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Mike Leake Rumors
In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
- Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
- In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
- Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”
With August wrapping up, the window for teams to sneak players through revocable waivers is coming to a close. Those who are interested can check out MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers, and those that are still unfamiliar with revocable waivers and August trades in general can check out our August trade primer.
With that said, we’ll keep track of today’s list of players that have been placed on revocable waivers here…
- Reds right-handers Mat Latos and Mike Leake were both placed on revocable waivers yesterday, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). However, a trade of either is unlikely. Cincinnati is expected to move a starter this prior to next season, says Rosenthal, but it’s unlikely to happen until they can negotiate with all 29 other clubs. (Obviously, Latos and Leake aren’t going to clear waivers.) Latos, 26, is earning $7.25MM this season and is eligible for arbitration for the final time this winter. He opened the year on the DL but has turned in a 2.99 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, albeit with a career-low 6.1 K/9 (his 2.5 BB/9 rate is right in line with his career marks). Leake, also 26 and arb-eligible for the final time this offseason, is earning $5.925MM in 2014. He’s posted a 3.51 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a career-best 54.4 percent ground-ball rate. The other 14 National League teams will have priority (in record of reverse standings) before the Cincinnati righties are exposed to the AL (also in reverse order of standings).
The Reds had yet to place any of their starting pitchers on waivers as of Saturday morning, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports in his weekly “Full Count” video. As Rosenthal notes, their waiver status may be a moot point, as each would likely be claimed and subsequently pulled back. More highlights regarding the Reds and the rest of the league below…
- The real drama surrounding the Reds‘ rotation could come this offseason, as Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon will all be entering their final year of team control. The Reds will have to decide which, if any, they want to sign to a long-term deal, and Rosenthal notes that they will likely trade “at least” one. Latos is perhaps the likeliest candidate to be dealt, according to Rosenthal, who notes that both Latos and Cueto would command more than Homer Bailey‘s six-year, $105MM contract.
- Rusney Castillo‘s six-year, $72.5MM contract with the Red Sox might not stand as the largest deal for a Cuban free agent very long. Yasmani Tomas is expected to be cleared as a free agent this offseason, and his huge raw power will be highly appealing, even if he is limited to left field, defensively speaking. As Rosenthal points out, Tomas is four years younger than Castillo and is against a crop of weak free agent bats. One executive that spoke with Rosenthal said the only flaw he sees in Castillo is his propensity to swing and miss.
- Rosenthal points back to a report of his prior to the trade deadline in which he had learned that the Nationals were looking for a young shortstop on the trade market. He’s now learned that Didi Gregorius of the Diamondbacks was one of their targets. Washington had planned on playing Gregorius at second base in the near-term and moving him back over to shortstop if Ian Desmond could not be retained. Of course, the club still wants to extend Desmond, who is a free agent following the 2015 season.
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark doesn't expect the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reopened before its 2016 expiration to address issues with the qualifying offer system, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "It’s very difficult to open up a CBA," said Clark. "Suffice it to say, if there are issues during the course of any agreement, we continue to have discussions that may not require the CBA be to opened up, making sure that whatever the concerns are, whatever the issues are, and if they can be discussed in some more formal fashion, so be it, but more often than not, come 2016 when we have an opportunity to sit down is when we’ll do so." Last night, Aaron Steen asked MLBTR readers about the qualifying offer and nearly 47% want to tweak the QO while 25% want to eliminate it entirely.
In National League news and notes on Oscar Sunday:
- With the ink barely dry on Homer Bailey's six-year, $105MM contract extension, the Reds will be in the same situation with starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto next year. Owner Bob Castellini told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay the team wants to retain all three. "We’re going to try to sign all these guys," Castellini said. "Whether we can or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball."
- Castellini also told Fay he is not pleased with the media's coverage of the Reds' offseason because it has had an adverse affect on the team's revenues. "That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," said Castellini. "We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It’s not that we didn’t look. It gets written in such a way – 'Well, the Reds aren’t doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets." Castellini provided Fay with details of the club's revenue generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, and the national TV contract adding neither he nor any of the other principal owners or investors have ever taken money out of the franchise.
- Last month, the Braves gave Jason Heyward a two-year, $13.3MM contract. In two years, the perfect storm of baseball's economics, Heyward's age, and actions taken by the Braves will set the 24-year-old up for a huge payday on a likely barren free agent market, according to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
- With mixed reviews to date, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Spring Training debut yesterday. Phillies GM Ruban Amaro Jr. was upbeat about what he saw, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he's been in camp," Amaro said. "I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way." Pitching coach Bob McClure added (as quoted by Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer), "I saw a very competitive (guy), and that is what I was really hoping for. And he might be one of those guys that’s not the best practice player, but you put him in a game and he competes." Reports surfaced last week Gonzalez could open the season in the minors.
- Solid pitching will be key to any improvement the Rockies hope to make this season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on young starters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler while the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck examines the Rockies' adherence to pitch counts to protect their starting rotation and the corresponding reliance on their bullpen, which could be called upon to record 10 or 11 outs every game.
Leake, a former No. 8 overall draft pick, was in his second year of arbitration eligibility. The Arizona State product is controllable through the 2015 season and should join a rotation that will also include Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Tony Cingrani in 2014. The Reds still have unsettled arb cases with Bailey and closer Aroldis Chapman, as MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows.
MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz nailed his projection on Leake, pegging him for a $5.9MM salary this offseason.
Leake had asked for $3.5MM with the Reds offering $2.65MM, as MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows. Leake, a Beverly Hills Sports Council client, had been arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. The 25-year-old has two more years of arbitration eligibility and will hit free agency following the 2015 season.
The Reds had a number of noteworthy arbitration cases this offseason, and three of them remain unresolved. Shin-Soo Choo, Homer Bailey and Mat Latos are all still unsigned, as noted on our Arb Tracker. Be sure to check out MLBTR's Arbitration Basics for a primer on the process.
2:19pm: Talks between the Phillies and Rockies never got serious, Renck reports (on Twitter). Talks with the Reds could pick up, but Colorado's demands haven't changed.
1:18pm: The Phillies had some serious talks with the Rockies about Fowler before acquiring Ben Revere, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). The Mariners have also checked in on Fowler, who seems to be a backup plan for Seattle.
11:21pm: The Rockies and Reds have engaged in preliminary trade talks about Dexter Fowler, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Cincinnati could trade players from its MLB roster, but right-hander Homer Bailey will likely remain with the Reds, according to Rosenthal.
Any Reds package would start with Mike Leake and involve at least two more prospects, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reported last night. The Reds maintain interest in Fowler and the Braves can't be ruled out, Renck adds.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty recently downplayed the chances of trading for Fowler, saying he hasn’t really talked to the Rockies. “I’m not sure Colorado is moving Fowler,” Jocketty said, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer suggested this week that the Reds could make a run at acquiring Fowler.
From a financial standpoint trading for Fowler would be more affordable than signing Michael Bourn. Fowler, a 26-year-old switch hitter, posted a .300/.389/.474 batting line in 530 plate appearances this past season. He's second time arbitration eligible with a projected salary of $4MM and will remain under team control through 2015.
Rosenthal suggests the Reds could trade MLB players such as Leake and outfielder Drew Stubbs.
Clayton Kershaw's salary jumped from $500K to $7.5MM this year, and it wasn't just because of his Cy Young performance. Kershaw qualified for arbitration for the first time in his career over the winter, so he obtained the right to establish his salary by comparing his production to that of his peers.
Though $7MM raises are reserved for elite performers like Kershaw, many first-time eligible starting pitchers will see their salaries rise from $500K or so to $2-4.5MM this coming offseason. A player’s case depends in large part on his career numbers, but his most recent season, or platform year, matters a great deal.
Advanced statistics like xFIP, wins above replacement and swinging strike rate don't generally figure in to arbitration cases. Instead, traditional stats such as innings, starts, wins and ERA determine players' salaries.
With one third of the season now complete, let’s check in on the prominent starting pitchers on track to be first-time arbitration eligible this coming offseason:
Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are closer to settling on a limited partner who will bring cash and keep the organization running, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com. Unlike the Dodgers, whose ownership situation “seems to be deteriorating,” the Mets are doing fine, according to Commissioner Bud Selig. Here’s the latest from Heyman:
- If Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has support, it’s either “minute or nonexistent.”
- People who know Mets GM Sandy Alderson expect him to trade Jose Reyes and others if he believes it’s best for the organization.
- There’s no indication yet that the Cubs would be willing to offer Albert Pujols $200MM or more in free agency, Heyman writes. However, the Cubs have money and no long-term answer at first base.
- Some baseball people believe Aroldis Chapman and Mike Leake could use time in the minors.
- Though the Yankees aren’t concerned with Derek Jeter’s bat, they are “very concerned” about Jorge Posada. The DH has a .162/.273/.352 line with 6 homers this year.
Wade Davis signed a multiyear extension with the Rays last week, though he's just one season into his MLB career. The deal is not without risk for Davis, since he could pitch like Ubaldo Jimenez and become a bargain for Tampa Bay, or for the Rays since Davis could get hurt, depriving them of a pitcher they need.
Here's a list of pitchers who could sign deals like the four-year, $12.6MM contract Tampa Bay completed with Davis. Like the Rays righty, these pitchers are on track to hit arbitration after 2012 and free agency after 2015 unless otherwise noted (age in parentheses):
- Mat Latos, Padres (23) – Latos was flat-out phenomenal last year and would be positioned to ask for more than Davis obtained with his record deal. The skill is there, so if the Padres believe in his health (he's now on the DL) and maturity, Latos would be an extension candidate.
- Wade LeBlanc, Padres (26) – LeBlanc, now in the minor leagues, is older than Latos and without the same front-of-the-rotation potential. His numbers, though comparable to the ones Davis has, don't scream 'lock me up,' so a deal seems unlikely.
- Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies (23) – The Rockies were aggressive with extensions this offseason, locking up Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and others. Chacin, who struck out a batter per inning in 2010, wouldn't cost nearly as much as his more experienced teammates.
- Mike Leake, Reds (23) – If one organization was as extension happy as the Rockies this offseason it was the Reds. Leake struggled down the stretch last year and just barely made Cincinnati's rotation. They'll likely let the 2009 first rounder prove himself before committing eight figures to him.
- Jon Niese, Mets (24) – Niese has comparable numbers to Davis, with slightly more strikeouts per inning (7.4 K/9) and a higher ERA (4.33).
- Brian Matusz, Orioles (24) – Matusz compares to Davis statistically, but he could establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter with a breakout 2011 season, so he may be reluctant to lock himself in to pre-set salaries.
- Mitch Talbot, Indians (27) - Talbot has poor walk (4.3 BB/9) and strikeout (5.0 K/9) numbers so far in his career, so he doesn't seem like a likely extension candidate. The Indians did extend Fausto Carmona, who doesn't get many strikeouts, but they may prefer to let Talbot prove himself further before committing to him.
- Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (24) and Madison Bumgarner, Giants (21) both impressed in 2010. They're possible super two players, which means they may go to arbitration four times, once more than the starters above. If either Cecil or Bumgarner signed an extension, it wouldn't be completely parallel to the Davis deal.
It's possible that none of these pitchers will sign extensions, since long-term contracts for starters with fewer than two years of service time are uncommon. Some players don't mind going year to year in anticipation of big arbitration paydays and many teams prefer not to commit eight-figure deals to relatively unproven pitchers.
But some small market clubs, like the Athletics, Indians and Rays, have successfully completed a number of multiyear contracts for emerging pitchers. Teams looking to spend now and save later could take note and approach their best sophomore arms about long-term deals.