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Melky Cabrera Rumors
The Tigers plan on having Alex Avila as their primary catcher in 2015, despite his issues with concussions, but that will probably be his last season with them, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News reports. Since hitting .295/.389/.506 for the Tigers in 2011, Avila’s offensive production has declined, though he remains a strong defensive catcher. In preparation for his departure via free agency, the team will create opportunities for 24-year-old rookie James McCann in 2015. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- After yesterday’s acquisition of Josh Donaldson from the Athletics, the Blue Jays are still trying to re-sign Melky Cabrera, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. That makes sense, of course — the Jays have a hole in the outfield, and they can use another batter who can hit left-handed. A recent report indicated that Cabrera would prefer to sign with a team that doesn’t play on turf, as the Blue Jays do, although Cabrera himself recently tweeted that he didn’t care whether he played on turf or grass.
- Billy Beane says the Athletics are unlikely to sign a free agent shortstop, Joe Stiglich of Comcast SportsNet California tweets. They have a big hole at the position given the departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency, but it isn’t a strong market, with Lowrie, Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera as the headliners. That the A’s are already bowing out could be an indication that they plan to address the position with a trade.
- Part of the Red Sox‘ ownership is preparing to buy the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The PawSox have had a great run as the Red Sox’ Triple-A team since the 1970s, and they’ve been International League champions in two of the last three seasons. The move will, presumably, mean that the PawSox will continue as a Red Sox affiliate for the foreseeable future. It’s not clear, Cafardo notes, whether the team’s current front office will continue under new ownership or whether the Red Sox will install new personnel there.
Though there’s been mutual interest between Melky Cabrera and the Blue Jays for months, ESPN’s Buster Olney hears that, all things being equal, Cabrera’s preference would be to sign somewhere other than Toronto so that half of his games aren’t played on artificial turf (Twitter links). However, the turf won’t prevent Cabrera from remaining in Toronto if the club’s offer is clearly the best that he receives.
Some more links pertaining to baseball’s Eastern divisions…
- The Marlins are willing to listen to offers on top prospect Andrew Heaney, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. While parting with the player that entered last season as a Top 30 prospect according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com (and 34th per ESPN’s Keith Law) would of course be difficult, the club very much wants a left-handed bat to pair with Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the order. One key reason for their willingness to part with Heaney, Frisaro notes, is the emergence of fellow lefty Justin Nicolino. Miami acquired Nicolino — who has ranked as a Top 100 prospect himself — from Toronto in the Jose Reyes blockbuster. He posted a 2.85 ERA in 170 1/3 innings at Double-A this season, walking just 1.1 hitters per nine. However, he also saw his strikeout rate dip to a somewhat troubling rate of just 4.3 per nine.
- Frisaro also notes that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and southpaw Brad Hand are also available for the right offer. Eovaldi, in particular, is intriguing given the blistering 96 mph he’s averaged as a starter over the past two seasons. Though he struggled a bit with a 4.34 ERA in 2014, FIP (3.37), xFIP (3.76) and SIERA (3.91) all feel he was better than that ERA would suggest. The 24-year-old Hand, meanwhile, has a 4.42 ERA in 195 1/3 big league innings and started 16 games for last year’s club.
- Daniel Murphy‘s name can frequently be found on the pages of MLBTR, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said earlier this week on SNY TV in New York (via Metsblog’s Matthew Cerrone) that the second baseman “should be an important part of our team next year,” further suggesting that it’s a long shot that Murphy will be moved.
- Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will swing a bat for the first time since undergoing back surgery on Monday and tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that he’s on pace to be 100 percent by Spring Training. While Boston has quite the outfield logjam, Victorino plainly explains to Bradford that he feels he should be the starting right fielder next season. “…[I]f I’m healthy if there’s a better outfielder in right field then show me and go out there and do it,” says Victorino. “I’m not saying that in a cocky or arrogant way. It’s just how confident I am to know I should be the starting right fielder.” The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is set to earn $13MM in the final season of a three-year, $39MM pact. While injuries limited him to 30 games last year, the former Phillie was one of the best players on Boston’s 2013 World Series winner, hitting .294/.351/.451 with elite outfield defense leading to more than 5.5 WAR.
After losing Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox, the Giants are casting a very wide net and have reached out to agent Scott Boras regarding top free Max Scherzer, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Giants appear to be scouring the trade and free agent markets for upgrades, as Heyman reports that they’ve at least initiated talks with free agents Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, Chase Headley, Torii Hunter, Justin Masterson and of course Yasmany Tomas (their interest in Tomas has been well-documented). Beyond that, they’ve kicked the tires on Atlanta’s Justin Upton, and their interest in Jon Lester was reported yesterday as Sandoval looked to be on the verge of departure.
San Francisco’s interest in Scherzer isn’t terribly surprising. The team will bring back ace Madison Bumgarner and stable veteran Tim Hudson, but Matt Cain is returning from elbow surgery and Tim Lincecum‘s reliability has taken s nose-dive in recent years. Both Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy are free agents. Yusmeiro Petit was excellent in 2014 but totaled only 129 2/3 innings between the regular season and postseason. He’s certainly done enough to warrant a look in the rotation, but the lack of innings could be cause for concern.
In terms of their offensive targets, Heyman hears that the Giants are more likely to go with a cheaper option to replace Sandoval at third base, instead spending bigger on a replacement in left field for Mike Morse. He notes that they’ve taken a “close look” at Upton and have even reached out to former Giant Melky Cabrera, though one team source described Cabrera’s departure from the Giants as “awkward” to Heyman. (Cabrera was suspended for 50 games in 2012 to close out the season as the Giants pushed toward a World Series victory.)
Earlier today I looked at some post-Sandoval options for the Giants, listing several trade and free agent targets that the reigning World Series Champions could pursue.
If the Orioles can’t re-sign Nick Markakis, the team’s “fallback option” is to pursue free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. Markakis and the O’s looked like they were headed towards a reunion earlier this winter when the two sides were seemingly close to a four-year contract, though there hasn’t since been much progress.
Cabrera posted a .301/.351/.458 slash line and a 125 wRC+ in 621 PA last season in comparison to Markakis’ .276/.342/.386 line and 106 wRC+ over 710 PA, though Cabrera’s defensive deficiencies and fewer plate appearances gave him only a slightly higher fWAR (2.6 to 2.5) than Markakis. MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted Cabrera for a five-year, $66.25MM deal and Markakis for a four-year, $48MM deal in his Free Agent Profiles of both outfielders, so signing Cabrera would likely be a more expensive proposition for the Orioles and he’d cost them a draft pick due to the qualifying offer. If Cabrera’s market is depressed by the QO, however, it’s possible the Orioles could try to sign him for a relative bargain, as they did last winter with Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.
The White Sox and Mariners have also shown interest in Cabrera this offseason, with the Royals more loosely linked to the outfielder. The door also hasn’t fully closed on Cabrera re-signing with the Blue Jays, depending on how his market plays out.
There’s still a chance the Blue Jays could re-sign Melky Cabrera, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. GM Alex Anthopoulos is prepared to wait until Cabrera has a sense of what’s available to him in free agency, and if Cabrera doesn’t find an offer to his liking, he could return to the Jays, possibly on a four- or five-year contract. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Russell Martin signed with the Jays, but the Cubs were key bidders, the catcher’s agent tells Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago. “There were times throughout the process where it was Toronto and the Cubs, 1 and 2,” says Matt Colleran. “One day the Cubs [were] going a little ahead, and the next Toronto was ahead. When we got into the [last] weekend the dollars started to come into play, and Toronto was just super aggressive with their approach.” The day before Martin and the Blue Jays agreed to terms, the Cubs reportedly were the front-runners to sign him.
- The Diamondbacks recently began interviews for their open scouting director position, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. The position opened when the Brewers hired Ray Montgomery away from Arizona. The Diamondbacks’ candidates include Tim Huff (from the Angels), Sam Hughes (Cubs), Sean Johnson (Twins), Deric Ladnier (Nationals), Mark Snipp (Reds) and Tim Wilken (Cubs). The team has also interviewed two internal candidates, Todd Donovan and Bill Gayton. Ladnier, Wilken and Gayton all have experience as scouting directors, and Diamondbacks senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson has suggested the team might prefer a scouting director with experience.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.