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First baseman Adam LaRoche would like to stay with the Nationals, Chase Hughes of Nats Insider writes. “If it was up to me, I’m signing a deal with D.C. that puts me there for the rest of my career,” says LaRoche. The Nationals are expected to pay LaRoche a $2MM buyout rather than picking up their end of a $15MM option, and with Ryan Zimmerman likely to play first base next season, it’s unlikely the Nats will retain LaRoche even for a smaller amount. Nonetheless, LaRoche, coming off a .259/.362/.455 season, will likely attract significant interest on the free agent market. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Marlins might have interest in Pirates first baseman Ike Davis, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The Marlins already have another former Pirates first baseman, Garrett Jones, under contract for 2015, but Jones is 33 and coming off a second consecutive near-replacement-level season. The Pirates, meanwhile, may want Pedro Alvarez (who suffered from serious throwing issues at third base in 2014) to play first in 2015, which would leave nowhere for Davis, particularly since he and Alvarez are both left-handed. The Bucs could deal or non-tender Davis this offseason.
- After a terrific season in 2014, Nelson Cruz has a big contract coming his way, but whether the Orioles should be the team to pay it is questionable, MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski writes. The O’s plan to extend Cruz a qualifying offer, and they’ll get a draft pick if another team signs him. Also, Cruz is in his mid-30s and is coming off a great season, so it’s possible whichever team signs him won’t get much bang for their buck as Cruz declines over the next few years. Cruz has said he wants to remain in Baltimore, but the Orioles sound skeptical about keeping him.
Here are the latest minor moves from around the game:
Here are the day’s outrights and minor moves:
- The Marlins have outrighted utilityman Jordany Valdespin, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Valdespin, 26, slashed .214/.280/.347 last year after joining Miami on a minor league pact. He had been non-tendered by the Mets before reaching arbitration eligibility. Over parts of three seasons in the big leagues, Valdespin has spent time all over the outfield as well as at second base, in addition to a handful of appearances at short.
- The Phillies announced that outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. has elected free agency after refusing an outright assignment. The 32-year-old slashed a meager .152/.264/.190 over 127 plate appearances on the year. He has seen big league action in parts of eight seasons, and at his best added value through stellar defensive ratings in the outfield.
The Rangers have claimed infielder Ed Lucas off waivers from the Marlins, according to Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake (on Twitter). Lucas, 32, will be controllable at league minimum next year.
It took some time for Lucas to reach the big leagues, but he’s seen a good bit of action over the past two years. In total, he has a .255/.302/.323 slash and five home runs over 573 plate appearances. Those numbers looked better after 2013, but a .580 OPS campaign saw Lucas land under replacement value last year.
Clearly, Lucas’s value lies in his defensive flexibility. Over that limited stretch of time, he has seen significant time at third, second, first, and even short. Lucas has also played some innings in the corner outfield.
Before the 2013 season, Miami aggressively cut its future obligations to zero, dealing away its best players in a series of moves that drew fire from around the baseball world. But those moves now seem prescient after a campaign in which the Marlins improved by 15 wins and saw several youngsters make impressive strides.
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: $15MM through 2016
- Garrett Jones, 1B: $5MM through 2015
- Jeff Baker, 1B/2B: $2.1MM through 2015
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- Casey McGehee, 3B (5.028): $3.5MM projected salary
- Giancarlo Stanton, OF (4.118): $13.0MM
- Mike Dunn, RP (4.079): $2.3MM
- Steve Cishek, RP (3.143): $6.9MM
- Henderson Alvarez, SP (3.051): $4.5MM
- Nathan Eovaldi, SP (3.013): $3.1MM
- Jeff Mathis, C: $1.5MM club option (no buyout)
After so much upheaval in recent years, the Marlins’ first order of business in 2014 will be healing. The club’s two young superstars both saw their seasons cut short in dramatic fashion. Starter Jose Fernandez went down early to Tommy John surgery, possibly snuffing out the club’s efforts to compete for a Wild Card, and his return to health will have widespread implications for the franchise.
Then, in the midst of an MVP-caliber year, slugger Giancarlo Stanton was cut down by a fastball to the jaw. While his recovery seems a matter of course, his long-term future remains a topic of intense interest around the game. The Fish are said to be preparing a run at locking up Stanton for the long haul, with intentions of offering him the largest contract in team history. Of course, that is a foregone conclusion if the team hopes to have any chance of striking a deal: Stanton is projected to double his arb earnings (to $13MM) next year before his final season of eligibility. As Stanton enters just his age-25 season as perhaps the game’s most-feared pure power source, getting his signature on a contract might require breaking other records – such as the eight-year, $248MM pact that Miguel Cabrera signed before his age-31 season, two years in advance of his own free agency. Extension or not, team president David Samson has gone on-record as saying that Stanton will be on next year’s team.
While it could be said that locking down Stanton is Miami’s top priority, convincing him to sign away his prime may well require other moves towards contention. There are several areas that the team could look to improve, but navigating the risky realm of free agency on a budget will require care.
On the position-player front, there are plenty of certainties and several question marks. The starting outfield appears to be set for the foreseeable future. Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna combined to form one of the game’s most productive units. The latter two are even younger than Stanton, and are still a year or more away from arbitration. Fellow youngster Jake Marisnick was parted with at the trade deadline, and reserve Reed Johnson is a free agent, leaving Jordany Valdespin and Enrique Hernandez as reserve options. If the team hopes to make a run at a postseason berth, a veteran fourth outfield addition would make sense; players like Chris Denorfia, Scott Hairston, and Nate Schierholtz could be fits, with the latter making particular sense as a left-handed bench bat to complement the right-handed-swinging Jeff Baker. Much-hyped Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas has been floated as a possibility, but it is somewhat hard to see the logic in topping the market for him only to shift him to first base.
The infield is less settled. Third baseman Casey McGehee seems an easy arb tender for Miami, which is so impressed with his bounceback year that an extension has even been suggested. Though the club is said to have interest in free agent Pablo Sandoval, that would require a commitment to a much higher payroll and may not be the best way to allocate resources. At first, Garrett Jones is under contract for one more year. He continues to hit righties at a reasonable clip, making for a serviceable platoon situation with the lefty-mashing Baker. While there are rumblings that Miami could be interested in upgrading at the position, it is far from certaain that a clear upgrade can be had at a price that does not bust the budget – especially since Jones and Baker are still under contract. Though the options are limited by Miami’s lack of a DH spot, it is perhaps possible to imagine the team looking again to buy low on a player of Jones’s ilk, such as Corey Hart. A pricier option like Adam LaRoche would not only require some convincing, but would tie up most of the team’s apparently free payroll capacity.
Miami has a variety of young options up the middle. Adeiny Hechevarria figures to keep his job at short, though he continues to be a well-below-average contributor. At the keystone, the Fish have any number of in-house options, including Donovan Solano, Derek Dietrich, Ed Lucas, and the already-noted trio of Hernandez, Valdespin, and Baker. None of these players seems to represent a single solution, though the club could take that group to the spring and hope that Dietrich or Hernandez grab hold of the job, with Solano serving as an insurance policy. (If Dietrich cannot stick at second, he might also be moved to another position to clear a path for his bat.) Ultimately, Miami’s free agent dollars could have the greatest impact if they are dedicated to a middle infielder. This year’s market features several players – Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Stephen Drew being the primary examples — who would bring a veteran presence and the hope of a return to past form, though J.J. Hardy‘s late-breaking extension could boost their demand. Signing someone of that ilk would afford an everyday possibility at second as well as insurance for Hechevarria. Another possibility is Cuban defector Hector Olivera, if he can qualify for free agency in time, though reports conflict on the team’s interest.
Starting pitching is said to be on Miami’s offseason wish list, with some reports even indicating that the club hopes to land a top-flight arm. As things stand, if Fernandez returns relatively early in the year, Miami can look ahead to a rotation that features a true ace backed by Henderson Alvarez and Jarred Cosart. Behind that group, Nathan Eovaldi showed encouraging peripherals, while Tom Koehler and/or Brad Hand might be looked upon as solid-enough innings eaters. Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani, and Brian Flynn all struggled in brief first stints at the major league level but offer plenty of promise (Heaney in particular). Justin Nicolino is also nearing readiness. Miami gave up on Jacob Turner in order to give a few starts to the ineffective Brad Penny, so he is no longer an option, but young arms abound.
While that group provides a good deal of promise, it makes sense for the Fish to consider adding an established pitcher to round out that group, especially since Fernandez is likely to miss a month or two and may not quite be his former self from the jump. But the top of the market – Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields – will probably require a commitment approaching or exceeding $20MM annually just to join the conversation on years. And would any of those hurlers choose to go to a Miami club with a history of dealing away expensive veterans? Adding one of a deep group of mid-level starters, on the other hand, would be a viable aim. With a bare minimum in future commitments, Miami could look to back-load a deal for a pitcher like Francisco Liriano or Edinson Volquez. The trade market is also a possibility, of course, and the current Marlins administration already showed its willingness to deal for young arms when it gave up Marisnick and recent first-rounder Colin Moran to acquire Cosart (along with Hernandez).
The bullpen, too, looks to be a solid unit in its current state. Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn remain entrenched at the back end, though there is at least some merit to the idea of dealing Cishek to a closer-needy team that is not afraid of his skyrocketing arbitration salary. Certainly, now would be the time to maximize his value, though that may send the wrong message to Stanton and take away a key cog. The club also received solid, if in some cases surprising production from controllable arms like Bryan Morris, Chris Hatcher, and A.J. Ramos (the latter, in spite of a ballooning walk rate). With only the disappointing, little-used Kevin Gregg set to reach free agency, Miami could just roll this group forward, using the leftovers from the rotation (Koehler and Eovaldi, in particular, has been mentioned as a possibility) to round out the relief corps. But a relatively cheap veteran addition would certainly make some sense.
Ultimately, for president of baseball operations Michael Hill and GM Dan Jennings, this offseason represents a chance to seize on opportunity. With many pieces in place, a few carefully-conceived signings or wise trades might not only lead to immediate contention but could set the stage for longer-term success.
The question, of course, is how much cash the front office will have to work with. It has been suggested that payroll may land in the $60MM range for 2015, after starting at $45MM last year, but could move up to $75MM. Either way, that’s a pittance compared to the rest of the league. But the higher mark, at least, would give some room: the team will start with around $47MM on the books (salary guarantees plus projected arb earnings) and does not have any obvious means to dump salary while building towards contention. Unless the team gets creative, then, it will not have much to spend unless owner Jeffrey Loria decides to crack the war chest. (On that topic, it’s worth noting that attendance did rise this year over 2013, though it lags the Marlins Park-opening 2012 gate.)
One other limitation to consider is that several of the top free agents are sure to come with draft compensation attached. Picking 12th overall, the Marlins have the game’s highest non-protected choice. While the team has shown a willingness to deal away its valuable competitive balance picks, sacrificing such a lofty draft choice would be a costly proposition.
Tomas? A solid veteran first base upgrade? A “big three” starter? It’s not clear that any of those moves is plausible absent a commitment to adding cash to the hopper. And more importantly, perhaps, it’s not clear that any is strictly necessary. Barring the presentation of a sterling opportunity to buy low on an impact player that does not represent a true need, Miami could field a fairly compelling club merely by adding some short-term veterans in the right places — the middle infield and rotation being the most fruitful possibilities — and hoping that its impressive youngsters continue to develop.
Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton projects to land a $13MM payday in his second run through arbitration, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz (via MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes). That figure would be double Stanton’s salary from last year, and sets the table nicely for the 24-year-old as the team prepares to open extension negotiations.
Here are the latest front office moves from the NL East:
- The Phillies will hire Johnny Almaraz as their new head of scouting, tweets Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Almaraz had served as the Braves‘ director of international scouting. He will take over for the departed Marti Wolever.
- Also, the Phillies announced that they have hired Rafael Chaves away from the Dodgers to serve as their new minor league pitching coordinator. Chaves filled the same role with L.A. from 2009-13 before serving as a special assistant of player personnel this past season.
- The Braves have announced a series of front office shifts, most of which were already reported. Gordon Blakely and Roy Clark were named special assistants to the general manager, Brian Bridges was promoted to scouting director, and Dave Trembley has been hired as director of player development. Trembley’s assistant will be Jonathan Schuerholz, the son of club president John. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recaps the action amongst the Atlanta brass.
A number of impressive postseason achievements have occurred on October 6th over the years, yet perhaps the most notable was Babe Ruth slugging three home runs in Game Four of the 1926 World Series. The Bambino’s huge day helped the Yankees to a win and (according to legend) fulfilled his promise that he would homer in honor of a hospitalized young fan on that day.
Could another incredible playoff moment take place tonight? While we wait for today’s NLDS Game 3 action, here are some notes from around the majors…
- The Cubs could be interested in outfielder Jonny Gomes, league sources tell ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. The Cubs are known to be looking for both veteran leadership in the clubhouse and depth in the outfield, and Gomes could check both boxes as a platoon partner with Chris Coghlan.
- The Cardinals received some criticism when they signed Matt Holliday to a seven-year, $120MM free agent deal in January 2010, yet as MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes, both the team and the player are very happy with how everything worked out five years into the contract. Holliday has averaged .295/.383/.496 with 24 homers and 92 runs scored from 2010-14, and while he posted career lows in average (.272) and slugging (.441) this season, it could be argued that the deal has already been worth it for St. Louis.
- The Marlins are looking to add a starting pitcher this winter, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. A new arm plus the return of Jose Fernandez could lead to some rotation shuffling, and Frisaro cites Tom Koehler and Nathan Eovaldi as possible candidates to move to the bullpen. Also in the piece, Frisaro examines some other Miami position changes that could occur depending on how the Marlins’ offseason shopping plans develop.
- On paper, Yoenis Cespedes fits as a long-term power bat for the Red Sox, though Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald notes that Cespedes’ free-swinging, low-OBP style doesn’t fit into the Red Sox organizational philosophy of taking pitches and grinding down opposing pitchers. Silverman thinks Cespedes could potentially better help the Sox as a trade piece, perhaps as part of a major package to pry Giancarlo Stanton away from Miami.
- Hunter Strickland‘s rise from being an unheralded Red Sox draft pick to a flame-throwing postseason reliever for the Giants is chronicled by WEEI.com’s Alex Speier.
- Stephen Drew, Jed Lowrie, Jason Hammel, Rafael Soriano and Alfonso Soriano stand out as potential bargains on the free agent market, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines.
The Marlins made a 15-game improvement over last season’s 62 wins, but president of baseball operations Michael Hill explains to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that the team still has work to do, as they’re not one of the 10 teams whose season has yet to end. A busy offseason figures to be ahead, and at the forefront of the action will be an attempt to sign Giancarlo Stanton to a long-term deal. Marlins president David Samson spoke candidly to Spencer about the team’s hopes, and concretely stated that Stanton will not be traded this offseason:
“He’s on this team [in 2015] either way. I can’t wait until after the season to sit down with Giancarlo and [agent] Joel Wolfe and talk about contract. We’re ready. We want him to be a Marlin well past his arbitration years. We hope that he believes in us and believes in Miami and believes in the direction of this team and recognizes that he has a chance to be the leader of a successful team for many years to come.”
Regardless of whether or not a long-term deal is reached, Stanton’s salary figures to soar after an MVP-worthy campaign in 2014. Before his season came to a frightening end after he was struck in the face by a Mike Fiers fastball, Stanton had compiled an electric .288/.395/.555 batting line with a league-leading 37 homers and a career-best 105 RBIs. That type of production will warrant a sizable raise from his $6.5MM salary in arbitration. Spencer speculates that Stanton’s salary could double to $13MM, which seems entirely plausible; last offseason, Chris Davis earned a record $7MM raise for a second-time arbitration player — the same juncture at which Stanton currently finds himself. Granted, Davis was coming off a 53-homer campaign with a gaudier RBI total — both figures that factor into the arbitration process — but his raise could provide a rough guideline for Stanton this winter.
With that raise in mind, it’s of particular importance that Spencer reports the team’s payroll is expected to clear $60MM this coming season. While that would still represent one of the lowest totals in baseball — if not the lowest — it also will allow the Marlins to accommodate a much larger salary for their prized slugger, as well as arbitration raises to others, such as Steve Cishek (second time), Henderson Alvarez (first time) and Nathan Eovaldi (first time).
If the Marlins aren’t able to secure Stanton on a multi-year deal, they’ll still look to upgrade elsewhere, most notably targeting upgrades at first base an in the starting rotation, according to Spencer. General manager Dan Jennings said that he would like to cut down on the club’s strikeouts and improve its two-strike approach. The Marlins whiffed at the third-highest rate in Major League Baseball and grounded into more double plays than any club but the Rangers this season.
Marlins first basemen hit a respectable, if unspectacular .254/.313/.402 this season. They’ll have a several names to choose from in a free agent class that will have numerous solid options such as Adam LaRoche, Mike Morse and Michael Cuddyer (who is, might I add, a former teammate of recently extended manager Mike Redmond). Pitching depth is one thing the Marlins already possess with the likes of Jose Fernandez (returning from Tommy John), Alvarez, Eovaldi, Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler, Anthony DeSclafani, Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Brian Flynn and Brad Hand, but adding a veteran could allow them the flexibility to move some of those arms in a trade.
For the second consecutive year, MLB has a no-hitter to close out the regular season. The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter for the franchise since their move to Washington, D.C., but needed a diving, over-the-shoulder grab by leftfielder Steven Souza, who entered the game as a defensive replacement for Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the ninth, to preserve the 1-0 gem. “No-doubt double and [Souza] comes out of nowhere. Whatever he wants, I’ll buy him anything,” Zimmermann said (as tweeted by the Washington Post’s James Wagner). As for his defensive wizardry, Souza (as quoted by Paul White of USA Today) “knew it was over my head. I was just hoping I had a prayer of laying out. Anything can happen when you hit the ground. I came down like a football catch and that thing wasn’t getting out.” Henderson Alvarez, who tossed last year’s season-ending no-hitter, was the victim today.
Elsewhere in the National League:
- The Marlins will discuss a contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “That is our plan, to talk with him about extending him beyond his arbitration years,” said Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill. “We have to hear from them and what their goals are, and what they hope to accomplish. We have some ideas we’ll streamline and tighten up as have those meetings. And hopefully we’re on the same page and can get something done.” Stanton is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, per MLBTR’s Agency Database.
- Earlier today, Marlins manager Mike Redmond received a contract extension. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, meanwhile, is still awaiting his fate. “Yeah, I don’t know where we stand,” Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “Yeah, it’s always uncomfortable when you’re not sure what’s going to happen. You do the best you can do, and you know when you’re a manager, that sometimes if it doesn’t go well, that you’re the guy that’s going to get blamed for it.” The Brewers lost to the Cubs to finish the year at 82-80 and 9-22 since August 26.
- Ryan Howard is just as unclear about his 2015 status with the Phillies, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “Whether it’s going to be here or not, I don’t know. But I’ll be playing baseball. So my future is certain in that aspect,” said Howard, who went so far as to ask reporters if they think he has played his last game as a Phillie.
- Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett, who will undergo hernia surgery next week, remains undecided about exercising his $12.75MM player option, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “It’s ultimately going to come down to me,” Burnett said. “I had the same thoughts last year. Then I woke up and I wanted to compete. So I can’t just shut that down if it’s still there. But then again, my youngins, they have a say in it.“
- Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines losing has taken such a toll throughout the Rockies organization that players, coaches, and other staff members are wondering if there is a vision to right the franchise.
- Wally Backman will not be added to the Mets‘ coaching staff in 2015, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
The Marlins have agreed to a contract extension with manager Mike Redmond through the 2017 season, tweets Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel. The Marlins also tweeted the entire coaching staff will return in 2015.
“It speaks volumes of the job they did, just with the perseverance,” President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill told reporters (including MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro) prior to the announcement. “They’ve taken every blow they were given and kept on moving. I think that’s definitely a credit to the manager, and his staff, and the players in that clubhouse.”
Marlins President David Samson told reporters, including Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the extension was finalized prior to today’s season finale against the Nationals.
“On this last day of the season, it’s the perfect way to start this offseason, making sure everyone realizes…our commitment to Red,” Samson said. “We knew we were bringing him into a situation where he was going to grow with the team and we’ve watched that happen. The team and Mike have grown in lockstep.“
The Marlins are 139-188 under Redmond, who just completed the second season of his original three-year contract.