Milwaukee Brewers Rumors

Milwaukee Brewers trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Brewers Designate Hunter Morris For Assignment

The Brewers have designated first baseman Hunter Morris for assignment, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports on Twitter. His roster spot was needed to accomodate the team’s acquisition of Luis Sardinas and Corey Knebel this afternoon.

Working at Triple-A for most of the last two seasons, Morris put up a composite .260/.315/.453 slash with 35 home runs over 902 turns at bat. The left-handed-swinging 26-year-old had been the organization’s minor league player of the year back in 2012, after a big year at Double-A.


Rangers Acquire Yovani Gallardo

The Rangers have acquired right-hander Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers. Going in return are a group of young players: infielder Luis Sardinas and righties Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan. Milwaukee will pick up $4MM of Gallardo’s salary, which will rise from $13MM to $14MM by operation of a clause in his contract.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Milwaukee Brewers

Gallardo brings plenty of value with him to a Rangers rotation that has several question marks coming off of a rough overall 2014. Though he’ll need to deliver all of it this season, as he qualifies for free agency after the year, Gallardo’s Texas roots could make him an extension candidate. He will not turn 29 until February. And he has had a nice run of gobbling up innings, lodging the sixth-most in the game over the last six years. Reuniting with his former pitching coach, Mike Maddux, probably does not hurt Gallardo’s outlook.

In terms of performance, Gallardo has had his ups and downs but is undoubtedly a quality arm. He registered a career-low 6.8 K/9 last year, though he posted career-bests with a 3.51 ERA and 2.5 BB/9. In terms of advanced statistics, the view was that 2014 was more of an average year for the veteran. His FIP (3.94), xFIP (3.64), and SIERA (3.78) were generally in line with his career norms.

For Milwaukee, the trade brings some much-needed young blood into the system and gave the team an opportunity to cash in on an expiring asset in Gallardo. While the trio of prospects that were acquired all come with questions, they also deliver talent and plenty of years of control, and should begin contributing in the immediate future.

Sardinas, 21, struggled in a 2014 season split between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors (posting a .281 average in the minors, but with a .302 OBP and .364 OBP), but he was young for all three levels and still rates as one of the Rangers’ better young players. The question remains whether Sardinas can hit enough to become a MLB starter, or whether he will instead top out as a utility infielder. But of the three players in the deal, he is the only one to crack Baseball America’s top-ten list, with Knebel (17) and Diplan (22) landing further down the line.

On the other hand, Knebel makes an appearance in the eighth slot on MLB.com’s latest ranking of the pre-trade Texas rotation. Knebel, who came to the Rangers along with Jake Thompson in last summer’s Joakim Soria deal, was taken 39th overall in the 2013 draft an reached the bigs in 2014. The 23-year-old is a pure reliever, but was fairly dominant in the upper minors (2.18 ERA, 12.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 4.6 H/9) in 45 1/3 frames last year and showed the ability to miss big league bats with 11 strikeouts in his brief 8 2/3 inning stint.

MLB.com also saw Diplan as one of the Rangers’ twenty best young players, albeit barely. An undersized righty, the 18-year-old nevertheless landed a $1.3MM bonus as a July 2 player. He was effective last year in the Dominican Summer League, but remains a good distance from a major league roster and is far and away the most volatile asset in this deal.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post theorizes a Gallardo trade could make Milwaukee players for James Shields, noting the Brewers are in a strong position to make a big play as they will shed $47MM in salary, including Gallardo’s $13MM, after 2015 (Twitter links). This line of thinking is strengthened by Milwaukee’s dearth of MLB rotation depth as Doug Melvin also traded swingman Marco Estrada in November for Adam Lind. Outside of their current projected rotation (Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, and Jimmy Nelson), only three other pitchers on the Brewers’ 40-man roster have started a Major League game and two of them, Tyler Thornburg (elbow) and Johnny Hellweg (Tommy John surgery), missed most of 2014 with injuries. A third, Will Smith (17 starts with the Royals from 2012-13) is slated to resume his setup role in the bullpen.

This should make for an interesting week in Milwaukee as the Brewers gear up for their annual fan fest “On Deck” next weekend. It was this time one year ago, the Brewers signed Garza to the largest free agent contract (four years, $50MM) in franchise history. A deal for Shields would shatter that mark. The Brewers, however, could decide to invest the Gallardo cost savings into strengthening their bullpen by re-signing Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for the club last year. This approach would allow Milwaukee to stretch Smith out during Spring Training creating that much needed rotation depth while preserving some payroll flexibility.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi were first to report that a deal involving Gallardo to Texas was in the works. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the return (via Twitter), while Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram added that money was also changing hands (via Twitter). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was first to tweet that the deal was done, and noted on Twitter that the Rangers were rumored to be closing in on adding a pitcher. Morosi reported the trade escalator in Gallardo’s contract, via Twitter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Moncada, Zimmermann

The Giants have already held a private workout for Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, Ben Badler of Baseball America reports. The Giants’ ownership is pushing for the team to get more involved in acquiring Cuban talent, Badler writes, and signing the 19-year-old Moncada, a very highly rated young talent, would be a splashy way to do just that. Of course, such a signing will have to wait for now, as Moncada still needs to be cleared by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can sign. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Marlins have already been connected to Moncada. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • With Max Scherzer‘s signing and the impending trade of Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers, the Brewers could try to trade for Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Brewers’ past trades for aces C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke helped key playoff runs, and Morosi thinks Milwaukee might be able to sign Zimmermann long-term, given that Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, Jonathan Broxton, Adam Lind and Gerardo Parra can all come off the books after 2015.
  • Teams are increasingly avoiding boom-and-bust cycles and are instead trying to build consistent winners, Alden Gonzalez writes for Sports On Earth. Teams are trying to avoid becoming the Phillies, now on the downswing after clinging to their veteran core. Instead, they’re trying to win both now and in the future, avoiding dramatic going-for-it moves as well as full rebuilds. The current postseason structure (with ten teams, including four Wild Card teams) encourages teams to try to get in but discourages making “all-in” moves, because making one’s way through the playoffs involves a high degree of variance. Gonzalez counts only two teams (the Tigers and perhaps the Blue Jays) pushing in all their chips in 2015, with only one (the Phillies) that isn’t really trying to compete. More emblematic, perhaps, of the current environment are the Athletics, whose offseason has blended future-oriented and win-now moves, and the Nationals, who have largely maintained a very strong team but geared their offseason toward sustaining their success beyond 2015.


Morosi On The Closer Market

The market for free agent relievers continues to develop slowly, writes Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Three free agents with over 20 saves last season remain available – Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, and Casey Janssen. Per Morosi, the Blue Jays, Indians, and Brewers are looking to add a late inning reliever. Obviously, other clubs could get involved at the right price.

Each of the three free agents come with performance concerns. Rodriguez, 33, was the best of the group with 44 saves. However, he’s allowed an above average rate of home runs in his last three seasons – all spent at homer friendly Miller Park. He’s a better fit for a pitcher friendly park, which may be why the Brewers have yet to re-engage his services.

Both Soriano and Janssen lost ninth inning privileges last season. Soriano, 35, actually had a solid season based on his peripherals, but a few costly, late season blow-ups led to Drew Storen taking over as closer. As a command and control pitcher, Janssen has always been an atypical closer.

The trio is unlikely to do much better than the two-year, $15MM deal Sergio Romo signed with the Giants. In some ways, Romo was better last year than any of the remaining free agents, and he’s younger too. Like Soriano and Janssen, Romo lost the closer role mid-season.

With Tyler Clippard moving to Oakland (presumably, GM Billy Beane won’t re-trade him before the season), the most obvious trade candidate is Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon. His contract is an additional impediment to a trade – he’s owed $13MM this season with a $13MM vesting option (48 games finished). While Morosi didn’t mention it, some clubs have reportedly expressed concern about Papelbon’s clubhouse presence. He missed the end of last season after an unusual crotch grabbing incident.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Brewers, Gerardo Parra Avoid Arbitration

The Brewers announced today that they’ve avoided arbitration with outfielder Gerardo Parra by agreeing to a one-year deal. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (via Twitter) that Parra will earn $6.2375MM — a nearly identical sum to the one projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.


Quick Hits: A’s, Lynn, Soto, Johan

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court Of Appeals upheld a previous ruling rejecting the city of San Jose’s challenge of Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Grow reports (Twitter link).  As explained by CSNBayArea.com’s Joe Stiglich, the ruling is another obstacle in San Jose’s attempt to bring the Athletics to town, and an eventual courtroom victory in front of the Supreme Court seems unlikely.  The A’s may only be allowed to move if a majority of team owners votes down the Giants’ territorial rights claim on San Jose or if the Giants are financially compensated for giving up the area, Stiglish notes.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • The Cardinals and Lance Lynn discussed a longer-term deal before settling on a three-year extension that buys out Lynn’s three arbitration years, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jen Langosch).  “Obviously, when you start talking about free-agent years or option years, there’s a cost to that,” Mozeliak said. “It certainly was something that was on the table and discussed. But ultimately the comfort of something getting done, even though it may feel short, it gives us some cost certainty.”
  • Geovany Soto is expected to sign within the next few days, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets.  The Rangers are among the teams still in the hunt for the veteran catcher.
  • The Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers and Rays were among the teams who scouted Johan Santana‘s recent Venezuelan Winter League appearance, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.  The Yankees, whose interest in Santana was already known, also had a scout present.
  • Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that his team is “probably not” going to sign Max Scherzer.  “We’ve been in a situation where we’re pretty well set with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve got five starters that we’re comfortable [with]. I guess you never tell what happens, but we’re not in any type of active pursuit of any other pitching right now.”  Dombrowski has consistently made statements of this type all winter, though there have been whispers that Scherzer could wind up back in Detroit thanks to the relationship between Scott Boras and Mike Ilitch.
  • Right-hander Kameron Loe and outfielder Terrell Joyce have both been issued 50-game suspensions following positive tests for a drug of abuse, the Commissioner’s Office announced.  Both players are currently free agents.  Loe posted a 4.49 ERA over 569 innings in the bigs with five teams from 2004-13, while Joyce (a 12th-round Astros draft pick in 2012) has a career .229/.308/.396 slash line over 704 minor league plate appearances in Houston’s farm system.

Brewers Sign Martin Maldonado To Two-Year Deal

4:47pm: MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (via Twitter) that Maldonado’s deal is a two-year, $1.95MM contract. He’ll receive a $50K signing bonus, and then salaries of $800K in 2015 and $1.1MM in 2016.

4:41pm: The Brewers announced that they have signed catcher Martin Maldonado to a two-year contract to avoid arbitration (Twitter link). Terms of the deal with the Praver/Shapiro client are not yet known, but MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected him to earn $1MM in 2015. This was his first offseason of arbitration eligibility and, as a Super Two player, he will be eligible twice more on the completion of his two-year contract.

The 28-year-old Maldonado played well in 52 games as the backup to Jonathan Lucroy last season, slashing .234/.320/.387 with four homers. He threw out 32 percent of base-stealers last year, which is well in line with his career mark, grading out as an above-average pitch-framer.


Central Notes: Stauffer, Brewers, Indians, Baker, Viciedo

Though he receives only a $2.2MM guarantee, recently-signed Twins righty Tim Stauffer can earn significantly more through incentives, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Stauffer can max out his deal at a total of $3.95MM ($1.75MM bonus) if he makes 55 appearances in the coming season. He can earn $250K bonuses upon his 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, and 27th appearances, land $100K for the 45th time he takes the hill, and nab another $250K at number fifty-five.

Here’s more from the central divisions:

  • The Brewers and Indians are among the teams on the market for late-inning relief help, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Neither team intends to “spend big,” however, Rosenthal adds. Several established pen arms remain available through free agency.
  • We heard yesterday that righty Scott Baker had interest from five clubs that were offering minor league deals. The Reds are one of the teams pursuing the veteran, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, whereas the Twins are not involved.
  • The White Sox could still cut Dayan Viciedo loose this spring after agreeing to avoid arbitration, writes SB Nation’s Jim Margalus, but the club would still be on the hook for a portion of his $4.4MM salary. Margalus breaks down recent instances of such scenarios, but explains that the actual cost to teams (as well as the presence or results of any grievance proceedings) remains largely unknown publicly. At this point, a spot as a bench bat seems the likeliest outcome, though a trade is still possible.

Minor Moves: Boggs, Ashley, Heathcott, Lennerton

Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…

  • Peter Gammons reports that the Red Sox have signed former Cardinals right-hander Mitchell Boggs (Twitter link). Not surprisingly, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com hears that it’s a minor league deal. Boggs, 30, struggled through 51 minor league innings between the White Sox and Giants in 2014, totaling an alarming 8.59 ERA after a rough 2013 at the big league level. However, Boggs was both durable and effective for the Redbirds from 2010-12, notching a 3.08 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 201 1/3 innings.
  • The Brewers announced that they’ve signed catcher Nevin Ashley to a minor league contract that contains an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The 30-year-old Ashley, a longtime Rays farmhand, spent last season with the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate. With Indianapolis, he batted .246/.332/.345 in 234 plate appearances — numbers that are commensurate with his lifetime .235/.322/.365 batting line at the Triple-A level. Ashley was twice named the best defensive catcher in the Rays’ system by Baseball America and has gunned down 38 percent of attempted base-stealers in a nine-year minor league career.
  • The Yankees have re-signed former first-round pick Slade Heathcott to a minor league contract, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). The Yanks non-tendered Heathcott this December on the heels of a season that limited him to just nine games. Injuries have long been a problem for the center fielder, although Heathcott is still heading into just his age-24 season and has a lifetime .268/.346/.404 triple slash in the minors. Somewhat painfully (for Yankees fans, anyhow), Sherman notes that the Yankees had intended to select Mike Trout with the 29th overall pick in 2009, but he went four picks prior to the Angels as a compensation pick for the loss of Mark Teixeira… who had signed with the Yankees.
  • The Tigers have re-signed first baseman Jordan Lennerton, the infielder himself tweeted on New Year’s Eve. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that it’s a minor league contract, but it’s unclear whether or not Lennerton will be in big league camp (he was in 2014). Lennerton, 28, had a down season in terms of average and slugging percentage last year at Triple-A, though he still batted a respectable .249/.362/.395 on the whole.