- Outfielder Matt den Dekker has joined the Marlins on a minor league deal, he announced on Twitter. The 29-year-old, who is a Florida native, has previously played with the Nationals and Mets. While he has received some major league time in each of the last four seasons, den Dekker struggled in 2016. He only received 39 MLB plate appearances, and posted only a .207/.292/.315 slash in his 421 trips to the plate at Triple-A.
Aroldis Chapman agreed to an $86MM guarantee from the Yankees last night, but the Marlins offered him a bigger guarantee of $87MM, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. The Yankees’ deal contains additional value for Chapman in the form of an opt-out clause after three years, and the terms of the Marlins’ offer might have been different. (FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that the salary distribution in the Yankees’ deal, which includes a large signing bonus, was better, and Chapman also liked the no-trade clause.) Still, last night, Chapman specifically cited a desire to return to the Yankees as a key reason for his decision. Here’s more from the East divisions.
THURSDAY, 12:39pm: If the Marlins don’t land Jansen, they could turn to another free agent, Neftali Feliz, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (on Twitter). The 28-year-old Feliz is coming off a good year with the Pirates (3.52 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9) and has closing experience. He should also be considerably cheaper than Jansen.
7:50am: Rival executives don’t expect the Dodgers to match the Marlins’ offer, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).
7:15am: The Nationals are now “making a push” for Jansen, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links). However, the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment it would take to land him, tweets Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. The club has previously used deferrals as a way to help sign big-money players like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, but that’s unlikely to work this time, per Rosenthal.
WEDNESDAY: The Marlins have made an offer of five years and more than $80MM to free agent closer Kenley Jansen, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The Marlins were reportedly the runners-up to acquire Aroldis Chapman, who agreed to a five-year, $86MM deal with the Yankees late tonight. Now, with Chapman off the table, it appears they’re trying to lure Jansen with a similarly huge offer. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, Jansen seems likely to pick the Marlins (where he’d be reunited with former manager Don Mattingly and teammates Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis) or re-sign with the Dodgers.
Jansen doesn’t have Chapman’s spectacular velocity, but he’s a dominating reliever in his own right — he’s coming off a season in which he posted a 1.83 ERA, 13.6 K/9 and an incredibly low 1.4 BB/9 in 68 2/3 innings with the Dodgers. He’s had a much quieter career than Chapman has, but there’s no arguing his tremendous career numbers, including a 2.20 ERA, 13.9 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
Still, it’s somewhat surprising to hear that he’s received at least one contract offer similar to Chapman’s deal, which broke the previous record for a relief pitcher contract by $24MM. The recent offers he, Chapman and Mark Melancon have received have been stratospheric, reflecting a trend throughout the industry of increasing salaries for dominant relievers.
It’s also somewhat odd that the Marlins (who won just 79 games last season and recently lost former ace Jose Fernandez under tragic circumstances) are ready to make such an enormous investment in a closer, even a great one. Jansen, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, would also cost the Marlins their top 2017 draft pick, No. 13 overall.
The Red Sox had a busy Winter Meetings, trading for Chris Sale and Tyler Thornburg and signing Mitch Moreland. Here are a few notes on the Red Sox, specifically focusing on their rotation, as their front office heads home to Boston.
- With Sale in the fold, the Red Sox have a surplus of starting pitching, leading to a flurry of calls from rival executives. The Red Sox are more interested in trading Clay Buchholz than Drew Pomeranz, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes, noting that according to one source, the Red Sox have shown no interest at all in sending Pomeranz packing. Buchholz could generate some interest due to his strong finish in 2016, although his $13.5MM salary could be an obstacle.
- The Marlins spoke to the Red Sox about Buchholz but balked at his salary, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller tweets. The Marlins recently acquired Jeff Locke at significantly less to fill out their rotation; they also signed Edinson Volquez earlier this winter.
- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski says the Sox have received calls about their starting pitchers, likely Pomeranz, Buchholz and Steven Wright, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. Dombrowski adds, however, that he’s in no rush to make a deal. “We had a lot of phone calls on our pitchers today, and different ones,” he says. “But we’re just kind of sitting back at this point and kind of collecting thought processes. I can’t say we’re aggressively looking to doing something.” Mastrodonato notes that if Pomeranz stays, the Red Sox will have four lefties in their rotation, also including Sale, David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez, plus an abundance of lefty depth in Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Roenis Elias. The Red Sox, though, say they’re not concerned about that. “I have no driving force to make any trades just because four of the guys are lefties,” Dombrowski says.
There’s been plenty of talk about Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen over the past 24 hours. At least four teams (the Yankees, Marlins, Dodgers and Nationals) appear to be in the mix for top-tier closers, and the Yankees have reportedly made offers to both (though Chapman is their top target). There’s also been word of a $92MM offer to Chapman (via USA Today’s Bob Nightengale), as noted in yesterday’s roundup of rumors surrounding the market’s top two closers. We’ll keep track of the latest on this pair today as they move toward setting records for relievers…
- “Everyone is waiting on Chapman” to make a decision, a source tells ESPN’s Jayson Stark. The idea is that Chapman’s deal will set the market for Jansen. One of the teams pursuing Chapman expects him to sign somewhere within 24 hours, although Stark cautions that the exact timetable for Chapman’s signing isn’t known. Both the Yankees and Marlins have made five-year offers to Chapman, Stark writes.
- After acquiring Adam Eaton, the Nationals would like their next move to be a Chapman acquisition, Nightengale tweets. The Nationals, of course, are short a closer after the departure of Mark Melancon to San Francisco.
- There’s an “increasing sense” among teams in the market for top-tier closers that both Jansen and Chapman are nearing a decision, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).
- Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweets that Marlins manager Don Mattingly has reached out to Jansen to gauge his level of interest in coming to Miami. He’s also done the same with veteran backstop A.J. Ellis, in whom the Marlins are said to have interest. Mattingly managed both Jansen and Ellis with the Dodgers, which could influence their decision process to some extent. Nightengale tweets that Jansen told Mattingly he is definitely open to the possibility of pitching in Miami.
- Lefty reliever Justin Wilson has been among the Tigers’ most popular players this week. But it appears the Tigers aren’t sitting back and letting potential trade partners come to them. The Tigers asked the Marlins, who are known to be looking for bullpen help (albeit mostly of the closer variety), whether they might have interest in trading for Wilson, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The Marlins don’t currently have much lefty relief help beyond Hunter Cervenka.
The Marlins have agreed to a one-year, $2.5MM deal with veteran backstop A.J. Ellis, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald had just reported that the Marlins appeared to have a “good shot” at landing Ellis to be the new backup catcher in Miami, where he’ll be reunited with former manager Don Mattingly and former teammate Dee Gordon. Ellis is represented by ACES.
Ellis, 35, will serve as the primary backup to young J.T. Realmuto, who looks to be emerging as one of the better young catchers in the league. Miami has been in the market for a new reserve backstop since veteran Jeff Mathis, who has served as the backup in Miami for the past four seasons, inked a deal with the Diamondbacks last week.
Ellis posted a .216/.301/.298 line in 196 plate appearances split between the Dodgers and Phillies last season, although, of course, his calling card has always been his handling of pitchers, not his hitting. Clayton Kershaw famously loved working with Ellis, who caught Kershaw for 829 innings over the course of Ellis’ tenure with the Dodgers, which spanned parts of nine seasons. The hope in Miami, perhaps, is that Ellis can have a positive influence on Realmuto and the Marlins’ young staff.
1:32pm: The Marlins and McGowan are in agreement on a one-year, Major League contract, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
11:58am: The Marlins are close to re-signing right-hander Dustin McGowan, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (via Twitter). It is not clear at this point whether or not the veteran hurler stands to receive a major league deal.
McGowan, 34, turned in a nice year for the Marlins in 2016 after joining the organization as a minor-league free agent. Over 67 frames, he worked to a 2.82 ERA on just 49 hits. McGowan struck out 8.5 and walked 4.4 batters per nine innings.
Once a promising starter, McGowan saw his career derailed by injuries. He has made just 13 starts since he last worked consistently from a rotation back in 2008, and has compiled only 219 total innings since the start of the 2009 season. But the bulk of those have come over the past several years, and McGowan just tied a career-high in average fastball velocity (94.7 mph), so there’s some reason to believe that there’s still some life left in hism
10:05am: Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweets that it’s a one-year deal, and FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Locke will be guaranteed about $3MM on the deal.
9:52am: The Marlins have agreed to terms with free agent left-hander Jeff Locke, who was recently non-tendered by the Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The ACES client’s deal is pending a physical. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that it’s a Major League contract for Locke.
[Related: Updated Miami Marlins Depth Chart]
Locke, 29, joins Edinson Volquez as the second former Pirate that the Marlins have added to their rotation mix this offseason. Former Pirates special assistant Jim Benedict, renowned for his work with starting pitchers, moved to the Miami front office last winter, and he’ll now be reunited with a pair of pitchers with whom he is greatly familiar.
Locke spent the better part of four years in the Pittsburgh rotation, making an even 100 starts (plus 11 relief appearances) for the Pirates from 2013-16. In that time, he logged a solid 4.29 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 with a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate in 593 1/3 innings. However, Locke’s performance began to decline in 2015 and cratered in 2016; over the past two years, he’s turned in a 4.90 ERA, including a 5.44 mark in 127 1/3 innings this past season. The 2016 season saw both Locke’s strikeout rate and ground-ball rate hit career lows, though his average fastball velocity held strong at 91.5 mph.
That performance led the Pirates to designate Locke for assignment (effectively non-tendering him). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected Locke to receive a $4.2MM deal in arbitration, so he’ll come up a bit shy of that mark with his new organization. However, Locke will benefit from remaining in a pitcher-friendly setting, and the move to Miami figures to promise him a greater opportunity to accumulate innings. Locke should slot into the back of a rotation that also includes Volquez, Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler.
One of the top three relievers, Mark Melancon, is off the board after agreeing to a record-setting $62MM deal with the Giants yesterday. But both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, the top two relievers of the winter, remain unsigned. Both are likely to make Melancon’s time as the relief contract record holder brief, and we’ll track today’s updates on their market here…
- The Yankees haven’t gone as high as $92MM in their offers to Chapman, and the Marlins aren’t believed to be willing to spend quite that much, Heyman reports (Twitter links).
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has indeed given his front office the green light to spend on signing Chapman or Jansen, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports, though this “preliminary approval” of funds may still not be enough to outbid other big spenders on either ace closer.
- The Yankees are “determined” to land Chapman, Heyman tweets. It’s not clear, however, that they’re the team that offered Chapman $92MM.
- One team believes Chapman has a $92MM offer in hand, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.
- The Yankees have made offers to both Chapman and Jansen, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (on Twitter).
- Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times tweets that the Dodgers are remaining “competitive” in the markets for Jansen and Chapman, and they’ve also chatted with the Royals about closer Wade Davis.
- Chapman has received multiple offers that have passed the $80MM threshold, Heyman tweets. The Yankees still see him as their priority, but the Dodgers and Marlins are in the mix as well. He also suggests that the Nationals could join the fray for Chapman, pointing out that GM Mike Rizzo and manager Dusty Baker (who managed Chapman in Cincinnati) both love Chapman.
- There’s an expectation that Jansen will sign before Chapman, reports ESPN’s Jim Bowden.
- The Yankees are more focused on Chapman than Jansen and are willing to offer a five-year deal in the range of $80MM, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman. Chapman said yesterday that he’s hoping to receive a six-year deal, but the Yankees won’t go to that level to sign him, according to Heyman. For the Yankees, Jansen is more of a backup plan to Chapman than a prime target.
- The Marlins are firmly in the mix for both top closers, at owner Jeffrey Loria’s behest, but their preference between the two differs from the Yankees, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Miami has preferred Jansen to Chapman from the start of free agency, despite the fact that he comes with the burden of draft pick compensation after rejecting a qualifying offer. Sherman notes that if the Marlins are able to land Jansen before Chapman signs, that could push the Dodgers to make a strong run at Chapman, potentially throwing a wrench into the Yankees’ winter plans. The Dodgers are trying to retain Jansen, according to Sherman, but they’d seemingly shift course to Chapman if Jansen came off the board.