Michael Cuddyer Rumors

Free Agent Notes: Kaneko, Shields, Gomes, Willingham, Hunter

Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.

  • While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
  • The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
  • Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
  • As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.

NL Central Notes: Zimmermann, Cards, Miller

A rumored deal of Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs is reportedly not happening, which makes sense to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal since such a trade wouldn’t really be a fit for either the Cubs or the Nationals.  The Cubs are likely to address their pitching need by either signing a top free agent arm or trading one of their infield prospects for a controllable younger arm.  Dealing for Zimmermann would the Cubs to both give up prospects and spend big, Rosenthal notes, since Chicago would obviously want to sign the righty to a long-term extension.

Here’s some more from around the NL Central…

  • The Cardinals are wary of making commitments that will result in future roadblocks to upcoming younger players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  GM John Mozeliak notes that the team feels it could be “exposed” at first base or the corner outfield if it does not get the performances it hopes for, and is interested in left-handed relief help and a utility infielder.
  • In fact, the Cardinals met with representatives for Andrew Miller on Tuesday, Goold tweets. The meeting was characterized as exploratory in nature, though the fit is obvious.
  • Both the Cardinals and Reds had interest in Michael Cuddyer before he signed with the Mets, Goold reports in a separate piece.
  • Though the Reds are interested in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, that is not an exclusive list, GM Walt Jocketty tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The club’s top priority is adding offense, and it is considering trade scenarios in addition to looking at the free agent market.

Reactions To Mets’ Cuddyer Signing

The Mets jumped the free agent market yesterday in a surprising way, signing right fielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21MM deal that requires the forfeiture of their #15 overall pick in the 2015 draft.  As FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan wrote, it was a surprising series of events: Cuddyer wasn’t expected to receive a qualifying offer, then he was expected to accept it once the Rockies made it, and the Mets weren’t expected to be interested in him after the draft pick cost was attached.  More on the signing:

  • Cuddyer said on a conference call with Mets beat writers today that he would have accepted the Rockies’ qualifying offer had he not been signed by the Mets.
  • Sullivan suggests a conservative estimate values the Mets’ lost pick around $10-15MM, and feels the team is “slightly overpaying” overall for Cuddyer.  Personally, I think the Mets valued the pick lower than $10-15MM, as that estimate seems to assume the Mets’ pick would have become one of the game’s 100 best prospects.  If we instead apply Dave Cameron’s 3x valuation of a draft’s slot value, we might get $7.5MM in value, which MLBTR’s Jeff Todd suggested to me yesterday.  Jeff further noted the Mets might have reasons to devalue that estimate.  I also think we were low in estimating Cuddyer’s QO-free market value at two years and $22MM back in mid-October, and his real market value could easily have been two years and $28MM or three years and $36MM.  Clearly the Mets valued the lost pick into their offer one way or another.
  • Andy Martino of the New York Daily News doesn’t even want to hear an argument that the Mets should not have sacrificed the pick for Cuddyer, saying, “Nothing in baseball is more romanticized, fetishized and overvalued than draft picks and prospects.”  Martino feels the Cuddyer signing signaled the right mindset for the Mets.
  • The Mets initially balked at giving up the pick to sign Cuddyer, writes Marc Carig of Newsday, but GM Sandy Alderson changed his mind.  According to assistant GM John Ricco, “I think this is a message that we’re going to be aggressive. And right out of the box, we had a guy we liked and we went out and got him.” The Mets had no interest in offering multiple years to other free agent candidates, says Carig.
  • New Rockies GM Jeff Bridich comes out smelling like roses, snagging a supplemental draft pick most didn’t expect he could get.  Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post has quotes from Bridich, who said, “The way that we looked at it was that if we had Cuddy come back on a one-year deal with us, and had he just purely accepted the offer, that was fine.  We tried to engage on multiyear talks from the get-go. Even before the (qualifying) offer was made.  When the qualifying offer was made, we said, ‘OK, if there is anything to talk about a multiyear offer, let us know. We are ready to engage.’ That doesn’t guarantee it would happen, but we were ready.”  It seems Bridich did a better job of reading Cuddyer’s market than the media did.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post likes the signing for the Mets in a 55-45 way.  He explains, “He was the outfielder with flaws the Mets knew they could get and there is an upside that makes this a huge gamble probably worth taking. The Mets did not have to touch their pitching surplus to land Cuddyer. They got this done on Nov. 10. They have their stockpile and all winter to address shortstop.”
  • Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News has quotes from Ricco regarding Cuddyer’s recent spotty health record.  Said Ricco, “He took a physical today. We’ve looked at all the injuries and there was nothing there that we’re too concerned about.  And the age is the age. Certainly there’s risk associated with any signing. And we believe in the player and think he’s going to be a real good fit for us.”


Red Sox Links: Lester, Masterson, Gregerson

Could Jon Lester end up back with the Red Sox after all?  “A well-connected baseball executive who has had conversations on the subject with the Red Sox” predicted to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes that Lester would indeed re-sign with his old team.  The exec thought the Sox could be willing to relax their policy against signing pitchers in their 30’s to long-term contracts by offering Lester a six-year deal worth at least $20MM per season.  Unless Lester is still willing to give the Sox a bit of a discount, I would think it’ll take a lot more than six years/$120MM to outbid the field for Lester’s services — MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Lester would receive, at minimum, a six-year, $147MM contract this winter.  If the Red Sox were willing to give Lester a six/$120MM deal, I would think they would’ve just offered him that deal in extension talks last winter and avoided this entire situation.

Here’s some more from Fenway Park….


Mets Sign Michael Cuddyer

3:29pm: Cuddyer’s contract is a two-year, $21MM pact, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he’ll earn $8.5MM in 2015 and $12.5MM in 2016. Essentially, by turning down the qualifying offer, Cuddyer guaranteed himself an additional $5.7MM and a second year.

2:40pm: The Mets announced that they have signed free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract.

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Cuddyer, a client of Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close, was the surprise recipient of a qualifying offer last week that caused many to believe that he would be the first to accept the offer. However, Colorado’s decision to extend the QO appears to have been a wise one, as they’ll now net a draft pick at the end of next year’s first round for their loss. The Mets, on the other hand, will forfeit the 15th pick in next year’s draft in order to bring Cuddyer to Queens.

Cuddyer, 36 in March, has long been rumored to be a target of the Mets, although last week’s QO from the Rockies was said at the time to kill their interest in 35-year-old free agent. Clearly, that was either posturing on the Mets’ behalf or something in their thinking changed. He’ll join the Mets’ outfield alongside Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson and add some punch to the middle of manager Terry Collins’ order.

The signing also allows the Mets to play Cuddyer at first base against left-handed pitching, should the team wish to platoon Lucas Duda, who is a career .212/.292/.317 hitter against southpaws. Cuddyer, on the other hand, has feasted on left-handed pitching in his career, hitting them at a .291/.378/.504 clip. Cuddyer also has extensive experience at first base.

Cuddyer is coming off a strong three-year stretch with the Rockies, and while many will point to Coors Field as a large reason for his gaudy numbers, he hit well away from the Denver launching pad as well. Cuddyer hit .307/.362/.505 as a Rockie and batted .286/.332/.463 on the road during that time. He took home the NL Batting Title in 2013 and batted .331/.385/.543 over the past two seasons. However, a trio of DL stints limited him to 49 games in 2014. Cuddyer had a hamstring strain in each of his legs and also suffered a fracture in his shoulder suffered in a dive for a ball while playing away from his natural position at third base.

From a financial standpoint, Cuddyer’s $8.5MM 2015 salary would appear to eat up a significant portion of the payroll that the Mets have moving forward. ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin noted last month that if the team made a free agent signing that pushed the payroll north of $100MM, a corresponding trade could be made to offset the increase. The Mets could move some salary by trading a veteran such as Bartolo Colon, Daniel Murphy or Jon Niese. Colon may not bring a huge return, given his $11MM salary, but moving either Murphy or Niese would likely return some legitimate talent while simultaneously dropping the club’s payroll. Murphy is projected by MLBTR contibutor Matt Swartz to earn $8.3MM, while Niese is guaranteed a $7MM salary.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


West Notes: Rockies, Gasparino, Dodgers, Rangers

The Rockies‘ decision to make a qualifying offer to outfielder Michael Cuddyer makes more sense in light of reports that the club could be open to making some larger moves, possibly involving stars Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. For his money, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding believes the likeliest scenario involves a trade of first baseman Justin Morneau, whose remaining contract is attractive given his production last year. I discussed this very issue last night with Denver Post writer Nick Groke for today’s podcast, which will be made available shortly.

Here’s more from out west:

  • The Padres gave the Dodgers permission yesterday to interview scouting director Billy Gasparino, Corey Brock of MLB.com tweets. It may be more of a done deal, in fact, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Turning to the major league side of things, the Dodgers face yet another offseason with questions about an outfield logjam, as Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. With Joc Pederson now clearly having proven himself at Triple-A, Petriello takes a look at the available options. The likeliest, in his opinion, is a trade involving Carl Crawford.
  • The Rangers expect to be more active on the trade market than in free agency, as Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com reports“I think just by nature free agents will cost more money,” said GM Jon Daniels. “I think we have some areas of depth and have a chance to get some players with a little bit more cost control.” Daniels went on to discuss some general possibilities. “I feel pretty good about our [minor] league system just based on the players we’ve been asked about, and other teams feel about it the same way,” he explained. “It’s a pretty unique market, there’s quite a few pitchers who might be on the market, and that’s probably the strength of the marketplace in free agent and trade standpoints. I don’t know how quick it will be, but I think we’ll be able to address our needs.”

NL Notes: Morales, Cuddyer, Morse, Romo, Tomas

Free agent lefty Franklin Morales, most recently of the Rockies, has moved his representation to the Boras Corporation, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. The 28-year-old had a rough 2014. He put up a 5.37 ERA over 142 1/3 innings, including 22 starts, while striking out a below-average (against his career) 6.3 batters and walking 4.1 per nine.

Here’s more from Colorado and the rest of the National League:

  • The Rockies‘ extension of a qualifying offer to free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer was the big surprise on the QO front. Colorado’s rationale for the move, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets, is to remain flexible to trade from its outfield depth. Cuddyer, meanwhile, had hoped to land a three-year deal, per Rosenthal, and the offer makes that a more difficult proposition. In my view, it makes little sense to create outfield depth to trade from by adding a contract with negative trade value; the move seems irrational unless the club has good reason to believe that Cuddyer will turn down the QO.
  • While teams can always simply price in the loss of a draft choice in assessing how much to offer a compensation-bound player, the presence of the QO can in some cases be a significant enough deterrent that it keeps a team out of the market altogether. That appears to be the case for the Mets vis-a-vis Cuddyer, as Marc Carig of Newday reports that New York had been quite interested in pursuing the veteran but has little interest in giving up the 15th overall pick in doing so.
  • The Mets may, however, be more willing to pursue non-QO-bound Michael Morse, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Morse would represent an option in the outfield and, perhaps, part-time platoon mate at first.
  • Giants righty Sergio Romo hopes to re-sign with San Francisco, he told MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (via host Jim Bowden). But the former closer is looking forward to testing the market, and should draw plenty of interest.
  • Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas worked out at third base in a tryout yesterday with the Diamondbacks, according to a tweet from his agent Jay Alou Jr.  The 24-year-old had been talked about primarily as a corner outfielder. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com first tweeted that Tomas had spent time with the D’backs.

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).


Rockies Extend Qualifying Offer To Michael Cuddyer

The Rockies announced that they have extended a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to Michael Cuddyer.

Needless to say, this move comes as a bit of a surprise. The 35-year-old Cuddyer will turn 36 next March and played in just 49 games this season. While his production over the past two seasons has been unquestionably outstanding when healthy — he’s batted .331/.385/.543 and captured the 2013 NL Batting Title — Cuddyer was not seen as a candidate for a QO due to his injuries and age.

No player has ever accepted a qualifying offer, but Cuddyer strikes me as a candidate to be the first to do so. Should he reject, teams will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick in order to sign Cuddyer. Given his inability to stay on the field last year and his defensive question marks, that may be a lot for a team to stomach. It’s also worth pointing out that the $15.3MM sum would represent nearly half of the total guarantee on Cuddyer’s previous three-year, $31.5MM contract, meaning he’d be getting a substantial raise in terms of AAV. One possibility is that the Rockies are using the qualifying offer as leverage with the hope of getting Cuddyer to agree to a more affordable two-year extension.

Cuddyer and other players who have received the QO can be followed using MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker.


Quick Hits: Stanton, Mariners, Rios, Payrolls

The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).  Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.”  Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News TribuneVictor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
  • Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes.  “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.”  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
  • A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.  Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players.  Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
  • With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats.  Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
  • Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.