Mitch Moreland Rumors
The Rangers have avoided arbitration with first baseman Mitch Moreland by agreeing upon a $2.65MM salary for 2014, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The deal also allows him to earn $25K bonuses upon reaching 470 and 525 plate appearances, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
The 28-year-old, who figures to see plenty of time at designated hitter in the coming season, was unable to repeat his 2012 numbers upon taking over the team's primary first base job last year. Moreland slashed .232/.299/.437 in 518 plate appearances last year, including 23 home runs. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder over the off-season, and he is expected to see most of the time at first.
Moreland, who is represented by BBI Sports Group, will earn close to the $2.638MM midpoint between his and the teams' respective filing figures. As always, power pays in arbitration, and Moreland's attractive long ball totals no doubt aided his cause. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a very accurate $2.7MM salary for Moreland, who will go through arbitration twice more before qualifying for free agency in 2017.
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.
Here are a few notes from Rangers Fan Fest, which is taking place today in Arlington.
- The Rangers aren't likely to sign Michael Young, GM Jon Daniels says (via ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett on Twitter). Instead, the Rangers will turn to internal options to find another bench infielder to pair with Adam Rosales.
- The Rangers are looking for pitching depth, Durrett writes. "I mean guys that can help our big-league club," GM Jon Daniels says. "We would have been looking for that this time of year anyways before Derek (Holland) got hurt but that changes things a little bit."
- Daniels also notes that he thinks the free-agent market is "coming out of a dead period" with recent signings of Grant Balfour, Eric O'Flaherty and Grady Sizemore.
- Mitch Moreland will be the Rangers' main designated hitter, Durrett tweets. The team will also occasionally start other players at the position. Moreland has been mentioned this offseason as a potential trade target for teams like the Brewers and Pirates who are in need of a first baseman, but the Rangers have also reportedly told Brewers GM Doug Melvin that they won't deal Moreland. Given that they have him penciled in at a starting position, that makes sense.
MLB was ready to pass expanded replay and eliminate home plate collisions at last month's Winter Meetings. However, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the main hurdle is union approval. In an email to FOX Sports, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark wrote the union's executive board discussed both issues "at length" during its December meeting, but "a consensus on both matters was not reached." Clark added "what has been contemplated exceeds what was agreed to" in regards to instant replay and "as it relates to home plate collisions, there are several points of view to explore with the players and we continue to do so." In today's news and notes from the American League:
- The Yankees will not make a final decision about how to handle the possibility of Alex Rodriguez reporting to Spring Training until speaking with the comissioner's office, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. One baseball official told Marchand the Yankees could send Rodriguez to their minor league camp and even go as far as instructing coaches not to hit him grounders or throw him batting practice.
- The only reason for Rodriguez to attend Spring Training is to give the media even more A-Rod headlines next month, opines Jayson Stark of ESPN. Several industry sources familiar with baseball's Basic Agreement and Joint Drug Agreement tell Stark neither agreement explicitly gives a player suspended for the season the right to attend Spring Training with one official calling the wording "intentionally vague."
- The Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League have released a statement on their Facebook page saying they will not sign A-Rod and doing so "would be a hurtful precedent." However, the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent Pacific Association are open to the possibility, tweets the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, who first wrote about the team's interest last August. In the article, Shea notes the Pacific Association does not adhere to MLB suspensions and has no mandatory drug testing.
- Mitch Moreland told reporters, including Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com, he still isn't sure whether he will playing for the Rangers or elsewhere in 2014. "They’ve definitely made a lot of moves and have been very active this offseason," Moreland said. "From what I know right now, I’m still here and still a Texas Ranger and happy to be here and looking forward to the season." Earlier today, we learned Texas has been unwilling to discuss Moreland in trade talks. If that remains the case, Moreland says he has been told his role will be changing and he will use Spring Training to prepare himself to play first base, the outfield, and DH.
- The Twins are still showing no interest in exploring multi-year pacts with any of their three arbitration eligible players, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a total of $4.8MM for the trio of Trevor Plouffe, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. In a separate tweet, Berardino reports an arbitration hearing will probably not be needed for Swarzak because the salary gap should be pretty narrow. The filing deadline is Tuesday.
- After sitting out 2013, Chone Figgins wants to play this season and will work out for teams in Tampa this week, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. After a .298/.395/.393 line with the Angels in 2009, Figgins signed a four-year, $36MM deal with the Mariners and proceeded to struggle in Seattle with a .227/.302/.283 slash over the life of the contract.
The trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals for southpaw Will Smith was "was coaxed primarily by Aoki's agent to assure more playing time," Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Khris Davis' impressive rookie season put him in line for a starting job in 2014, and with Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez locked into the other two starting outfield spots, Aoki was looking at a reduced role with the Brewers next season.
Here's some more Brewers news from Haudricourt's chat with Brewers GM Doug Melvin...
- Melvin reiterated his stance that the Brewers' lack of major offseason moves is due to the belief that the team will improve simply with the continued development of young players and the returns of suspended or injured stars like Braun or Aramis Ramirez.
- The Brewers pursued James Loney, who instead re-signed with the Rays for a three-year, $21MM contract. "We knew if he had the same deal he was probably going to go back to Tampa," Melvin said. Indeed, Loney said that he chose the Rays' contract over similar offers from not just the Brewers, but also the Pirates and Astros.
- Melvin cited some interest in Justin Morneau, who signed with the Rockies last month, but the GM sounded as if he wasn't particularly enamored with the free agent options at first base. "The list wasn't very good. It's one of those years where the position we needed, there were fewer opportunities to get someone," Melvin said.
- In also noting that the trade market for first baseman was thin, Melvin acknowledged he had at least had discussions with the Rangers and Mariners. "There just aren't available guys. Texas, at this point, is not willing to talk about [Mitch] Moreland. Seattle is not interested in moving their guys. So, there aren't a lot of choices."
- The Brewers didn't have much available payroll space this offseason but extra money would've been there if the situation warranted. "We haven't increased it that much, but if the right player was there I would go to (team owner) Mark (Attanasio) and say it's the right player," Melvin said. "When it comes to payroll, we're always guarded to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a hole or a bind that we can't get out of two years from now or three years from now. Our payroll will be in a much better position next year in that regard." The Brewers have only $39.1MM committed for 2015 as Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Tom Gorzelanny all come off the books next winter, plus Rickie Weeks seems unlikely to receive the 600 PA he needs this season to trigger his $11.5MM vesting option for 2015.
In his latest column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe revealed that he is part of a BBWAA committee that will explore the Hall of Fame voting process and discuss what changes (if any) need to be made. Some of the issues likely to be addressed by the committee is whether to allow voters to name more than 10 players on their ballots, whether or not long-time broadcasters or statistical analysis-centric writers should be given a say in HOF voting.
Here's the latest hot stove news from Cafardo...
- Two new teams have joined the hunt for Bronson Arroyo. At least one of his suitors is moving closer to giving Arroyo the third contract year he's looking for, though that third year could come in the form of a vesting option. Cafardo isn't sure if the Twins were that mystery team, though they've been interested in Arroyo all winter. He also cites the Yankees and Phillies as interested parties, as those two clubs join the likes of the Orioles, Mets and Pirates as those linked to the veteran righty this winter. Cafardo reported last month that Arroyo has received two-year contract offers from four different teams.
- Free agent Lyle Overbay is an option for both the Astros and Brewers at first base. Milwaukee is also still considering signing Michael Young for first, or trading for Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
- Agent Scott Boras says “there are five or six teams who I have actively talked to concerning Stephen [Drew],” including the Red Sox. As you might expect, Boras denied that Drew's market is in any way limited, noting that Drew doesn't have a new contract yet since "free agency is a long process. It just doesn’t end at Christmas. It’s a January, February, and even a March process."
- Boras "has a tremendous stake in the Red Sox’ present and future," Cafardo writes, noting that the agent represents not just Drew, but also top youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Deven Marrero.
- "The silence on [Kendrys] Morales is deafening," as teams are reluctant to give up a first round draft pick as compensation for the slugger. At least one team said they're leery about spending significant money for a DH, though Boras, Morales' agent, counters by noting the impact that David Ortiz has had on the Red Sox and also noting that his client can play first base.
- Johnny Damon has stayed in shape and would be willing to resume his career. The 40-year-old hinted at retirement if he couldn't find a contract last offseason and indeed Damon ended up sitting out the 2013. Damon is also a Boras client, and the agent tells Cafardo that Damon has yet to contact him about officially retiring.
- Manny Ramirez wants to continue his career, his hitting coach David Segui predicts, though Segui hasn't spoken to Ramirez in over two months. “Manny will always be able to hit,” Segui said. “He loves to play, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s still looking for something.” Ramirez's agent, Barry Praver, said in November that his client looking for a return to the Majors. Ramirez, 41, last played with the bigs with the Rays in 2011 before being suspended for PED use. Over the last two years, Ramirez spent some time with the Athletics' and Rangers' Triple-A affiliates and also played in Taiwan.
- A National League GM predicts that one of Masahiro Tanaka's many suitors will "come in and blow everyone away. There’s going to be a dance where everyone is in the same boat and then there will be a team that breaks the bank for him.”
The Jose Veras signing makes sense for the Cubs since he comes at an affordable rate, has experience, and can groom the younger guys like Pedro Strop, opines Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com (via Twitter). Earlier tonight, the Cubs agreed to sign Veras to a one-year, $4MM deal with a $5.5MM club option for 2015. Here's more out of the AL and NL Central..
- Before agreeing to his deal with the Cubs, Veras tells Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (on Twitter) that he also had an offer from the Mariners. The Rockies and Astros were also among the clubs with reported interest.
- Even after the Mike Pelfrey agreement, the Twins are maintaining dialogue with Johan Santana's representatives, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). For his part, Santana is very open to a return.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel checked in with Brewers GM Doug Melvin and it doesn't sound like the club is closing in on a first base solution. "It's pretty quiet," said Melvin. "We know all the names. It's a small group. Nothing changes from one day to the next. Ike Davis is the one player people talk about. Other than that, there's not much available." Haudricourt also asked Melvin about Rangers' first baseman Mitch Moreland, but Melvin says that at last check, Texas said they won't move him.
- With multiple question marks, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com feels that the Pirates are likely to regress in 2014.
7:28pm: The Pirates spoke to the Mets about trading for Davis, a source told Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
3:48pm: The Pirates have seen a pair of first base candidates come off the board in the past week with the Rays re-siging James Loney for $21MM over three years and the Mariners acquiring Logan Morrison. However, they're still looking at the trade market and currently have their sights set on Ike Davis and Mitch Moreland, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link).
Davis' name has been most frequently connected to the Brewers in the past week, but Pittsburgh also has a hole to fill at first base. Davis batted .242/.334/.434 overall in 2013 but was strong against right-handed pitching, as can be seen in his .256/.356/.471 slash line. That would seem to make him an ideal platoon partner for Gaby Sanchez, who roughed up lefties at a .333/.438/.539 clip in 2013.
Moreland offers similar platoon issues, having batted just .236/.295/.362 against left-handers in his career. Both he and Davis can be controlled through the 2016 season, though Moreland is projected to earn just $2.7MM in 2014 (per MLBTR's Matt Swartz), while Davis is projected to earn $3.5MM next season. It's not known at this time what the Rangers would be looking for in return for Moreland. New York is said to be asking the Brewers to part with right-hander Tyler Thornburg.
With Corey Hart and Logan Morrison heading to the Mariners and James Loney agreeing to return to the Rays this week, the Pirates and Brewers remain on the hunt for a first baseman, as MLB.com's Anthony DiComo notes (via Twitter). The Astros could be on the lookout for a first baseman as well. With Mike Napoli (Red Sox) and Justin Morneau (Rockies) also gone, there isn't much left on the free-agent market, which means teams still hoping to acquire a first baseman will probably also consider trades. Here's a look at the main options still available.
- Matt Adams, Cardinals. Adams is far better than most of the players listed below, but the Cardinals would only be likely to move him in a major deal. It would be very hard for the Pirates or Brewers to pry him away, since they're both NL Central teams, and the Astros likely don't have the big-league talent the Cardinals would need in order to decide to part with him. His .284/.335/.503 line in 2013 would be a valuable addition to any big-league lineup, however.
- Kendrys Morales, free agent. Morales might be the highest-profile name remaining as a free agent, but after a season in which he hit .277/.336/.449 while playing poor defense (in the 31 games in which he played first base), he declined the Mariners' qualifying offer. It's hard to see many teams, including the Pirates and Brewers, give up a draft pick for the right to sign a defensively-limited player on the wrong side of 30. It appears likely that Morales will end up back with an AL team, as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa recently noted.
- Ike Davis, Mets. The Mets seem determined to trade either Davis or Lucas Duda. Davis may be the more attractive of the two candidates, due to his power, although he'll also be more expensive than Duda in arbitration this year. The Mets also seem more inclined to trade Davis. With Loney off the market, there's now a clear path for the Mets to deal Davis to either the Brewers or Pirates. There may be a feeling around baseball that they waited too long, however, with Mike Puma of the New York Post recently tweeting that a source recently told him the Mets were going to "sell low" on Davis. The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough, meanwhile, tweeted, "The Mets' slow, steady march toward trading Ike Davis for something like a right-handed relief prospect is such a drag." In any case, it's hard to see the Mets getting much for Davis, or any team getting particularly excited about installing him at first, after he hit .205/.326/.334 in 2013, even though he batted .286/.449/.505 after the All-Star break. Davis appears set to make about $3.5MM through arbitration in 2014.
- Justin Smoak, Mariners. With Hart and Morrison both heading to Seattle, Smoak is now available, with the Mariners likely favoring a big-league contributor, rather than a prospect, in return. It remains to be seen how much other teams might want Smoak, however -- the former top prospect has hovered around replacement level for his career, and at 27, it may be that his once-highly-regarded bat won't ever carry him. Smoak hit .238/.334/.412 in 2013.
- Mitch Moreland, Rangers. Moreland's name has appeared in trade rumors since Texas traded for Prince Fielder, but he currently still has a role in Texas at DH. That could change somewhat, however, if the Rangers sign Shin-Soo Choo or re-sign Nelson Cruz, but right now, there appears to be no pressing reason for the Rangers to trade Moreland unless they want to. Moreland hit .232/.299/.437 in 2013, but unlike any of the trade candidates mentioned above, he does play plus defense at first base.
- Adam Lind, Blue Jays. Lind, who batted .288/.357/.497 in 2013, is a well-above-average hitter, but he's not much of a defender at any position. Also, like Moreland, he has a clear role on his current team as a DH. The Pirates recently asked the Jays about Lind, only to have the Jays ask for Neil Walker in return. If the Blue Jays do trade Lind, he probably won't come cheap.
- Mike Carp, Red Sox. WEEI's Rob Bradford recently tweeted that Carp was receiving plenty of attention on the trade market, which is no surprise -- unlike Davis and Smoak, Carp hit well in 2013, and unlike Moreland and Lind, he has no clear starting role with his current team. Carp played mostly first base and outfield in 2013, but with Jackie Bradley Jr. expected to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, and with Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes expected to play in the corner spots, he won't necessarily be needed in the outfield next year. There isn't much room elsewhere, either, with Mike Napoli and David Ortiz returning at first base and DH, respectively. If Carp hits .296/.362/.523 again, the Red Sox can surely find space for him, but if another team approaches them with a nice offer, they could easily deal him, too.
- Eric Chavez, free agent. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman recently reported that the Pirates were one of several teams to check in on Chavez, and upon inspection, it's easy to see why. The veteran hit .281/.332/.478 in Arizona in 2013, and while he has limited experience at first base and isn't the defensive star he once was at third, it's easy to imagine he would be at least average defensively if he were to move across the diamond. He might also be relatively cheap, since he was a part-time player in 2013. He's an injury risk, but with Pittsburgh, in particular, he wouldn't have to play every day, since Gaby Sanchez would start against lefties.
- Kevin Youkilis, free agent. Youkilis missed most of the 2013 season due to injury and wasn't good when he played, but he was a valuable asset as recently as 2011. He'll be 35 in March, however, and showed signs of decline in 2012, so it's fair to wonder how much he has left. He also prefers to play on the West Coast, so he may not want to sign with Milwaukee or Pittsburgh.
The latest out of the AL East as today's Winter Meetings news heats up...
- ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that the Rays are interested in Mitch Moreland of the Rangers and notes that a swap of Moreland and Matt Joyce is a possibility. That scenario hasn't gained much traction to this point, however, according to Stark (Twitter links).
- MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli was among the reporters to speak with Orioles manager Buck Showalter, and she reports that the O's aren't interested in Raul Ibanez but do have some interest in Gavin Floyd (Twitter link).
- Top Yankees prospects such as Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams have seen their stock fall precipitously in the past year, diminishing New York's ability to make trades, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. One Cubs official told Sherman, "The Yankees have no upper-level talent," when asked about potential trades between the two clubs.
- Also from Sherman's piece, right-hander Tommy Kahnle and lefty Fred Lewis are candidates to be selected in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Kahnle was among the Yankees' most sought-after players in July trade talks but was left off the 40-man roster.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke with A.J. Pierzynski, who told him that the Twins offered him a two-year deal to return to Minnesota, but he couldn't pass up on the opportunity to play for the Red Sox (Twitter link).
- Joh Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke with a high-ranking Yankees official who told him there haven't been any discussions between the Yanks and Giants about New York's outfielders at the Winter Meetings (Twitter link).