Mike Napoli Rumors
"The expectation is" that the Mariners will target right-handed hitters such as Jhonny Peralta, Marlon Byrd, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The M's were particularly weak from the right side of the plate last season and will look to upgrade their right-handed bats, though really, Seattle will look to add hitting in any form. Ken Rosenthal also noted that the Mariners were looking at right-handed hitters earlier this week, though he noted that the M's were in on Napoli. Here's some more news from around the AL West...
- Cruz declined his qualifying offer from the Rangers today and Adam Katz, Cruz's agent, told ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett that he will continue to talk with the team about his client's possible return to Texas. "We've always been engaged with the Rangers and continue to be," Katz said. Durrett notes, the draft pick compensation tied to Cruz may hurt him in free agency, though MLBTR's Steve Adams recently predicted Cruz would find a three-year, $39MM deal on the open market.
- Brian Grieper, Napoli's agent, is scheduled to meet with Rangers GM Jon Daniels during the GM Meetings, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. The Rangers are known to be looking for an upgrade at first base and Napoli, a former Ranger, would definitely fit the bill.
- The Rangers have promoted A.J. Preller to assistant general manager, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link). Preller had previously worked as the team's senior director of player personnel. Texas also named Mike Daly, formerly their director of international scouting, as the franchise's new senior director of minor league operations.
- The Angels have been opposed to going over the luxury tax limit under Arte Moreno's ownership and that's not likely to change, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez writes. Gonzalez also looks at Mark Trumbo trade rumors and a possible Mike Trout extension as part of his all-Angels mailbag.
- In another item from Gonzalez, he speculates about what the Angels might have to give up (and what the Rays might want) in order to facilitate a David Price trade.
- Earlier today on MLBTR we collected another set of AL West notes earlier today on MLBTR, a set of Astros-related notes and learned that the Angels signed Wade LeBlanc to a minor league deal.
13 free agents received qualifying offers a week ago, and I think they are all likely to decline by today's 4pm central time deadline. If these players sign Major League deals elsewhere, their old teams stand to gain a draft pick in each instance. The latest:
- Curtis Granderson is "100 percent" turning down the Yankees' qualifying offer, a person involved in the situation tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
- Kendrys Morales will turn down the Mariners' QO, people familiar with the situation tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- As expected, both Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew will allow the 5pm deadline to pass without accepting qualifying offers from the Red Sox, a baseball source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter).
- After an MRI on his hips showed no signs of further deterioration, Mike Napoli has decided to decline the Red Sox's qualifying offer, an industry source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- Starting pitcher Ervin Santana declined the Royals' qualifying offer, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Catcher Brian McCann will decline his qualifying offer from the Braves today, tweets MLB.com's Mark Bowman. This was an easy choice for McCann, who has a good chance at a five-year contract.
- Right fielder Nelson Cruz informed the Rangers he will decline his qualifying offer, tweeted Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram earlier today.
- You can also keep track of all the qualifying offer decisions using MLBTR's free agent tracker.
The GM Meetings begin tomorrow in Orlando and run through Wednesday, but it could be a very quiet three days for the Brewers. "I don't anticipate us being overly active at this point but things could change," GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There's not a lot of openings in the regular lineup." Budget constraints will also play a role in the Brewers' level of activity, according to Haudricourt, as the club is approximately $14MM under its 2013 Opening Day payroll (not including arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries). Here's more from Haudricourt's piece:
- "There's nothing major on the free-agent market we'll probably get involved with," Melvin said. "Maybe we'll do something with the bullpen, make an addition or two."
- Melvin sees first base as the one position the Brewers need to fill. Re-signing Corey Hart, who is drawing interest from the Mets and a handful of other teams, is the coventional wisdom, but Melvin has only committed to speaking with agent Jeff Berry about Hart's status at some point.
- The Brewers are not believed to have interest in Justin Morneau, James Loney, and/or Mike Napoli at this stage.
- If Hart doesn't re-sign with Milwaukee, one internal option is Juan Francisco, who is showing improvement offensively during Dominican Winter League play (.338/.437/.568 with 18 RBIs - second in the DWL - in 74 at-bats including a .404/.462/.702 slash with 14 RBIs versus left-handers in 47 at-bats, per MLB.com). At the least, Haudricourt sees Francisco providing depth at both infield corners (Francisco has split his time with Licey between third base and DH while appearing in just three games at first).
- Providing middle infield depth will be Elian Herrera, who the Brewers claimed off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday. "He's somebody who can play all over the field, including shortstop if we need it," said Melvin.
Power bats are increasingly in short supply, both on the Major League free agent market and in the talent pipeline, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. That could mean big dollars for this year's few legitimate power sources, says Gammons, chief among them Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli. So, is this a classic overpay situation? Maybe not, according to ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required), who pegs Napoli as one of the best values among corner infielders on the open market. Here's more from Boston ...
- Assuming that Napoli declines his qualifying offer, tweets Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, the Sox will consider other players on the market rather than focusing solely on bringing him back.
- The Sox' 2014 payroll may be somewhat more constrained than appears at first glance, WEEI.com's Alex Speier explains. This is the first season in which revenue sharing funds will be clawed back from some large-market teams and returned to paying clubs -- depending upon their staying below the luxury tax line. Ticking through the club's obligations, and adding some room to add salary during the course of the season, Speier figures the team can add around $32MM in 2014 salaries before the luxury tax becomes a big concern. Or, he notes, the club could shed salary from a relatively deep area like starting pitching to gain additional flexibility.
- Indeed, while last year's rash of injuries to the starting-rich Dodgers and Boston's own fateful letting-go of Bronson Arroyo provide cautionary tales, there is a reasonable argument to be made for trying to ship out a veteran arm, writes the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson. In particular, given the thin starting market and big salary demands being tossed around, the Red Sox might reap a substantial return for some of its hurlers.
- Who would the Red Sox really target in free agency? Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports looks at several recently rumored possibilities, saying that catcher Carlos Ruiz could be a real target for GM Ben Cherington.
- Assuming Boston isn't willing to top the market for Brian McCann, another backstop option is the Reds' Ryan Hanigan, MacPherson argues. The 33-year-old appears to be expendable after Cinci signed Brayan Pena to a two-year pact, and he could be a reasonably-priced, defensively reliable partner for David Ross.
- Mike Napoli is such a good fit for the Red Sox and in Boston that the club needs to re-sign him, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald opines. It was reported earlier today that Napoli will test the market, though the Sox have already offered him a multiyear deal.
- If the Red Sox signed Carlos Beltran, however, they wouldn't necessarily need Napoli, John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes. Beltran could play left field, causing a few lineup shifts that would settle on Daniel Nava as Napoli's replacement at first base.
- Center field is the most logical place for the Phillies to add offense, according to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News, so the Phils should pursue someone like Curtis Granderson as an upgrade over Ben Revere.
- Giancarlo Stanton is a "pie-in-the-sky target" for the Phillies, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes. A somewhat more realistic trade option could be Mark Trumbo, though Salisbury notes that the Phils lack the young pitching that the Angels want in return. The Halos have been linked to Kyle Kendrick in the past, so Salisbury opines that Kendrick could be part of a Trumbo trade package.
- Speaking of Stanton, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill again reiterated that the slugger isn't available for trade offers, Hill tells MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. Hill says the team is having "an ongoing discussion" about approaching Stanton with a long-term extension offer.
- The Marlins' maximum payroll is expected to be in the low-to-mid-$40MM range, Frisaro reports. This is a slight increase over Miami's $38MM payroll from 2013.
- The Blue Jays haven't been very active in free agency under Alex Anthopoulos' watch but the Toronto general manager tells Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca that this could change this winter. "It seems like with all the different things we’re looking to do, half of the scenarios are in free agency, half of the scenarios are in trade," Anthopoulos said. He feels the Jays also still have enough minor league depth to offer in trades, though the farm system was thinned by last offseason's blockbuster deals.
- It doesn't make sense for the Orioles to shop J.J. Hardy, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski argues, since Hardy's importance to the O's is even greater in the wake of Manny Machado's injury.
- In East division news from earlier today, MLBTR's Matt Swartz broke down Chris Davis' arbitration case, the Nationals could use their minor leaguers to acquire a starting pitcher, ESPN's Buster Olney discussed the Red Sox and the David Price trade market, the Yankees aren't interested in Ervin Santana but are prioritizing Masahiro Tanaka,
The Padres face a decision on Chase Headley this winter, and Yahoo's Tim Brown tweets that their current preference is to hang onto their All-Star third baseman and hope that his big September numbers translate to a big year. Headley slipped to a .250/.347/.400 batting line in 2013 but thrived in the season's final month, slashing .305/.424/.573 with five homers. He's projected to earn $10MM next season, after which he's eligible for free agency. More news from baseball's Western divisions below...
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets out a clarification from an earlier report he made: the Mariners are not in on Mike Napoli this winter. Their priorities this offseason are to sign one ofJacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo and add a starting pitcher. However, they are also expected to pursue a right-handed bat of some kind, says Rosenthal.
- Athletics 2013 first-rounder Billy McKinney has left BBI Sports Group and joined the Boras Corporation, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday (via Twitter). McKinney slashed .326/.387/.437 across two levels in his first pro season, reaching short-season Class A shortly after his 19th birthday.
- The Angels hooked up with the Rays to land Scott Kazmir and nearly landed James Shields in July 2012 and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com wonders if they can link up again to work out a deal for David Price. To date, there's no indication that the two sides are engaged in serious talks.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
2:10pm: Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has confirmed to reporters, including Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com, that Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury will receive qualifying offers (Twitter link). Saltalamacchia will not receive a qualifying offer, according to Cherington.
Ellsbury, MLBTR's No. 2 ranked free agent, was a lock to receive and reject a qualifying offer. The other three weren't as certain, but the Red Sox now stand to receive three extra first-round picks if this trio signs elsewhere.
Drew signed a one-year, $9.5MM contract with the Red Sox looking to rebuild his value, and he did just that. The shortstop enjoyed a strong age-30 campaign, batting .255/.333/.443 with 13 homers and playing standout defense at shortsop. He seems likely to pursue a multiyear deal on the free agent market this winter and could be in line for three to four years at an average annual salary north of $10MM.
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes profiled Ellsbury earlier this morning, noting that he's an ownership-level decision that could be signed despite a GM's protest. Tim projected a whopping seven-year, $150MM contract for Ellsbury, expecting agent Scott Boras to be able to convince at least one Major League owner that Ellsbury deserves more than Carl Crawford received three offseasons ago.
9:18am: WEEI.com's Alex Speier agrees with Dierkes' report and adds that Mike Napoli will receive a qualifying offer. Napoli batted .259/.360/.482 with 23 home runs this season, silencing doubts that the avascular necrosis (AVN) discovered in each of his hips last season would lead to an early decline for the slugger. Following a strong season that proved his health, Napoli is a lock to reject that offer and test the market, though he could still re-sign with Boston.
Napoli will be one the premier first basemen and sources of right-handed pop on this year's free agent market, with Dierkes suggesting a three-year, $42MM offer is attainable on the open market. With the qualifying offer attached, any team that selects outside the Top 11 in the 2014 draft will have to forfeit a first-round pick to sign him (the Top 11 would forfeit a second-round selection). In turn, the Red Sox would receive a compensatory pick at the end of the first round.
Saltalamacchia, 29, posted the best season of his career in 2013, slashing .273/.338/.466 with 14 homers in a career-high 470 plate appearances. He also tied a career best by playing in 121 games for the second consecutive season.
Tim projected a four-year, $36MM contract for Saltalamacchia in free agency this season, although that was under the assumption that he would be tied to draft pick compensation. If Saltalamacchia does not receive a qualifying offer from Boston, he could surpass that projection, as teams would not be required to surrender a first- or second-round draft pick in order to sign him.
The Red Sox plan on extending qualifying offers to Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli and Jacoby Ellsbury, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. That Ellsbury will receive a qualifying offer is no surprise; he currently ranks second on MLBTR's Free Agent Power Rankings and is commonly thought to be the No. 2 free agent on the market behind Robinson Cano.
Likewise, the news that Napoli and Drew will receive qualifying offers is none too surprising. Napoli is one of the top power bats on this year's free agent market, and the $14.1MM value of a qualifying offer would be just a $1.1MM raise on the $13MM he earned in 2013 after hitting all of the incentives on his one-year contract.
Drew earned $9.5MM in 2013, so the risk is somewhat more substantial for the Red Sox, especially considering the fact that they have Xander Bogaerts in tow as the shortstop of the future. However, Drew should be able to secure a multiyear contract in what is, as always, a thin class of free agent shortstops. He and Jhonny Peralta are the only two free agents that could be realistically expected to hold down an everyday shortstop role in 2014.
Napoli batted .259/.360/.482 with 23 homers in his first season with the Red Sox, appearing in 139 games (578 plate appearances) and showing no signs of ill effect from his recent diagnosis of avascular necrosis (AVN) in each of his hips. Napoli has already gone on record as saying he'd like to return to Boston, though he's unlikely to accept the qualifying offer, knowing that the Red Sox (and the rest of the market) value him more highly than that. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes projects that he'll sign a three-year, $42MM contract this offseason.
Though he slumped in the postseason, Drew slashed a strong .253/.333/.443 with 13 regular-season home runs. His overall line is boosted by a sizzling second half in which he batted .276/.356/.481 with eight of his 13 homers. UZR/150 pegged his shortstop defense as 6.7 runs above average.
Absent from the list of free agents expected to receive qualifying offers is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Heyman writes that at this time, it's unclear as to whether or not the Red Sox will be comfortable tendering the 29-year-old a one-year, $14.1MM offer. I'd expect that Salty will receive the offer as well, and Tim agreed in his free agent profile of Saltalamacchia, pegging him for four years and $36MM even with draft pick compensation attached.
In today's edition of his daily column, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (ESPN Insider required) some specifics on the two hard runs the Red Sox took at extending Jacoby Ellsbury. According to Olney, Boston offered Ellsbury an extension that fell just shy of $100MM following his runner-up finish in the 2011 AL MVP voting. Agent Scott Boras countered with a $130MM proposal, and the two sides weren't able to strike a deal. Last winter, the Sox again tried to extend Ellsbury, this time for something in the neighborhood of B.J. Upton's five-year, $75.25MM deal with the Braves (Ellsbury had a down season in 2012, hence the decreased offer).
Now, Ellsbury is primed to hit free agency, and reports have indicated that Boston may not go far beyond $100MM to retain him. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes opined recently that the question shouldn't be whether or not Ellsbury crosses the $100MM barrier, but rather whether or not he can reach $150MM. According to Olney, the Rangers and Mariners will be two of the most aggressive teams on the Ellsbury market this winter. Here's more on Ellsbury and the 2013 World Series Champion Red Sox...
- Ellsbury spent the season's final month playing through a severe bone bruise in his left-hand and will undergo an MRI to provide further details, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Mike Napoli feels that he's found a home in Boston and told reporters, including ESPNBoston.com's Tony Lee, that he hopes to return to the team in 2014 and beyond. Said Napoli: "I want to be here. I love this place... They've treated me so good here, the way they've taken care of me has been unbelievable. When the time comes I'm pretty sure we're going to have conversations." MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently projected Napoli to earn three years and $42MM on the open market.
- GM Ben Cherington deserves praise for the team's tremendous bullpen depth, as it became a key component to their World Series title, writes MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. Bloom points out that Koji Uehara was fourth in line for closing opportunities to open the season, while Brandon Workman, who pitched the eighth inning in Game Six, opened the season at Double-A. Boston lost Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and Andrew Miller to injury at various points in 2013.
- Cherintgon talked with Tim Britton of the Providence Journal about his team's incredible clubhouse chemistry last night, stating that while there was no real way to predict how this group would come together, he definitely thinks it was a contributing factor to their success: "When you're around it and you feel it, it's hard to say it's not valuable. I don't know that any of us know how to engineer it. But when you're around it and you feel the group coming together the way it did, I don't have any doubt it's valuable. I still don't know how to predict it."
Figures such as John Farrell of the Red Sox and new Reds manager Bryan Price have altered the debate on whether pitching coaches make good managers, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe writes. Cafardo says names such as Greg Maddux and Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves could surface as candidates for openings in the future as pitching becomes a larger part of the game. Let's take a look at the latest from around the American League:
- Within the same article, Cafardo quotes an anonymous general manager who says he expects a team to offer Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli a three-year contract. Boston would prefer to give Napoli a short-term deal, Cafardo says. However, they'll enter the offseason needing a first baseman after missing out on Jose Dariel Abreu.
- The Indians were never close to offering Abreu a deal in the same range as the one he got from the White Sox, Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer writes in response to a reader question.
- Jake Peavy took the hill in Game 3 tonight for the Red Sox, but as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald notes, he nearly became a Cardinal earlier this season. St. Louis was involved in talks with the White Sox at the deadline for Peavy, who was eventually shipped to Boston as part of a three-team trade. Peavy tells Lauber he's happy with the way things turned out.
- Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon says he'll interview for the Mariners' manager job, MLive.com's Chris Iott writes. That confirms an earlier report by Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. McClendon has already interviewed for the Tigers' manager opening.
- The Orioles' No. 1 priority this winter will be improving the starting rotation, but Executive Vice President Dan Duquette won't make a big commitment in free agency or trade top prospects to do so, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports.