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Mike Trout Rumors
Let's take a look in at the American League West:
- After being acquired at the trade deadline last year for Michael Morse, outfielder Xavier Avery of the Mariners has the attention of new manager Lloyd McClendon, reports MLB.com's Greg Johns. The speedy 24-year-old is very much in contention to join Seattle's outfield mix, said McClendon, who gushed that Avery "has a couple tools that are game-changing."
- Another recently traded player, David Freese of the Angels, is all but assured a regular spot with his new club. As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times recently reported, for Halos' GM Jerry Dipoto, getting Freese was in part about taking advantage of his former club's good work. "The Cardinals are in a pretty unique position of depth, like the Braves in the '90's," he explained. "That made Freese an expendable piece for them. Any time a player is traded, it doesn't mean it's a pending disaster for the other team." Dipoto said that the club is not expecting Freese to be "a gaudy, 30-home run third baseman," explaining that the team "understand[s] what we're getting."
- The most irreplaceable player in the game, without question, is Angels center fielder Mike Trout. In an ESPN Insider piece, Dave Cameron argues that Trout should decline to accept an extension of the type rumored (giving up three or four years of free agency with a total $140MM to $170MM guarantee). As Cameron argues, Trout has done enough already that he'll earn a huge arbitration salary even if he suffers unexpected performance decline or takes a serious injury. With his downside protected in all but the most dramatic of scenarios, and the Angels' roster profile not inspiring much future confidence, Cameron says that the rewards are worth the risk of Trout waiting to sign a new deal.
If you share my excitement for the onset of spring (or, at least Spring Training), you'll want to give a quick listen to the late, great Ernie Harwell reciting the "Voice of the Turtle" to announce the start. (Via James Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press; hat tip to Scott Miller.) Here are some AL notes to round out the day:
- Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners will keep his right middle finger in a splint for three more weeks, the originally expected timetable, the club announced. With the hurler unable to begin his full pitching program until that time, needless to say, he is unlikely to be be in the team's rotation when the season opens.
- The Blue Jays expect Ryan Goins to handle the bulk of the club's second base duties, manager John Gibbons said today, as MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports. Toronto's second base position has long been an area of speculation as to a possible addition; while a change of direction is always possible, of course, Gibbons did not make it seem like that was likely. "We're giving Goins every opportunity to be the guy," said the manager. In an excellent recent profile of Goins' progress, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca broke down some reasons for the team's optimism.
- In his podcast yesterday (audio link), ESPN.com's Buster Olney talked with colleague Jayson Stark about a possible extension for Mike Trout of the Angels (among many other topics). His record $1MM pre-arbitration deal is already in the bag, but what's next? Olney says that executives around the league tell him that, if Trout agrees to anything less than a monster ten-year (or greater) deal, their take would be that he hopes to have a chance to make a triumphant return to his native east coast with a large-market team. Otherwise, now is the time to cash in given his incredibly high standing and youth.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he hasn't had many trade talks about a shortstop given that Stephen Drew is still on the market, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. If Towers did feel compelled to move either Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, Cliff Pennington or Nick Ahmed in "the right deal," Towers said that the team would likely target either a minor league pitcher who's close to the big leagues or a catcher. "Our biggest needs in our system are catching," Towers said. "If it’s the right, top-notch catching prospect. Someone we could have right behind Miggy [Miguel Montero]. More of an upper-level guy.” Of the teams known to be looking for shortstop help, the Yankees stand out as a possible trade partner, especially since New York is known to be shopping its catching depth.
Here's some more from around the majors…
- Also from Piecoro, the Red Sox are "at least monitoring the shortstop market." The Sox currently aren't in negotiations with Stephen Drew, but it stands to reason they could still be looking for a cheaper infield option to back up Xander Bogaerts.
- With more and more teams locking up their young stars to long-term extensions, SI.com's Tom Verducci writes that "what we are going to see is a further eroding of the free-agent market as a place of any kind of efficiency. Teams will continue to make bad deals on free agents because it mostly involves paying too long and too much for the decline years of star players."
- Mike Trout is the most high-profile example yet of a team locking up its young superstar, and Verducci thinks that a seven-year extension (covering four of Trout's free agent years) could cost the Angels $204MM.
- Juan Rincon is planning to work out for interested teams soon, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman tweets. The 35-year-old righty posted a 4.03 ERA over 444 games (three of them starts) with the Twins, Indians, Tigers and Rockies from 2001-10, but hasn't appeared in the Majors since, spending the last three years with the Angels' Triple-A affiliate and for independent teams. In December, we heard Rincon was looking for a minor league deal that would allow him to mentor young pitchers and then eventually turn into a scouting job.
- Tomo Ohka talks to the Toronto Star's Brad Lefton about adopting the knuckleball in order to save his career, and how he's hoping for one last crack at the Major Leagues with the Blue Jays.
- Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm breaks down which teams spend the highest percentage of their payroll on their starting rotation, starting lineup, bullpen and bench, respectively.
- The Astros (+18 WAR) and Red Sox (-16 WAR) project as the most- and least-improved teams in 2014, according to Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan, who lists a top ten in each category. Of course, as Sullivan notes, these totals are respectively skewed by how poorly and how well the two clubs fared last season, as Sullivan still expects Boston to contend and Houston to be one of the league's lesser clubs.
Let's take a look at updates on some situations shaping up around the league:
- Mike Trout's one-year, $1MM contract with the Angels is surely just the start of some historic earnings, and ESPN.com's Jim Bowden breaks down what it would cost the Halos to lock up their young star for different possible terms. Bowden values Trout's arbitration years at a total of $66MM, and says that he should earn between $32MM and $35MM for his free agent years. A six-year deal, then, would be worth $162MM, while a ten-year extension would land at $302MM. Bowden says the Angels want to get as many years as possible, and adds that, were he in charge, he would demand at least four free agent seasons.
- The Mets have no active trade dialogue concerning first baseman Ike Davis, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. Nevertheless, Rubin says he expects the chatter to pick up over the coming month.
- Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia has had his MRI reviewed by the team physician and Dr. James Andrews, and neither found evidence of structural damage, reports MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. While that has the team feeling better about things, GM John Mozeliak still advocated caution. "I think the days of feeling perfect are over," he said.
- Though he downplayed an earlier report that the White Sox had scouted Yankees catchers recently, Chicago GM Rick Hahn said that the team was still exploring trade possibilities with other clubs, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. Hahn also noted that the club has ample middle-infield depth, which led to Jake Elmore being designated for assignment today. The GM added that the team hopes to be able to trade Elmore, Hayes adds on Twitter.
- Rehabbing reliever Joel Hanrahan told Bowden on XM MLB Network Radio (Twitter link) that he hopes to sign with a new club before the spring wraps up. Hanrahan said that he is still considering any and all interested suitors.
- Union chief Tony Clark said today that the MLBPA is still in the early stages of learning information about the Phillies' role in the recent suspension of former draftee Ben Wetzler, reports CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. "The interest is the same we would have in the draft in general," Clark said. "These guys are connected to our institution. … To that extent, we are gathering information as we speak. Yes, we are concerned. Based on what we find out will determine what, if anything, lends itself to further discussion, but we are concerned enough to be inquiring." Salisbury reports that the Phillies felt a handshake agreement was in place with Wetzler, and that someone in the organization later reported him to the NCAA for having an agent present during talks with the team.
While the rumored long-term deal has yet to come to fruition, the Angels and Mike Trout agreed to a record-setting one-year deal, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times. Trout will earn $1MM in 2014, marking the largest payday in Major League history for a pre-arbitration player. Trout's deal surpasses the $900K guarantee achieved by Ryan Howard in 2007 and Albert Pujols in 2003 (though as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets, Howard's deal was farther north of the then-lower league minimum salary).
The $1MM salary likely makes it easier to extend Trout; as MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reported earlier in the week, once Trout's 2014 salary is agreed to, the Angels can structure a long-term deal to begin in 2015 without fear of incurring luxury tax penalties in 2014. Talks with Trout are rumored to be surrounding a six-year, $150MM extension. That mark would be historic in its own right and would buy out three years of free agency, were it to begin in the 2015 season.
Earlier this morning, our own Zach Links examined how pre-arbitration salaries are determined, noting that several teams use rigid scales that afford only minimal raises to players with 0 to 3 years of Major League service time. As that post explains, performance is often factored into the salaries of pre-arb players, but a raise of this magnitude is virtually unheard of for a player who has yet to hit arbitration.
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto called the deal a "landmark," when speaking to reporters (including Shaikin). Fletcher tweets that Dipoto feels that Trout's performance merited breaking a rule on their 0-to-3 pay scale (referring to years of service time). Indeed, Trout has been arguably the best player in baseball over the past two seasons, slashing an otherworldly .324/.416/.560 with 57 homers, 82 steals, two All-Star bids, two Silver Slugger awards, a Rookie of the Year trophy and a pair of runner-up finishes in the American League MVP voting.
The contract is a notable step up from last year's $510K renewal, which was met with some harsh criticism from agent Craig Landis, fans and the media. This coming season marks Trout's final year before arbitration eligibility, and it's fair to assume that Trout could shatter records in arbitration as well, if the two sides are ultimately unable to agree on a long-term deal.
MONDAY: MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports that the Angels don't have to wait until Opening Day to sign Trout to an extension in order to avoid luxury tax ramifications. Because Trout has already had his 2014 salary set, the Angels can structure an extension beginning with the 2015 season without undergoing penalty. In other words: they can extend Trout as soon as they want. This, Gonzalez writes, is the same rationale the Yankees used when signing Brett Gardner to a four-year extension that doesn't kick in until 2015.
SUNDAY, 2:00 pm: "No comment, but I like how a lot of people are writing it. It's pretty funny," Trout told reporters, including Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
12:46 pm: Mike Trout and the Angels are discussing a six-year deal worth about $150MM, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports. The deal would buy out two free agent seasons, and allow Trout to become a free agent at age 28. FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets the Angels' desire is for a seven-year pact in the $150-160MM range. Trout is represented by LSW Baseball.
There are still details to iron out, as Passan notes that there remains a difference between the two sides in the "low eight figures." The deal will cover one pre-arbitration season, as well as three arbitration years. Fangraphs' Dave Cameron recently wrote about the possibility of a Trout extension and estimated Trout might make a total of $60MM during his arbitration seasons, so a $150MM extension over six years might essentially buy out two free agency years at a little less than $45MM apiece.
Passan suggests that, in practice, Trout might actually get $35MM and $38MM in those seasons. Those still sound like enormous figures, but they're hardly surprising given the escalation of salaries throughout baseball and given that those two free-agency years would be the age-26 and age-27 seasons for the best player in the game. The $25MM average annual value would tie teammate Josh Hamilton as the richest for an outfielder (per Cot's Baseball Contracts), but the six-year, $150MM proposal would still fall far short of the record-setting seven-year, $215MM extension Clayton Kershaw signed with the Dodgers last month.
The timing of the extension is crucial to the Angels, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. The Angels are not believed to be interested in signing Trout to a deal that includes 2014, because it would likely push them over the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Fletcher reports the Angels are approximately $15MM under the threshold now and, by reaching a deal on a 2015 contract sometime after Opening Day, could avoid going over because it would not count against this year's cap, even if Trout receives a sizeable signing bonus to be paid in 2014.
Recently, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers about the parameters of a Trout extension. The consensus (as measured by the median of responses) was the Angels should be willing to give Trout a 10-year, $300MM deal, but a nine-year, $250MM contract is more likely to be reached.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Mike Trout's on-field excellence need not be repeated here, nor compared to that of other players. He is really young, and really good, and is those things combined in a manner unmatched by any other current player. Also, having not yet qualified for arbitration, he is really cheap.
Trout will remain youthful for some time, and every indication is that he'll continue to be outstanding. But he will not continue to play for a league minimum salary for much longer.
Set to hit arbitration next year with potentially unprecedented levels of performance, Trout could well shatter records if he is allowed to go year to year. Then, qualifying for free agency after the 2017 season at just 26 years of age, Trout could become the most sought-after open-market player in baseball history.
On the other hand, injury or decline could change things. And Trout's career earnings are relatively meager as things stand, in spite of his two monster years of performance, leaving him somewhat exposed entering his platform seasons.
So, both Trout and the Angels face risk, and both sides have incentives to talk about a new deal. Indeed, recent reports indicate that the parties are legitimately interested in making a serious run at reaching an extension at the start of the current year.
That makes this an opportune time to ask MLBTR's readers how they see things. The poll below comes with two questions, broken into two parts, both of which assume an extension scenario during the current offseason (or reasonably early during the 2014 campaign, when any contract is likely to be inked due to luxury tax considerations).
First, it asks you to opine as to the largest deal that the Angels should be willing to agree to with Trout (years and dollars). Second, it asks you to predict what deal Trout will ultimately land.
I have set fairly generous response parameters, designed to avoid patently absurd responses. The number of years must be between 3 and 15, while the amount (in $MMs) must fall between 50 and 500.
Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.
Click below to view survey results.
The Rangers didn't really expect to re-sign Nelson Cruz this winter, yet did their due diligence by keeping in touch with Cruz's agent Adam Katz, GM Jon Daniels told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "We've touched base every week or so," Daniels said. "Nellie's highly regarded here. We have a good relationship with Adam. We made our moves and kind of expected [Cruz] to sign elsewhere. But we'll see where it goes. It's a unique situation for him as a free agent. When we made our decision to sign [Shin-Soo] Choo, it was with the understanding that [Cruz's] best opportunity would be to sign elsewhere. I don't know what's going on with other teams and Nellie."
Here's some more from around the AL West…
- The Rangers' view on re-signing Cruz is "unchanged," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets, in that the team would only bring him back at a lower price and if he can't find any other suitors.
- Nick Franklin was almost traded to the Diamondbacks last offseason and had been the subject of trade rumors this winter as well since the Mariners' acquisition of Robinson Cano. Despite all of the speculation, Franklin tells Larry Stone of the Seattle Times that he's just focusing on the upcoming season. “I mean, as far as I know, I’ve been traded 20 times, and I’m still here," Franklin said. “It doesn’t really bother me at all. All I can do is control what I can and go out and play the game.”
- A 10-year, $300MM contract for Mike Trout has often been cited as a possible extension for the young superstar, though MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines that Trout's representatives might take a lesser deal given that Trout still has four years until free agency and his stock could drop in the interim. Also, a shorter deal would set Trout up for another massive contract later in his career. Gonzalez suggests a seven-year, $200MM extension could work. In my opinion, while the $200MM mark is a major threshold for any player, I'd guess the Angels would happily lock Trout up at that price.
- Athletics manager Bob Melvin told reporters, including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, that there is very little chance top prospect Addison Russell begins the season on the Major League roster. The A's are already set at shortstop wth Jed Lowrie (with Nick Punto and Eric Sogard as backup options), and as Slusser notes, there is little reason to start Russell's service time clock at this point in his young career.
MLBTR joins many others in offering its condolences to the family and friends of Jim Fregosi, who passed away today at age 71. Though he was a part of several organizations during his 53-year run in professional baseball, Fregosi will perhaps be remembered best for his important role in the Angels organization. He went to the team in the 1960 expansion draft, saw time during their first season of competition, and then spent nearly a decade as the club's shortstop. After wrapping up a stellar playing career, Fregosi got his start as a big league manager with the Halos at age 36. The club retired his number 11 in 1988.
Here are a few notes on the current Angels ballclub:
- Team owner Arte Moreno covered a number of topics today in an interview with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Though recent reports on the team's ballpark lease negotiations have been positive, Moreno said that discussions are now "at a stalemate." That does not mean that the club is pushing for a new stadium — Moreno said "we haven't crossed that line yet" — but the owner said he has a deadline "in mind" for negotiations to conclude before he looks at other options. "We don't know how long it's going to take for that land to be profitable," he said. "We have the fourth-oldest stadium in baseball. It still has the original plumbing, electrical, concrete. It's going to cost between $125MM and $150MM just to keep it serviceable."
- The team did in fact offer free agent starter Matt Garza four years and $52MM, said Moreno, slightly more than the amount that Garza ultimately signed for with the Brewers. But Garza declined the offer, believing he could land a bigger deal.
- On the speculation that manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto faced the axe after a disappointing campaign, Moreno said that he remained confident in both men. "Mike has been here for 14 years, and I tried not to look at the capsule of one season," said Moreno. "He's been a winning coach. And I like the front office team Jerry has assembled. They're smart, they communicate well, and I like what our minor league staff is doing." The owner added that Dipoto deserved a chance to build out the team's talent pipeline, while offering a stark assessment of its stockpile of arms. "You look at our system, and there's no pitching coming in," he said. "You go to the cupboard, you're hungry and there's nothing in the cabinet."
- Moreno indicated that the team could cross the $189MM luxury tax line, but said "it has to be for the right guy." He continued: "If we get out of the box good, we get to the All-Star break and someone becomes available who could really enhance the team, we'll do our best to get him." With payroll currently standing at about $173MM for luxury tax purposes, Moreno indicated that the club was comfortable continuing to spend at a high rate but did have limits. "The reality is we have an operating budget below the threshold, we made money last year, and we're not interested in being in the red financially," he said.
- Of course, the contract status of star Mike Trout is an important aspect of the team's future financial standing. Extension negotiations are ongoing, said Moreno. "I can't say anything is close, but I'm optimistic by nature," he said. "It always gets down to the numbers. He likes it here, and we like him. We have four more years of control, and the farther you take someone out on a contract, the more risk the team assumes."
- Indeed, the numbers on a prospective Trout deal remain a fascinating topic to watch. ESPN.com's Buster Olney weighed in on the issue in an appearance on WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via Jerry Spar of WEEI.com). The club is feeling the pressure to sign Trout before his free agent horizon gets too close, said Olney, and baseball sources say that a 12-year, $400MM deal would not be an unfair target for the young superstar. Asking several GMs what they thought Trout could land on a one-year deal, Olney was given prices in the range of $35MM to a remarkable $50MM.
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury). While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.
- The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum. Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
- Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen. "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere." Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
- The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything." Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
- While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market. The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
- Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades. Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
- The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension. Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today." We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.