MLBTR Originals Rumors

2016 MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

We’re a quarter of the way through the 2015 MLB season, and there’s been significant movement in free agent stocks.  It’s time for a new installment of the 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.

As a reminder, these rankings represent earning power in terms of total contract size, assuming everyone reaches the open market after this season and goes to the highest bidder.  Here’s MLBTR’s full list of 2015-16 free agents.

1.  Justin Upton.  San Diego agrees with Upton, who is on pace for 40 home runs this season.  He could surpass his career high of 31 right around his 28th birthday, which is in late August.  Oddly, the Padres left fielder has done all his damage so far at Petco Park.  Upton will be 3-4 years younger than Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols were when they reached free agency, and he has a chance to top their $240MM contracts.

2.  David Price.  Price’s ERA at last check-in was 0.40, so it had nowhere to go but up.  He’s now at a more mortal 3.40, 22nd among American League qualifiers.  It’s probably just an eight-start blip on the radar, but Price’s strikeout and groundball rates are down this year and he’s allowed more than a hit per inning.

3.  Johnny Cueto.  Is Cueto a better pitcher than Price right now?  I’m considering the possibility more seriously.  Cueto, who is six months younger than Price, leads all of baseball with 7.23 innings per start.  Last year, only Price bettered Cueto’s regular season total of 243 2/3 frames.  Cueto is more than a workhorse, though, as he has a 3.03 ERA on the season.  He stands a decent chance of being traded by the Reds this summer, making him ineligible for a qualifying offer.

4.  Jason Heyward.  Heyward is settling in with the Cardinals, batting .273/.343/.398 since we last checked in.  That’s in line with his last couple of seasons, but another 10-15 home run campaign isn’t going to get him a monster contract.  Just 26 in August, Heyward’s youth and defensive value should still result in a deal worth well over $100MM.

5.  Jordan Zimmermann.  Zimmermann has shined in the five starts since our last update, bringing his ERA down to 3.66.  His skills in this quarter season have faded considerably from last year, though, as his 15.2% strikeout rate would represent a career worst.  Again: it’s just eight starts.  But a good $50MM hangs in the balance for Zimmermann.

6.  Alex Gordon.  Gordon had December wrist surgery, but his power production seems fine this year.  He’s slugging .472 since we last checked in.  Gordon has been hit by a pitch an AL-best nine times, pushing his OBP up to .378.  Whatever age-based gap there might be between Gordon and Heyward, Gordon is closing it with a five-plus wins above replacement pace.

7.  Zack Greinke.  Greinke jumps up two spots this month, as he’s third in the game with a 1.52 ERA.  A third consecutive sub-3.00 ERA season should help his earning power, though he owes much of his success this year to an unsustainable .217 batting average on balls in play.  It’s a fantastic start to the season regardless.  Zimmermann has two and a half years of age on Greinke, but Greinke is the better pitcher right now.

8.  Ian Desmond.  There’s been nothing redeeming about Desmond’s contract year, which has been replacement level so far.  This was a guy in the running for the best shortstop in baseball from 2012-14, but in 2015 his numbers are way down.  He’s been hitting like Jean Segura, and he’s on pace for baseball’s first 40-error season since Jose Offerman in 1992.  Desmond will still do fine financially, as he faces little competition on the shortstop market.

9.  Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes’ biggest problem has been readily apparent in 2015, as his 3.1% walk rate is tenth-worst among qualified hitters.  That has contributed to a .290 OBP.  I think Cespedes’ power still makes him a top-75 hitter in MLB, but he hasn’t been in the last calendar year.

10.  Jeff Samardzija.  Little has gone right in Samardzija’s eight starts for the White Sox.  He’s whiffed only 17% of batters, and his groundball rate has taken a tumble.  His skills back up a 4.00+ ERA.  The 30-year-old righty is as good a bet as anyone on this list to be traded this summer.  If Samardzija continues to struggle, he could be out of the top ten next month.

Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler is pushing for a spot on this list, with a .269/.352/.428 line and improved defense.  He doesn’t turn 30 until March, but has to be penalized for an injury history that hasn’t allowed him to play in 120+ games since 2012.  Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and ageless hurlers Aaron Harang and A.J. Burnett are among the other free agents off to strong starts.

Hector Olivera Discusses Signing With Dodgers

Hector Olivera is Los Angeles’ newest star, but he easily could have wound up elsewhere given the widespread interest clubs had in him.  On a conference call Tuesday evening, I asked the infielder how many teams he had serious conversations with and whether he was close to signing with any of them.

There were five teams that had interest in me [including] San Francisco, Atlanta, and Miami,” Olivera said through a translator.  “But, in the end, I decided to sign with the Dodgers because I know that this is a great organization.”

Hours ago, team president Andrew Friedman told reporters that he is open to different positions for Olivera, who is said to have the ability to play second base, third base, and the corner outfield.  It appears that Olivera and Friedman are in agreement.

My whole career I played second base, but I don’t think I’m in the position to decide where I should play or to say what my preference is,” said the Cuban star when asked what position he is most comfortable playing. “Wherever they put me, I’m going to give my best…Wherever they put me, they’ll see results.”

Friedman was unwilling to put a timetable on Olivera’s Major League debut, but the player doesn’t think it’ll take all that long.  The second baseman told reporters that he’ll probably need “three or four weeks” to get ready before making the leap to L.A.  As he prepares to make the biggest transition of his professional career, he’ll do so unencumbered by any elbow trouble.  For weeks, it has been reported that Olivera was dealing with an issue in his arm, rumored to be a a slight UCL tear in his right elbow.

I don’t know where that rumor came from.  I know that there was a little bit of inflammation in my forearm…It was just fatigue in the muscle, but it wasn’t a serious problem and I don’t know where that rumor started.”

Dodgers President Friedman On Olivera Signing

After months of anticipation, the Dodgers have finalized their agreement with Cuban infielder Hector Olivera.  The two sides first shook hands on a six-year, $62.5MM deal back in March but a few roadblocks – including visa issues – dragged the process out a bit.  Today, the i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed, and Olivera is at long last an official member of the Dodgers.

There are still lingering questions, however, not the least of which is where Olivera will fit into the Dodgers’ big league picture with plenty of talent already at second base, third base, and the corner outfield positions.  Minutes ago on a conference call, I asked Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman if Olivera’s arrival could open things up for a potential trade down the line.

I think having as many good players as possible helps you not only in constructing your own roster, but it allows you the opportunity to talk with more teams.  If we’re ever complaining about having too much depth then that’s a good problem to have, but we’re certainly not there yet.  Adding someone that has a chance to impact the game is obviously always a good thing,” Friedman said.

Friedman clearly wasn’t looking to discuss specific trade possibilities, but one has to imagine that the Dodgers could parlay their offensive depth into pitching, particularly in the wake of rumblings that pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu could require season-ending shoulder surgery.  There’s no word yet on whether Ryu will have to go under the knife, but Friedman says that he has been bracing for the worst and planning as though he will not have Ryu the rest of the way.  The Dodgers expect to know more about the left-hander’s condition on Wednesday, and that information will shape their approach this summer.

The immediate plan for Olivera will be to work him up through the minor league system.  The infielder’s first stop will be in Arizona (for “a few days”), followed by a bump up to Oklahoma City.  Given Olivera’s age and the size of his deal, there has been a lot of talk about him making an immediate impact at the major league level.  Still, Friedman wasn’t willing to put a timetable on when the Cuban standout might join the varsity squad.

When Olivera is ready for primetime, Friedman says that the organization is open to different positions for him.  While Olivera worked out at the Dodgers academy, Friedman received reports indicating that he was taking well to both second and third base.  Olivera is also said to have the range to play in the outfield, so that could theoretically be an option for L.A.

Of course, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd outlined a bit earlier this afternoon, that versatility doesn’t exactly make his path to the Majors any clearer.  The Dodgers have Juan Uribe, Alex Guerrero, Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner all, like Olivera, capable of playing multiple infield positions.  And, starting second baseman Howie Kendrick doesn’t figure to be displaced anytime soon (he’s even been mentioned as an extension candidate).  In the outfield, Andre Ethier has looked rejuvenated this season, with Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, Carl Crawford, Guerrero and Hernandez all serving as options as well (though Puig and Crawford are currently injured).  Versatile as he may be, Olivera joins a crowded mix of players in an intriguing logjam that figures to be addressed at some point down the line.

In addition to Olivera, the Dodgers also completed the signing of Cuban righty Pablo Millan Fernandez to a minor league contract.  Fernandez, who, according to Friedman, has an Orlando Hernandez-type windup that many Cuban pitchers are fond of, will be stretched out to be a starter.

MLBTR Originals

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

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Free Agent Stock Watch: Center Fielders

With more than a fifth of the season in the books, we’ve had an early look (a peek, really) into where things may be headed on next winter’s free agent market. One of the most interesting positions to watch, in my estimation, is center field, where there are several players who had a lot to prove coming into the season.

There figure to be several clubs looking at adding new, mid-term or long-term options. The Indians, Mariners, Rangers, Athletics, Rangers, Cubs, and Padres all look like fairly good bets to at least dabble in the market at center. Depending upon how things shake out, it is not impossible to imagine that clubs like the Blue Jays, Tigers, Astros, Cardinals, and Giants could be as well.

Looking at MLBTR’s 2016 free agent list, which documents the players currently on track to qualify for the open market, a small group stands out as possible starting-caliber options. The trio is particularly interesting because they were so tightly bunched coming into the season — all looking to be solidly average to above-average performers, depending on one’s particular viewpoint. (Note: I’m not considering Colby Rasmus here because he has spent most of his time in the corner outfield this year. But he could also figure into the mix.)

Let’s see where things stand:

Value up: Denard Span, Nationals.

After missing the spring and early part of the season following core muscle surgery, Span needed more than ever to show that he could repeat last year’s excellent campaign. Things are certainly pointing up in the early going, as he owns a .316/.375/.532 slash over 88 turns at bat.


While it’s obviously unlikely that he’ll maintain that kind of power output — his current .215 ISO is more than double than his career 108 mark — Span is driving the ball consistently, as he did in 2014, while posting an impeccable strikeout-to-walk ratio. His .310 BABIP actually trails his career levels slightly, so it seems that quality contact is driving the early productivity.

Overall regression is almost certainly in store, but the early returns serve to confirm that Span is a quality top-of-the-order bat and, perhaps more importantly, that he is healthy. Span will need to keep things up in both regards after entering the year with injury questions and as the elder member (31 years of age) of the group considered in this post. Of course, he could stand to see a boost in his somewhat lagging early defensive ratings (which seem to belie the perceptions of some around the game) and his stolen base tallies, but the arrow is pointing up overall and he’s done the most to increase his stock.

Value neutral: Dexter Fowler, Cubs.

While his walks are down somewhat early, Fowlers continues to deliver solid results at the plate with a fairly typical .262/.345/.397 batting line. He has shown more at times, but that lands firmly within expectations. More promisingly, the 29-year-old has swiped eight bags already and is on pace for career highs in that arena, though he has been caught three times as well.

The major talent assessment question with Fowler is his defense in center. He has spent much of his time in tough-to-patrol outfields — Coors Field and Minute Maid Park — and rated terribly at the position last year (tallying negative 20 Defensive Runs Saved and negative 21.8 UZR on the year). That has turned around somewhat in a still-small sample this year in Chicago, with Fowler posting positive UZR marks (10.7 UZR/15) while receiving a less-glowing -3 DRS rating.

All said, the early speed and defense returns rate as good signs for Fowler, and the results at the plate have done nothing to detract from his appeal. You could argue, then, that his value is slightly on the rise. If nothing else, Fowler seems a reasonable target at center, after entering the year with the possibility that he’d be viewed more as a corner option. Some clubs may still end up seeing him that way, of course, especially as it is really too soon to draw much from defensive numbers. All said, Fowler’s value is largely holding steady at the present time.

Value down: Austin Jackson, Mariners.

Jackson looked like a nice get for the Mariners at last year’s trade deadline, but has been a significant disappointment thus far in Seattle. He just turned 28 a few months back, but 2015 has continued a troubling downturn in his overall productivity.

Over 339 plate appearances with the M’s, Jackson has put up a meager .233/.275/.280 line with two home runs. He has added a healthy 16 stolen bases over that stretch, but that’s hardly enough to offset concerns. To be sure, Jackson’s .284 BABIP is due for some positive regression — his career mark sits at .351 and he’s never ended a professional season below last year’s .325 — and his strikeout/walk numbers are in line with career norms. But he is making more weak contact than ever before while hitting more groundballs (50%) this year than is his custom.

Jackson still rates as a solid average center fielder and seems to have the legs to maintain that going forward. His current DL stint with a sprained ankle is probably not cause for any long-term concern, and may even afford him a chance to work on his difficulties if he takes a short rehab stint. But the sub-.100 ISO he has carried over this season and last has significantly reduced his appeal. There’s plenty of time for a turnaround, but Jackson is trending down at present.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Where The Marlins Could Look For Ninth Inning Help

Steve Cishek‘s struggles this season have not only cost him the ninth inning, they’ve caused the Marlins to recently explore the idea of signing veteran stopper Rafael Soriano, who did not sign as a free agent this offseason. The Marlins’ interest in the Scott Boras client appears to have been fleeting, as no sooner than a day after they were rumored to be “very much engaged” in talks with Boras, the team is now said to be out of the Soriano market.

Their interest in Soriano, however, underscores the fact that the Marlins may not be content to utilize in-house options in the ninth-inning. A.J. Ramos figures to see the bulk of the closing opportunities for now, with Mike Dunn and perhaps Bryan Morris getting occasional looks as well. However, none of the three comes with significant closing experience in the Majors — Ramos does have 83 minor league saves — and the Marlins entered 2015 gunning for a postseason berth after spending big to extend Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich in addition to bringing in Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Michael Morse and Ichiro Suzuki this offseason.

With that in mind, it’s worth speculating on a few potential external options that could help Miami patch what could be a ninth-inning hole moving forward. Because speculating on available relievers/relief prospects could be an endless endeavor, I’ll limit the possibilities in this post to those with previous closing experience, though it certainly can’t be ruled out that the Marlins would use Ramos going forward and instead fortify the bridge to the ninth inning with a newly acquired power arm. All that said, a few speculative options…

Francisco Rodriguez/Jonathan Broxton, Brewers: Prior to K-Rod’s two-year deal with the Brewers, the Marlins were the last reported team in the mix for K-Rod, offering him as much as $10MM over a two-year term. Rodriguez landed $13MM to return to a familiar setting in Milwaukee, but things have soured at an unbelievably quick rate at Miller Park. The Brewers have baseball’s second-worst winning percentage, they’ve already dismissed manager Ron Roenicke, and the expectation seems to be that they’ll eventually sell off veteran pieces in an attempt to restock the team with young talent. K-Rod could certainly help them achieve that goal, and we know that the Marlins were interested in him on a two-year deal as recently as three months ago. As for Broxton, he’s earning $9MM and has struggled this season, but he’s notched an elite K/BB ratio and struggled primarily with homers. His 23.1 percent homer-to-flyball ratio figures to regress anyhow, but a move to Marlins Park could accelerate that process.

Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: Papelbon’s abrasive personality, diminished velocity and fairly significant contract are no secret. However, none of those three seemingly negative factors have stopped the right-hander from delivering some of the best results of any closer over the past two seasons. Papelbon is owed $13MM in 2015 (of which about $10.3MM remains), and he has a vesting option at the same rate for the 2016 season that would almost certainly kick in if the Marlins installed him in the ninth inning. As such, the Phillies would likely need to eat some of the money owed to Papelbon, but GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recently expressed a willingness to do so in order to move Cole Hamels, so one would think that the same holds true of Papelbon.

Aroldis Chapman, Reds: The Reds are hanging around in the NL Central for the time being, but they’re without Homer Bailey for the entire season and may soon lose Devin Mesoraco for the majority of 2015 as well. That will make it tough for Cincinnati to remain in the thick of things in what should be a highly competitive NL Central that features three clubs with winning records as it is (the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs). Chapman would be a difficult piece to pry from GM Walt Jocketty and his staff, but he’s earning $8.05MM this season and may see that price soar beyond the $11MM mark in his final trip through arbitration this winter. If the Reds end up rebuilding, Chapman’s electric arm does little good on a rebuilding club.

Joaquin Benoit, Padres: It’d be a bit unconventional for the Padres to trade a dominant setup man while the team is striving for an NL West division title or, at the very least, a Wild Card berth. Nothing about A.J. Preller’s tenure as Padres GM has been considered all that conventional, however, and San Diego is rife with power arms — so much so that they had to begin the season with Kevin Quackenbush in the minor leagues. Benoit has plenty of closing experience and isn’t a long-term piece in San Diego, as he is a free agent at season’s end. Benoit is earning $8MM this season and has a club option for the same rate that comes with a $1.5MM buyout.

Addison Reed, D-Backs: Perhaps replacing one struggling closer with another wouldn’t really do the team any good, but the Marlins could look to buy low on Reed, who blew his second save Wednesday night and has an ERA of 7.20 in this season’s small sample of 10 innings. Homers were Reed’s undoing in 2014, but the 26-year-old has maintained good strikeout and walk rates since transitioning to the National League, and Miami’s spacious park could alleviate some of his issues with the long ball. Earning $4.875MM in 2015, Reed is controlled through the 2017 season.

Jason Grilli/Jim Johnson, Braves: Each member of Atlanta’s primary eighth/ninth-inning duo comes with significant experience as a closer, with Grilli currently occupying the role for manager Fredi Gonzalez despite Johnson’s superior numbers. Johnson’s numbers plummeted after his control evaporated in 2014, but he’s pitching well this season, with improved command and strikeout numbers in addition to his typically elite ground-ball tendencies. He’s on a cheap one-year deal and would be affordable for any club, though Grilli is hardly expensive in his own right. Grilli is on a two-year, $8MM contract with the Braves, and though his ERA is an unsightly 5.23, he’s posted a brilliant 17-to-4 K/BB ratio in 10 1/3 innings. Assuming his .391 BABIP regresses, Grilli should be just fine moving forward.

Neftali Feliz, Rangers: The former top prospect and Rookie of the Year is controlled relatively cheaply through the 2016 season — he’s earning $4.1MM in 2015 — and has pitched well in the early stages of the season. Gone is the fastball that averaged 96-97 mph prior to Tommy John surgery, but Feliz’s 93.7 mph average has been enough to get the job done. His strikeout rate is up from 2014, and his fly-ball tendencies figure to play better in Marlins Park than in Arlington’s Globe Life Park. The Rangers have once again been ravaged by injuries, and if they become sellers this summer, Feliz figures to generate interest.

Tyler Clippard, Athletics: As recently noted on Fangraphs, the A’s have been one of baseball’s unluckiest teams, due largely to bullpen deficiencies. Clippard currently sports an aesthetically pleasing ERA, but his strikeout and walk rates have gone in the wrong direction and suggest trouble could be on the horizon. If he turns it around, however, he could hold some appeal for a team in need of a ninth-inning arm. It may seem counterintuitive for Oakland to deal arguably its most talented reliever, but GM Billy Beane showed a willingness to deal from his Major League assets at the trade deadline in 2014. It’s also far from a guarantee that the A’s can climb out of the early hole they’ve dug; they currently trail the Astros by eight-and-a-half games, and given the number of expiring assets on their roster (Clippard, Scott Kazmir, Ben Zobrist), they may elect to retool this summer if the ship cannot be righted. His $8.3MM salary might be steep for Miami, but Oakland could kick in some money to facilitate the deal.

The Marlins’ farm system ranked 24th in the eyes of ESPN’s Keith Law and 26th in Baseball America’s late-March rankings, so there’s not a ton of elite talent to work with in trades. However, many of the listed options here are either buy-low candidates or some with reasonably high contracts that might limit the potential return for the selling club.

It should also be noted, of course, that Cishek may perform well in lower-leverage settings and eventually reclaim the role. The Marlins, one would think, certainly hope for that to be the case. But Cishek’s velocity is down two miles per hour from the 2014 season and nearly three miles per hour from its peak. He’s also walked eight hitters in 11 1/3 innings this season after previously exhibiting good control in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Perhaps most troubling of all, his once powerful sinker has plummeted from generating 56-60 percent grounders to just 25 percent in 2015. It should be stressed that we’re looking at a sample 11 innings when examining Cishek’s struggles, but there are unquestionably red flags that may override the oft-used “small sample size” caveat at this point.

Trade Candidates: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers showed signs of life this week, going 4-3 after firing manager Ron Roenicke and replacing him with Craig Counsell. At 11-21, though, they’re already 11 1/2 games back in the NL Central, and unless they can sustain and perhaps even accelerate their turnaround, whispers of a full-scale rebuilding could become a reality. Of course, trading season won’t begin in earnest for another month or so, and it might benefit the Brewers to wait awhile anyway, given how poorly some of their key trading chips have played to this point. But if they do start trading, here’s who they might make available.

  • Carlos Gomez hasn’t played well so far this season and recently missed a few games with a strained hip, but he’s an extremely valuable trade candidate who ought to return at least one top-100 prospect type and possibly two if he can return and play well over the next couple months. He’s still in his prime, he’s signed to a bargain contract that pays him $8MM this year and $9MM in 2016. He’s so cheap, in fact, that his contract shouldn’t be a significant obstacle for any trading partner, even a team with a low payroll. He’s an excellent hitter, and his terrific defense and good speed insulate him against the possibility of rapid decline. The Brewers should be motivated to deal him if they can’t turn their season around — as Tim Dierkes pointed out last week in an article on the MLBTR Newsletter, it will be easier for them to get good value for Gomez if they deal him now, when he has a year and a half remaining on his contract, rather than waiting for his contract year. A return to the Twins doesn’t seem likely for Gomez, but it might make sense if Minnesota can continue to contend. The Giants or Blue Jays could also be possibilities, although it’s unclear whether San Francisco would have the prospects necessary to make a deal.
  • The Brewers are not likely to trade Jean Segura or Jonathan Lucroy, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported last week. That they wouldn’t have interest in dealing Segura makes sense, since he’s young and cost-controlled. Lucroy, who is signed through 2016 with a cheap club option for 2017, is another matter, and he and Gomez would represent the Brewers’ best chances of landing the sort of premium young talent they could build around. Given Lucroy’s age (29 in June) and position, the Brewers might not have a better chance to get good value for him than they will this summer, assuming his broken toe has healed by then. Nonetheless, the Brewers feel that the scarcity of good talent up the middle makes it tough for them to trade Lucroy.
  • First baseman Adam Lind has been easily the Brewers’ best hitter so far, and he’s signed for a reasonable $7.5MM, with an $8MM option or $500K buyout last year. Teams might be reluctant to part with top talent for him, given his defensive limitations and the fact that the Brewers acquired him relatively cheaply this offseason, giving up only swingman Marco Estrada. Looking ahead, Lind could make sense for a team like the Mariners, Marlins or Astros, all of whom have struggled at first base this year.
  • The trade candidacy of Aramis Ramirez (who’s missed time lately due to back issues) is complicated somewhat by his lackluster start and by his limited no-trade clause. Also, the Brewers would likely have to take on part of Ramirez’s remaining salary, including not only his $14MM this year but the $6MM they still owe him in deferred money. If they were to trade Ramirez, the Giants, who have struggled with Casey McGehee at third, would be an obvious fit.
  • Gerardo Parra has hit well in recent weeks and is still just two years removed from a 4.5 fWAR season with the Diamondbacks. He isn’t really a plus hitter (he doesn’t walk enough, and his .280/.300/.480 start in 2015 is partially BABIP-driven), and most teams would likely still view him as a reserve. But he’s a good one, particularly given his strong defense. He’ll be a free agent after the season.
  • Ryan Braun‘s contract will likely be difficult to move unless the Brewers want to package him with an asset like Lucroy or Gomez (although Braun would be much more intriguing as an upside play than the typical player who has an albatross contract). He has over $100MM remaining on his current extension (which technically hasn’t even kicked in yet, although the Brewers have paid his signing bonus). That’s a lot for a 31-year-old who hasn’t produced a 2 WAR season since 2012. Braun needs to hit very well to have much value, since he isn’t a good defender. That won’t be lost on most teams who would otherwise consider dealing for him.
  • It’s possible the Brewers could consider trading Khris Davis or Scooter Gennett, but it’s hard to see the urgency, given that they’re cost-controlled and relatively young starting position players. The Angels would be one possibility if the Brewers were to deal Gennett.
  • It will be difficult for the Brewers to find attractive trades involving their starting pitchers (unless they want to deal Jimmy Nelson, which isn’t likely, since Nelson could easily be part of the next contending Brewers team). Kyle Lohse will be a free agent after the season, but he’s in the midst of a miserable year and wouldn’t be a very inspiring addition for a contender, even though his peripherals suggest he’s been better this season than his ERA indicates. Perhaps the injury-wracked Dodgers could be a fit, as Heyman recently suggested. (Heyman also mentioned the Cardinals and Astros.) Matt Garza isn’t cheap and has just a 1.5 K/BB ratio this year.
  • Mike Fiers and Wily Peralta are somewhat more interesting as under-the-radar types. It’s unclear whether the Brewers would want to deal them, however, since they have plenty of years of control remaining. Which is a shame, since Fiers, in particular, would be a fascinating trade candidate if Milwaukee were to put him on the market. He’ll be 30 in June, but he’s controllable through 2019; he’s striking out a ridiculous 12.7 batters per nine innings this year, but he has a 5.46 ERA, due in part to a HR/FB rate of 18.8%. It would be interesting to see how other teams valued him.
  • The Brewers do have some interesting trade candidates in their bullpen. The problem, of course, is that it’s very hard to get potential building blocks when trading relievers. An excellent season from Francisco Rodriguez is mostly being wasted on a team that’s giving him few save opportunities. The Blue Jays or Marlins could be interesting trade fits, although the list of potential suitors for Rodriguez could change dramatically over the next couple months. Lefty Will Smith is in the midst of a third consecutive good season; he’s controllable through 2019, so there’s no pressing reason for the Brewers to deal him, although they might do fairly well if they did. Neal Cotts is a competent lefty signed to a one-year deal, but he wouldn’t fetch much. Jonathan Broxton‘s contract continues to outstrip his production, although his solid peripherals this season mark him as an interesting flyer for a team potentially willing to take on a few million dollars in salary.

MLBTR Originals

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

  • Host Jeff Todd welcomed agent Jim Munsey on the latest installment of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast. Topics included Munsey clients Jarrod Saltalamacchia (recently signed to a minor league contract by the Diamondbacks after being released by the Marlins), injured relievers Sean Burnett and Neil Wagner, and the challenges and rewards of running a smaller agency. A new episode of MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • Charlie Wilmoth revisits the flaws in the DFA/waiver system and proposes granting free agency to any player designated for assignment within 60 days of being claimed (like the now-released Alex Hassan).
  • Tim Dierkes was the first to learn right-hander Joe Blanton has rejected numerous offers to play in Asia to remain in the Royals organization and continue his bid to return to the Majors.
  • Steve Adams was the first to report Cuban second baseman/outfielder Yosvani Garcia has been declared a free agent by MLB.
  • MLBTR broke the news first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp opted out of his minor league deal with the Dodgers.
  • Steve asked MLBTR readers whether the Astros should be involved in the Cole Hamels trade market. Nearly 43% of you believe they should make a play for the prized left-hander.
  • Steve learned left-hander Joseph Ortiz cleared waivers and was outrighted by the Cubs to Triple-A.
  • Zach Links put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.
  • Steve hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.

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Another Look At Flaws In The Waiver System

Yesterday, the Athletics claimed outfielder Alex Hassan from the Rangers, marking the fifth time in the past seven months that Hassan has been claimed. Since November, Hassan has been property of the Red Sox, then the Athletics, then the Orioles, then the Athletics again, then the Rangers, and then the Athletics for a third time.

To outside observers, Hassan’s lengthy recent transaction history is merely a curiosity, but as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal wrote in a lengthy piece that we highlighted earlier today, frequent claims and DFAs can be a significant problem for players, both personally and professionally. MacPherson writes that the MLBPA is likely to address the issue in negotiations for the next CBA, and it’s easy to see why the union is concerned. In recent years, players like Hassan, Adam Rosales, Gonzalez Germen and Alex Castellanos have been designated for assignment several times in short periods. While the waiver loop in which Hassan found himself is a minor problem in the grand scheme, it clearly was not a minor problem to him, and it served little purpose for all the teams that claimed and then designated him.

Some employment uncertainty is a necessary and understandable aspect of playing pro baseball, but players on the fringes of 40-man rosters have a particularly difficult time. Unlike players who are frequently moved back and forth between Triple-A and the Majors, players who are frequently designated and claimed often must move from one set of unfamiliar environs to another.

Also, while they’re in DFA limbo, they can’t play. That might not be a big deal for a player who is designated once, but it’s a problem for a player who is repeatedly designated in a short span of time. For example, as I noted in a post on this topic in early 2013, a series of DFAs prevented outfielder Casper Wells from playing in a game in 2013 until late April (April 23, to be exact), even though he was healthy. (Wells got designated for assignment again a week after I wrote that post.) The worst aspect of Wells’ situation was that he was in DFA limbo for a full ten days between when the Mariners designated him March 31 and the Blue Jays claimed him April 10, and another eight between April 14, when the Jays designated him, and April 22, when they finally traded him to the A’s.

One easy fix the MLBPA could consider suggesting, then, is to shorten the maximum DFA limbo period, as an MLBTR reader proposed in the comments to my 2013 piece. The current ten-day wait seems unnecessary and anachronistic. Even waiver periods in fantasy leagues usually only last a day or two. And teams shouldn’t need much time to collect information about a player they’re considering claiming once he’s in DFA limbo, because he’s no longer playing and thus cannot be scouted, except through video.

Unlike Wells, Hassan never had to spend anywhere near the full ten days in limbo. But he still felt behind in his routines, particularly since he bounced around so much since the start of Spring Training. “You’re just behind,” he tells MacPherson. “I’m like, ‘Man, honestly, it’s not my mechanics. It’s not anything like that. I just feel behind.’ The frustrating thing about that is that there’s no real fix for that other than going out and playing and getting the at-bats. … I can’t simulate that.”

This is especially unfortunate for Hassan, since the reason he and players like Wells keep getting designated and claimed is because they’re on the fringes. A series of odd breaks from their routines over the course of a month or two might not sound like an insurmountable obstacle, but for a fringe player, it might make or break his career. Equally problematic, as Hassan points out elsewhere in MacPherson’s article, is the fact that a player in his position must perform well immediately after being claimed, or risk being designated for assignment again.

At its best, the waiver system allows fringe players to find situations for which they’re best suited. A good recent example is that of Stolmy Pimentel, an out-of-options reliever who couldn’t break camp with the Pirates but got claimed by the Rangers, who had greater flexibility in their bullpen than Pittsburgh did. Pimentel has mostly performed well in Texas so far.

At its worst, though, the system is disruptive, and one potential problem is that a team can claim players it has no intention of using on its big-league roster and essentially take a free shot at trying to sneak them through waivers again and use them as minor-league depth. That might have been what the Blue Jays were trying to do with Wells and several other players during that period, and we might be seeing it again with, say, the Dodgers’ recent claims and immediate outrights longtime Reds farmhands Daniel Corcino and Ryan Dennick. The possibility of outrighting Hassan was surely at least part of the reason Hassan got claimed so many times. If it was, the teams who claimed him were behaving rationally, given the rules currently in place. They claimed him and tried to sneak him through waivers; as long as they didn’t mind him occupying a roster spot for a few days or weeks, they didn’t lose anything as a result of having claimed him, and were no worse for wear when their attempts to sneak him through waivers didn’t work.

In my 2013 post, I suggested that a team claiming a player should have keep him on its 40-man roster for 30 days before designating him again. That would have been an improvement over the current system, but upon reflection, it might not have given teams an appropriate amount of flexibility, since injuries can crop up at any time and force teams to change their plans.

An alternate possibility, then, might be to make every player designated for assignment eligible for free agency if he has previously been claimed in a specified time frame — say, the last 60 days. Such a player could also again receive the right to opt for free agency if he’s outrighted as a result of that DFA, even if he’s being outrighted for the first time. That would free the player to sign wherever he liked, as quickly as he liked, and allow him to find the situation and contract that fit him best. It would also disincentivize the practice of claiming a player purely to try to sneak him into the minors.

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MLBTR Originals

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

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