitter link). Baltimore’s interest in Aoki has been previously reported to be limited, though that was earlier this month when the market had more options available. Scarcity in the outfield may have increased Aoki’s appeal.
- While there’s been some speculation connecting the Red Sox and Max Scherzer, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford doesn’t believe that Boston will sign the ace right-hander. Bradford writes that the Sox have preferred Jon Lester to Scherzer from the start, and they clearly drew a firm line in the sand in regards to their negotiations with Lester. One source tells Bradford that he thinks connection to the Red Sox is simply a ploy by Scherzer and agent Scott Boras to pressure the Yankees into becoming aggressive with Scherzer.
Count Jon Morosi of FOX Sports among those who don’t believe that the Yankees are truly out of the race for Max Scherzer. Morosi sees a parallel between Scherzer’s free agency and the free agency of Mark Teixeira six years ago; the Yankees were said to be on the periphery of the market for each Scott Boras client, and in the end, Teixeira wound up spurning division rivals Boston and Baltimore to don Yankee pinstripes. Morosi reminds readers of the words of Red Sox owner John Henry following Teixeira’s signing with the Yanks: “There was no mention of the Yankees, but we felt all along that they were going to get the last call. That’s what you deal with in working with Scott.”
A few more notes from the American League East to enjoy with your Monday morning coffee…
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists nine possible landing spots for Scherzer based on team need and payroll, with the Red Sox topping his list. Boston is believed to like Scherzer very much, Heyman notes, and the team wouldn’t have to surrender its first-round pick due to poor results in 2014. Heyman rounds out his list with the Tigers, Giants, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Cardinals, Angels and Yankees. A few of those clubs — the Blue Jays, Cardinals and Angels — feel like a reach, though Heyman does outline his rationale for each suggestion.
- The Orioles have ongoing dialogue with Colby Rasmus, among other left-handed hitting options, reports Morosi (Twitter links). Baltimore has also continued to show interest in Ichiro Suzuki, he adds. Rasmus would come with significantly more upside than Suzuki at this point, though the latter would come at a fraction of the price. Rasmus’ left-handed bat does appearto be a good fit in Baltimore, as Orioles Park at Camden Yards has favored left-handed hitters even more than Toronto’s Rogers Centre over the past few seasons, per Baseball Prospectus.
- Sticking with the Orioles, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com hears that the Birds won’t host the 2016 All-Star Game. Baltimore has been believed by some to be a favorite to host the event, with retiring commissioner Bud Selig referring to the Orioles as a “very, very viable candidate” to host the Midsummer Classic.
- The Orioles‘ acquisition of Brad Brach last year came with little fanfare but wound up netting a key bullpen piece, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Brach notched a 3.18 ERA in 62 1/3 innings in Baltimore, showing the best control of his career (albeit with the lowest strikeout rate of his career as well). Brach explains to Encina that he’s focusing on a good Spring Training and good start to the season in his quest to carve out a prominent role in Baltimore’s bullpen. The 28-year-old notes that he followed up a promising 2012 with the Padres with a poor Spring Training and slow start in 2013, resulting in further time in the minors.
Baseball’s competitive balance is the top takeaway from the 2014 season, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Parity can be defined in many ways, Castrovince notes, but what cannot be ignored is no team has won 100 games since 2011, three division winners in 2014 (Angels, Nationals, and Orioles) were not in the playoffs the year before, and the World Series featured a pair of Wild Card clubs. Castrovince lists a greater reliance on young talent, revenue sharing, TV money, and draft and international spending limits as reasons for the competitive balance never being stronger.
Elsewhere around baseball:
- The Mariners‘ payroll isn’t keeping pace with payroll increases throughout the game, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times argues. The Mariners spent $93MM in 2010 and had the 14th highest payroll in the game, but because of salary inflation since then, their $109MM 2014 payroll only put them at 16th. The Mariners did add Nelson Cruz this offseason, but Baker feels their outfield would have benefited from another bat, like Melky Cabrera, Justin Upton or Matt Kemp, any of whom would have put a dent in their payroll. The Mariners have financial benefits a team like the Royals doesn’t have, Baker says, and their spending shouldn’t be in MLB’s bottom half.
- The Tigers have not discussed an extension with David Price this offseason, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi notes. That indicates it’s still possible they could sign free agent Max Scherzer and deal Price (Twitter links).
- It sounds like pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is ready to finish his career as a member of the Hiroshima Carp, which would rule out an eventual MLB return. The veteran told Sanspo (Japanese link) his return should be “the last decision of his baseball life,” according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (on Twitter).
- Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune sees Takashi Toritani filling two roles for the Padres: a reliable, experienced defender at shortstop and a legitimate leadoff bat from the left side. The Padres’ interest in the Japanese infielder, who is an unrestricted free agent, was reported yesterday.
- The Padres have become relevant again with their series of moves by new GM A.J. Preller making the collection of MLB California franchises the best in the game, writes Lyle Spencer of MLB.com.
- The Indians prefer to round out their roster through trades rather than free agency and could deal from their surplus of relievers and middle infielders (excluding Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez), reports Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
It’s December 25th and the top available free agent of the winter remains unsigned. In some ways, it’s surprising to see the 30-year-old Max Scherzer still on the market given the widespread interest in him as a talent. On the other hand, agent Scott Boras has never been afraid to patiently wait for the right deal. So, who’s in right now? Well, oddly enough, it might be easier to list the teams that appear or claim to be out.
The incumbent Tigers have had “no conversations” with Scherzer’s camp, according to assistant GM Al Avila. Earlier this month, an industry source told MLB.com’s Jason Beck even though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t receive a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for the hurler, Boras will, in fact, give owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.” Keeping Scherzer won’t be cheap, but the Tigers know the value that he brings and David Price is a year away from hitting the open market himself.
The Giants have some major question marks in their rotation beyond top starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson and they’d undoubtedly love to add the former Cy Young winner to their starting five. However, Giants GM Brian Sabean says that he hasn’t had discussions with Scherzer and doesn’t plan to. Given their financial constraints and the recent commitments made to retain Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo, SF’s budget just won’t allow for such a deal.
It’s a similar story for the rest of the field. The Cardinals say they are not actively pursuing Scherzer, even though he’s a native of the St. Louis area. Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Nationals, and Red Sox, who are normally not as shy about spending, have also been quick to say they’re not in the mix.
Yesterday, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post sized up the rest of the field and rightly noted that the Blue Jays aren’t likely to splurge on Scherzer after showing a reluctance to spend heavily on a reliever. Davidoff spoke with an AL official who speculated the possibility of the Nationals trading Jordan Zimmermann, a year away from free agency himself, and signing Scherzer – a theory that ESPN’s Jayson Stark was hearing quite a bit from others earlier this month. Another official from a second AL team pegged the Angels as the team to suck it up and pay the luxury tax penalty necessary to sign Scherzer. Davidoff picked Detroit and St. Louis as the most likely landing spots for Scherzer while leaving room at the table for the Cubs, who were thought to be a top contender at the start of the offseason.
Take your best guess – where will this offseason’s best free agent wind up in the New Year?
Christmas Eve is generally a pretty quiet time for transactions, though Erin Hinch might disagree. The wife of Astros manager A.J. Hinch related an anecdote to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle about how her husband (at the time working in the Diamondbacks front office) took time out of a Christmas Eve church service in 2005 to get Eric Byrnes to agree to a contract with the D’Backs.
We at MLBTR wish all of our readers a very happy holidays, and here are a few more news items as stocking stuffers…
- According to figures from the MLB Players Association, the average salary for a 2014 Major League player was just under $3.819MM, Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports. This represents a 12.78% jump from the 2013 average salary, an increase that Blum attributes to growing revenues from national and local TV deals. The Commissioner’s Office, which uses slightly different calculation methods, said the average salary was just over $3.726MM.
- It’s still difficult to predict where Max Scherzer will pitch in 2015 given the right-hander’s salary demands and the seeming lack of obvious suitors, The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff writes. Two American League officials give their predictions about Scherzer’s landing spot, with one official picking the Angels while the other thinks the Nationals will sign Scherzer and trade Jordan Zimmermann. Davidoff’s own “best guesses” include the Tigers, Cardinals or Cubs.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and president Paul Beeston talk to Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi about how the team’s blockbuster acquisition of Josh Donaldson from the A’s evolved from discussion to reality.
- While the Twins have made several roster upgrades this winter, they have yet to address their team defense, Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello notes. Minnesota was ranked by several metrics as one of the league’s worst defensive teams in 2014, finishing near the bottom of the list in such categories as Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150.
- The Rangers are bound to improve on their dismal 2014 record simply by avoiding the incredible number of injuries that plagued the team, yet Fangraphs’ Drew Fairservice (writing for FOX Sports) notes that even a healthier group of Rangers doesn’t project to be a winning team. Given the young talent in the farm system, Fairservice opines that Texas might be better served by using 2015 as an evaluation year to answer some roster questions and then aim to return to contention in 2016.
- With the Rays seemingly entering a rebuild phase, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi speculates that Ben Zobrist will draw a lot of trade buzz before Opening Day. Zobrist’s ability to play several positions means that there would be no shortage of suitors if the Rays indeed made him available; Morosi lists eleven teams that could fit as trade partners.
The Padres‘ new lineup might not make them the best in the NL West, but GM A.J. Preller’s flurry of activity has made the team relevant again, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes. “I think he went in there very open-minded,” says Preller’s former boss Jon Daniels, who notes that Preller’s background in finding amateur talent with the Rangers might have made rebuilding the more obvious course than the one he ended up following. “To his credit, when he saw they had a strong pitching foundation and such a good environment with the staff, he knew they had an opportunity to build off that and not take it backwards.” Here’s more from the NL West.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean says the team has not had discussions with Max Scherzer and does not plan to, the San Jose Mercury News’ Alex Pavlovic tweets. Pavlovic adds that Sabean does not think much of the current free agent market for left fielders, and instead could attempt to acquire one in a trade. Sabean says (via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle on Twitter) that the team has “limited financial flexibility,” given their recent signings of Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo and trade for Casey McGehee, and must decide whether to spend aggressively on James Shields or a left fielder.
- Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is aware of the risks involved in trading Matt Kemp to San Diego, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes. “We get it. I have a lot of respect for what he can do in the batter’s box,” says Friedman. Nonetheless, the Kemp trade and the Dodgers’ many other offseason moves have been aimed at “mold[ing] our roster into the most highly-functioning baseball team, as opposed to a collection of talent,” he says.
- The Dodgers’ acquisition of Howie Kendrick from the Angels for top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney might not work out unless the Dodgers can sign Kendrick to an extension, Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times writes. If Heaney becomes a reliable starter for the Angels, the Dodgers will need to sign Kendrick to get good value from the deal. Both Kendrick and the Dodgers say the two sides have not yet discussed an extension, although Friedman suggests they could at some point.
- Cubs southpaw Jon Lester discussed a number of topics during a radio interview on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show, including the extension negotiations that took place between he and the Red Sox last spring. When asked if he would’ve accepted an extension in the range of five years and $120MM, Lester said, “That is one of those deals where hindsight is 20/20. You go back in time and you look at it and you go probably yes. I mean you don’t know. I mean it is one of those deals where when it is sitting in front of you that is a lot of money to turn down. That would have made it very difficult to turn it down.” Boston instead opened talks with a below-market four-year/$70MM offer that seemed to be the first step towards Lester eventually leaving the club. (Hat tip to WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable for the partial transcript of Lester’s comments.)
- The Red Sox highly value Brock Holt and have little interest in trading him, two sources tell MassLive.com’s Jason Mastrodonato. Holt’s versatility makes him a very important bench piece for Boston, and the team isn’t likely to deal the utilityman unless they receive an offer too good to refuse.
- The Yankees may not be done adding bullpen pieces, but they’re apparently not interested in righty Jason Grilli, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Gary Sheffield, Grilli’s agent, tells King that “We talked to Cash [Brian Cashman], and he said ‘not at the moment.’ We will sit back with the offers we have and wait.”
- In another piece from George A. King III, Yankees president Randy Levine seemed to rule out the possibility that his team will sign Max Scherzer, without mentioning the free agent righty by name. “We are out there looking [for pitching], but it has to be tempered by the reality of the organization. Looking at our pitching staff, for example, we have two guys with a lot of money and we have to build around that,” Levine said. “The chances of us bringing in a guy for six [years] and $25 million [per year] or over in my opinion is virtually none. At the end of the day, you have to be realistic in any organization.” While James Shields, another top-tier free agent ace, isn’t expected to receive a deal in the six-year/$25MM average annual value range, King thinks Shields could also be out of the Yankees’ price range.