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With Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana all in seeming free agent limbo after rejecting qualifying offers, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan argues that the current free agent compensation system has proven to be too limiting. While teams will give up draft picks to sign bigger stars like Robinson Cano, the so-called second tier of free agents are finding it much harder to get work. "Last offseason, there were a number of guys affected in ways different than we expected compared to a freer market to pursue jobs. It appears that's happening again, " MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. One club executive suggested to Passan that teams could make qualifying offers to more free agents next winter given the evidence about how it pushes prices down for some players.
Here's some more from around baseball…
- The Tigers have recently made several important moves in the post-Christmas offseason period, and 2014's big early-year move could be laying the groundwork for a Max Scherzer extension, MLB.com's Jason Beck opines. Beck thinks GM Dave Dombrowski will look to a one-year deal for 2014 to avoid going to arbitration with Scherzer, and those talks could lead to negotiations with agent Scott Boras over a longer-term extension.
- Also from Beck, he wonders if the Tigers could discuss a new contract with Miguel Cabrera (signed through 2015) or possibly add another reliever to the bullpen. Detroit has already addressed its main bullpen need by signing closer Joe Nathan, and also acquired Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain for the relief corps.
- Jonathan Papelbon discussed his name surfacing in recent trade rumors, the differences between the Phillies' and Red Sox clubhouse atmospheres and his joy at seeing his ex-Boston teammates win the World Series last October in a frank radio interview with Rob Bradford and John McDonald on WEEI's Hot Stove Show. A partial transcript of the interview is available at WEEI.com.
- The Phillies were interested in Mark Mulder before the veteran signed with the Angels, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).
- Forbes Magazine's Maury Brown discusses Major League Baseball's growing revenues and the effect on player salaries and acquisitions in a podcast with BostInno's Alex Reimer, who has a partial transcript of the interview here.
- MLB.com's Anthony DiComo covers a number of Mets-related topics as part of a reader mailbag, including how he doesn't see Dee Gordon or Didi Gregorius as logical trade targets for the team.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen were respectively announced as the American League and National League Most Valuable Players, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America.
This is the second consecutive year that Cabrera has captured the MVP trophy, making it three years in a row that a Detroit player has won the award after Justin Verlander's MVP year in 2011. While Cabrera's 2013 season lacked the history of his 2012 Triple Crown campaign, he achieved another unique treble by leading the league in every slash line category (.348/.442/.636) and also hitting 44 homers and 137 RBI.
Cabrera captured 23 of 30 first-place votes from the writers and finished second on the other seven ballots. Angels outfielder Mike Trout was Cabrera's runner-up for the second straight year, claiming five first-place votes and 19 second-place votes. Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson each received one first place vote and finished third and fourth overall on the ballot, with Yankees second baseman (and free agent) Robinson Cano finishing fifth.
McCutchen's race to the MVP Award wasn't nearly as close, as he captured a whopping 28 of 30 first-place votes. McCutchen was an all-around threat, hitting .317/.404/.508 with 21 homers, stealing 27 bases, scoring 97 runs and providing a strong (+8.4 UZR.150) glove in center field — he generated 8.2 WAR according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. He becomes the first Pirate to win the MVP since Barry Bonds in 1992.
Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt finished second in the balloting despite not receiving any first-place votes. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received those other two firsts and finished in third place, followed by teammate Matt Carpenter in fourth and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in fifth place.
Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings & Grumblings column for ESPN came out yesterday; here are some highlights.
- There have been enough informal conversations between Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers on a contract extension that both sides expect a deal to get done, a friend of the player tells Stark. The tricky part is that a new deal would begin with the 2016 season, at which point Cabrera will be 33. It seems likely that Cabrera would need an average annual value in the $30MM range, but Stark's sources picture anywhere from three to five additional years.
- Some of Stark's sources don't consider Yankees second baseman and #1 2014 free agent Robinson Cano the type of player to build a team around. One exec, though, told Stark, "I can't imagine him leaving."
- Stark hears Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw seeks a ten-year deal, which would be the first for a pitcher since Wayne Garland signed a ten-year, $2.3MM deal in 1977 (those were different times). One exec can't possibly see Kershaw leaving L.A., and could picture $200-210MM over seven years. Even that would be well beyond C.C. Sabathia's record seven-year, $161MM deal, which was signed on the open market with the Yankees after the '08 season and included an opt-out clause. I feel that Kershaw's agents at Excel Sports Management have to score an opt-out in any new deal, especially with the Dodgers giving them to Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
- One exec suggests the Angels offer Mike Trout the Buster Posey deal, which amounted to eight years and $159MM in new money. Stark says "folks around the game" do not see Trout signing, however.
- The Orioles and Yankees are "leading the parade of teams that already have interest" in Miami's Ricky Nolasco. The 30-year-old is easily the highest-paid Marlin, and should have about $7.7MM remaining on his contract at the trade deadline. Nolasco has a 3.61 ERA in 82 1/3 innings, and sports his best strikeout rate since 2010.
- Would anyone sign Alex Rodriguez, if the Yankees end up releasing him? "No chance," says one executive.
- The Marlins have shown no interest in dealing right fielder Giancarlo Stanton midseason, say clubs that have inquired, though Stark thinks Marcell Ozuna's emergence could push them toward trading Stanton this winter. Stanton should return from a hamstring injury next week.
Miguel Cabrera might have been hitting home runs in Anaheim if the Angels had been able to swing a deal for him in 2007, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Marlins had Cabrera on the trade market, and the Angels offered Howie Kendrick, Jeff Mathis and either Ervin Santana or Nick Adenhart. But the Marlins wanted both Santana and Adenhart, and the Angels changed their minds about dealing Kendrick, and the trade fell through. Had the deal worked out, Shaikin says, Cabrera could have joined with fellow 2012 MVP candidate Mike Trout in the Angels' lineup. (Of course, Trout was acquired with the No. 25 pick in the 2009 Draft, which was a compensation pick for losing Mark Teixeira. If the Angels had acquired Cabrera, they might not have acquired Teixeira, which means it's possible they wouldn't have drafted Trout. They also would have had to sign Cabrera to a long-term deal, the way the Tigers did. Reimagining history can be complicated.)
The Marlins' side of the deal would have worked out a bit better, too. We'll never know what might have been with Adenhart, who died in an accident in 2009, and Mathis hasn't hit well. But Kendrick turned out to be a better player than any the Marlins got when they sent Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for a package centered around Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.
Here are more notes from around MLB.
- After Jesus Montero's demotion, his role in the Mariners' future is unclear, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. Mike Zunino now appears to be the Mariners' future catcher, and Montero will work on playing first base at Triple-A Tacoma. If Montero will play predominantly first base and designated hitter going forward, that puts him in an awkward position, because one of the reasons he was sent down in the first place was that his hitting wasn't particularly good even for a catcher. Still, the door remains open to Montero, Morosi notes, since Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has not hit well, and main DH Kendrys Morales will be a free agent at the end of the season.
- Yan Gomes' play so far is creating a "pleasant problem" for the Indians, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal writes. Gomes, who arrived in Cleveland with Mike Aviles when the Indians sent Esmil Rogers to the Blue Jays last offseason, is hitting .311/.328/.672 with five home runs in 61 at bats so far. His performance suggests he might be able to one day become an everyday catcher, not just a utility player who catches occasionally, Ocker writes. Carlos Santana is, of course, the Indians' starting catcher, but if Gomes keeps hitting, the Indians will have to find a way to get him more playing time.
- The Dodgers were criticized for absorbing hundreds of millions of dollars in salary (and giving up five players, including prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa) when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox last August. But, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer tweets, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto have been the Dodgers' three best position players this year. Of course, that says more about the Dodgers' offense than anything else — the Dodgers are scoring just 3.39 runs per game, second-to-last in the National League.
Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by an incredible nine pitches already, which, combined with a very discerning eye at the plate, has lead to an MLB-best .523 OBP. SB Nation's Rob Neyer opines that the Reds correctly assessed that the gap between Choo's offense and Drew Stubbs' offense would outweigh the defensive downgrade. While Choo won't keep this pace up, Neyer points out that Reds leadoff men combined for a .254 OBP last season, making the addition of Choo a worthwhile move.
Choo currently ranks third on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and a career-year in terms of OBP would certainly help keep him near the top of that list. Here's more from around the league…
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer writes that Miguel Cabrera was nearly traded to the Angels prior to the 2007 trade that sent him to the Tigers. Cabrera himself told Spencer that he thought he was being traded to Anaheim. The Angels and Marlins discussed Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders in the deal as well as young infielders Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood. Ultimately, Cabrera said that he thinks he wound up in Detroit because the Tigers were more willing to take on Dontrelle Willis and his $7MM salary.
- Former Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden implied via Twitter that he could be entertaining a comeback attempt. Braden, now 29 years old, made just three starts in the 2011 season and hasn't pitched since thanks to a pair of shoulder surgeries. Braden famously threw a perfect game against the Rays on May 9, 2010 with his grandmother in attendance.
- The Mariners' offensive woes present the "biggest crisis of the Jack Zduriencik era," writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. While he concedes that it's a small sample, Zduriencik made several moves to bolster the lineup this offseason but the Mariners find themselves in 29th place in nearly every offensive category. The collapse of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero — who were supposed to be the team's young core — is a major setback in Zduriencik's blueprint.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Giants catcher Buster Posey were announced as the winners of the Most Valuable Player Awards in the AL and NL, respectively, the Baseball Writers Association Of America announced tonight. Full results of the voting both the AL and NL can be found on the BBWAA's website.
Posey and Cabrera become the first batting champs to both win MVP awards in the same season since Ernie Lombardi and Jimmie Foxx in 1938, and also are the first pair of MVPs whose teams squared off in the World Series since Kirk Gibson's Dodgers and Jose Canseco's Athletics met in the 1988 Fall Classic.
Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown, leading the AL with 44 homers, 139 RBIs and a .330 batting average (Cabrera's slash line also included a .393 OBP and a league-leading .606 slugging percentage). This is Cabrera's first MVP award, having been a top-five finisher in the voting five previous times in his career, including a second-place finish behind Josh Hamilton in 2010. Cabrera becomes the first Venezuelan-born player to win an MVP and the second Tiger to win an MVP in as many years, following teammate Justin Verlander's MVP/Cy Young double in 2011.
The AL MVP race was seen as a tight battle between Cabrera and Mike Trout, but Cabrera ended up with 22 of 28 first-place votes, while Trout collected the other six first-place votes and ended up a distant second. Trout narrowly missed joining Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) as the only players to win Rookie Of The Year and MVP awards in the same season. Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Hamilton and Adam Jones round out the top six players on the AL ballot.
After missing much of the 2011 season due to a broken leg suffered in a home plate collision, Posey roared back in the best possible way, posting a .336/.408/.549 line, 24 homers and 103 RBIs. Posey's .336 average led the Majors and earned him his first batting title, making him the first NL catcher to win a batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1942.
In three years as a regular, the 25-year-old Posey has now won an Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP and two World Series rings. Posey will receive a big raise this winter in his first trip through the arbitration process, as MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Posey will receive $5.9MM in 2013. Since Posey has four arb years as a Super Two player, the Giants could save themselves some money by locking Posey up to a multiyear contract. Back in August, I thought Posey could get a seven-year, $84MM extension, but in the wake of his great postseason performance and his MVP award, a $100MM+ extension wouldn't be out of the question.
Posey received 27 of 32 first-place votes, easily outpacing Ryan Braun (three first place votes), Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina (two first place votes) and Chase Headley on the ballot. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was the finished in eighth place and garnered the most votes of any pitcher, also earning a second-place spot from one voter that made Kimbrel the only player beyond the top four to receive a top-three vote.
Rookie outfielder Mike Trout hit his 30th home run in the opener of the Angels-Rangers doubleheader this afternoon to become the youngest player in MLB history to slug 30 homers and steal 30 bases and the first rookie with a season of 30 homers and 40 steals. Trout is also the first player in MLB history to record 30 home runs, 45 steals, and 125 runs scored in a single season (h/t ESPN, via Twitter). Trout swiped his 48th base in that game and is now just two stolen bases away from joining Barry Bonds and Eric Davis as the only 30/50 players in baseball history. Today's historic performance further fuels the AL MVP debate between Trout and Miguel Cabrera, a debate chronicled by Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Elsewhere on the Junior Circuit:
- White Sox manager Robin Ventura had to clarify comments he made about his future yesterday, reports CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes. Ventura said he was only making a joke when he said he just wanted to get through this season. "I plan on being here for two more years, yes,” Ventura said. “Unless they don’t want me to be here.”
- If the White Sox opt for the $4MM buyout of Jake Peavy's contract rather than exercise the $22MM 2013 option, the right-hander may act as his own agent, reports Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-Times. Barry Axelrod, Peavy's longtime agent, is no longer able to represent him because Axelrod will be taking a position in the Diamondbacks' front office. For his part, Peavy says he wants to remain with the White Sox, "I love Chicago and this team. I hope we'll be able to work something out."
- The Twins will have to work something out with pitcher Scott Baker, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. The club has a $9.25MM team option for 2013 and it seems highly unlikely they'd exercise that and make Baker the team's highest-paid pitcher coming off surgery, writes 1500ESPN.com Phil Mackey. GM Terry Ryan wouldn't say much about Baker's status other than, "If you think he's going to be able to contribute in 2013, the answer is yes (we do have interest)."
- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has a feeling some of his coaching staff won't be back after the team's second consecutive 90-loss season, according to MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger and Jordan Garretson. "I have all the faith that they can do the job, but some of these things aren't going to be left up to me, it's going to be left to ownership and [general manager] Terry [Ryan]," Gardenhire said. "If he thinks change is needed, he's going to talk to the owners and we'll go from there."
- Within the same piece, Bollinger and Garretson confirmed Gardenhire hadn't spoken to Joe Mauer about moving to third base. Gardenhire said he has considered playing Mauer some at third when asked about the possibility during a conference call with season-ticket holders on Thursday.
- The Blue Jays' Darren Oliver is undecided if he will continue playing in 2013, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Oliver says the main deciding factor will be "my two kids and my wife." The Blue Jays hold a $3MM club option on the left-hander, who has posted a 1.78 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 60 relief appearances this year covering nearly 56 innings.
- The Rays ultimately may be known more for not providing enough support to take advantage of one of the best overall pitching performances in recent times; but, there has been a lot accomplished, writes Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin who recounts the good, bad and interesting.
- Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com has obtained an assessment of the Red Sox’s top 20 prospects by pro scouts for another big-league team. The young talent will be needed as Boston lost 90 games for the first time since 1966 after being swept by the Orioles today.
- The Yankees, Rangers and Orioles each clinched a playoff spot on Sunday evening thanks to a Mike Napoli-led Texas victory over the Angels. All three teams remain in the hunt for division titles, but three more regular season games must be played this week before final seeding can be determined. For the Orioles, the return to the playoffs comes after a lengthy absence as Baltimore's last postseason appearance came in 1997.
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
Every AL Central team except the Royals has won the division at least once since 2007. Here are the latest AL Central links as the Tigers look to win back-to-back division titles for the first time since they won the 1934-35 pennants…
- The Indians are hoping for modest production from Travis Hafner in 2012, which will probably be his final season with the Indians, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. "If Travis can be a productive major-league hitter this year, we'll be happy," GM Chris Antonetti said.
- Justin Verlander and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports discussed the right-hander's newfound celebrity in a piece that's well worth reading. Verlander makes it clear that he loves Detroit, but admitted he’s thought about what playing in a bigger market would be like. “It would be fun, but hopefully I help turn Detroit into a major market,” Verlander said. “Other teams are major markets not just because of their fan base but because of the national fan base.”
- No talks about a new contract for Verlander have taken place, but he’s “open for conversation” with the Tigers. Verlander, who’s under team control through 2014, is intrigued by free agency.
- In this FOX Sports video, Morosi said the Tigers are realistic about Miguel Cabrera's limitations as a defender at third base, and seem committed to making the arrangement work.
- Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently joined Evan & Phillips on Sirius XM Radio and said he's willing to accept that Cabrera won't get to as many balls as Brandon Inge might.
As ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark points out, the NL Central will look considerably different in 2012, now that Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa have moved on. Ryan Braun could miss 50 games with a suspension that would make the division even less recognizable. Here are Stark’s latest notes and rumors:
- Scouts and executives doubt Miguel Cabrera will be able to play third base with much skill in 2012.
- One AL executive suggests the Tigers would have to eat a lot of money to trade Victor Martinez next offseason. Insurance will likely cover approximately half of the switch hitter’s 2012 salary of $13MM, Stark writes.
- Stark hears that the Phillies have sent signals that they might make Joe Blanton available this spring.
- Jason Bartlett has been available this winter and the Red Sox could pursue him, Stark writes. However, the shortstop will earn $5.5MM in 2012 and the Red Sox aim to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
- Scott Kazmir intends to pitch in 2012, but his fastball velocity is in the 84-85 mph range. The 28-year-old appeared in one game for the Angels last year and they released him after a rough stretch at Triple-A.
- There’s every indication that the commissioner’s office will discipline Juan Carlos Oviedo/Leo Nunez and Roberto (Heredia) Hernandez/Fausto Carmona for using false identities.
- Though many have told Bud Selig that adding a second Wild Card team to each league this year will create scheduling issues, the commissioner seems intent on expanding the playoffs in 2012, and Stark expects him to get his wish.
The Indians made a trade today, acquiring 2011 International League MVP Russ Canzler from the Rays. It wouldn't be surprising to see Cleveland add another hitter before Opening Day, but their division rivals appear to have completed most of their offseason shopping at this point. Here's the latest from the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski ruled out the possibility of playing Miguel Cabrera in left field, according to James Schmehl of MLive.com.
- White Sox starter Gavin Floyd joined Jim Memolo and Jeff Nelson on MLB Network Radio and said he's been kept in the dark about the trade rumors surrounding him this offseason and that he knows it's out of his control.
- GM Dayton Moore told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star that he'll consider ways of upgrading the Royals if they're in the pennant race midseason. For now, Kansas City is likely done adding major pieces.