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The Padres have been busy over the last couple weeks, with more moves likely to come. Recently hired GM A.J. Preller has pivoted from the organization’s slow rebuilding process to add established major league stars. Preller reportedly recognized a rotation capable of competing now, and he decided to add win-now position players to complement that strength.
The Padres have made eight moves this month, trading a number of prospects and young major leaguers in the process. The headliners are the additions of outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers in separate trades. The club also added catcher Derek Norris in a swap with the A’s, third baseman Will Middlebrooks in a trade with the Red Sox, and signed three free agents – Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, and Clint Barmes.
More trades are likely to be on the horizon. The club currently has an overwhelming volume of outfield depth. In addition to Kemp, Upton, and Myers, the Padres also have Seth Smith, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Abraham Almonte, and Rymer Liriano. Almonte and Liriano have options, but the Friars likely need to deal two of the remaining four. First baseman Yonder Alonso could also be a trade candidate if the club is comfortable with somebody like Quentin or Smith manning first.
The moves were clearly made with an eye on the postseason. The lineup is now a safe bet to improve upon it’s league worst 535 runs scored. Of course, adding a few stout bats doesn’t guarantee a good outcome. Last season, the Atlanta Braves received strong offensive performances from Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward. They finished second to last in runs scored with 573. Excluding Evan Gattis when healthy, the supporting cast failed the Atlanta lineup. The same could easily happen in San Diego, where Middlebrooks, Norris, Alonso, Barmes, and Jedd Gyorko appear to be the everyday cast. There are reasons to be concerned about the offensive ceiling of all five players.
The Padres also pulled from their pitching depth to swing the trades. Jesse Hahn, Joe Wieland, and Burch Smith were dealt as part of the mayhem. Internal depth plus the additions of Johnson and Morrow could help to offset the losses, of which Hahn is the most noteworthy. Of course, Johnson and Morrow are major injury risks – both pitchers are frequent guests of the disabled list.
Despite trading a large quantity of prospects, the Padres managed to hang onto their best, namely catcher Austin Hedges, pitcher Matt Wisler, and outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Assuming the club doesn’t have more big moves up their sleeve, this month’s activity doesn’t necessarily cripple the minor league pipeline.
And that brings us to tonight’s poll question. Has Preller accomplished enough for the Padres to reach the postseason? Remember, San Diego probably has to best at least one of the Dodgers and Giants.
This is an admittedly un-scientific undertaking, but then that’s not really the point. Several teams have made a series of moves that, in the aggregate, have led at least some observers to label them as being “all-in” on near-term contention. In many cases, this offseason truly started at last year’s trade deadline.
We could quabble endlessly on the list — plenty of teams have made several impactful deals and/or significant free agent commitments, and some will surely undertake more such actions before camp opens — but here’s mine, based on each team’s cumulative moves to take on future salary obligations and/or give up talented youngsters to obtain anticipated near-term production:
Blue Jays: Some of the offseason’s first big salvos were fired from Toronto. The team was a somewhat surprising victor in the Russell Martin sweepstakes, dealt for one of the game’s best players in Josh Donaldson, traded for a talented outfielder in Michael Saunders, and made a series of other moves — all while holding onto its best young arms.
Cubs: They signed Jon Lester. You could probably end there, but the team also took on the contract of Miguel Montero and inked Jason Hammel. “All-in” may be a bit presumptive at this point — the team has not given up any young talent, for example, and still has plenty of untapped future payroll capacity — but over $200MM in new future commitments for a team coming off of a 73-89 season says quite a bit.
Marlins: It all started with the massive Giancarlo Stanton extension — if not last summer’s Jarred Cosart deal — and continued with trades for Dee Gordon (along with, potentially Dan Haren) and Mat Latos. Miami parted with some well-regarded pitching prospects to add established players to its talented and youthful big league core.
Red Sox: The word “asset” probably best characterizes the focus of GM Ben Cherington’s recent work, as he has traded away veterans like Lester, John Lackey, and Yoenis Cespedes as well as younger players such as Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. The team has, in turn, added the since-dealt Cespedes, as well as Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, and Wade Miley, while agreeing to bring back Koji Uehara.
Tigers: Detroit paid big bucks to re-sign Victor Martinez after trading for David Price and Joakim Soria at last year’s trade deadline. The club has gone on to add Cespedes as well as Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon. Referring to the Tigers as “all-in” is now cliche, but the term still fits; if the Miguel Cabrera extension was not enough to convince you, then the latest round of transactions should.
White Sox: While much of the attention heading into the winter was on the North Side of Chicago, their neighbors to the south have been even more active. When GM Rick Hahn added Zach Duke and Adam LaRoche via free agency, it was clear that the organization was at least interested in putting some pieces in place to bolster its younger roster. But he followed that up by dealing for one year of Jeff Samardzija and drawing David Robertson and Melky Cabrera off of the open market.
So, all said, which of these aggressive teams has been most successful to date in positioning itself for the near term while steering clear of an ugly future — or, better yet, setting up for a good one?
Before last night, the White Sox had already made noise this offseason, signing Adam LaRoche to complement Jose Abreu at first base and DH and Zach Duke to provide a strong lefty for their bullpen. On Monday, though, they took their offseason to a new level, agreeing to terms with former Yankees closer David Robertson on a four-year, $46MM deal and agreeing to acquire Athletics starter Jeff Samardzija, reportedly for infielder Marcus Semien, pitcher Chris Bassitt and a third player.
Add in pitcher Carlos Rodon, who has moved through the minor leagues as quickly as anticipated after the White Sox drafted him third overall last season, and it appears GM Rick Hahn has swiftly turned the White Sox from a franchise with weak big-league talent and an even weaker farm system into something far more interesting. But is it enough?
Next year’s AL Central appears to be up for grabs. The Tigers figure to lose Max Scherzer, and they’re getting older; the Royals will almost certainly lose James Shields. The Twins’ recent streak of losing seasons looks likely to continue, leaving the Indians as the only team that appears to have improved, adding Brandon Moss to a roster that finished third last year. An AL Wild Card spot might be a bit more attainable than last season, too, with the Royals and Athletics appearing likely to move backwards, although the Blue Jays, Red Sox and perhaps Mariners could complicate that picture.
The White Sox, however, only won 73 games in 2014, and it remains to be seen if their aggressive offseason is enough to move them past the Tigers, Royals and Indians, all of whom won at least 12 more games than they did. The White Sox’ rotation, led by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Samardzija, now looks like it should be a strength, particularly if Rodon can make an impact. Adding Robertson and Duke to what had been a weak group of relievers should provide a big boost, and young-ish arms like Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and Daniel Webb are interesting enough to imagine that the bullpen could be a strength overall.
Offensively, the White Sox will lean heavily on Abreu and LaRoche, with Adam Eaton, Alexei Ramirez and Conor Gillaspie all expected to play key roles. It remains to be seen what they’ll do at second base now that Semien is reportedly gone, and what they’ll get out of corner outfielders Dayan Viciedo and Avisail Garcia, both of whom struggled in 2014. The White Sox also still aren’t a strong team defensively. One more clever addition — perhaps someone like Nori Aoki to add to their corner outfield talent — might make a big difference.
That possibility aside, though, what do you think? Have the White Sox done enough already this offseason to mold themselves into a contender?
Many analysts believe the Athletics aren’t done making trades after consummating yesterday’s blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays. Oakland traded Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie and three prospects (MLBTR link). While the value is easy to see for the Blue Jays, the deal also makes sense for the A’s as part of a series of moves, according to Dave Cameron of FanGraphs. For at least a week, it’s been thought that the additions of Billy Butler and Ike Davis could signal a trade of Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, or John Jaso. We’ve also heard increasing chatter about Jeff Samardzija, including recent ties to the White Sox.
Moss, 31, fits the sell-high mold of the A’s. After three straight seasons of at least 20 home runs, MLBTR estimates he’ll earn $7.1MM via arbitration. He’s club controlled through 2016. As an aging, increasingly expensive slugger with questionable defense, he seems like the perfect trade candidate. His power numbers saw a downturn in 2014 due to a late season hip injury, although he memorably bashed two home runs in the Wild Card game. There are few comparable deals for left-handed designated hitters with about two-years of club control. One example might be Seth Smith, who the A’s dealt for a season of Luke Gregerson prior to 2014. Moss is probably slightly more valuable than Smith, who cost less but was due to hit free agency after just one season.
Reddick, a left-handed outfielder entering his age 28 season, could make for an intriguing option. Unlike Moss, Reddick rates as a plus defender. In an injury riddled season, he quietly punished right-handed pitching with a .280/.330/.519 line in 288 plate appearances. He’s an obvious platoon candidate, but his defense is good enough to justify an everyday role for a second division club. Reddick is estimated to earn $3.7MM in arbitration and is club controlled through 2016.
Jaso is likely the roster’s sell-low candidate. The erstwhile catcher emerged as a viable designated hitter against right-handed pitching. Unfortunately, clubs may be skittish about using him as a catcher – he ended the season on the disabled list with a concussion. The 31-year-old is thought to earn about $3.3MM in his final season of club control.
Samardzija is perhaps the most high profile of Oakland’s trade targets. The ace is entering his age 30 season coming off the best year of his career. He’s one season away from free agency. The A’s dealt their top prospect and several other notable players to acquire Samardzija and Jason Hammel during the season. Undoubtedly, Oakland would like to add an important piece of the future with any Samardzija trade. Recent rumors link the A’s to White Sox infielders Alexei Ramirez, Marcus Semien, and Tim Anderson. If Samardzija is willing to negotiate an extension as part of a deal (unlikely but not impossible), it could increase his trade value.
Other A’s who could prove expendable include Scott Kazmir, Craig Gentry, Sam Fuld, and Sean Doolittle. Kazmir is under contract for just one more season, although he may work better as a mid-season target. Gentry draws some of the best defensive marks in the league and hits well against left-handed pitching. He’s a useful complementary piece on any roster with a $1.5MM estimated price tag and two years of club control. Fuld also supplies good defense, except his bat isn’t as easily leveraged. He’s set to earn about $1.6MM this offseason via arbitration and can be controlled through 2016. As for Doolittle, the A’s may seem unlikely to trade him after his breakout 2014, but they do have a history of selling their relief aces at peak value.
The first portion of the free agent market — the sprint from the November 10 qualifying offer decision date to Thanksgiving — is now in the books. Next up, of course, will be the ramp-up to the upcoming Winter Meetings.
Before we get to round 2, let’s field opinions on round 1. Which early-market addition of a new talent do you believe to be the wisest?
- A.J. Burnett, Pirates, 1/$8.5MM
- Zach Duke, White Sox, 3/$15MM
- Michael Cuddyer, Mets, 2/$21MM*
- Adam LaRoche, White Sox, 2/$25MM
- Billy Butler, Athletics, 3/$30MM
- Russell Martin, Blue Jays, 5/$82MM*
- Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox, 4/$88MM + vesting/club option*
- Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox, 5/$95MM + club option*
*signing required sacrifice of draft pick
Standard disclaimer: I acknowledge that this poll asks for a prediction and that we won’t really know the answer for some time.
Non-standard disclaimer: because I forgot to include Victor Martinez’s re-signing with Detroit, but do not want to wipe out early votes, this poll will be about players who have found new teams.
It is always somewhat bittersweet for the baseball season to end, but rarely does it do so in such excellent fashion as last night’s Game 7. So as we tip our caps to the Giants (and, of course, the Royals), we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that today is the start of the offseason.
Offseason spending, of course, does not guarantee anything. This last season proves that yet again. In an update I provided in mid-March, after most of the major outlays were in the books, the top three teams by total free agent commitments were the Yankees, Mariners, and Rangers. Though most postseason teams threw around some fairly significant dollars, led by the Dodgers with $105MM, half of them — including the newly-crowned champs — promised away less than $50MM.
Nevertheless, free agency (in addition, of course to the trade market) offers the chance not only to grab in-prime stars but also to plug holes, make upgrades, and find value in unexpected places. Will the Yankees follow their reported course of more limited spending this time around? Will the Dodgers trim payroll or make a splash? Do the Red Sox or White Sox fill up their largely open future balance sheets? Or is there a surprise team sitting on a hidden war chest?
That remains to be seen. For now, however, you can predict: which MLB team will commit the most total dollars (overall contract guarantees) through free agency? (Team order randomized.)
As we begin to digest Joe Maddon’s departure from the Rays, interest will begin to focus on what’s next for the now-former manager. We at MLBTR have diligently collected quite a volume of information and reactions to Maddon’s decision. If you’re lacking any detail from yesterday’s surprise announcement, you’ll probably find it there.
We know that Maddon reportedly seeks a five-year, $25MM contract. And as we learned earlier tonight, the move may have been mutually beneficial for Maddon and the Rays. Maddon would have been a lame duck manager with his contract set to expire after the season and little hope for an extension. Now the Rays can get a head start on finding their next manager.
The Twins are the only club with a current opening at manager, and they appear to have narrowed the search to their three finalists. Minnesota GM Terry Ryan will reportedly do his due diligence, but it’s worth noting they have never paid a manager an annual rate above $2MM.
The Cubs are a much rumored destination due to supposed similarities between Maddon and Cubs president Theo Epstein. However, second year manager Rick Renteria led the club to 73 wins while overseeing a few breakout performances. He also handled a potentially fractious bullpen with aplomb. Low expectations helped Renteria form a good impression, but Chicago already appears to be in excellent hands.
Other managers on the hot seat like Ryne Sandberg, Terry Collins, and Fredi Gonzalez have all received votes of confidence since Maddon hit the open market. While that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, it would be a bold move to fire a manager who was considered secure (for now) as of just a few days ago. Another NL East club that might make sense – the Nationals – just reached the playoffs in Matt Williams first season with the club.
Of course, the question as posed does not exclude a mid-season job offer for Maddon, so let’s make that a separate option.
In his recent free agent profile of Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explained that a variety of strategic moves could have significant bearing on both where he ends up and what kind of contract he might play under in 2015 and, potentially, beyond. As Tim explains, the veteran still holds plenty of appeal both in Milwaukee and the rest of the league, especially for clubs that prefer a shorter-term obligation from a consistently productive player. And the way things shake out with Ramirez could have widespread implications for player movement elsewhere.
So, let’s look at the decision tree that will have such an important role in determining Ramirez’s future. First, there is a $14MM mutual option ($4MM buyout) to consider. If Milwaukee decides it’s just too much money and pays the buyout, Ramirez would enter the market free and clear. If the club exercises its end, Ramirez could either take that payday or release that bird in hand and try the market.
In the latter scenario, the Brewers could still make him a qualifying offer, which would present another binary decision for Ramirez. Declining the QO, of course, would saddle him with draft compensation in free agency. If he goes that route, a new destination is possible, though, as we’ve seen in recent years, some players that test the market after declining a qualifying offer return to their prior teams.
Oh, and there’s one more possibility: Ramirez and the Brewers could essentially bypass this series of decisions entirely by agreeing to a multi-year extension at the outset (or at any point along the way).
This kind of situation is more or less what we live for here at MLBTR. Tim has already gone on record with his expectations, and it’s time that our readers did the same. (I won’t ask you to try to decide what Ramirez would do if he reaches free agency.)
With the regular season coming to a close, we can see with MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker that there were dozens of waiver claims made this season. While many of the players involved in these transactions didn’t crack a big league roster or didn’t stick following their claim, a handful provided legitimate value to their new clubs. Let’s take a look at some of the better pulls…
- Sam Fuld (Claimed by Twins from A’s on April 20): Fuld was acquired by the Twins simply because they needed depth in center field, but he provided quite a bit more than depth. Fuld batted a very solid .274/.370/.354 in 195 PA with the Twins and provided value both on the bases and in the outfield. He was traded back to Oakland on July 31, netting the Twins Tommy Milone. The 27-year-old Milone has struggled so far in Minnesota, but the team gained four years of control of a potential back-end starter in the deal.
- Hector Noesi (Claimed by White Sox from Rangers on April 25): Few expected Noesi to hold down a rotation spot in Chicago for the whole season, but he’s done just that. The 27-year-old, who was a castoff from the Mariners after struggling to a 6.13 ERA in parts of three seasons, made just three appearances with the Rangers before being DFAed there also. In Chicago, he’s turned in a 4.39 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 37.7 percent ground-ball rate in 160 innings. He may not be an elite arm or even a long-term piece, but he’s provided some stability and soaked up innings, and there’s value to that for any club. Noesi is controlled through 2017 if the Sox are so inclined.
- Moises Sierra (Claimed by White Sox from Blue Jays on May 3): Chicago’s outfield depth took a hit with the injury to Avisail Garcia, and Sierra has helped fill some of the void in a part-time role. He hasn’t been an elite bat, but he’s provided above-average offense with a .280/.316/.423 and also played solid defense in right field. He’s yet to reach arbitration eligibility, and he remains under control through 2019, so he could serve as a bench piece in future seasons.
- Esmil Rogers (Claimed by Yankees from Blue Jays on July 31): Rogers’ struggles in Toronto were long bemoaned by Blue Jays fans, particularly because he was acquired in a deal that sent Yan Gomes to the Indians. The Yankees claimed him with little fanfare, but he’s given them five solid innings in a spot start and 19 2/3 innings of solid relief. The end result is a 3.28 ERA and a strong 22-to-8 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 frames for the Yankees. While he might not be a long-term piece (he’s a non-tender candidate after earning $1.85MM this year), he did provide a positive contribution to a Yankee pitching staff that was still hoping to make a run at the time of his acquisition.
- Jordan Schafer (Claimed by Twins from Braves on Aug. 3): Once a top Braves prospect, Schafer’s second tenure with the club that drafted him didn’t go all that well, but the Twins again claimed him in need of outfield depth. Schafer has faredwell in Minnesota, slashing .285/.345/.362 with 15 steals in 20 attempts. He can be controlled through 2016 if the Twins wish to retain him as a fourth outfielder, which seems likely, as he earned a modest $1.09MM in 2014.
- Matt Thornton (Claimed by Nationals from Yankees on Aug. 5): Thornton pitched well in the Bronx after signing a two-year, $7MM deal with the Yankees, but his salary made him expendable to the Bombers, who let him go to the Nats on this waiver claim. The veteran lefty has rattled off 11 1/3 scoreless innings over 18 appearances with the Nats and is controlled through next season at $3.5MM.
- Jerome Williams (Claimed by the Phillies from the Rangers on Aug. 10): Williams struggled mightily with both Texas clubs after finding success as a swingman with the Angels from 2011-13, but he rediscovered himself in Philadelphia. He’s given the Phillies eight starts and 51 1/3 innings of 2.45 ERA ball with 6.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45.7 percent ground-ball rate. With the Phillies toiling at the bottom of the NL East and Williams set to hit free agency at season’s end, the overall benefit may seem trivial, but he’s provided stable innings for the Phils and rebuilt some of the stock that his struggles in Houston and Arlington tarnished.
- John Axford (Claimed by Pirates from Indians on Aug. 14): Axford’s bid to reestablish himself with the Indians fell short, as he quickly lost the closer’s gig and walked 30 batters in 43 2/3 innings with Cleveland. The Bucs claimed him in hopes of lowering that walk rate, and they’ve succeeded. Axford has given the playoff-bound Bucs 10 2/3 innings of a 1.69 ERA in relief, and perhaps more importantly, he’s turned in a tidy 12-to-4 K/BB ratio in that time. He appears to have manager Clint Hurdle’s trust, as he’s worked the seventh inning three times, the eighth inning six times and the ninth inning three times in his 12 appearances as a Pirate. They’ll have the option to retain him via arbitration this offseason, though a raise on his $4.5MM salary may be too steep.
While these waiver claims vary in nature — some provide a long-term bench piece while others have provided short-term boosts — each has been of some benefit to their current club. That brings me to the question…
It’s an exceptionally quiet night on the transaction front, so let’s turn our attention to a poll. Tomorrow is Yasmani Tomas day with the Cuban slugger scheduled to workout at the Giants Dominican complex in front of about two dozen clubs. Even though tomorrow is a landmark date in Tomas’ move toward the majors, it is really just the beginning of the process. Like with fellow countryman Rusney Castillo, I assume Tomas will conduct private workouts with the most interested teams in the next few weeks. It’s also worth noting that Tomas has not yet been declared a free agent by major league baseball.
We heard last Sunday that Tomas could command as much as $100MM in a bidding war. While we can assume that every team with some modicum of interest will be represented at the showcase, we’ve seen eight teams directly tied to Tomas. The Yankees and Phillies are popular speculative destinations. Hall of Fame journalist and MLB Network contributor Peter Gammons mentioned five clubs as front runners, including the Phillies, Rangers, Tigers, Padres, and Giants. The Red Sox and Mets have also been tied to Tomas here at MLBTR.
So my question is this: who do you think will sign Tomas? I’ve removed a few teams from the poll below based on payroll or other constraints (i.e. the Rays). If the team you think will sign him is not represented, you should vote for “other.”