MLBTR Originals Rumors
The Yankees heavily invested in the free agent market, yet the team still has some notable holes as it tries to celebrate Derek Jeter's final season by returning to the playoffs.
Major League Signings
- Masahiro Tanaka, RHP: Seven years, $155MM (Plus $20MM release fee).
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF: Seven years, $153MM. $21MM vesting option for 2021.
- Brian McCann, C: Five years, $85MM. $15MM vesting option for 2019.
- Carlos Beltran, OF: Three years, $45MM.
- Matt Thornton, LHP: Two years, $7MM.
- Brendan Ryan, SS: Two years, $5MM. $2MM mutual option for 2016.
- Hiroki Kuroda, RHP: One year, $16MM.
- Derek Jeter, SS: One year, $12MM.
- Kelly Johnson, IF/OF: One year, $3MM.
- Brian Roberts, 2B: One year, $2MM.
- Total spend: $503MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Andrew Bailey ($1.975MM if he makes the roster, team option for 2015), Scott Sizemore, Robert Coello, Zelous Wheeler
Trades and Claims
- Acquired RHP Kyle Haynes from the Pirates in exchange for C Chris Stewart
- Acquired cash considerations from the Giants in exchange for LHP David Huff
- Brett Gardner, OF: Four years, $52MM. $12.5MM club option for 2019 with a $2MM buyout.
- Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez (162-game suspension), Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Lyle Overbay, David Huff, Chris Stewart, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Jayson Nix
After missing the postseason for just the second time in 19 years, it wasn't a surprise that the Bronx Bombers went on an old-fashioned Yankees spending spree. Between signing new free agents, re-signing a few of their own free agents and extending Brett Gardner's contract, the Yankees spent over $555MM on player salaries this offseason. To put it in perspective, when Forbes Magazine released its annual team valuations a year ago, seven entire franchises weren't valued as worth $555MM. When the Yankees decide to spend, they don't take half measures.
The Yankees ended up with five --- Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran --- of the top 12 players on Tim Dierkes' list of the offseason's 50 best free agents and were known to be in contact with several other major names, from Shin-Soo Choo to Jhonny Peralta to several free agent pitchers and, of course, Robinson Cano. GM Brian Cashman worked quickly to identify the players he wanted, as the Yankees reached agreements with all of those players (save Tanaka) by the end of the Winter Meetings.
It's hard to argue with the results. McCann's presence instantly turns one of the league's worst catching situations into one of its best; Beltran's still-powerful bat is a fine replacement for the departed Curtis Granderson; Kuroda's return helped solidify the rotation; Ellsbury adds speed and defense to the Yankee outfield, plus his addition allows the club to shift Alfonso Soriano to a more regular DH role (with Beltran and Jeter also seeing some time at designated hitter) and Ichiro Suzuki's declining bat is now relegated to the bench.
The one signing that took a bit more time was Tanaka, as first the new posting rules between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball had to be established. Then, the Yankees had to outbid the Cubs, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Dodgers and Astros in order to land the 25-year-old right-hander with a seven-year, $155MM contract that ranks as the 18th-largest deal in baseball history. That contract (plus the $20MM posting fee the Yankees paid to the Rakuten Golden Eagles) represents a huge investment in a pitcher who has yet to appear in a Major League game, yet given Tanaka's impressive scouting reports and his status as the best starter on the market, he was seen as a must-have for a Yankee club that needed rotation help.
The one signing that New York didn't make, however, was the one that many thought was a foregone conclusion when the offseason began. The Yankees simply weren't prepared to offer Cano more than seven years (at $175MM), and thus Cano made his stunning move to the Mariners that left the Yankees with a big hole at second base. While the team is still looking for infield help, right now it looks like newly-signed veteran Brian Roberts will man the position with the re-signed Brendan Ryan and roster holdover Eduardo Nunez also in the mix.
Another notable non-move was choosing to forgo signing an experienced closer to replace Mariano Rivera, as David Robertson will get a clear shot at the ninth-inning job. Veteran setup man Matt Thornton was signed to add some left-handed experience to the young relief corps and Andrew Bailey was signed to a low-risk minor league deal to see if he can stay healthy and revive his career.
Maybe the biggest "need" for the Bombers this offseason was getting some of Alex Rodriguez's contract off their books, and the Yankees got their wish when A-Rod's 211-game suspension was only partially reduced to 162 games after his lengthy appeal. The suspension saved the Yankees around $22.13MM in payroll for 2014, though A-Rod's absence leaves the Yankees thin at the hot corner. Newcomer Kelly Johnson will get the lion's share of games at third, though since Johnson has only played 16 games as a third baseman (all last season in Tampa Bay) during his eight-year career. Minor league signing Scott Sizemore could be an under-the-radar boon at either third or second if he's able to stay healthy, as he's missed virtually all of the last two seasons recovering from two separate left ACL tears.
The Yankees settled a bit of long-term business by signing Gardner to a four-year, $52MM extension. Gardner would've been eligible for free agency following 2014 and he was the subject of a few trade rumors in the wake of the Ellsbury and Beltran signings, but now it seems he'll be wearing the pinstripes though at least the 2018 season. Such extensions are pretty rare for the Yankees, as the team usually doesn't explore new deals with players, managers or even front office staff until their current contracts are up. The Gardner deal could be a sign that even the Yankees are taking note of the rising costs of free agent contracts, and since Gardner was a player they liked and wanted to keep anyway, it made sense to extend him now and possibly get a bit of a discount if he has a big 2014 campaign.
Two major pieces of the Yankees' puzzle were put in place before the offseason even began. Manager Joe Girardi was re-signed to a four-year, $16MM extension that will keep him in the Bombers' dugout through the 2017 season, a move that broke the hearts of Cubs fans and rewarded a manager who arguably did his best work in 2013 by squeezing 85 wins out of an injury-riddled roster. Jeter was sure to pick up his player option for 2014 anyway but in early November, that $9.5MM option was shelved in favor of a one-year, $12MM contract that Hal Steinbrenner negotiated himself.
Jeter's new deal carried some extra luxury tax complications, which might've been an early sign that the Yankees were going to abandon their plan to stay under the $189MM payroll threshold. The Yankees had been positioning themselves to get under the $189MM mark for the last two years in order reset their mounting luxury tax payments but, as Steinbrenner and Cashman always claimed, that $189MM target would only be kept if the team could remain competitive. Since the Yankees don't abide by missing the postseason, they will head into 2014 with another $200MM+ payroll (hat tip to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the info).
For all of the hundreds of millions the Yankees spent this winter, most of that money was spent to simply replace departing stars, and not necessarily to fix other problem areas. Beltran for Granderson is essentially a wash when Granderson is healthy, and while Tanaka is presumed to be an upgrade over Andy Pettitte, don't forget that the retired southpaw delivered 3.2 fWAR last season. While McCann and Ellsbury are big improvements on the Yankees' 2013 catchers and the Suzuki/Vernon Wells outfield platoon, those additions could be offset by the losses in the bullpen and at second base.
Cano's departure leaves the Yankees with one of the shakiest infield situations of any contending team. The hope is that Jeter and Mark Teixeira can stay healthy and regain some semblance of their former productivity, but that's a tall order for two players who combined for only 32 games last season. While Ryan or Nunez could spell Jeter at shortstop, the Yankees don't have anyone on the roster who can realistically replace Teixeira for a lengthy stretch if his wrist injuries continue to bother him. Roberts' health is also hardly a given considering his injury problems over the last few seasons.
The addition of a player like Stephen Drew could solve a lot of these infield questions. Drew could step in at shortstop if Jeter was hurt, and since he has expressed a willingness to move to second or third base, he would provide the Yankees with an stable everyday option at either spot. The Yankees did make Drew an offer early in the offseason but pulled it back to focus on other signings, while Drew passed up on the deal (believed to be for two or three years) since he felt he could find a longer-term deal. In hindsight, the Yankees missed out by not landing Peralta earlier in the winter, as they were simply outbid by the Cardinals.
C.C. Sabathia, Tanaka, Kuroda, Ivan Nova and one of Adam Warren, Michael Pineda or David Phelps will comprise New York's starting rotation. While there's at least a bit of uncertainly surrounding all of the candidates, Sabathia's status is the Yankees' biggest concern, as the 33-year-old is coming off the worst season of his Major League career. Sabathia has gotten into terrific shape and returned to his old offseason throwing program in an attempt to return to his old form, though if he continues to decline, it will be a huge blow to both the Yankees' playoff hopes and to their future payroll plans (given how Sabathia is still owed $76MM through 2016, plus $20MM more in 2017 if his option vests).
Nobody can replace Rivera, yet it's surprising to see that the Yankees didn't pick up one veteran arm to provide some closer for Robertson if he struggles. Bailey may not appear until after the All-Star break, while Thornton fits better as a setup man or even as a specialist against left-handed batters. Joel Hanrahan has been on the Yankees' radar, though he's coming off elbow surgery himself. Beyond Roberts, Thornton and Shawn Kelley, New York is going with a young bullpen that includes some promising arms (Preston Claiborne, former top prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and the losers of the fifth starter competition) but no proven experience.
If I had to guess, the Yankees still have a few more moves up their sleeves before Opening Day. They added Wells and Lyle Overbay last March and I'd expect similar veteran additions to join the roster this spring to give the team some depth in the bullpen and especially around the infield, particularly at first.
Deal Of Note
Of all the Yankees' major signings, the McCann contract seems to have the fewest question marks, which is somewhat surprising considering New York is committing $85MM to a catcher through his age-34 season. A big-hitting catcher is hard to find, however, and the Yankees simply couldn't go through another year getting barely replacement-level production from behind the plate. Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, J.R. Murphy and Austin Romine combined for only 0.9 fWAR/0.1 rWAR over a combined 202 games last season --- McCann delivered 2.7 fWAR/2.2 rWAR in 102 games. It's very possible that McCann improves on his performance, as he'll stay healthier by getting some DH days and his left-handed power swing is a great fit at Yankee Stadium. Signing McCann also kept an All-Star catcher away from two AL rivals in the Rangers and Red Sox, both of whom were interested in McCann's services.
McCann's presence also turns the Yankees' catching pool from a weakness into potential trade bait. Stewart was dealt to Pittsburgh and it's possible that at least one more of Cervelli, Murphy or Romine could be sent elsewhere for infield help. The Yankees could even trade top prospect Gary Sanchez if they wished to strike a bigger deal, though the rough plan seems to be to groom Sanchez as McCann's eventual replacement, with McCann shifting to DH in a few years' time.
It's often said that Jeter personifies the Yankees, and that may be especially true in 2014, though not in the way that either Jeter or the team hopes. A healthy Jeter can still perform at a league-best level, though it's anyone's guess as to whether he'll be able to stay off the DL and produce at his usual standard --- the same could be said of the Yankees as a whole, as they'll need to rely on much better health from several key players return to contention.
An argument could be made that despite all the struggles and injuries last year, the Yankees still won 85 games, so they're not far away from getting back to the postseason. It's worth noting that Cashman doesn't buy that argument, as he saw his club's 2013 record as a fortunate overachievement and thus felt it necessary to spend big. With how much of that money went towards reloading instead of actually adding talent, however, it's possible the Yankees may have only bought themselves a "real" 85-win talent level (by Pythagorean record standards) and could still fall short in the tough AL East.
Photo courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Today, we'll take a look at the AL East.
Back on February 20th, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos spoke about beginning the season with an eight-man bullpen, as they did in 2013, partially because of the desire not to lose a player, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. Cecil, Santos, Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, and Aaron Loup are the locks.
Perez has already been sent to minor league camp, with the Jays expected to buy some time by putting him on the DL to start the season. Dustin McGowan is under contract on a multiyear deal, and was not listed above because he has over seven years of big league service. Still, the Jays will have to find a spot if they wish to retain him, and they probably will. McGowan, Rogers, Redmond, and Jeffress are part of the fifth starter competition, as outlined by Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star on Friday. In theory, all four could be retained: one in the rotation, the other three filling out the bullpen. That scenario would involve sending Neil Wagner and other solid pitchers to Triple-A, establishing strong depth but perhaps not putting the team's best 13 pitchers on the Opening Day roster. A trade would be another way to find some breathing room. The Jays are known to be in the mix for Ervin Santana, who would take a rotation spot and have a ripple effect on the above-named players.
Sierra seems to have a good shot at the team's last bench spot partially because of his lack of minor league options. It's another case where making the decision to retain the player might be less than ideal, as Sierra would have to be the team's fourth outfielder over the defensively superior Anthony Gose. Sierra would also platoon at DH with Adam Lind and could pitch in at first base, however.
Orioles: Edgmer Escalona, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Kelvin De La Cruz, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero, Josh Stinson
The Orioles' list includes a staggering 13 players. Let's start with the team's rotation. We can project three members with certainty: Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen. At this moment, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris would grab the two remaining spots. Two of the above-named pitchers, Britton and Matusz, had been among those competing for the fifth starter job before Jimenez was signed. Further muddying the picture, as explained by Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun today, is the pursuit of Ervin Santana. Additionally, Suk-min Yoon and Johan Santana will come into play later in the season.
Connolly notes that Norris or Gonzalez could move to the bullpen if necessary. Hunter, Darren O'Day, Ryan Webb, and Matusz seem to be locks for the pen. A 25-game amphetamine suspension for Patton takes him out of the picture for most of April. That leaves Escalona, De La Cruz, Britton, and Stinson as out of options pitchers competing for three likely spots, with Steve Johnson, Alfredo Aceves, T.J. McFarland, and Evan Meek also in the mix. You may recall the Orioles were loose with 40-man roster spots in the offseason, giving them to Escalona, De La Cruz, and Peguero despite scant big league experience. Retaining them now requires putting them on the 25-man roster. This situation seems to call for a trade or two.
As the backup center fielder, Lough is assured a spot on the roster. The Cruz signing takes away at-bats from Reimold, but he still seems likely to make the team. Peguero or Pearce could take the final roster spot, but only by beating out the other candidates in camp, such as Delmon Young, Xavier Paul, Julio Borbon, Quintin Berry, and Henry Urrutia. There seems a good chance Peguero or Pearce is exposed to waivers; perhaps both. Again, a minor trade could make sense in the coming weeks.
Archer is a lock for the Rays' rotation, while Ramos is battling pitchers such as Erik Bedard, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns, and Alex Colome for the fifth starter job until Jeremy Hellickson's projected late May return. If he doesn't win the job, Ramos would go back to the Rays' bullpen.
McGee is a lock for a bullpen job, as are Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, and Joel Peralta. Juan Carlos Oviedo has yet to report to camp due to visa issues, but he's expected to take a spot as well. If Ramos doesn't win the rotation job, that leaves one potential opening for Lueke. Late last month, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times named Brad Boxberger, Brandon Gomes, and Mark Lowe as other candidates, choosing Lueke as the favorite given his option situation.
Joyce is a lock for a roster spot. If the Rays go with a traditional fifth outfielder, Guyer could snag the job, as Roger Mooney of The Tampa Tribune explained late last month. The team could also use Sean Rodriguez or Ben Zobrist as the fifth outfielder.
Doubront is penciled into Boston's rotation. Carp has a bench spot locked down, though he did pop up in recent trade rumors.
Nova is a key piece of the Yankees' rotation, while Cervelli is highly likely to break camp as the backup catcher.
A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:
- Jeff Todd analyzed free agent contracts signed by starting pitchers after having turned 31 years of age and opined it will be difficult for James Shields (who will be 33 in December) to break the five-year, $100MM threshold on the open market and is more likely to land a four-year, $75-80MM pact with a vesting/club option or even an opt-out clause included to sweeten the deal.
- Tim Dierkes examined the 40-man roster players who have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options (compiled through MLBTR's sources) in the NL Central, AL Central (with an assist from Steve Adams), and NL West.
- MLBTR kicked off the Offseason in Review series with Tim's look at the Cubs, Steve's assessment of the Brewers and Marlins, and Jeff's recap of the Diamondbacks.
- Prior to reports Ervin Santana is choosing between one-year deals from the Blue Jays and Orioles in the neighborhood of $14MM, Jeff asked MLBTR readers when will the right-hander sign and for what terms. A majority of you believe Santana will agree to a Kyle Lohse-like contract (53%) before Opening Day (68%).
- MLBTR learned the reported $24K salary the Rakuten Golden Eagles will pay Loek Van Mil is not for the entire season, but the month of March. The right-hander will earn $150K in 2014 plus performance bonuses.
- Steve hosted the weekly live chat.
- Zach Links gathered the best the baseball corner of the web had to offer in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Next, we'll take a look at the NL West.
With the Diamondbacks beginning their season on March 22nd in Australia against the Dodgers, both teams will deal with a unique set of roster rules, as outlined by MLB.com's Steve Gilbert last month.
Delgado seems slated for Arizona's bullpen, unless perhaps Bronson Arroyo's bulging disk lands him on the DL. Regarding Tuiasosopo, D'Backs manager Kirk Gibson told Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic yesterday, "He definitely could be a guy that comes into play for us because of his versatility."
The D'Backs took Mateo from the Cubs in December's Rule 5 draft, but with Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz, David Hernandez, Addison Reed, Josh Collmenter, and Joe Thatcher seemingly locked in, there won't be room for Mateo if Delgado joins the pen. A trade or injury could create a spot. A trade with the Cubs to retain Mateo's rights wouldn't make much sense, as the D'Backs would still have to pass him through waivers to get him to Triple-A.
Elbert is on the 60-day DL currently, so he won't be occupying a roster spot. Guerra is "up against it" in trying to make a Dodgers bullpen stacked with veterans, as explained by MLB.com's Ken Gurnick last month. Tim Federowicz is set to back up A.J. Ellis behind the plate, so the Dodgers will probably have to try to pass Butera through waivers.
Yesterday, Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee suggested there are two openings in the Giants' bullpen, assuming Petit makes the group as a long man. Machi will probably take one, but it could be tough for Huff to make the team in a similar role to Petit. Heath Hembree, Derek Law, and Jose De Paula are just a few of the other names in the mix.
There won't be room for both Adrianza and Abreu, as explained by Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles. It seems likely one of them will be traded.
Unless the Padres decide to carry three catchers, Rivera's shot at making the team depends on Yasmani Grandal's recovery from July knee surgery.
The Marlins made a series of small moves as they wait for their young core to reach the Major League level and climb out of the NL East cellar.
Major League Signings
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Three years, $21MM.
- Garrett Jones, 1B/OF: Two years, $7.75MM.
- Jeff Baker, 1B/2B/OF: Two years, 3.7MM.
- Rafael Furcal, 2B: One year, $3MM.
- Carlos Marmol, RHP: One year, $1.25MM.
- Casey McGehee, 3B: One year, $1.1MM.
- Total Spend: $37.8MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
- Acquired RHP Carter Capps from the Mariners in exchange for 1B/OF Logan Morrison.
- Acquired OF Brian Bogusevic from the Cubs in exchange for OF Justin Ruggiano.
- Logan Morrison, Justin Ruggiano, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Chris Coghlan, Casey Kotchman, Chad Qualls, Ryan Webb
The Marlins' offseason began with a long-awaited shakeup that saw president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest dismissed, with assistant GM Dan Jennings being promoted to general manager and general manager Michael Hill assuming Beinfest's old role. The drama leading up to the decision was widely publicized, as Beinfest was long said to have clashed with owner Jeffrey Loria, who often went over Beinfest's head. One example was last summer's one-year extension for bench bat Greg Dobbs; the deal was said to be worked out by Loria and Dobbs' agent, with Beinfest not even being aware that the negotiations were taking place.
With the front-office shuffle out of the way, the Marlins set to work on supplementing their young core. While the Anibal Sanchez trade brought over young catcher Rob Brantly, who for a time looked to be the catcher of the future, Miami wasn't happy enough with Brantly's progress and elected to fill the void with their biggest signing of the offseason. Saltalamacchia (pictured) was brought in on a three-year, $21MM deal that proved to be far less expensive than most pundits had figured -- particularly after 35-year-old Carlos Ruiz signed a three-year, $26.5MM deal to remain with the Phillies.
While Saltalamacchia has his flaws -- he strikes out at a prolific rate and does not hit well from the right side of the dish -- the deal looks quite favorable when juxtaposed with the much older Ruiz's contract. Saltalamacchia's deal pays him for his age-29 to age-31 seasons. Beyond that, he's bound to be an improvement for a team that saw its catchers post a collective .192/.249/.280 batting line (no, that is not a typo) in 2013 -- good for the worst cumulative wRC+ (42) at that position in all of Major League Baseball.
Unhappy with the way former top prospect Morrison had turned out -- both on and off the field -- the Marlins traded the injury-plagued social media guru to the Mariners in exchange for a flamethrowing right-hander in the form of Capps. While Capps has a good deal of upside as a late-inning arm, it still seems a disappointing return for a player who once looked to be on his way to emerging as one of the National League's top young first basemen. Brash or not, LoMo twice ranked among Baseball America's Top 20 MLB prospects and slashed .259/.351/.460 in his age-22 to age-23 seasons before a pair of knee surgeries diminished his 2012-13 production.
The Marlins aimed big in their attempts to find an upgrade over Morrison, as they reportedly made a serious run at Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and were comfortable pursuing him even when it was learned that his price tag would exceed $50MM. Abreu ultimately signed with the White Sox on a six-year, $68MM contract, forcing Miami to look elsewhere.
It's no Abreu, but the Marlins were able to cobble together a cheap platoon that should be able to provide plenty of pop. The signings of Jones and Baker were met with little fanfare, but the duo could be an under-the-radar source of offense for the Fish. Baker pummelled lefties at a .314/.407/.667 clip with 10 homers in 123 PAs last season and has a career .298/.353/.522 line against southpaws. Likewise, the lefty-swinging Jones has a career .271/.337/.489 batting line against right-handed pitching. The pair may be defensively limited, but they could surprise at the plate.
Loria's issues with second base prospect Derek Dietrich were well-documented last year -- Loria wanted to hold Dietrich down in the minors due to the belief that he was one of the reasons hitting coach Tino Martinez resigned after players dubbed him abusive -- and the club sought to address that hole on the free agent market. Miami inked Furcal, a lifetime shortstop, to a one-year deal with the idea of him manning the keystone on an everyday basis.
Polanco provided veteran leadership but little else for the Marlins in 2013, and with retirement a likely outcome for Polanco, Miami plucked McGehee out of Nippon Professional Baseball on a cheap one-year deal. McGehee posted a monster season as Masahiro Tanaka's teammate with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, slashing .292/.376/.515 with 28 homers.
Losing Qualls was an undoubted hit to the bullpen, but Miami added Capps and took a reasonable gamble on Marmol's strikeouts. It's easy to chuckle at Marmol's struggles, but he's never whiffed fewer than 10.8 hitters per nine innings in a big league season. Even marginal improvement in his command could make him a weapon.
There's no doubt that Jose Fernandez is one of the best young pitchers in the game and the cornerstone of the Marlins' rotation; the $635K payday they gave him proves that, as the Marlins could've given him a mere $1K raise and not been alone in such a pre-arb payscale.
However, they neglected to add any veteran depth beyond re-signing Slowey to another minor league deal, and seem willing to proceed with Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner behind him in the rotation. Slowey, Tom Koehler, Brian Flynn, Andrew Heaney and others will compete for the fifth slot. The Marlins have depth, but a veteran arm on a one-year deal could've helped lessen the burden for their young stockpile of starters.
Likewise, they seem set to go with youth in the outfield alongside Giancarlo Stanton, as Jake Marisnick, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna battle for the other two slots. All three come with plenty of upside and have been Top 100 prospects, but each is also under the age of 24.
Turning toward the infield, there are question marks at all four spots. The aforementioned Baker/Jones platoon should hit, but neither has shown much defensive aptitude at first base. McGehee left for NPB due to a drastic decline at the plate. Adeiny Hechavarria's defense has impressed the Marlins, but he pulled off the rare feat of posting a sub-.300 average, OBP and slugging percentage in 2013 (.227/.267/.298). This year will be critical for him to show that his bat can trend closer to his Triple-A numbers (.327/.376/.446 in 606 PAs).
Furcal didn't play in 2013 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, and at age 36, how much does he have left in the tank? He batted .264/.325/.346 in 2012 with the Cardinals and has appeared in just five games at second base since 2001. Can he really be an upgrade over Dietrich, who struggled offensively but showed plus pop with a .214/.275/.405 batting line? Among second basemen with 200+ PAs, only Robinson Cano and Jedd Gyorko bested Dietrich's .191 ISO. He did skip Triple-A, so perhaps some time at that level will improve his all-around game.
Of course, the biggest question with the Marlins on a year-to-year basis regards Stanton. Miami has said that the plan is to build around Stanton (and now Fernandez), but outside of Saltalamacchia and a failed push for Abreu, the Marlins did little this offseason to impress Stanton. Miami is counting on its young core to make large strides and form the basis of a winning team, but that could take until 2016, when Stanton has just one year of team control remaining. Stanton tweeted that he was "pissed off" following the Marlins' 2012-13 firesale in which they traded Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and others, effectively hitting the reset button just one year into a new stadium. Has the bridge been burned, or could those same players' inability to win with the Blue Jays (along with Miami's bounty of prospects) have quelled Stanton's anger?
Deal of Note
As stated above, the Morrison trade brought back a young arm with some upside, but was that the best possible return the team could have gotten? It's odd to think that Morrison wound up with the Mariners -- a team that already had Justin Smoak, Corey Hart, Jesus Montero and several other corner/DH type bats in house.
Fast forwarding to the present day, the Pirates and Brewers still lack a great deal of uncertainty at first base, and either team would likely consider Morrison an upgrade over its current in-house options. Capps has averaged 10.1 K/9 in his young career with decent control (3.6 BB/9) and an average fastball velocity of 96.5 mph. However, he's also yielded a .321/.414/.543 batting line to opposing lefties.
It's fair to wonder if a better deal for Morrison would have materialized had the Marlins exercised more patience.
The 2014 Marlins could be an improved team simply due to the fact that their young players have another year of big league experience under their belts. Adding Saltalamacchia should help to improve the team's production from behind the plate, but most of their other additions come with questions on defense, offense or both.
While the Marlins could win a few more games, their offseason dealings likely weren't enough to pull them out of last place in the NL East. They'll probably have another Top 5 to 10 selection in the 2015 draft after choosing second this year and sixth last year. However, the clock to extend Stanton is ticking, and an improved on-field product would likely help their cause. At some point, the results will need to show up on the field and in the standings, but for now, another Marlins rebuild continues.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Next, we'll take a look at the AL Central.
Both Carrasco and Outman will be on the Indians' pitching staff, noted Tony Lastoria of FOX Sports Ohio on Monday. Carrasco is battling a few others for the fifth starter job, but if he doesn't earn it he'll go to the pen.
Hayes seems to be the favorite to back up Salvador Perez at catcher, as 24-year-old Francisco Pena can get more seasoning at Triple-A. Veteran Ramon Hernandez, signed to a minor league deal, is also in the mix for the Royals' backup catcher job.
Dyson is expected to make the team as the center field backup for Lorenzo Cain, wrote Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star last week. That leaves Maxwell and Peguero battling for the fifth outfield spot. Maxwell would seem to have a leg up, having played well upon joining the team in a trade last July. His right-handed bat might be of more use to the Royals, who avoided arbitration with Maxwell in a January agreement about a week before acquiring Peguero.
The Royals seem to have room for five infielders, and Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star wrote last week that Valencia is likely to make the team. That would leave the team without a reserve middle infielder behind Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar. If the Royals do surprise and find a way to include a reserve middle infielder, it would be a competition of Ciriaco, Christian Colon, and Johnny Giavotella.
Kelly is in good standing as a super-utility man. There appears to be one bullpen job up for grabs, with pitchers such as Luke Putkonen, Justin Miller, Blaine Hardy, and Casey Crosby (if healthy) among those battling with Reed. The Tigers claimed Reed off waivers from the Marlins about a year ago, and will probably need to put him in their bullpen to start the season to retain him.
Plouffe and Swarzak are locks to make the club. Plouffe figures to man third base on an everyday basis now that Miguel Sano is out for the season, and Swarzak was among the league's best swingmen in 2013.
Diamond, Deduno and Worley are in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation, and each can make their case based on historical context. Diamond was the club's best starter in 2012, Deduno has outperformed him since, and Worley was a key component of the Ben Revere trade just one offseason ago before a disastrous 2013 dropped his stock. The trio also has deal with top prospect Kyle Gibson, who is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Any of the three could end up in the bullpen, but at least one seems likely to go.
Presley has the inside track to make the club either as the Opening Day center fielder -- should Aaron Hicks struggle in Spring Training -- or as a fourth outfielder.
Escobar's versatility is appealing to the Twins, and his case for the Opening Day roster has been strengthened now that starter Pedro Florimon had his appendix removed two weeks ago. Florimon is fielding grounders pain-free as of yesterday, per MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger, but his Opening Day status is up in the air. Former Twin Jason Bartlett is in camp as a non-roster invitee and could serve as competition.
Parmelee is a former first-rounder that hasn't hit since a 2011 September call-up. The now-26-year-old demolished Triple-A pitching in 2012 but has batted just .228/.302/.364 over his past 543 PAs in the Majors. He didn't fare much better at Triple-A in 2013. With Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham at the outfield corners, Joe Mauer at first base and Jason Kubel likely to make the club as a DH/corner outfielder, Parmelee's best hope is to lock down a bench role. His experience at first base could give him an edge for that spot.
The Sox seem to only have one spot open for a third baseman at this time, though that could change if they trade an outfielder like Dayan Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza. As it stands, Gillaspie is competing for third base with Jeff Keppinger and rookie Matt Davidson. It would be sensible to start Davidson at Triple-A, and it's possible lingering effects of Keppinger's September shoulder surgery could cause him to start the year on the DL.
Boggs and Belisario seem locks for the bullpen after signing as free agents, though Belisario has yet to arrive in camp due to visa issues. A few of the team's relievers are dealing with nagging injuries, but if everyone is healthy and Belisario is in camp as Opening Day approaches, there would seem to be one spot for either Veal (a lefty) or Cleto. Veal is the favorite over Cleto, who joined the team in a waiver claim just last week.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I've included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR's sources. Today, we'll take a look at the NL Central.
Francisco is competing with Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay for the Brewers' first base job. It's hard to imagine a scenario where all three make the team, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week. Reynolds and Overbay signed minor league deals, but it seems likely at least one of them will make the team. When Reynolds signed in January, it was said the Brewers told him he'll almost certainly make the team, so Overbay might have to beat out Francisco, who has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.
Back in February, Curt Hogg of Disciples of Uecker dissected the Brewers' reserve infielder situation, explaining that while they may need to carry seven infielders, Bianchi still seems needed as the only one capable of backing up Jean Segura at shortstop.
McDonald is competing with Chris Rusin for the Cubs' fifth starter job, at least until Jake Arrieta's shoulder is deemed ready. Meanwhile, Cabrera is battling for the final bullpen spot with about a half-dozen others.
The Bucs' seven primary relievers last year were Jason Grilli, Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Gomez, Mazzaro, and Morris, and indeed, that was their bullpen for the NLDS. It would be difficult for Oliver to break into that group, but surely the Pirates don't want to lose the hard-throwing Pimentel. Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects thinks they'll find a place for him. Some kind of trade makes sense to clear the logjam, barring injury.
Reds: Alfredo Simon
Simon is in good standing as a member of the Reds' pen.
One would be hard-pressed to offer a better description of this year's Diamondbacks offseason than that written at the same time last year by MLBTR's Steve Adams: "The Diamondbacks made a number of moves that raised eyebrows and invited skepticism this offseason, and they'll have to improve on last year's .500 record to silence those naysayers."
Major League Signings
- Acquired RHP Justin Choate and OF Todd Glaesmann from the Rays in exchange for RHP Heath Bell (to Rays) and LHP David Holmberg (to Reds).
- Acquired OF Mark Trumbo and RHP A.J. Schugel from the Angels and OF Brandon Jacobs from the White Sox in exchange for LHP Tyler Skaggs (to Angels) and OF Adam Eaton (to White Sox).
- Acquired RHP Addison Reed from the White Sox in exchange for 3B Matt Davidson.
- Claimed Alex Sanabia, Matt Tuiasosopo, Santos Rodriguez, Marcos Mateo (Rule 5)
We heard earlier today that the Royals have no intentions of making a run at extending ace hurler James Shields. That would seem to confirm what has long been expected: namely, barring a surprising change of circumstances, Shields will hit the market next year looking to sell his services for age-33 and beyond.
As Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star noted earlier today, Shields and his camp have rejected rumors that he is seeking to land a deal in the realm of Zack Greinke's six-year, $147MM pact. (Note that Greinke did not require draft compensation to sign, as Shields almost certainly will unless he too is dealt mid-season.)
But, as McCullough notes, Shields compares well to Greinke -- indeed, he compares well to just about anyone not named Clayton Kershaw -- in terms of recent production. He has pitched at least 200 innings (and often quite a bit more) for each of the last seven seasons, and has logged ERA totals of between 2.82 and 3.52 over the last three. Shields has been among the 20 or so most valuable pitchers since he cracked the league, and has looked more like a top-ten guy more recently.
So, can Shields earn Greinke money? Though his numbers make that contract look like a solid comp, another major factor speaks firmly against it: namely, age. At the time Greinke inked with the Dodgers, he was just over 29 years old, and threw at that age for the entire season in the first year of his deal. Shields will be four years older when he faces the open market for the first time.
This series of observations led MLBTR's Tim Dierkes to suggest that, perhaps, it would be worthwhile to look at the historical results of top-level, slightly older hurlers. The results of that research, and my discussions on the topic with both Tim and fellow MLBTR writer Steve Adams, make up what you'll read below.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that slightly older pitchers have not readily landed huge contracts. That makes sense, for at least two major reasons. First is simply the factor of selection bias. Most really good pitchers accrue service time early in their careers and thus hit the open market slightly earlier than will Shields, who did not crack the bigs until age 24 and then gave up two years of free agency in an early-career extension. Likewise, as age increases, the likelihood of significant injury goes up, further attriting the possibly worthy arms. The second reason is even easier: older pitchers have less near-peak years left to sell.
Let's take a look at all pitchers to have signed deals with at least a $60MM guarantee at a $15MM or greater average annual value -- after having turned 31 years of age. (The last column represents the player's age at Opening Day of the first season of their deal).
Among these potential comps, we can reject several out of hand. First, Brown and Lowe were both significantly older and signed deals in quite a different market. (Frankly, I only kept them on the chart to show how remarkable their contracts were.) Wainwright signed an under-market extension, while Halladay was also probably on a different performance/perception level and signed his own deal under somewhat odd circumstances.
That leaves us with four potential free agent comps, all of whom are near in age to where Shields will be when he hits the market. All signed five-year deals in early-to-mid-March of their free agent year. (If Shields signs before his birthday on December 20th, he'd be just shy of 33 years of age, making him slightly older than the other four were.)
How does Shields stack up to that quartet? Let's look at both three-year averages and walk-year performances to get an idea, and look at the salary numbers through the lens of inflation (present dollar value estimated via US Inflation Calculator). I have used ERA and fWAR not to suggest that those are the proper means by which to value pitchers, but to represent two sides of the overall picture: the former captures pure results, while the latter incorporates FIP as its baseline and thereby captures some of the underlying talent and rate-based results that teams surely examine closely when signing deals of this magnitude.
Needless to say, Lee paced the grouping -- at least in the eyes of advanced metrics and in dollars achieved. He still fell well short of Greinke's guarantee, though of course he inked his deal a few years back and reportedly could have signed for seven years and $148MM.
As for Shields, his current three-year and last-year ERA both stand at 3.15. He has been worth 12.9 fWAR over the last three seasons, and earned 4.5 wins in 2013. Assuming he hits the market with approximately the same profile -- i.e., he logs another 200+ innings of pitching in the low-to-mid-3.00 ERA range and has underlying metrics to support a 4-5 fWAR season -- where might he land?
The answer, probably, is not in the realm of Greinke's contract (or the commensurate offer that Lee could have signed). Even accepting that baseball inflation has outpaced that of the general economy -- or, at least, understanding that MLB salary levels are subject to wide variation due to the league's comparatively tiny player market, small sample of transactions, and range of non-market-based influences -- the Wilson-Lackey-Burnett line of arms equate at most to a five-year, $100MM present-day value.
Importantly, Dierkes noted, those three were clearly the best available arms in their free agent years. While it is still conceivable that Shields will ultimately be the most attractive starter available when the market opens, odds are he will slot in behind Max Scherzer and possibly Jon Lester. (Of course, if Scherzer repeats his 2013 season, he might be on another plane altogether.) And if Justin Masterson hits the market, he might be more appealing to some clubs because of his significantly younger age. Regardless, unless each of those arms is extended off the market or takes a large value hit, Shields will not be the sole target for clubs looking to add an impact starter.
Moreover, as I recently noted in discussing extensions, teams have evinced an increasing willingness to value age. That attention to the aging curve probably also implies a corresponding unwillingness to roll the dice on continued production on its downside. Still-excellent pitchers Hiroki Kuroda (age 39) and A.J. Burnett (age 37) just signed one-year deals that will pay them $16MM. Can Shields really beat that AAV on a five-year pact that would buy out his age 33-37 campaigns, especially if there are alternative arms on the market? As Adams noted, Shields' slightly more advanced age means that a fifth year would push his guarantee into somewhat uncharted territory as compared with his most direct comps. It is worth wondering whether clubs would be willing to guarantee another year at such an elevated rate.
In the aggregate, it looks as though Shields could reasonably expect to top out at five years, with a $20MM AAV a seeming longshot at that term. On a four-year deal, Shields might land in the $75MM to $80MM range, perhaps with a vesting/club option of some kind attached on the end. But barring a massive jolt to the market that leaves Shields as the unquestioned prize with multiple suitors, it is somewhat difficult to imagine him reaching the $100MM threshold -- if he is able to get a guaranteed fifth year at all.
One possible twist would be the inclusion of an opt-out clause. As Dierkes notes on Twitter, Lee actually had one offer that included an opt-out before he signed on with the Phillies. In his excellent piece on the use of opt-out clauses, Dierkes wrote that such provisions may not be that onerous to the team since, if exercised, the club is able to re-assess whether to take on further obligations (and, I would note, can do so with the advantage of insider knowledge on that pitcher). If clubs are unwilling to guarantee as much cash as Shields hopes for, he could potentially press instead for a deal that includes an opt-out, allowing him to re-enter the market if he carries his production into his mid-30's. And at that point, perhaps the Lowe contract would take on increasing relevance.