MLBTR Originals Rumors

MLBTR Originals

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

  • On this week’s installment of the MLB Trade Rumors podcast, host Jeff Todd spoke with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss the Rangers‘ call-up of Joey Gallo and more.  Jeff also spoke with MLBTR’s Steve Adams about the Mark Trumbo deal.  A new episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • University of Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery, who is widely rated as a first- or second-round prospect, spoke with MLBTR about his time at U of A and his stock heading into tomorrow’s draft.  Kingery also discussed his friendship with Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman, who is rated as one of the top prospects in this year’s class.  “If it’s video games, we’re competing. One night we were mini golfing and it got intense. We started even having competitions in the weight room and seeing who could get to school the fastest,” Kingery explained.
  • Roger Clemens made multiple comebacks from retirement and we remembered his 2006 return to the Astros last Sunday.
  • Steve was the first to learn that the Phillies released catcher John Hester.

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Q&A With MLB Draft Prospect Scott Kingery

The 2015 MLB Draft begins on Monday, June 8th and runs until Wednesday, June 10th.  In anticipation of the draft, MLBTR caught up with University of Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery, one of the most highly regarded players in this year’s class.

Tomorrow night, Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery will be waiting to hear his name called from Secaucus, New Jersey.  Just three years ago, few could have imagined that Kingery would be in line to be a Day 1 draft pick or to even get drafted at all.  Kingery was a very solid player coming out of Phoenix, Arizona’s Mountain Pointe High School, but he was overlooked by schools largely because he was only 5’7″ tall.

Kingery arrived at the University of Arizona as a walk-on, made the team, and started really making a name for himself in his sophomore year.  An awful lot has changed over the last three years – not just Kingery’s stature.  Today, he is rated as the No. 25 draft prospect in the country by ESPN.com’s Keith Law, No. 40 by Baseball America, and No. 42 by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.  Kingery took some time out of his busy schedule late last week to chat with MLB Trade Rumors about his career at Arizona, his draft stock, and his MLB future.

Zach Links: It’s pretty rare to see a college walk-on go on to become a top draft prospect. In 2012, did you think you’d be in this position today?

Scott Kingery: Definitely not. That’s not something that I had in mind going into my freshman year, especially as a walk-on player. I didn’t have a spot on the roster yet for sure, so at that point, I was just trying to find a spot on the team.

It was pretty late in the summer when an assistant coach came down to watch me play in a tournament. They offered me a recruited walk-on spot, which means that you have a place on the fall roster but nothing is guaranteed for the spring roster. So, I wasn’t thinking about the majors at all at that point.

ZL: Did you consider taking scholarship offers from other schools, whether it was D-I or D-II?

SK: I was committed to going to a junior college in Arizona, but other than that, I didn’t have any D-I, D-II, or D-III offers for baseball.  So, it was pretty much go to junior college or just take my chances at Arizona.

ZL: You turned the corner in a big way from your freshman year to your sophomore year. What changed for you?

SK: I think each year you play in the Pac-12 you just get a little bit more confident.  I gained experience and I learned a lot.  I think in your first year as a freshman you come in and don’t know what to expect.  The level of play from high school to college increases so much. But, I learned more and more each year and built off of that.

ZL: Your double play partner, Kevin Newman, is considered to be one of the very best draft prospects in this year’s class. Did you feel like you’ve pushed each other over the years to excel?

SK: Yeah, when I was in the outfield the first few years I didn’t spent that much time with him.  Now I’m at second base and we push each other and that helps us play better.  This year he become one of my roommates and that’s when I realized how truly competitive we are with each other.  Literally everything is a competition between us.

ZL: How does that competitive spirit between the two of you manifest itself off the field?

SK: If it’s video games, we’re competing.  One night we were mini golfing and it got intense.  We started even having competitions in the weight room and seeing who could get to school the fastest.

ZL: You played second base while at Arizona but there has been talk of your skills translating to shortstop.  Could you see yourself playing shortstop at the big league level? How comfortable are you at shortstop?

SK: Since I haven’t been there in a few years, I think it would take some getting used to again. But that was my home all through high school.  College is the only time I haven’t played there really…I think I could definitely play shortstop.  I think a lot of teams want to see me try that out, too.  If it doesn’t work, they can always throw me back to second base.

ZL: Do you have a preference between playing shortstop or second base?

SK: I’ve always loved playing shortstop more but playing second base isn’t too bad either.

ZL: Why do you like playing shortstop more?

SK: I don’t know why, but that’s just always been where I’ve been the most comfortable.  I grew up playing that position and I just want to get back over there.  When you’re at shortstop you feel like you’re kind of in the head role, kind of captain on the field.  I’d like to get back to that.

ZL: There always seems to be skepticism surrounding shorter players, even when they’ve proven their ability time and time again like you have. Do you feel like any concern about you being under 6-feet tall is overblown?

SK: At this point, I don’t think that’s gonna come into play, but that was definitely one of the big reasons why I didn’t get a scholarship offer out of high school.  I was 5’7″, 150 pounds heading into college so I think everyone saw that small stature and they didn’t want to take a chance.  Now, I think I’ve proven myself over multiple years so I don’t think that my small stature matters much.  Also, I’m 5’10.5″ now and I’ve put on 25 or 30 pounds, so it’s a different story.

ZL: What are you hearing about where you might get drafted?

SK: It’s kind of all over the place, but I’ve been hearing and reading that it could be somewhere in the No. 20-50 range.  Hopefully I’ll get drafted towards the top of that, but, we’ll see.  Anything can happen.

ZL: What do you think sets you apart from other middle infielders in this class?

SK: I’ve proven that I can hit at multiple levels.  I did it in college and I did it in the Cape Cod league.  That, along with my speed, sets me apart.  I’ve shown that I can create havoc on the basepaths with my speed and my bat really just improved each year at Arizona.  I also got even more comfortable with my range this year and I made things happen on defense as well.

ZL: What’s the main thing you want to work on?

SK: I want to work on my footwork at second base because that can always get better.  I also want to make sure that I stay aggressive at second base.  It’s a short throw so sometimes you can find yourself getting complacent and sitting back on a ball rather than getting the right hop.  I like to be aggressive and get right to the ball.

ZL: Last summer in the Cape Cod League, you showed that you can still rake with a wooden bat. Do you sense that has helped your draft stock somewhat?

SK: Definitely. The top players in college are in the Cape Cod league so going there, facing that pitching, and putting up some good numbers really shows the scouts that I have a good swing and that it doesn’t matter if I’m swinging wood or metal.

ZL: Everyone loves to compare draft prospects to current players.  What major league player would you say that your skill set is similar to?

SK:  I’d say I’m something like Ian Kinsler, with a little bit more speed.

ZL: What are your plans for draft night?

SK: I’m just going to have some friends and family over.  We’ll be watching on TV with everyone else, waiting to see what happens.


Minor Moves: Santos, Solano, Sands, Hester

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • Reliever Sergio Santos has cleared waivers and will elect free agency, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The Dodgers designated Santos for late last month after the former White Sox closer struck out 15 batters and walked seven while allowing seven runs in 13 1/3 innings this season.
  • The Marlins have announced that they’ve outrighted catcher Jhonatan Solano to Triple-A New Orleans. The designated him for assignment yesterday. The 29-year-old has a career .184/.222/.301 line in 108 career plate appearances with the Nationals and Marlins, hitting a somewhat better .241/.286/.346 in about two seasons’ worth of plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
  • The Indians have announced that outfielder Jerry Sands has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus. Last week, the Indians designated Sands for assignment for the second time this season. The 27-year-old Sands has hit 9-for-27 with a home run and two doubles for the Indians this year. Perhaps more representative is his .257/.385/.473 at Triple-A, a line consistent with the strong minor-league performances he’s posted throughout much of his career.
  • The Phillies have released catcher John Hester, MLBTR’s Steve Adams tweets, noting that Hester had surgery on his meniscus this spring but is now healthy. The 31-year-old has played in ten minor-league games this season. He spent 2014 with Triple-A Salt Lake in the Angels organization, batting .261/.338/.411. He has a career .216/.294/.351 line in 232 big-league plate appearances spread over four seasons with the Diamondbacks and Angels.


This Date In Transactions History: Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens went out in style in 2003.  After announcing that he would be retiring earlier in the year, Clemens went out and earned both his 300th career win and 4,000th career strikeout.  His farewell tour also included warm receptions from rival crowds, including the faithful at Fenway Park.  Clemens even got to make his final start in the World Series, notch a strikeout in his final at-bat, and receive a standing ovation from the Marlins’ crowd as he walked off.

Everyone wants to leave on a high note, but that’s easier said than done.  In 2004, Clemens inked a one-year deal to join up with the Astros.  In 2005, Clemens once again toyed with the idea of retirement, but was coerced to return to Houston with a one-year, $18MM deal.  After yet another World Series appearance, that was believed to be the end of the road for Clemens.

On this date in 2006, Clemens signed a deal to pitch for the Astros for the remainder of the season.  The pact was technically a record-setting one-year, $22MM deal, but because it was a prorated contract, Clemens received a little over half of that.  Even in his age 43 season, Clemens showed that he had plenty in the tank.  In 19 starts, the veteran pitched to a 2.30 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.  Had he pitched that way starting in April, there’s little doubt that the right-hander would have earned his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance.

Of course, this wasn’t Clemens’ final comeback.  In 2007, the Rocket showed up in George Steinbrenner’s box at Yankee Stadium to let everyone know that he’d be joining the Bombers.  “Thank y’all,” Clemens said to the Bronx crowd. “Well they came and got me out of Texas, and I can tell you its a privilege to be back. I’ll be talkin’ to y’all soon.”  Clemens would reemerge with the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012, but the ’07 season would mark his last in Major League Baseball.


MLBTR Originals

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

  • On this week’s installment of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, host Jeff Todd was joined by David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to talk all things Braves, including the recent additions of Juan Uribe and Chris Withrow.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams also joins the show to talk about the Cardinals‘ first base options in the wake of losing Matt Adams.  A new episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • If you haven’t already, we encourage you to sign up for the free MLBTR Newsletter.  Every week, the newsletter delivers an exclusive article to your inbox with site owner Tim Dierkes weighing in on deals, rumors, and hot stove-related topics.
  • Jeff looked at the Free Agent Stock of Howie Kendrick, who seems to be somewhat underappreciated.  There’s not much in the way of direct comps for a player like Kendrick, but Jeff figures that he’s likely to top Omar Infante‘s pre-2014 deal with the Royals which saw him earn $30MM+ over four years.  However, Kendrick’s market could be depressed if he gets hit with a qualifying offer by Los Angeles.
  • Steve fielded your questions in this week’s edition of the MLBTR chat.  Steve touched on topics including the Rockies’ pitching search and the Twins’ play so far this season.

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Free Agent Stock Watch: Howie Kendrick

Howie Kendrick seems something of an underappreciated player, perhaps because he has not racked up eye-popping counting stats in recent seasons. But we already know that teams value him rather highly.

After all, over the winter the Dodgers flipped just-acquired top-100 pitching prospect Andrew Heaney to the Angels to acquire one year of Kendrick — at a very reasonable, but hardly cheap, $9.5MM salary. And Los Angeles cleared out young middle infielder Dee Gordon, the incumbent at second, as part of its multi-faceted strategy.

True, Gordon has been nothing short of spectacular for the Marlins. He does carry an unsustainable .433 BABIP, but he’s also continued to lower his strikeout rate, run like crazy, and put up much-improved defensive metrics.

But the Dodgers also have received what they hoped for out of Kendrick. Over 178 plate appearances on the year, he has slashed .293/.348/.445 — a slight bump up over his career numbers.

If you had stopped the record after 2012, you might view Kendrick as an average hitter who had one big year under his belt (2011). But he has since settled in as a clearly above-average bat, compiling a 117 OPS+ since the start of the 2013 season.

May 1, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Howie  Kendrick (47) throws to first to complete an out in the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In that sense, this year has been a continuation. But Kendrick has also showed signs of improvement. After carrying a walk rate of about 5% for much of his career, Kendrick has earned free passes at a better-than-7% clip over the last two seasons, all while maintaining a 16.3% strikeout rate that has improved his overall mark.

Combined, his BB/K rate sits at a career-best .45, just exceeding his prior personal best from last year. Better yet, he’s done that while also managing to push his ISO back up over the .150 mark for the first time since that strong 2011 campaign — a marked improvement on his personal-low .104 ISO from last year.

Kendrick’s .336 BABIP is on the high side, but actually falls just below his historic marks. While Baseball Info Solutions numbers say that he has generated less hard and more soft contact than in recent years, Kendrick nevertheless carries a 28.1% line-drive rate that exceeds any of his end-of-year rates from seasons prior.

It isn’t all good news for Kendrick, of course. After a four-year run of positive UZR metrics, Kendrick has slipped just barely into the negative. And Defensive Runs Saved has him at a more troubling -5 runs saved to date. It’s early, of course, but that certainly bears watching. Likewise, Kendrick is just two-for-four in stolen base attempts this year, though his game has never relied much on the basepaths (he has swiped 14 bags four times, at a 71.9% success rate).

All said, while he hasn’t exactly transformed himself, it’s reasonable to argue that Kendrick has solidified his status as a firmly above-average second baseman in his age-31 season. But how does he stack up against the rest of the expected market?

Advances against his likely free agent competition, it seems, is where Kendrick’s value has increased the most. The most obvious and direct comparison is to Daniel Murphy of the Mets, who is younger (not yet two months removed from his 30th birthday) but carries a below-league-average .263/.316/.381 batting line. There’s plenty of time for that to change — Murphy’s .271 BABIP will probably rise and he has struck out in just 8% of his plate appearances, a market improvement — but Kendrick is gaining ground at present, and has always looked like the surer defensive option of the two.

Other players who teams will weigh alongside Kendrick have also generated some cause for concern in the first quarter of 2015. Ben Zobrist, who turns 34 tomorrow, missed a month with knee surgery and has rated (rather uncharacteristically) as a below-replacement-level player. Once again, it’s far too soon to write him off, and his track record of outstanding overall value speaks for itself. But there’s little question that Zobrist has come back to earth in the early going. Likewise, while Asdrubal Cabrera has suddenly posted excellent UZR ratings at shortstop in a small sample, his offensive production has suffered quite a bit.

Clubs eyeing an upgrade at second will surely look to that group, but it is possible that all — including Kendrick — could factor in at third base as well. While I won’t pretend to know whether he profiles well there defensively, the hot corner market is shaping up to be rather underwhelming with names like David Freese, Juan Uribe, and Casey McGehee leading the way.

In terms of what kind of guarantee we might expect, direct comps are somewhat scarce. But Kendrick seems a good bet to top Omar Infante‘s pre-2014 deal with the Royals. Coming off of a strong platform year, but carrying a history of production clearly inferior to that of Kendrick, Infante took down four years and just over $30MM entering his age-32 campaign. Though it’s far too early to be precise, a contract on the order of Chase Headley‘s (four years and $52MM) seems a reasonable target for Kendrick — though he has some room to build on that as well.

There have been whispers that the Dodgers could look to extend Kendrick, but that has always seemed questionable with the club’s dizzying array of options at second and third. But a qualifying offer is definitely in play, and entering the market weighed down by draft compensation could have some effect on Kendrick’s earning capacity.

Being the most desirable player at a given position has its obvious advantages, and Kendrick ought to have no shortage of theoretical landing spots. His long-time former team, the Angels, could be in play, as might the Yankees, White Sox, Nationals, Mets, and Padres. It is possible to imagine scenarios where other clubs — the Royals, Rangers, Athletics, and Braves come to mind — could consider pursuit.

The bottom line is that Kendrick appears increasingly well-positioned for next year’s free agent market. While he will undoubtedly be overshadowed in a deep and talented class, Kendrick stands out among his direct competitors and seems headed for a significant payday.


MLBTR Originals

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

  • Host Jeff Todd welcomed the newly retired Bruce Chen to the latest installment of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast. The left-hander reflected upon his decision to end a career which spanned 17 MLB seasons. CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney also joined Jeff to discuss the Cubs and their needs as the Trade Deadline nears. A new episode of MLB Trade Rumors Podcast will be released every Thursday and can be accessed on iTunesSoundCloud, and Stitcher.
  • Tim Dierkes revised MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings. The top four players remained the same (Justin Upton, David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Jason Heyward) while Ian Desmond fell three spots to eighth.
  • During a conference call announcing his six-year, $62.5MM contract with the Dodgers, Hector Olivera told Zach Links he had other suitors. “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.”
  • With Olivera now in the fold, Zach asked Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman whether the signing creates trade possibilities. “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.
  • With the amateur draft fast approaching, big bonuses dance in the dreams of high draft picks. But, for those taken much later in the draft like Josh Smith (chosen in the 21st round by the Reds in 2010), making ends meet can be just as important as developing your game. Smith recalls for Zach the second jobs he has had to take on, including lugging cement for a pool construction business and coaching the Diamondbacks’ 2014 top selection (16th overall) Touki Toussaint.
  • Jeff asked MLBTR readers whether the Marlins made the right decision in hiring GM Dan Jennings as their new manager. Nearly 65% of you believe the move is destined to fail.
  • Last February, Jeff asked MLBTR readers who will sign Rafael Soriano and more than a quarter of you predicted the Blue Jays. Charlie Wilmoth conducted a follow up with the readership and found the Cubs are now seen as the favorites to sign the reliever.
  • Steve Adams hosted this week’s live chat.
  • Zach assembled the best of the baseball blogosphere for you in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.

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Reds Pitcher Making Ends Meet With Second Job

When you think of the lifestyle of a professional baseball player, you think of big houses and Olympic-sized swimming pools.  You rarely think of those players building pools in someone’s backyard.  Reds pitcher Josh Smith has had to do just that to make ends meet as he chases his big league dream.

Players taken in the early rounds of the draft typically get sizable signing bonuses and don’t have to moonlight at a second job.  Smith’s journey to the minors, however, was decidedly different.

The right-hander cut his teeth at Lipscomb University as the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation next to ace Rex Brothers.  Brothers, the Friday night pitcher, would go out and throw in front of scores of major league scouts.  By Saturday, when Smith would take the mound, the scouts were off to check out their next prospect.  Smith may not have had the same upside as Brothers, but he was a very strong pitcher in his own right and deserved far more attention from scouts, in the estimation of agent Alex Esteban.  Brothers became a first round selection of the Rockies while Smith wound being selected in the 21st round by Cincinnati in 2010.  Brothers got a signing bonus just shy of seven figures upon signing his deal.  Smith got roughly $1K.

Bonuses for later round picks are extremely low and the minors don’t pay very well from year-to-year either.  Smith, who earns less than $10K per year in salary, quickly figured out that he needed to take on a full-time job in the offseason.  Longtime pitching coach Tracy Valentine, a former minor leaguer himself, also ran a pool construction business and had a need for a physically strong employee who could haul bulky, cumbersome bags of cement from the truck to backyards.  That position, while greatly appreciated by the pitcher, didn’t give Smith the hours or pay that he needed to make ends meet.

I don’t need side cash,” Smith told Valentine. “I need a job.

With that, Smith began actually building the pools and earning a bit more cash.  To line his pockets further, Smith also helped coach some of Valentine’s pupils, including Diamondbacks 2014 first-round choice Touki Toussaint.

He came to us when he was like 14 or 15 and I was like, ‘Who is this kid?,‘” Smith said. “Back then he was a shortstop and I asked him if he ever thought about pitching and he said no. I told him, if you ever change your mind, let me know. I told him that he needed to be a pitcher because he had a cannon.”

Smith still helps to guide young arms and build pools in the offseason, even though he has reached Triple-A and is knocking on the door of the Reds’ major league roster.  His particular offseason job might be unique, but it’s a lifestyle that is not at all uncommon for minor leaguers, Smith says.

My old college teammate Caleb Joseph is in the bigs now with the Orioles, but when he was in the minors, he would come home and work at the local country club as a caddy and a waiter.  Some guys do construction, some work in restaurants.  Everyone does what they need to do in the offseason to make ends meet,” Smith explained.

In April, it became evident that Smith’s hard work both on and off the field was paying off as the Reds called him up to the majors.

My manager, Delino DeShields, called me and said, ‘Pack your stuff, you’re meeting the Reds in Chicago.’  I didn’t believe him, but he told me he’d never pull a joke like that and that he wished he could see my face when I heard the news,” Smith said. “I was actually playing Call Of Duty with a bunch of my Louisville teammates and I told them on the headsets that I had to go and get myself packed.”

The funny thing is,” Esteban added. “He was playing with like 100 other teenagers who had no idea what any of them were talking about.”

When Smith landed in Chicago, Esteban was there to pick him up from the airport and drive him to meet the team.  The right-hander had a million things going through his mind on his way to the hotel.  What’s it going to be like to pitch in a big league game?  How will I adjust to playing in front of tens of thousands of people in the stands?  But, there was one pressing concern that stood out above the others.

I was wondering,” Smith said to Esteban. “Do you think they’ll put me in the video game?

Unfortunately, Smith didn’t make it into the video game or the actual game during that stint.  The Reds sent Smith back down to the minors after the three-game set in Chicago without having thrown a pitch.  Still, the experience was a milestone for the 27-year-old and he knows that he’ll get another opportunity when the Reds are in need of a long reliever or spot starter.  Once he gets to the majors and sticks on the roster, he could wind up with a big swimming pool to call his own.


Who Will Sign Rafael Soriano?

In late February, Jeff Todd asked MLBTR readers which team would sign free agent closer Rafael Soriano, and a bit more than a quarter of you thought he would end up with the Blue Jays. Almost three months later, the Scott Boras client remains a free agent, so now seems like a good time to revisit the question.

Near the beginning of the season, the Twins and Tigers each reportedly showed at least some interest, although perhaps not much. The Reds then ruled themselves out as candidates to sign Soriano. Later, the Mariners reportedly had at least some contact with Soriano. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman also suggested that the Indians, Dodgers and Pirates might also be possibilities, although those seemed speculative. It seems unlikely that the Dodgers would pursue Soriano now given how good their bullpen has been, and the Pirates don’t seem particularly likely given their strong interest in ground-ball pitchers. The Marlins were the next team to be connected to Soriano, although early last week it emerged that they had lost interest. By late last week, he’d been connected to the Cubs.

More speculatively, the Padres are a potential contender with a struggling bullpen, although they’re set at closer and could prefer the talent they have on hand. The Red Sox are in a somewhat similar boat, although calling them a “potential contender” might strike some of their fans as off base, even though they aren’t yet out of contention. The Diamondbacks are near .500 and recently bumped Addison Reed from their closer role. The Rangers also have an unsettled closer situation and are on the fringes of the AL Wild Card race at this early point in the season, although Shawn Tolleson got two saves this week and has pitched well all year, suggesting he might fit well at closer. The Rockies have a poorly performing bullpen and might be convinced to sign Soriano if he were cheap enough, but are far enough out of contention that the upside of such a move would be limited.

The number of fits is unclear, then, and much could depend upon Soriano’s cost. There’s also the issue of his likely performance — the Marlins reportedly backed away because they felt Soriano wasn’t an upgrade. That might sound wrong for a pitcher who’s had 107 saves total over the past three seasons, but Soriano is 35 and posted a 6.48 ERA in the second half last season.

So who will ultimately sign Soriano?


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.