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While Andrew Miller is said to have multiple three-year offers in hand already, the other top reliever on this year’s market, David Robertson, just may end up finding someone to meet his reported asking price of “Jonathan Papelbon money.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com spoke with four executives, each of whom believed that Robertson would receive his desired four years and at least come close to Papelbon’s average annual salary. An NL exec said he thought Robertson would meet his goal, while an AL exec said that though his first instinct was “no,” after seeing how the market has played out early on, he’s changed his thinking. A second NL exec and an AL scout said they could see at least four years and $40MM, with the scout saying it could go higher, because it only takes one team to push up that value.
Here’s more on some of the top free agents of the offseason…
- Jon Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Lester met with the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves this week. The Sox reportedly made a six-year offer in the $110-120MM range and are willing to negotiate further. The Braves reportedly have yet to extend a formal offer.
- The Twins have a “real shot” to sign Torii Hunter, tweets La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN hears the same (Twitter link), adding that the pitch to Hunter from manager Paul Molitor is that Hunter can come back to Minnesota and provide the same type of mentoring to their young players that Molitor and the late Kirby Puckett provided Hunter when he was a minor leaguer. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that Hunter would be taking a significant paycut to return to Minnesota, however.
- Elsewhere in the Hunter market, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Orioles and Giants are keeping Hunter as a back-burner option in case their initial free agent pursuits don’t play out as they hope (Twitter links). In addition to those two teams, the Twins and the Royals, Crasnick hears that the Mariners have kicked the tires on Hunter.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden today and said that while he couldn’t rule out the return of ace Max Scherzer, he feels the chances were better last spring (Twitter link). The Tigers, of course, made Scherzer a six-year, $144MM extension offer, which he rejected.
Midnight EST is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com lists the notable prospects who are newly Rule 5 eligible. Of course, the decision whether or not to protect a player has as much to do with roster flexibility and his expected ability to stick on a big league roster for a full season as it does the player’s overall prospect value.
We’ll keep tabs on the day’s 40-man additions here, and you can also check Baseball America’s running updates, which includes breakdowns of the players added.
- The Rays have yet to announce their full list of roster moves, but Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that second baseman Ryan Brett will be added to the 40-man.
- Following their trade with the Dodgers, the Rays announced that they have added Brett (as Cooper tweeted), right-hander Matt Andriese, left-hander Grayson Garvin, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster.
- The Dodgers announced that lefty Adam Liberatore, acquired in the trade with the Rays, has been added to the 40-man roster.
- The Astros have made one final 40-man roster move, announcing the addition of right-hander Michael Feliz. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper was among those to express surprise that Feliz had not previously been added to the roster, with some executives telling him they’d be shocked if Feliz wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft (Twitter link).
- The Rangers announced that they’ve added righties Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Jorge Alfaro to the 40-man roster.
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Here are the latest minor moves from around the game:
- The Marlins have agreed to a minor league deal with infielder Reid Brignac, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Brignac, a former top prospect, hit .222/.300/.346 in 91 PA for the Phillies this season and is a lifetime .222/.266/.314 hitter in 905 PA. The 28-year-old has experience at shortstop, second base, third base and has made brief cameos in the outfield.
- Utility infielder Doug Bernier has re-signed with the Twins, per Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. The 34-year-old has seen minimal big league time with Minnesota over the last two years, and has put up strong numbers for the team’s Triple-A affiliate.
- The switch-pitching Pat Venditte has inked a minor league deal to join the Athletics, per a tweet from his agent, Marc Kligman. While it is tempting to write him off as a novelty, Venditte owns a career 3.25 ERA against Triple-A competition and a 3.09 mark at the Double-A level, with solid K:BB numbers to boot.
- The Orioles have re-signed infielder Michael Almanzar and lefty Chris Jones while adding utility option Derrik Gibson as well, all on minor league pacts, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). Almanzar, 23, bounced between the O’s and Red Sox last year, being taken in the Rule 5 draft, returned to Boston, and then dealt back to Baltimore.
- Baltimore went on to announce those signings and a series of others, including southpaws Frank Gailey and Ronan Pacheco and righties Tim Gustafson, Kenn Kasparek, and Mikey O’Brien. None of those hurlers has reached the MLB level yet in their careers.
- The Angels have inked left-hander Atahualpa Severino to a minor league pact, according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Mike DiGiovanna. Severino, 30, spent last year at Triple-A for the Braves. He has yet to make it back to the bigs since a brief cameo with the Nationals back in 2011.
- Right-hander John Ely has agreed to a minor league deal with the Brewers, according to the team’s player development Twitter account. The 28-year-old saw sporadic playing time with the Dodgers over the 2010-12 time frame, missed virtually all of 2013, and re-emerged as a reliever last year in the Red Sox organization. He threw to a 3.04 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9.
Though not available to MLB clubs at present, righty Chihiro Kaneko could become a virtual free agent (in the same manner as Masahiro Tanaka last year) if he is posted by the Orix Buffaloes. The 31-year-old has signed on with agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman, according to a tweet from Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal.
- While we wait to see whether Kaneko shakes up the market, let’s look at the latest of one top arm who is already free to sign with any club. The Marlins still have ongoing interest in James Shields, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Meanwhile, Rosenthal writes that the Diamondbacks at least like Shields, though it remains from clear that the club will be able to clear the salary it needs to make a legitimate run at him. As these reports would indicate, and Rosenthal notes, the market is quiet right now for the veteran righty.
- The Cubs are among five teams to have shown legitimate interest in outfielder Jonny Gomes, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (Twitter links). The right-handed-hitting Gomes, 33, will surely market himself as a bench or platoon bat in the corner outfield. Though he had a rather rough go of things in 2014, he still managed a .743 OPS against lefties.
- Fellow lefty-masher Josh Willingham has yet to decide whether he’ll play, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Willingham, 35, will surely be intrigued by the possibility of entering a market that just paid Michael Cuddyer $21MM over two years (along with the sacrifice of draft compensation).
- As we continue ticking through the veteran outfielders, the Royals and Twins are the clubs most aggressively courting outfielder Torii Hunter, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. That comes as little surprise, as those AL Central rivals have long been said to be competitors for Hunter, whose market is now wide open with the Tigers saying they do not expect to bring him back.
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Cardinals have outrighted right-hander Keith Butler off the team’s 40-man roster, according to the MLB.com transactions page. St. Louis has also released center fielder Shane Robinson. The 25-year-old Butler has yet to establish himself in the bigs, but has been quite good in the upper minors. Robinson, 30, has seen his role reduced and was no longer a valuable piece for a Cardinals club that just picked up Jason Heyward.
- The Nationals have released catcher Jhonatan Solano, also per MLB.com. Solano, the older brother of Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano, has seen minimal big league time over the past two years and did not have a clear role in the organization moving forward.
- The Indians announced that they’ve re-signed right-handers Shaun Marcum and Dustin Molleken to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. Marcum, 33 next month, was of course a fixture in the Blue Jays and Brewers rotations from 2007-12, though he dealt with his share of injuries in that time. Still, he posted a 3.67 ERA in 830 1/3 innings in that span before thoracic outlet syndrome in 2013 required surgery and has kept him on the shelf since. He did make it back to a minor league mound with Cleveland last season, posting a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 Triple-A innings in August.
- Molleken, 30, made 54 relief appearances for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate last season and posted big strikeout numbers but also struggled with his command, to an extent. In 74 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 4.84 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.
- The Pirates have signed a familiar name to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training in the form of Brad Lincoln, per the club’s transactions page. Lincoln was selected fourth overall by the Bucs in 2006. He struggled through the early portion of his career but got off to a good start as a reliever in 2012 and was flipped to the Blue Jays for the man who was drafted 10 picks after him in ’06 — Travis Snider. Toronto would eventually deal Lincoln to the Phillies for Erik Kratz and Rob Rasmussen. Lincoln struggled with Philly but had success in Pittsburgh and Toronto, posting a 3.76 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 119 2/3 innings from 2012-13.
- The Pirates also announced a host of other signings, including righties Collin Balester, Blake Wood, and Deolis Guerra, lefty Jeremy Bleich, and shortstop Gustavo Nunez.
- The Twins have re-signed infielder/outfielder Eric Farris to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training, reports 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (on Twitter). The 28-year-old hit .280/.316/.356 with Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate last season, playing primarily center field.
The heavily backloaded nature of the Blue Jays‘ deal with Russell Martin leaves the club with additional potential payroll capacity for 2015, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. It is worth noting that Toronto likely feels comfortable pushing cash into the 2016-19 segments of the contract because, as is apparent from my recent post regarding future obligations, the team had very little on the books after this year.
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- The Astros have checked in with Brett Anderson‘s representatives, tweets Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The oft-injured, but generally excellent lefty makes his home in Houston and could represent an interesting upside play for the rising Astros.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn has an extensive history with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, notes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. As Hayes explains, the two even managed to pull of a trade for the injured Jesse Crain at the 2013 trade deadline. While it remains to be seen whether a deal will be worked out involving shortstop Alexei Ramirez, it seems fair to believe that all reasonable possibilities will be explored between those two clubs.
- Of course, the White Sox already made an interesting move earlier today by locking up southpaw Zach Duke to a three-year, $15MM pact. Hahn says he is pleased but already “on to the next [deal] now,” as Hayes reports. “It’s an important get, one we’re all very happy about,” said Hahn. “But we’re not deluding ourselves that we’re by any means finished addressing our needs both in the bullpen or elsewhere.”
- A move by the Indians to push for an extension with Cy Young winner Corey Kluber would not be surprising; indeed, I profiled Kluber as an extension candidate back in August. But the club has yet to initiate talks, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).
- With the Twins still lacking a clear solution in center field for 2015, Peter Bourjos of the Cardinals is a name to keep an eye on, according to a tweet from Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. MLBTR’s Steve Adams has been one notable advocate of such a move for Minnesota.
Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has this week’s edition of his Minor League Transactions feature up, which, as usual, features several recent minor league signings. Here are a few highlights from his piece, as well as other minor moves from around the league…
- After releasing him on Friday, the Nationals have re-signed lefty Matt Purke to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. Purke has never thrown to the potential that the team saw when they gave him a massive bonus to sign out of the 2011 draft, but now he will have a chance to rehab from Tommy John surgery without occupying a 40-man roster spot.
- The Dodgers have acquired right-handed-hitting outfielder/first baseman Kyle Jensen from the Marlins, the clubs announced. Jensen, 26, has yet to see playing time at the MLB level, but slashed .260/.331/.481 with 27 home runs last year in the PCL. Miami will receive cash or a player to be named later in return.
- The Phillies have signed right-hander P.J. Walters, according to Eddy. The 29-year-old comes with 152 innings of big league experience, though he’s struggled to a 6.28 ERA in that time. Much of that work came with the 2012-13 Twins, where he posted a 5.79 ERA in 101 innings. Walters has a 4.70 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 735 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level.
- The D’Backs and left-hander Justin Marks have agreed to a minor league deal, also per Eddy. The 26-year-old Marks picked up his first two big league innings in 2014 and has a lifetime 5.02 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in Triple-A. Marks struggled overall in 2014 but was previously excellent against lefties, holding them to a .191/.301/.268 batting line in 2013. He, along with Vin Mazzaro, was one of two players acquired by the Royals from the A’s in exchange for David DeJesus back in 2010.
- The Brewers announced last week that they have re-signed outfielder Jeremy Hermida and infielder Pete Orr to minor league deals. The 30-year-old Hermida once carried a significant amount of promise — he was the 11th overall pick in 2002 and hit .296/.369/.501 as a 24-year-old in 2007 — but hasn’t seen Major League action since 2012 with the Padres. Orr, 35, has seen MLB action parts of eight seasons, most recently with the Phillies in 2013. He is a career .257/.289/.328 hitter that is capable of playing all over the diamond. He hit .301/.329/.423 with the Brewers in Triple-A last year.
- The Marlins have inked indy league second baseman Omar Artsen, Eddy reports. The 24-year-old Artsen spent last season playing in the Pecos League where he boasted a gaudy stat line of .397/.480/.576 with nine homers and 52 steals in 353 PA.
The Braves, Cubs, Giants, Red Sox, Royals and Twins are six of the teams thought to have asked for Justin Masterson’s medicals or otherwise checked in on the right-hander, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). Though Masterson is coming off an injury-plagued season, he is drawing significant interest and could find a two-year deal on the open market. The Indians, Masterson’s former club, are also reportedly in the mix for the 29-year-old.
It’s no surprise that Masterson is generating this much free agent buzz, as the righty averaged 199 IP from 2010-13 and was one of the game’s best starters during the 2013 season. As MLBTR’s Zach Links noted in his Free Agent Profile of Masterson, a team could be in for a major bargain if the righty regains his old form. Whether he signs for one year or two, Masterson seems destined for a short-term deal as he’s banking on that return to form and the opportunity to set himself up for a more expensive multiyear deal next winter or after the 2016 season.
The six teams Crasnick lists present an interesting array of suitors, incorporating the two pennant winners, three teams looking to return to contention in 2015 and the rebuilding Twins, who can offer Masterson a pitcher-friendly ballpark to help rebuild his value. Team defense is also undoubtedly a big factor for Masterson, an extreme ground ball pitcher with a 56.6% career grounder rate.
The latest from the AL Central..
- Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter) hears that the Twins have inquired about free agent starter Justin Masterson. Minnesota is also checking in on free agent outfielders, but finding a starter or two is at the top of their wish list. In my October profile of the 29-year-old (30 by Opening Day), I speculated that the Twins could be a possible match for Masterson.
- The White Sox are scouring the market for left-handed relief pitching, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The White Sox currently only have two lefty relievers on their roster in Eric Surkamp and Scott Snodgress.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that while the club has made a lot of progress on the trade front, it’s tough to say if they are close to a deal.
Twins GM Terry Ryan is “doing well” after his bout with throat cancer, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. The 61-year-old still is experiencing various forms of discomfort, but has completed radiation and is back at full force in the Minnesota front office.
Here’s more out of the American League:
- The Tigers will not pursue Torii Hunter after inking Victor Martinez and trading for Anthony Gose, GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters today, including George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “I called and said it just didn’t look like it was going to fit the way the club was getting put together,” Dombrowski said. “Thanked him for everything. Absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another, that we’re not anticipating, we would still be open. It’s just probably not much of a fit right now.” Hunter indicated in an Instagram post that he still intends to play in 2015.
- The Blue Jays recently met with free agent lefty Andrew Miller, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Miller figures to be a highly sought-after relief weapon. Toronto has definite pen needs, as Nicholson-Smith’s colleague, Shi Davidi, told me on this week’s podcast, and as MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote in previewing the club’s offseason.
- Free agent utility man Emilio Bonifacio is receiving interest from his former teams, including the Blue Jays and Royals, Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com tweets. (Cotillo also lists the Cubs as a team with possible interest.) Bonifacio should have his pick of situations given his versatility and place on the market.
- The Red Sox have promoted Mike Rikard to become the team’s scouting director, according to a tweet from Clint Longenecker, formerly of Baseball America. He replaces Amiel Sawdaye, who will be promoted to a vice president role, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal (via Twitter). Longenecker himself is moving on to join the Indians, Baseball America’s John Manuel tweets.