MLBTR Originals Rumors

MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:

    • Agent Eric Izen of the Legacy Agency told MLBTR a showcase would be held in Florida for a pair of his Cuban clients: first baseman Jozzen Cuesta and left-hander Misael Siverio.
    • MLBTR was the first to learn Siverio held a workout in June with the Yankees, Cubs, and Astros among those in attendance.
    • Steve Adams hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.
    • Zach Links put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

  • Charlie Wilmoth opines a pre-free agency contract extension might represent the best chance for Kole Calhoun to land a big payday, due to his age. Charlie envisions a five-year deal, plus a team option, guaranteeing slightly more than $21MM ($27-30MM, if Calhoun qualifies for Super Two status) as working for both sides.
  • Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers to pick the winner of the Rusney Castillo sweepstakes. Just 19.5% of you correctly predicted the Red Sox landing the Cuban outfielder/infielder.
  • Zach Links was the first to report right-hander Wirfin Obispo was outrighted by the Pirates to Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • Zach also broke the news left-hander Clay Rapada will take some time to let his injured ankle heal before pursuing his next contract.
  • This past week marked the anniversary of two recent transactions by the Cubs, so Jeff revisited the 2013 trade of David DeJesus to the Nationals and Starlin Castro‘s seven-year, $60MM extension in 2012.
  • Steve Adams hosted this week’s chat.
  • Zach compiled the latest edition of Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Extension Candidate: Kole Calhoun

The Angels’ farm system hasn’t won much praise recently, but it seems to have produced a hit in Kole Calhoun. The outfielder sped through the minors despite a relatively modest pedigree (he was an eighth-round pick as a college senior in 2010), skipping Double-A and making it to the big leagues in two years. Last season, in his first extended shot in the Majors, he hit .282/.347/.462 in 222 plate appearances, and this year he’s proven that was no fluke, hitting .294/.349/.485 so far. Offensively, Calhoun combines high batting averages with good power, and he also provides reasonable baserunning and corner outfield defense.

Since he’s already nearly 27, Calhoun’s opportunities to cash in on his early-career success might be somewhat limited. He can’t become a free agent until the 2019-2020 offseason, by which point he’ll be 32. With so much time remaining before free agency, and after receiving a very modest $36K signing bonus out of college, it would probably behoove Calhoun to consider the security of a long-term deal. A pre-free agency extension might represent the best chance for Calhoun and his agent, Page Odle, to land a big contract.

USATSI_8000156_154513410_lowresGiven that the Angels already control what are likely to be Calhoun’s prime years, an extension need not be such a priority for them. And since he isn’t exceptionally athletic and already plays corner outfield, betting on him continuing to be productive well into his thirties seems excessive, from the Angels’ perspective. Signing Calhoun to an extension would, however, have the benefit of controlling his arbitration salaries while possibly also giving the Angels options to control a year or two more than they do now.

Extensions for players with between one and two years of service time used to be somewhat rare, but they’ve become increasingly common since Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo signed deals in Spring 2013. Via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, seven players with between one and two years of service have agreed to extensions this year: Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Quintana, Starling Marte, Yan Gomes, Jedd Gyorko and Sean Doolittle.

Since Marte is an outfielder, his six-year, $31MM deal (which also includes two options) is the most obvious precedent that might guide a long-term deal for Calhoun. Before that, the last extensions for outfielders with between one and two years of service time were those of Jose Tabata (2011) and Denard Span (2010). Both contracts are now too ancient to really matter, with contracts for players like Simmons and Freddie Freeman reshaping the extension landscape since then.

The problem with using Marte’s deal as a precedent, though, is that a Calhoun contract would have a slightly different purpose. Marte was a toolsy, high-upside 25-year-old at the time of his deal, so for the Pirates, his contract was about retaining him long term. Calhoun is older and may have already reached his upside. On the other hand, his offense-heavy profile is more likely than Marte’s was to get him paid in arbitration. Therefore, we might expect a Calhoun contract to be a bit shorter than Marte’s, and perhaps a bit less option-heavy. We might also expect Calhoun to make more than Marte in his seasons of arbitration eligibility.

The possibility of Calhoun becoming a Super Two player following the 2015 season is also a factor. Calhoun entered the 2014 season with 130 days of service. This year’s projected Super Two threshold is two years and 128 days of service time, which means Calhoun could end up on either side of the line. Quintana had one year and 133 days of service when he signed his extension before the season, and his contract with the White Sox contains a clause that pays him an extra $5.5MM if he becomes Super Two eligible. Perhaps a Calhoun extension could include a similar clause.

Of course, Super Two eligibility would not affect Calhoun’s free agency timeline. A five-year deal (beginning in 2015) with one team option might make sense for both Calhoun and the Angels — such a deal would buy out all of Calhoun’s pre-free-agency seasons while giving the Angels the rights to his first season of free agency eligibility. Calhoun would become eligible for free agency as a 33-year-old at the latest, potentially giving him another shot at a multi-year deal if he continued to hit.

Given that the Angels already control one or perhaps two of those five years at the league minimum, the total guaranteed figure for a Calhoun extension need not be huge. Marte will make $21MM over the course of his contract if one leaves aside the last guaranteed year (including his signing bonus and a $2MM buyout on his option in 2020). Calhoun might get a little more than that guaranteed over a five-year deal if he is not Super Two eligible (including a buyout on the Angels’ option for a sixth year), perhaps with a clause bumping his contract to $27MM-$30MM if it turns out he is.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:

  • Charlie Wilmoth is bullish on the prospects of Russell Martin in the latest Free Agent Stock Watch. Charlie sees a three-year deal worth $12-13MM per season or a four-year contract worth slightly less per annum as the market for the Pirates catcher.
  • Jeff Todd tabbed Indians right-hander Corey Kluber as an extension candidate presuming the club’s main motivation for negotiating an extension would be achieving cost control rather than extending team control.
  • Steve Adams asked MLBTR readers whether Rob Manfred was the right choice to become baseball’s 10th commissioner. Just over 46% of you agree with the owners’ selection to replace the retiring Bud Selig, but more than 29% of you didn’t like any of the three finalists.
  • Steve hosted this week’s live chat.
  • Zach Links assembled the best of the baseball blogosphere for you in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Free Agent Stock Watch: Russell Martin

Russell Martin‘s current two-year, $17MM deal, which remains the largest free-agent contract in Pirates history, received mixed reviews when it was signed. Now, though, it’s clear the deal was a coup for the Bucs, and Martin’s impending free agency raises fascinating questions about how to balance his unusual skill set and the lack of impact catchers on next offseason’s free agent market against the worrisome aging patterns of backstops in their thirties.

Martin was a key to the Pirates’ breakout 94-win season in 2013. He hit a modest .226/.327/.377, but he still contributed 4.1 fWAR thanks to his exceptional defense, and he may have added a bit of value even beyond that thanks to his well regarded pitch framing. This season, he might be even more helpful despite missing time with a hamstring strain — his .417 OBP so far this season is an amazing 107 points above league average, and his defense again grades very well, with 9 Defensive Runs Saved above average so far.

USATSI_7978360_154513410_lowresMartin’s excellent performance in 2014 couldn’t be better timed. Now that Kurt Suzuki has signed an extension with the Twins, there won’t really be any other starting catchers on the free agent market, unless one counts players like Geovany Soto or A.J. Pierzynski. Teams like the Dodgers, Rockies and possibly Blue Jays or Cubs would all make some degree of sense as potential suitors for Martin, and the Pirates would surely love to have him back at the right price, so the market for him should be robust.

Dollar figure and contract length are always important considerations for free agents, but in Martin’s case they’re even more crucial than usual. Neal Huntington has already implied that the cost-conscious Bucs aren’t likely to be serious bidders, even though it’s a steep drop from Martin to presumptive 2015 starting catcher Tony Sanchez. A team like the Rangers might be unwilling to block a terrific catching prospect in Jorge Alfaro by signing Martin to a lengthy contract, and therefore could simply settle on Robinson Chirinos until Alfaro is ready. The same goes for the Red Sox, who have Christian Vazquez at the big-league level and Blake Swihart on the way.

Then there’s the more general problem of how to value an aging catcher. Martin will be 32 in February, and aging patterns for catchers that age are brutal, to put it mildly. Recent history is full of good starting catchers who struggled to maintain their value into their thirties, like Kenji Johjima, Ramon Hernandez and former Pirate Jason Kendall. Others, like Charles Johnson and Michael Barrett, fell off the table at an even younger age than Martin is now. Brian McCann, who’s signed to a five-year contract and who’s even younger than Martin, might end up providing another cautionary tale. Martin is a unique player with good conditioning habits, and his defense should give him value even if his offense falters, but history isn’t on his side.

On top of that, Martin’s remarkable .290/.417/.391 2014 season likely wouldn’t be sustainable even if he were younger. After five straight years of a BABIP of .287 or lower, his BABIP is .354 this season. Martin’s excellent plate discipline is legitimate, but his batting average is more likely to be something like .240 or .250, rather than .290, going forward.

These warning signs will be perfectly clear to most teams, and it’s likely that whoever signs Martin will be hoping to get good value at the start of the contract, with that value declining sharply as the contract progresses. It’s tough to find precedents for a Martin deal, since few catchers sign long free-agent deals, but he should be able to receive at least three years, and perhaps four, at north of $10MM per season. Barring an injury down the stretch, he’ll surely be in line for more than the three years and $26MM Carlos Ruiz received from the Phillies last year, but far less than the five years and $85MM McCann got.

The Ruiz contract suggests Martin will get a hefty payday, although Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s recent deal points in the other direction. Saltalamacchia posted 3.6 WAR last season before hitting the market as a 28-year-old and only got $21MM over three years, even though the Red Sox didn’t extend him a qualifying offer. For Martin, a three-year deal in the range of $12MM-13MM per season might make sense, or possibly a four-year contract worth slightly less per season. Martin could also try for a higher average annual value by taking a two-year deal, although, given his age, he probably has incentive to prefer more seasons and more guaranteed money, since he’s not likely to get another big contract after this offseason.

One can see, then, why a return to the Pirates appears so unlikely — the Bucs were unwilling to extend a $14.1MM qualifying offer to A.J. Burnett last season, explaining that their budget made it difficult to build a competitive team while committing so heavily to one player. It’s difficult, then, to see them committing to pay a similar annual salary to a player for three or four years, particularly when getting little from that player at the end of the contract could be disastrous for them. The Burnett situation also raises questions about whether the Pirates will extend Martin a qualifying offer after the season, potentially affecting his market. They will probably have a stronger incentive to do so with Martin than they did with Burnett, given that there’s less of a chance Martin would accept.

Less thrifty teams would likely have fewer concerns than the Pirates would, and might also be more inclined to pursue Martin because of his perceived value even beyond his peripherals — he’s widely regarded as a thoughtful player and leader who’s helpful with pitchers. The most likely outcome (although it’s far from certain at this point) is that Martin winds up with a three-year deal from a bigger-payroll team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

  • Steve Adams issued a Free Agent Stockwatch on Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
  • Zach Links was the first to report outfielder Xavier Paul signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks.
  • Two days prior to Roberto Hernandez being shipped to the Dodgers, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers whether the Phillies will make an August waiver deal. Less than 4% of you correctly predicted the Hernandez swap while nearly 23% of you see GM Ruben Amaro Jr. parting with Marlon Byrd, who, it was reported Friday, was pulled back from revocable waivers after being claimed by an as-yet-unidentified team.
  • Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers whether new Padres GM A.J. Preller will swing a trade this month. More than 69% of you believe he will and it will most likely involve Joaquin Benoit and/or Ian Kennedy.
  • Zach gathered the best the baseball corner of the web had to offer in Baseball Blogs Weigh In

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Free Agent Stock Watch: Aramis Ramirez

This season, I’ve looked at the stock of a couple potential free agents that have a mutual option on their deal in the form of Nick Markakis (link) and Adam LaRoche (link). Another such player is Aramis Ramirez, and given the rarity with which mutual options are exercised — if the player is playing well, he almost certainly declines in search of a multi-year deal, and if not, the team declines due to poor production — Ramirez can be very reasonably expected to hit the open market heading into his age-37 season.

"<strong

The question then, is whether Ramirez hits the open market because he declines his half of the $14MM option, or whether the Brewers send him on his way and pay a $4MM buyout.

Ramirez is hitting a strong .301/.341/.461 with 13 homers this season — good for an .802 OPS, a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+. He’s been 22 to 23 percent better by park- and league-adjusted metrics like OPS+ and WRC+, and even you’re more partial to traditional statistics, he’s been well above average. The league-average OPS this season for non-pitchers is .716, and the league-average OPS for a third baseman is .714.

Additionally, a look at the market reveals some spotty competition. Two years ago, seeing Ramirez stacked up against Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez would’ve seemed much bleaker than it does now. Headley hasn’t hit much this season, and Sandoval has been a slightly weaker hitter than Ramirez (albeit at a younger age and with better defense). He’s outperformed Headley, and his asking price will assuredly be lower than Kung Fu Panda and Hanley, who both rank in the Top 5 of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings. Ramirez may not be a premier free agent, but he’s an upper-tier bat in a weak crop that will require fewer years than those in the top tier. Teams in need of help at the hot corner (and possibly DH) should show interest.

Of course, Ramirez isn’t a player without his faults. He missed 70 games in 2013, mostly due to a recurring issue in his left knee, and this season he’s already missed 22 games with a left hamstring injury. His defense doesn’t come with a great reputation, and while he’s posted a solid UZR in 2014, a half-season of UZR rarely tells the whole tale of a player’s glovework. Ramirez posted a negative UZR mark (and a negative DRS mark) in all but one season from 2008-13. Beyond that, his walk rate is down to a career-low 3.6 percent, and his solid OBP has been bolstered by an abnormally high HBP total (nine — which is quite a few based on his history).

At the time Ramirez hit the disabled list, he looked like a candidate for a one-year deal, and it was debatable whether or not Milwaukee would even exercise its half of the mutual option (he was hitting .252/.309/.390). Since returning in early June, however, he’s been excellent, hitting .329/.360/.502 with eight homers in 225 plate appearances. The ZiPS projection system forecasts a .285/.339/.469 line from here on out, while Steamer projects a similar .275/.333/.460 (both available on Ramirez’s Fangraphs page).

If he can hit at that pace or better, his option should be a non-factor. With a $4MM buyout on a $14MM option, Ramirez and the Brewers are essentially deciding on a one-year, $10MM deal. Milwaukee would likely jump at that price, but given his overall production, Ramirez will have no trouble topping that as long as he remains healthy. The interesting wrinkle will be whether or not Milwaukee extends a qualifying offer should Ramirez reject his half of the mutual option. At that point, the Brewers would essentially be offering one year at $19MM+ (assuming a $15MM+ qualifying offer value) — which they may be hesitant to do given their typically middle-of-the-road payroll.

Ramirez said last month that he had decided to play beyond this season and would try to reach the 2,500-game plateau (he’d need at least three more seasons to do so). Given his strong production and desire to play for several more seasons, it seems fair to expect the veteran slugger and his agents at Kinzer Management Group to pursue multiple years. There’s no precedent for a third baseman entering his age-37 season to get a significant three-year deal, but we did see aging slugger Carlos Beltran land a three-year pact last offseason as he headed into his age-37 campaign. (Marlon Byrd, another comparable in terms of age, netted a nice two-year deal with a vesting option, albeit at a lower rate than Ramirez would command.)

While Ramirez hasn’t necessarily been a heavily discussed free agent name to this point, a strong finish will position him nicely in a what looks to be a weak crop of free agent position players. His case will be a bit unique, but as long as he can continue at a strong pace, there’s little reason to doubt another multi-year deal for a player that is on pace to post an OPS+ north of 120 for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week, as another non-waiver Trade Deadline has come and gone:

  • Jeff Todd and Mark Polishuk recapped the cornucopia of deals completed on the final day of the deadline and summarized every trade made during the month of July by division (AL East, NL East, AL CentralNL CentralAL West, and NL West).
  • Jeff asked MLBTR readers which team made the best buy Thursday. Over 45% of you believe the Tigers’ acquisition of David Price was the shrewdest move.
  • How is a trade transacted after July 31st? Jeff provided this primer on the rules for August swaps.
  • Tim Dierkes was the first to report Andres Torres exercised the opt-out clause in his minor league deal with the Red Sox.
  • Steve Adams hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.
  • Zach Links put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

MLBTR Originals

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

  • Tim Dierkes updated MLBTR’s 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings and Max Scherzer has retaken the top spot with Jon Lester moving up to second and Hanley Ramirez, last month’s top ranked free agent, falling to third. Also, two players have cracked the top ten for the first time: Yasmani Tomas and Melky Cabrera.
  • Tim was the first to report teams with the ten worst records will have their first round draft choice protected, even if compensation picks are slotted within the first ten selections.
  • MLBTR completed its look at the 2014 trade market with Steve Adams’ review of rotation reinforcements and Jeff Todd’s break down of bullpen buys (right-handed, left-handed).
  • Tigers President/CEO/General Manager Dave Dombrowski told Zach Links he is still working all trade possibilities after acquiring Joakim Soria from the Rangers, even a left-handed reliever. “Our bullpen has struggled at times and we want to have people that put up zeroes out thereWe’ve tried a lot of guys at that and we remain open-minded if something makes sense to make us better before the trade deadline.
  • Steve hosted this week’s chat.
  • Zach compiled the latest edition of Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

Full Story | Comments | Categories: MLBTR Originals

Trade Market For Left-Handed Relievers

Last year’s left-handed relief market was fairly active. Among the players to change hands were Joe Thatcher, Marc Rzepczynski, Scott Downs, Matt Thornton, and Wesley Wright.

Thus far, we’ve already seen one prime target move, as Thatcher once again drew summer trade interest. There have also been several more minor deals involving lefties, including Chris Capuano, Jeff Francis, Nick Maronde, and Rich Hill.

Here’s who else could be available for pen work (and, in some cases, rotation depth) in the week to come:

Long-Term Control

Felix Doubront (Red Sox), Jake McGee (Rays), Mike Dunn (Marlins), Marc Rzepczynski (Indians), Darin Downs (Astros)

  • Doubront is an interesting player to watch given his long-term control and ability to throw in the pen or rotation. Of course, he has been unhappy with being moved out of a starting role in Boston, but clubs might like to slot him in the pen while also supplementing their starting depth (and possibly shifting him back to the rotation next year). He is just 26 and will be arb-eligible for the first time next year; that, combined with his buy-low status in a down year, could create a fairly diverse market (if Boston wants to move him).
  • Unlike the Sox, the Rays now seem like they could be leaning against selling, and that would seem to remove McGee from consideration. If things change, though, McGee would be quite a desirable piece, as he is coming off a Super Two season in which he earned just $1.45MM and has dominated with a 1.40 ERA, 1.30 FIP, and 11.6 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9. Having slotted into the closer’s role of late, his counting stats will begin to drive up his arb price, but he’ll still be well underpaid compared to his abilities. That, of course, could leave Tampa uninterested in moving him.
  • Dunn, likewise, will be building off of a $1.4MM salary in his first year of arbitration (though he was not a Super Two). He only sports a 4.10 ERA, but his 10.4 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 seems attractive. Of course, the Marlins have indicated in the past that they value him rather highly, and it is far from clear that a contender would be willing to make a strong enough offer to obtain him.
  • Rzepczynski, 28, has been solid, if unspectacular, and is earning a mangeable $1.38MM in his first season of arbitration. His inclusion on this list, though, is somewhat speculative, as Cleveland may hope to keep him for the stretch as well as next season.
  • Downs has struggled with Houston this season (5.04 ERA), but he’s held left-handed hitters to an impressive .213/.280/.313 batting line in his career and is controlled through 2018. That control might be appealing to the Astros, but GM Jeff Luhnow has shown a willingness to listen on the majority of his players in recent years.

Short-Term Control

Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow (Red Sox), Brian Duensing (Twins), Tony Sipp (Astros), Neal Cotts (Rangers), Dana Eveland (Mets), Antonio Bastardo (Phillies), James Russell and Wesley Wright (Cubs), Oliver Perez (D’backs)

This group includes some fairly high-quality rental options, but Miller appears to be the prize of the class at this point. He has been dominant (2.31 ERA, 1.73 FIP, 14.5 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9), and his pure rental status makes him seem fairly likely to be dealt. Boston looks likely to sell after a recent slide, and Miller should draw enough suitors to drive up a decent return.

Bastardo and Russell have been among the more consistent lefties in the game in recent years, and both come with one more year of team control through arbitration. Duensing, Cotts, Eveland, Sipp, Wright, and Perez have all had solid seasons and should be available for relatively little in return. Breslow has struggled, but has a fairly strong track record and could be a cheap add for a team that believes in him. (He also comes with a $4MM option for next year, though it is somewhat difficult to see a scenario where that gets picked up.)