Melky Cabrera Rumors

Blue Jays Pursuing Torii Hunter

The Blue Jays are pursuing veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Toronto is “not especially confident” that it will bring back Melky Cabrera, says Rosenthal, and apparently sees Hunter as an alternative solution.

Of course, there are a number of teams said to have interest in Hunter, who has drawn strong demand in the early going. As of ten days ago, Hunter was said to have interest from as many as ten clubs. His most recent club, the Tigers, is not one of those, though the AL Central rival Royals and Twins are reportedly being aggressive in their pursuit.


White Sox Weighing Pursuit Of Melky Cabrera

The White Sox are interested in free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera and are considering pursuit, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

Other clubs that could make sense for Cabrera, says Heyman, include the Mariners and Orioles. The Royals have been mentioned elsewhere as an outside possibility. And, of course, the Blue Jays still have interest in bringing him back.

We have not heard much in the way of rumors regarding Cabrera, a 30-year-old switch-hitter coming off of a strong .301/.351/.458 campaign. Though he certainly comes with his downsides, Cabrera is a valuable asset and one of the best position players available this year, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in detail in his recent profile. Adams predicts a five-year, $66.25MM pact.

It is worth bearing in mind, of course, that a team signing Cabrera will be required to sacrifice a draft pick as compensation. Holding a protected first-round choice, that would be much easier to stomach for Chicago.


Reactions To And Fallout From Russell Martin Signing

With the Blue Jays set to introduce new catcher Russell Martin and his five-year, $82MM deal tomorrow, let’s take a look at some of the reactions and reporting from around the game:

  • Regarding other teams that were in the mix for Martin, the Cubs were “close” runners-up, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Chicago was pushing past the four-year, $65MM mark and was willing to go to five years under some scenarios, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago tweets. The Pirates, meanwhile, were willing to go to four years, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, and were involved deep into the process. And we noted earlier today that the Mariners also made a run, per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
  • The Blue Jays have drawn interest in backstop Dioner Navarro, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. But the club does not feel obligated to move him, as he can still function as a backup and part-time DH. Navarro is owed $5MM this season in the second and final year of his contract.
  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law is among the fans of the deal, via Insider link, writing that Martin is probably good enough by traditional measures to justify the deal, but also shines in areas like pitch framing, staff handling, and leadership. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca likewise highlighted Martin’s multi-faceted value. Navarro is likely more useful to Toronto as a trade piece than a part-timer, Law suggests.
  • Adding Martin likely takes the Jays out of the running for Melky Cabrera, tweets ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. It does bear noting that Martin’s backloaded deal structure still seems to leave the team space to add payroll this year, and Toronto still has plenty of open spending capacity after 2015.


Quick Hits: Oh, Depth, Mariners

Here’s the latest from around the league as we wait for somebody to throw more wood in the hot stove.

  • Closer Seung-Hwan Oh of the NPB’s Hanshin Tigers is still eyeing the majors, reports Hyun-Woo Nam of the Korea Times. The 32-year-old reliever is under contract with the Tigers for one more season after making the transition from Korea to Japan this year. Per MLBTR’s report last offseason, Oh works between 94-96 mph with a splitter. At the time, the Yankees were said to have expressed interest.
  • Teams with depth could play a “big role” in the shape of the offseason, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Frequent readers of MLBTR will recognize the Cubs (position players), Dodgers (outfielders), and Red Sox (outfielders) as frequent sources of rumors. Sherman also highlights the White Sox who have a different sort of depth – three stars signed to fantastic contracts.
  • Earlier tonight, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune answered fan tweets on a number of Mariners subjects. Two may interest MLBTR readers. Dutton hears (tweet) that the Mariners have “some interest” in Melky Cabrera, but the outfielder prefers to remain in the East or Midwest. Meanwhile, he’s heard (also Twitter) nothing to suggest Seattle will check in on expensive free agent pitchers. This jives with other reports that cite a focus on offense.

West Notes: Cruz, Mariners, Hellickson, Rangers

The Mariners make sense as a suitor for Nelson Cruz, but their organizational philosophy regarding players who have been suspended for PED could be an issue, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. There are conflicting details regarding whether the Mariners might have a policy in place preventing them from signing PED players and whether Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln refused to approve a deal for Cruz last winter. If they team does have such a policy, however, it could have a significant impact on their offseason, given that both Cruz and Melky Cabrera, who play positions the Mariners could try to upgrade, have PED suspensions in their pasts. A source within the Mariners tells Morosi that the team does not have a policy against PED players, and, further, that the team has spoken to Cruz and his agent this offseason. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano fractured his toe while playing in Japan Saturday and will miss the rest of the Japan series, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. Cano will only be out three to four weeks, however, and should easily be ready for spring training.
  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart is a big fan of new acquisition Jeremy Hellickson, Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona writes. “He is going to be outstanding here,” says Stewart. “He is going to pitch well. This is one guy I believe is really going to help our rotation.” The Hellickson deal, which sent two prospects to Tampa, became official last night. The Diamondbacks will continue to search for starting pitching, Magruder adds, with Kenta Maeda or Chad Billingsley (a former client of Stewart’s when he was an agent) as possibilities.
  • The Rangers‘ recent extensions for GM Jon Daniels and assistant GM Thad Levine help provide continuity and stability throughout the organization, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. “We want to build from within and keep the group together,” says Daniels. “Thad and I are the ones mentioned in the press release, but [ownership] has allowed us to do good things for others.” Daniels adds that Levine is likely to one day be a GM, perhaps in Texas.

Central Links: Reds, Cubs, Avila, Tigers, Tomas, Butler

Reds GM Walt Jocketty is of the mindset that his team will need to either be “all in” or “all out” in 2015, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. In other words, if the Reds decide to trade one of four starters who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season — Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon — others may very well follow. Sherman lists Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman as names to watch if Cincinnati does elect to go into a full rebuild. Both can be free agents after 2016, though the Reds have a club option on Bruce for the 2017 season.

Here’s more from the game’s Central divisions…

  • Sherman also tweets that the Cubs aren’t likely to spend big on a closer this winter, which seemingly eliminates a potential suitor for David Robertson. Earlier today, reports indicated that Robertson is seeking a contract comparable to Jonathan Papelbon‘s four-year, $50MM contract.
  • The Tigers are willing to listen to offers on Alex Avila, tweets the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Avila has a $5.4MM club option for his final arb year and was projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn the same amount in arbitration. Cafardo notes that the Braves and Red Sox are both looking for left-handed bats. While both have inexperienced catchers (Christian Bethancourt and Christian Vasquez, respectively), adding Avila would limit each team’s ability to get an extended look at how their young backstop handles a full workload.
  • John Manuel of Baseball America tweets that the Tigers‘ defense up the middle in 2015 could be special with Jose Iglesias and the newly acquired Anthony Gose. He also notes that Devon Travis, who went to the Blue Jays in the deal, now has a clear shot to Major League playing time that he may not have had in Detroit.
  • The Royals could scout Yasmany Tomas in the Dominican Republic next week, reports Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star. Royals officials will be in the Dominican Republic on other business anyway and met with Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, earlier this week at the GM Meetings. The team’s payroll could surpass the $100MM mark for the first time next season, and there’s perhaps room for one significant expenditure such as Tomas, Ervin Santana or Melky Cabrera, McCullough writes.
  • Billy Butler is receiving interest from a number of clubs — even one National League club — tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The interest in Butler likely means that a return to the Royals isn’t the best fit, he adds. McCullough reported Tuesday that K.C. doesn’t seem inclined to go beyond two years to retain Butler.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wonders if the Brewers will consider trading a starting pitcher (Twitter link). The Brew Crew needs some payroll flexibility, and the Braves are one team that has been poking around at the GM Meetings.

Blue Jays Notes: Melky, Hamels, Gattis, Salty

Signing the likes of Pablo Sandoval or Russell Martin would represent a major shift from how the Blue Jays have approached the free agent market in recent years, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi writes.  Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays have signed only three free agents to multiyear contracts, none longer than three years (for Maicer Izturis) and none for more than $16MM (for Melky Cabrera).  The Jays’ stated internal policy of not offering contracts longer than five years could play a role, though they’d almost certainly have to top that mark to sign Sandoval, who reportedly wants a six-year deal.

More from north of the border…

  • With Cabrera’s status still up in the air, Anthopoulos is doing his due diligence on possible replacements within Toronto’s lineup, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi reports.  “We’ve thought about alternatives, you have to think about alternatives all the time for any position. I can’t speak for Melky specifically other than we’d like to have him back,” Anthopoulos said.  “We may have a good sense right now of what the likelihood is of signing him or not signing him, but I’m sensitive to not talking about someone else’s free agency, and not divulging negotiations or things like that….That’s not to say we don’t want it to happen with Melky, but we’re also being real with this. There’s a good chance he doesn’t come back, we just don’t know.”
  • Also from Davidi, the Blue Jays are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list.  The Red Sox are also known to be on Hamels’ block list, while the Cubs are not.
  • The BravesEvan Gattis doesn’t appear to be a Jays trade target, Davidi reports, and he also reiterates that the Jays aren’t interested in Yasmany Tomas.
  • If the Jays can’t land Martin, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun speculates that the club could pursue Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, “who is available” following a .220/.320/.362 performance over 435 PA in 2014.  Saltalamacchia just signed a three-year, $21MM free agent deal with Miami last winter, though obviously it wouldn’t be the first time the Marlins have looked to deal a recent high-profile signing.  I’m not sure I see Saltalamacchia as a fit for the Jays, as he costs a lot more than incumbent catcher Dioner Navarro but arguably isn’t an upgrade.
  • The Jays are talking to Brook Jacoby about becoming the club’s new hitting coach, Elliott reports.  Jacoby is an assistant hitting coordinator for the Rangers and previously spent seven years as the Reds’ hitting coach.

Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Tuesday

Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas will celebrate his 24th birthday on Friday, and it will surely be a happy one given the lucrative contract on the horizon.  Yesterday, agent Jay Alou explained the Phillies’ standing in the Tomas derby, telling reporters including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, “There are several teams that I could say are frontrunners, but yes (the Phillies are one of them).”  Surprisingly, the Phillies have yet to make a formal offer, but Alou says, “It will all get going soon.”

Today’s Tomas rumors…

  • Tomas is drawing interest from the Orioles, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal also notes on Twitter that the chase for Tomas is still heating up, with two teams set to visit him in the Dominican next week and others still weighing pursuit.

Earlier Updates

  • The Royals have entered the Tomas sweepstakes, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Royals don’t feel that Tomas has the same type of advanced hitting skills that countryman Jose Abreu brought to the division-rival White Sox, but they have a need for a right fielder and feel his defense is at least adequate. The Royals like Melky Cabrera as well but Tomas would allow them to preserve their first-round pick, whereas Cabrera received and rejected a qualifying offer from Toronto.
  • The Phillies, Padres and Giants have each seen Tomas three times, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. He also reports that agent Jay Alou rejected an eight-year offer (though he doesn’t specify the value), preferring a five to seven year term to get Tomas onto the open market again around his age-30 season. The Mariners also like Tomas but aren’t expected to outbid other clubs, according to Heyman.
  • Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the Rangers aren’t likely to sign Tomas. Starting pitching is said to be the team’s top priority, and sources tell Wilson that the Rangers have informed Alou that their resources will be dedicated to that goal.
  • How about the $100MM figure that has been bandied about for Tomas?  “I don’t know where that came from, but he’d be happy and I’d be happy,” says Alou.  In my September profile of Tomas, I posited a seven-year, $105MM contract.  More recently, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports went with eight years and $100MM, an agent who spoke to Heyman said seven years and $93MM, and a GM said eight years, $100MM.  Eight years is an interesting call, because that would mean Tomas would be giving up a potential valuable free agent season.  Seven would be more aligned with typical MLB service time for a top prospect, who can put in just shy of seven years before reaching free agency if called up a few weeks into the season.
  • Yesterday, Jorge Arangure Jr. had an excellent profile of Tomas for Vice Sports.  In it, Arangure said Tomas will likely choose a team from the Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, and Padres, who have all scouted the player several times.  Tomas’ Dominican-based trainer Raul Javier, asked when the player would sign, replied, “Very soon.”

East Links: Hamels, Tomas, Mets, Andrus, Jays

The Red Sox are one of the 20 teams on Cole Hamels‘ no-trade list, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). As Rosenthal notes, Hamels wouldn’t necessarily block a trade to Boston, but he may want a team to pick up his 2019 vesting option ($20MM) in order to waive the clause. That would take Hamels’ total guarantee from four years and $90MM to five years and $110MM, likely making him a bit less attractive as  a trade target. Boston has been an oft-rumored potential trade partner should the Phillies decide to move their ace.

More from baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • Yasmany Tomas isn’t close to a deal of any sort, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, had a one-on-one meeting with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. at today’s GM Meetings in Phoenix.
  • The Mets saw Tomas, but their scouts didn’t love him and they’re not likely to go near the $100MM range to sign him, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He does note that the Mets are looking at outfielders on the trade market and willing to listen on Daniel Murphy again. However, the Mets have been underwhelmed by past offers for Murphy and may just hang onto him, as they’re comfortable giving Dilson Herrera more time to develop in the minors.
  • Sherman also reports that the Yankees are “intrigued” by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus. The Yankees are trying to get younger and are hopeful of acquiring youthful players that may not have had their best season yet, and Andrus could fit that bill. However, they’re also wary of Andrus’ huge $120MM contract extension, which doesn’t even kick in until next season.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos tells Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair that he won’t allow other teams to dictate his offseason. What he means by that, Blair explains, is that the Jays won’t wait to see where a certain player signs before pursuing another. Blair recalls the 2006 Winter Meetings, when Anthopoulos was an assistant GM to J.P. Ricciardi. Toronto was hamstrung at the Winter Meetings waiting to hear back from free agents Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, both of whom signed elsewhere in the end. According to Blair, there was some stark internal criticism about how the other team’s plans were held up by other clubs. Toronto’s priority is re-signing Melky Cabrera, Blair writes, but the Blue Jays are aware that his QO and past ties to PEDs could lead to a slow-developing market.

Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).