Mike Adams Rumors

The Open Market’s Most Intriguing Remaining Names

As it always does, the free agent market contains some fairly noteworthy names entering the final month before Spring Training. A good portion of the value at the top of the leftover market lies in established names who have been reliable, healthy, and good in the recent past: James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and the like.

Some of those types of players may be a bit long in the tooth, perhaps, or might lack upside or be coming off of a somewhat down 2014 season. But there are teams with expectations of contending that are interested in signing them and plugging them into important roster slots. This segment of the market contains relative certainty.

But as much as the solid veteran group is useful, it is entirely less interesting than the array of wild cards that also remain to be signed. For another market niche, comparative youth, talent, and/or upside marry with various issues, inconsistency, and/or injury. Some such players will surely flame out, never to be heard from again, but it is likewise possible that one or more will re-establish themselves as quality regulars and deliver immense value to their new teams.

If you are a fan of a team that wants someone to dream on without breaking the bank (or even committing a big league roster spot, in some cases), consider one of these players from the scratch-and-dent market:

  • Mike Adams, right-handed pitcher, 36 – Remember when the 6’5 reliever was a really effective set-up man? Wait, he has always been a really effective set-up man — when healthy. He may not have been on the field enough to deliver value to the Phillies on his $12MM free agent contract, but even while battling through injury Adams worked to a 3.50 ERA over 43 2/3 innings. Last year, especially, he was quite good: a 2.89 ERA (supported entirely by sub-3.00 ERA estimator marks) and better than ten punchouts per nine with a 56.3% groundball rate. Sure, it was a small sample (18 2/3) and his shoulder problems were still present. But if you’re going to roll the dice, it may as well be for a nice potential return.
  • John Axford, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Axford still pumps gas and still logs double-digit strikeout rates. Sure, he walked nearly six batters per nine last year and ERA estimators have been increasingly dubious of his quality over the past three seasons. If he can figure out a way to reign back in the free passes and yield a few fewer long balls, Axford still looks like a late-inning arm. And now, teams can take a chance on a return to form without the high salaries that he carried more recently.
  • Brandon Beachy, right-handed pitcher, 28 – The former Brave owns a lifetime 3.23 ERA over 46 big league starts, with a 3.34 FIP, 3.54 xFIP, and 3.39 SIERA. He has averaged better than nine strikeouts and less than three walks per nine innings. He also is on his second replacement UCL, this one installed last spring. In each of the above-referenced statistics, Beachy is entirely not-unlike fellow former Atlanta hurler Kris Medlen. Yet Beachy — who is one year younger — remains unsigned while Medlen has already secured an $8.5MM guarantee. He also can be controlled for an additional year through arbitration, with a low salary base to work from.
  • Chad Billingsley, right-handed pitcher, 30 – As with Beachy, Billingsley was once an effective starter who has struggled for some time now to return from Tommy John surgery. What the latter lacks in dominating upside, he makes up for in the lengthy run of reliable innings he provided before succumbing to elbow troubles. From the time he became a full-time starter in 2008 through the 2011 season (the one before his elbow troubles began), Billingsley averaged 194 frames of 3.73 ERA pitching.
  • Everth Cabrera, shortstop, 28 – Were it not for his off-field issues, it seems likely the Padres would have tendered the former starting shortstop and given him a chance to regain his 2013 form. The year before last, Cabrera registered a 114 wRC+ while swiping 37 bags (down from 44 in the season prior) and playing the best-rated defense of his career. That was a 3.1 fWAR player, even in a season cut short due to suspension. The 2014 version of Cabrera was not, even when on the field instead of nursing an injury. There are issues aplenty here, but his abilities stand out in a market that hurt for middle infield talent from the start. And it does not hurt that he comes with a year of arb control remaining.
  • Alexi Ogando, right-handed pitcher, 31 – Flipping back and forth between starting and relief, Ogando and his mid-90s heater have long been a storyline. And until last year’s dud, he had never been anything but effective. Even after putting up 25 innings at double the allowed runs rate that he had generally permitted, Ogando sits with a lifetime 3.35 earned run mark. The track record of arm trouble remains a concern, but Ogando’s velocity was just fine last year and he could easily be on the rise with a normal spring.
  • Rickie Weeks, second base, 32 – Once one of the game’s better keystone options, Weeks has stumbled backward in all areas of the game since 2012. But last year was a bit different; while his defensive metrics continued to lag behind his earlier work, Weeks did put up a .274/.357/.452 slash in 286 plate appearances that brought to mind better days. True, Weeks inflicted much of his damage against lefties, with his solid line against right-handers propped up by a .420 BABIP. But given his track record, a revived spurt of production at least raises the possibility of a late-career renaissance.

Phillies Decline Option On Mike Adams

The Phillies have declined their $6MM club option on reliever Mike Adams, the club announced. Of course, the attentive reader would have already realized this fact from looking over this morning’s MLBPA release, which listed Adams among the free agents.

Needless to say, the move is not a surprise. Adams, 36, had an injury-plagued two-year run in Philadelphia and never had much of a chance to live up to his contract. He was effective enough when he was not hurt, and ultimately contributed 43 2/3 innings of 3.50 ERA ball, but the price was too steep to bring him back for 2015.

Adams will surely generate plenty of interest in spite of his shoulder problems. He was rather good early in 2014, ending the year with 10.1 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 to go along with a 56.3% groundball rate. Though a substantial guarantee would be a surprise, we have seen significant outlays made to injured hurlers (Jesse Crain and Gavin Floyd, for example) in recent years .


2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …

  • Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
  • Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
  • Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
  • Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
  • Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.


Phillies Notes: Burnett, Adams, Castillo, Papelbon

Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett dominated the Nationals last night, and on the heels of his 12-strikeout gem, he softened his stance on retirement, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury“My decision will come down to how I feel and what my family and I decide,” said Burnett. “It’s just one start, but to be able to go out and do that tonight makes you wonder.” Burnett spent the majority of the previous offseason debating retirement before ultimately deciding that he would pitch again. However, he kept his choices limited, preferring only to pitch near his Maryland home, and eventually agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that starting pitching will be a priority for him this offseason — a statement that presumably will hold true regardless of the decision Burnett reaches on his player option.

Here are some more Phillies links…

  • Right-hander Mike Adams told reporters Monday (including Salisbury) that he feels as though he has stolen money from the Phillies after spending the majority of his two-year, $12MM contract on the disabled list. “There probably isn’t anyone by the situation than myself,” Adams said. Adams’ injury troubles have become severe enough that he’s not sure whether or not he will try to pitch somewhere next season.
  • The Phillies did indeed place a bid on Rusney Castillo, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it was not close to Boston’s winning offer of seven years and $72.5MM. Amaro would not characterize whether or not he considered the Phillies to be a finalist — Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that they had been, after Castillo signed — but the GM did say that the Phillies are aggressively scouting international free agents.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wouldn’t be surprised if the Phils are getting some calls on Burnett following last night’s performance, and he also spoke with an AL scout regarding Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon (Twitter links). “He gets people out and does the job, but not much life in that arm like there used to be,” said the scout.

2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. Here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options…

  • Nick Punto: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. He did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, though for the time being, he’s on pace to see his option vest simply due to the fact that he’s avoided the DL entirely. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would need to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He’s being platooned heavily with Scooter Gennett and has just 112 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Should he reach 400 PAs (which only seems likely in the event of Gennett injury), Weeks would be entitled to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins: Rollins’ option vests if he reaches 600 PA in 2014 or if he totals 1,100 options from 2013-14 and finishes the season on the active roster. He’s 141 PA shy of that combined 1,100 number, meaning he’s highly likely to end up with an $11MM guarantee for 2015.
  • Dan Haren: If Haren pitches 180 innings or more in 2014, he triggers a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. He’s averaging just over six innings per start, so he’s on pace to clear that mark given 30-31 starts. However, if he finishes the season anywhere near his current 3.54 ERA, he may prefer to test the open market in search of a multi-year deal.
  • Mike Adams: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 vests with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s once again on the disabled list for the Phillies and has thrown just 17 innings. Adams has thrown 42 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that they would pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles.
  • Rafael Soriano: Soriano’s $14MM club option will vest if he finishes 120 games combined in 2013-14. He’s currently at 81 games finished on the season, meaning he’d need to finish a rather unlikely 39 of his team’s final 92 games (42 percent) this season. Should the option vest, half of his salary will be deferred and paid in annual installments from 2018-25.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old hasn’t pitched in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that threshold.
  • Sean Burnett: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs: Downs has a $4MM vesting option, and while the specifics haven’t been reported, Ken Rosenthal noted at the time of the deal that it would vest were Downs to pitch “a normal workload.” He’s headed in that direction, as he’s on pace for his highest innings total since 2011. Downs has pitched to a 5.48 ERA in his 23 innings, so the White Sox may not wish to see that option vest. Then again, he has a 3.95 ERA dating back to May 3, so he’s shown some signs of improvement.

NL East Notes: Niese, Lee, Adams, Marlins, Rivero

Mets fans had a scare yesterday when projected Opening Day starter Jon Niese had to travel to New York to undergo an MRI after experiencing a dead arm. However, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted earlier today that the results of Niese's MRI were positive; doctors said his shoulder looked "perfect," and he will be able to resume throwing as soon as he returns to camp. Elsewhere in the NL East…

  • CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes that 2014 could finally be the year that the Phillies trade Cliff Lee if they fall out of contention. Lee says that the concept of trade rumors don't matter to him: "I really don't care. There’s no sense really thinking about it. Honestly, it usually means a good thing. It means you’ve had success and other teams really want you." Lee's contract is guaranteed through the 2015 season and contains a vesting option for 2016.
  • Rehabbing Phillies setup man Mike Adams threw his first bullpen of the spring today and said he felt great afterward, writes MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Adams felt some discomfort when throwing from flat ground on monday, but the Phillies' head trainer assured him it was ok. Adams, set to earn $7MM in 2014 after missing most of 2013, said he threw at about 85 percent intensity today and could be in the Phillies' bullpen sometime in April.
  • Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida spoke to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill about his wealth of pitching prospects. Beyond Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Jacob Turner, the Marlins also have minor leaguers Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Adam Conley, Brad Hand and Brian Flynn. "Those guys are all starting pitchers, which is an envious position to be in," Hill said. "We're proud of our depth, happy to have it and just hopeful that they all develop into what we think they can be."
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo calls recent trade acquisition Felipe Rivero a "huge-upside left-handed starter," writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Wagner spoke with Rivero about his transition from the Rays organization to the Nationals.

Phillies Rumors: Draft, Gonzalez, Franco, Adams

Ben Wetzler, the fifth-round pick of the Phillies who elected to return to Oregon State rather than sign with the club, has been suspended for 11 games (one-fifth of his senior season). According to the NCAA press release announcing the suspension, the "student-athlete" Wetzler violated the NCAA's rules when he "sought help from an agent who attended meetings where Wetzler negotiated contract terms with the team." A report yesterday indicated that the Phillies reported Wetzler to the NCAA after he failed to sign with the club, even though Wetzler utilized an advisor (so far as has been reported) in the same manner as virtually all players weighing their first baseball contract against a college education. Oregon State official Steve Clark said today that "it is our understanding the Phillies reported it," tweets Aaron Fitt of Baseball America. The initial reaction around the game has suggested that the Phillies may face blowback from agents as they work to sign amateur talent in the future.

In other news out of Philadelphia …

  • Initial reviews on Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez have been middling, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Though the Cuban hurler ultimately signed for just three years and $12MM, he had originally agreed to a $48MM guarantee before the deal was reduced when issues arose with his physical. Salisbury writes that the team has not been impressed with Gonzalez, who has shown underwhelming stuff and "spotty" control. (David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News had more details on Gonzalez's struggles.) When asked for his reaction, manager Ryne Sandberg said that Gonzalez was "still a litle bit of a mystery" and explained that the club would be "using a lot of patience with him."
  • Among the players garnering more favorable reviews to date is top third base prospect Maikel Franco, reports Salisbury. Sandberg offered glowing praise for his bat, and said that the 21-year-old looked strong in the field early on as well. Though Salisbury says that it remains unlikel that Franco breaks camp with the big club, Sandberg maintains that he will not hand the job to Cody Asche, who saw his first 50 MLB games last seasons.
  • Reliever Mike Adams, who is set to earn a $7MM salary this season, has finally progressed to throwing on flat ground after undergoing shoulder surgery last summer. As Paul Hagen of MLB.com reports, the 35-year-old is expected to throw off of the mound on Thursday. With uncertainty still lingering over the bullpen, the club is surely hopeful that Adams can regain his form as a dependable, sometimes-dominant setup man. 

Phillies Notes: Young, Adams, Asche

It's not a major shock, but Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) hears that the Phillies still aren't looking to sell.  That's sure to be a disappointment to teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, who have interest in dealing for Michael Young.  Of course, the Phillies have other veterans who would be of use to rival clubs, including Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, and Jonathan Papelbon, but they'll likely hang on to them as they look to make something happen in 2013.  Here's more out of the NL East..

  • Mike Adams has been officially ruled out for 2013 and will likely miss part of 2014 as doctors have declared that he will require surgery for multiple tears in his shoulder, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Adams, who is owed $7MM next season, was thought to be a trade candidate this time a month ago if the Phillies decided to sell at the deadline.
  • If the Phillies have a change of heart and wind up moving Young, third base prospect Cody Asche could wind up filling his shoes at the big league level, write Bob Brookover, Gelb, and Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Delmon Young cashed in on a $100K bonus this week as it was his 80th day on the active roster and he'll make another $150K with another 18 plate appearances, notes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mike Adams Likely Out For The Season

The Phillies signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12MM deal this offseason with an eye toward forming an elite late-inning duo with Jonathan Papelbon, but his season may be done after 25 innings. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Adams has three tears in his right shoulder and is unlikely to pitch again in 2013.

After being examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, Adams learned that the non-surgical route for his injury would require four to six weeks of rehab followed by a throwing program of at least six weeks. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Gelb (Sulia link) that he will be on the lookout for bullpen help, but he's not overly optimistic about his chances given the demand for relief help. Naturally, on the flipside of that coin, if the Phillies ultimately end up as sellers, Adams' name won't be popping up in any trade rumors.


Trade Candidate: Mike Adams

It's been a rough start to the season for the Phillies, whose 9-12 record puts them 6.5 games out of first place in the NL East. Roy Halladay hasn't been himself early (though he's shown signs of life), Ryan Howard hasn't hit much and they were already at a disadvantage with Carlos Ruiz serving a suspension to open the season.

Offseason signee Mike Adams' two-year, $12MM contract was just one among a flurry of moves made by GM Ruben Amaro Jr. The Phillies traded for Michael Young and Ben Revere, signed Adams, John Lannan and Delmon Young as free agents and exercised the option on Ruiz's contract.  Adams2

While other members of the team have struggled, Adams has done little to suggest that he'll do anything other than what he's done for the past five seasons: dominate. Adams has allowed two runs in nine innings of work to go along with a sizzling 14-to-2 K/BB ratio. That meshes with the 1.98 ERA, 9.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 he's posted in 295 innings since 2008.

Teams are always on the lookout for bullpen help come the trade deadline, and this July figures to be no different. We've already seen Jason Motte hit the shelf with Tommy John surgery looking likely. Joel Hanrahan is on the disabled list. John Axford is out as the Brewers' closer. Relief pitching is volatile, and consistently dominant arms like Adams are tough to come by. If the Phillies are farther out of the race in two months, Amaro will have no shortage of phone calls regarding his ace setup man.

Because he's under control for 2014 with an option for 2015, Adams would have significant trade value — more than the value he had in 2011 when the Rangers gave the Padres their No. 4 prospect (per Baseball America) in Robbie Erlin and their No. 22 prospect in Joe Wieland. That trade looks pretty good for the Padres right now, and the Phillies could benefit even more. Last summer, the Cardinals flipped a 2010 first-round pick in Zack Cox to acquire a year and a half of Edward Mujica — an inferior reliever to Adams. Granted, Cox's stock had dropped since entering the season as BA's No. 88 prospect, but it can serve as a point of reference in talks for Adams. Two and a half years of Adams at a reasonable price should be enough for a team to part with a Top 100 prospect and another respectable piece.

The Phillies haven't made a history of being sellers at the deadline, but they traded Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino last July and will likely be faced with the opportunity to add prospects via trade once again. Adams should draw plenty of interest, though Amaro may also choose to keep him around with the hope that he can contribute to the next Phillies contender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.