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We have not seen much in the way of free agency-avoiding extensions this spring, through there are a few days left for that to happen (to say nothing of the possibility of mid-season transactions). But there have been a few pre-arb deals already, and it just so happens that young outfielders are the extension targets du jour.
Every extension situation is a little different, but finding comparable contracts plays an important role in both negotiating and evaluating deals. So, with three fairly similar players recently signing on the line for life-changing money, I thought it would be interest to see which of these deals MLBTR readers like best.
Christian Yelich, Marlins (1.069 years service): seven years, $49.57MM + club option. This deal is by far the largest of the three covered here and delivers club control all the way through 2022. Still just 23, Yelich may be expected to continue to progress over the life of the contract. Of course, unlike the other players, Yelich plays the corner outfield (albeit quite well). And though he looks to be a high batting average and OBP type, while contributing double-digit steals, Yelich currently has average power. Is that package worth roughly twice the commitment made to the names below?
Adam Eaton, White Sox (2.030 years service): five years, $23.5MM + two club options. Of the deals covered, this one might have the most contractual upside (bearing in mind that Eaton is one service class ahead of the other two) because it delivers lengthy control and flexibility through two option years. Depending upon how one views the 26-year-old Eaton’s injury risk, defensive capabilities, BABIP sustainability, and baserunning upside, this could be quite a bargain. If not, Chicago should have a solid player at a good price and can move on when the time is right.
Juan Lagares, Mets (1.160 years service): four years, $23MM + one club option***. Lagares, 26, is probably the best defensive center fielder in baseball. While this contract only puts one free agent year in the Mets’ control, it does allow the team to sit back and watch Lagares vacuum up balls that aging veterans Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer can’t reach without worrying about how much he will cost. It’s a nice price if Lagares can maintain his league-average batting line from last year. And if he can tap into some power, which some observers seem to think he looks capable of, then this deal could become a steal.
***Note that the Lagares contract starts in 2016, making for a total current commitment of five years and about $23.5MM.
So, which contract — not necessarily just which player — would you rather have?
The Dodgers have had an incredibly busy offseason under new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi. Indeed, as MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker shows, the new Los Angeles regime has racked up about thirty deals of some kind or another.
Many of those, of course, were not major moves. But the Dodgers have obviously not been shy about making significant transactions to add and remove veterans from their roster — a topic that I discussed at length with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times for today’s MLBTR Podcast. (Keep an eye out for that to post later today.)
Sticking to the most impactful deals, I thought it would be interesting to get a sense of how the MLBTR readership views the work of the new LA leadership. (We’ll treat the interconnected Kendrick and Gordon deals as one for purposes of this poll.)
Olivera figures in the mix at second or third, but with so many other options there — and given the risk that he brings — was this a wise allocation of resources?
Anderson has always been productive when healthy, but can he stay on the hill?
Can McCarthy continue his success from late last year and avoid his own injury woes?
Rollins is still a solid performer despite his age, but will he hit a wall at age 36?
Acquire second baseman Howie Kendrick from Angels for starter Andrew Heaney after acquiring Heaney, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, reliever Chris Hatcher, and catcher Austin Barnes from Marlins in exchange for middle infielder Dee Gordon, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas, and a player to be named
Giving up Gordon while adding Kendrick upgraded the team in the near term but sacrificed control, and the team passed on a chance to plug a young arm into the back of a rotation that arguably lacks depth.
As Hernandez discusses on today’s podcast, this move has the biggest chance for blowback potential from the fan base; was it a shrewd business move or will the organization regret parting with a prominent star?
(Click here for results.)
We recently took the temperature of the MLBTR readership on the free agent market’s most recent and biggest remaining prize: Cuban infielder Hector Olivera. The results? A virtual tie between the Braves (24.48%), Padres (23.35%), and Dodgers (21.76%), with no other club cracking ten percent of the vote.
I thought it might be interesting to conduct a follow-up survey to ask a closely related question: how much will Olivera ultimately be guaranteed? We’ve seen a wide range of estimates and reported offers — just check the Hector Olivera tag to find an abundance of news items — but there still seems to be a fair bit of variance in expectations. Reports indicate that clubs are interested in deals of four to six years in duration.
So, which of the following figures is Olivera most likely to land closest to in total guaranteed money? (I.e., if you choose $40MM, you believe he is most likely to sign for more than $35MM but less than $45MM.)
It’s been a whirlwind week on the Hector Olivera front, as the 29-year-old Cuban infielder switched agents earlier this week and is said to be weighing offers of four to six years in length, with the ultimate price tag expected to land around $50MM as recently as last night. Per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez — who discussed Olivera and other Cuban players with Jeff Todd on the MLBTR Podcast last month — Olivera has received strong interest from the Dodgers, Braves, A’s, Marlins, Padres and Giants. To this point, the Braves have made an offer and are reportedly interested in the $30-40MM range, while the Padres are said to be considering an offer worth upwards of $50MM. Olivera has already conducted physicals for the Braves, Dodgers and Padres, and possibly other clubs as well. Let’s take a quick look at how he’d fit on each of the reportedly interested clubs…
- Dodgers — The Dodgers have Howie Kendrick and Juan Uribe at second and third base, respectively, which are Olivera’s two best positions. Uribe is a free agent next winter and could shift into a super utility role, as he has plenty of experience at shortstop and second base in the Majors as well. However, much of his value has come from his suddenly excellent work at third base over the past two seasons, and the Dodgers may have to use Alex Guerrero in a super utility role due to his contract, which allows him to refuse an assignment to the Minors.
- Braves — Olivera could step directly into Atlanta’s lineup at second base, as he’d be an upgrade with the bat over likely starter Alberto Callaspo and potential utility player Jace Peterson. Braves fans will point out that Jose Peraza is believed to be the long-term answer at second, but he’s at least a year away, and Olivera could always unseat Chris Johnson at third base; Johnson posted just a .292 OBP with little power last year and is not well-regarded defensively.
- Athletics — The A’s will likely use Ben Zobrist at second and Brett Lawrie at third this year, though Zobrist could be used in the outfield, presumably left field, if Olivera were signed. Zobrist is only controlled through this season, so Olivera makes sense as a long-term option for the A’s at second base.
- Marlins — The Marlins’ infield situation is crowded, and there’s no spot opening up for the next two years, barring a trade. Still, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reported last night that Miami is comfortable in the $50MM range with Olivera and believes he could handle all four infield spots. Per Frisaro, the Fish would like to rest Mike Morse one or two days per week and also would like to spell Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop from time to time.
- Padres — Olivera would likely start over one of Jedd Gyorko or Will Middlebrooks at second or third base. It’s possible that Middlebrooks could eventually wind up playing first base, depending on how well Yonder Alonso hits this season. The two could at least platoon, one would imagine, allowing Gyorko and Olivera to handle second and third (each player can handle both positions).
- Giants — Joe Panik looks to be their second baseman this season, but much of Panik’s 2014 success was driven by a .343 BABIP that may be too high to repeat, and he doesn’t offer much in terms of power or speed. Even if the Giants feel Panik is the long-term answer at second, they could shift him to a bench role this year and slide Olivera over to third next year after Casey McGehee becomes a free agent.
It’s possible that another club will enter the mix unexpectedly, as Olivera’s agency shift has reportedly expanded the level of interest. (His previous agents had been touting a $70MM goal.) However, at this point, these appear to be the six top landing spots, which seems like plenty of fuel to conduct a poll.
We just looked at the offseason’s free agent spending by team. One of the more interesting sets of comparisons suggested, I think, involves the middle-class spenders, specifically those in the $60MM to $70MM range. Let’s consider the different strategies employed:
Veteran Bat: The Mariners and Tigers both made four-year investments in older, established bats (Nelson Cruz and Victor Martinez, respectively). Otherwise, they basically only added supplemental pieces through free agency, with Seattle adding platoon man Rickie Weeks and Detroit bolstering its pen with Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny.
Veteran Arm: Most of the cash put onto the market by the Dodgers and Twins went into established starters coming off of good seasons but carrying some questions. Los Angeles went with Brandon McCarthy (supplemented by Brett Anderson, Brandy Beachy, and Dustin McGowan), while Minnesota spent big on Ervin Santana in addition to picking up Torii Hunter and Tim Stauffer.
Spread the Love: The Astros and Royals each invested in at least four players, with each club touching the $20MM mark only once apiece (Jed Lowrie and Edinson Volquez, respectively). Each filled needs with veterans (Luke Gregerson/Pat Neshek vs. Alex Rios/Kendrys Morales/Jason Frasor) and took upside risks (Colby Rasmus for Houston and Kris Medlen/Luke Hochevar for K.C.).
Upside Play: For the Diamondbacks, this season’s open market was all about one man: Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas. The rebuilding club jumped on the chance to put all of its free agent spending into a young player who could deliver huge value at the right time — if he can reach his ceiling.
Each of these clubs committed to sums within the same $10MM range. Which allocated its funds most intelligently, given its particular needs?
The last man standing on Tim Dierkes’s Top Fifty Free Agent list is reliever Rafael Soriano. I predicted that he would land two years and $12MM before the offseason started, though I noted that there was a downside scenario where he could earn less. (Check that link for a full write-up of Soriano’s free agent case.)
With pitchers and catchers already reporting around the game, it is even more difficult now to peg the contract — all the more so with a report that some scouts felt his stuff went downhill late last year. The similarly-situated Rodriguez just got $13MM over two years, so there’s still some money to be spent. But that came from the Brewers, perhaps the last team that was intent on making an investment in the back of the bullpen.
We haven’t heard much on Soriano’s market all offseason, and even more recent reports have focused on him as a possible backup option to Rodriguez. While there are strong arguments against all the teams listed below, they seem at least the most hypothetically plausible.
Blue Jays – The front office has heavily downplayed the possibility of a big league deal with a reliever, but the closer role remains open and the club has at least considered going after Soriano.
Dodgers – Kenley Jansen is out for a while and the overall relief corps is not that exciting, but the team just signed Dustin McGowan and preliminary reports of possible interest in Soriano have been contested.
Marlins – They are said not to be likely suitors, but did reportedly make a multi-year offer to K-Rod so obviously have some free cash that could be put into the pen.
Orioles – Zach Britton is left-handed and only has half a year of success in the ninth; Dan Duquette has shown a predilection for jumping on late-market deals.
Rangers – After burning through an unbelievable number of arms last year, Texas is leaning on a relatively recent TJ patient in Neftali Feliz — to say nothing of the less-established arms in camp.
Rockies – With John Axford already joining the fold on a minor league deal as a supplement to LaTroy Hawkins, it doesn’t seem likely, but Colorado could look to make a minor splash if the price is right.
Tigers – Detroit may make eminent sense or none at all, depending on one’s perspective; I find it unlikely but not unimaginable after the signing of Joba Chamberlain.
Other – There are other major league teams, as you may know, and all are free to sign Soriano. With plenty of earnings already in his pocket, might Soriano wait for an injury need to open the door to a more significant role?
We may as well take a poll while we’re at it. Which of the above seems most plausible to you?
You all know the basic Yoan Moncada story by now. He is a young, switch-hitting infielder (or, possibly center fielder) who has tons of tools and arguably rates amongst the top dozen or so prospect-level players. (Or, he will once he qualifies for such lists.) Now eligible to sign, a decision is expected in relatively short order.
Of course, in addition to whatever bonus Moncada receives, the team that signs him will be required to pony up a 100% tax on whatever amount it pays him over its international bonus pool allocation. With many teams having already spent to or past their total pool dollars, it is in effect a doubling of the bonus. And it must be paid up front, rather than spread over time.
In spite of the financial nuances, Moncada’s total signing value will offer fascinating insight into what kind of value that level of prospect really has in today’s game.
(That question — and how it relates to the excess value in the contract of a certain veteran pitcher on a longer-term deal — was something that Steve Adams and I discussed in the most recent MLBTR podcast. For what it’s worth, the podcast also featured Andrew Miller, whose services over the last several months of the year were valued highly enough that the Orioles gave up a well-regarded young arm to secure them.)
Of course, the signing will also represent a huge financial commitment for a player who figures to be a ways off from reaching the big leagues. By my count, a dozen teams have been connected to Moncada in some manner publicly. Two of those — the Cubs and Rangers — would be ineligible to sign him unless he waits until after July 2 of this year.
Now is your chance to help pool the wisdom of MLBTR readers before a deal is done. Which of the following teams (or sets of teams) is likeliest to land Moncada?
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes rated three starters at the top of this year’s free agent class, as did many other observers: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. There was never much debate as to which of that trio was “best” or would earn the most money, but plenty of ink was spilled on the question of which would deliver the best value.
Those three are now all signed to deals that fall largely within the range of expectations, but which come with considerations impacting their respective value. And, of course, we now know which teams those hurlers will pitch for, allowing consideration of fit.
So, all said, which signing was the wisest? Here are the affirmative arguments for each:
Max Scherzer, Nationals (seven years, $210MM): There is little question that Scherzer was the best player available, and he upgrades an already-excellent Nats’ rotation while also effectively building out the team’s depth at the position — now and in the future. And here’s the key point that has flown under the radar: when the deal’s whopping $210MM price tag is reduced to net present value, it is less than 10% more costly than the Lester contract.
Jon Lester, Cubs (six years, $155MM plus option): Raise your hand if you predicted this signing? Actually, wait, raise your hand if you didn’t. Lester makes a perfect fit for the Cubs in so many ways. He is a workhorse, clubhouse rock who is coming off his best season as a professional. Lester can be expected to front the rotation now and provide a stabilizing force over the life of his deal, which gives the team control over a seventh year without guaranteeing it.
James Shields, Padres (four years, $75MM plus option): Not only did San Diego manage to get Shields for four years, instead of five, it did so while promising far less than the nine-figure deal that many thought possible or even probable. Shields may be the oldest of this group, but he is not promised any money past his age-36 season, same as the rest. He has been outstanding and durable, and there’s an argument to be made that the Friars got the steal of the offseason.
Dayan Viciedo has not lived up to the potential he demonstrated when the White Sox originally signed him, but he is a major league player, writes Paul Swydan of FanGraphs. The White Sox requested unconditional release waivers for Viciedo last Wednesday – a week after he was designated for assignment. With his time in Chicago likely coming to a close, Swydan examined possible landing spots for the soon-to-be 26-year-old slugger.
Viciedo’s shortcomings are readily apparent. He’s viewed as a defensive liability by advanced metrics, making him a better fit for a designated or pinch hitter role. Unfortunately, he has never exceeded league average production on offense per wRC+. Pure hitters are expected to surpass league average by a healthy margin.
Despite flaws, Viciedo is relatively young and has blasted over 20 home runs twice. He also has notable platoon splits, with a career .291/.331/.507 line in 487 plate appearances against southpaw pitchers. A team that can hide Viciedo from the field and right-handed pitchers could find some real value. Swydan also highlights Viciedo’s clutch score, which ranks 16th in baseball over the last three seasons.
As we learned earlier today, the Reds are probably out on Viciedo. Considering their paucity of power on the bench, it’s a little surprising to consider them completely out of the picture. Players like Skip Schumaker and Thomas Neal could upgraded in Swydan’s opinion.
Based on their bench depth, the Giants might be the best fit for Viciedo. Andrew Susac is probably the best hitter among the non-starters, but the Giants won’t want to burn their backup catcher often. With Joaquin Arias projected as the primary designated hitter for interleague games, the defending World Champions could use a cheap upgrade.
The Phillies and Braves are in the midst of rebuilding, so they have opportunities available for Viciedo. Both the Tigers and Yankees intend to compete in 2015, but they may need an infusion of right-handed power. In the case of Detroit, the knee injury to Victor Martinez could open the door for Viciedo. Swydan sees New York as a fit if they want another layer of depth behind Alex Rodriguez.
For what it’s worth, I think the Phillies make the most sense. They can try Viciedo at first base in a platoon with Ryan Howard. The club also has Darin Ruf, who is expected to fill that exact role, but there is plenty of roster flexibility to give two players an opportunity. Where do you think Viciedo will land?
Oftentimes we pose poll questions that require evaluation, quite frequently with imperfect information. This evening, I thought it would be interesting to ask MLBTR’s readers to provide their collective wisdom on an even more open-ended question.
As scarcely needs to be mentioned, the Nationals have reportedly agreed to terms with this year’s best free agent, Max Scherzer. It turns out that Washington already had one of (if not the) best one-through-five rotations in baseball, and that Scherzer adds to the top of that group while bumping Tanner Roark to the pen/depth category. Given those circumstances, and persistent rumors throughout the offseason indicating that the Nats could deal from their core (especially that part of it set to hit free agency after the year), it remains an open question whether more moves are to come.
This is, of course, a hard-to-peg effort that is highly dependent upon other actors around the league, but I thought it would be interesting to see where our readership’s predilections lie. Assuming a market return is available in any of the below scenarios, which is the best from the Nats’ perspective? Here are the likeliest options for another significant move by GM Mike Rizzo, so far as come to my mind:
1) Trade Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister: This basic scenario has been prominently contemplated for quite some time. The idea here would be that these two righties have made clear they will not sign extensions that the team feels comfortable with, so the long-term and short-term presence of one of them replaced by another arm (Scherzer). D.C. can market the pair and take the offer that provides the best value for one or the other. But with one year to go, would it be possible to find a deal that provides enough of a return to justify the loss of a quality arm in advance of a season of expected competition?
2) Trade Stephen Strasburg: If you thought that the idea of dealing Zimmermann would create controversy, wait until everyone starts re-living the 2012 shutdown after a trade of one of the franchise’s two most prominent players. With two years of very reasonably-priced control, and nearly-unmatched upside (even if he has never quite put it all together), Strasburg would undoubtedly bring the biggest return. But is there enough to be gained to move on from the player who brought excitement back to D.C. baseball? And is the organization ready to look towards a 2016 that does not include any of its three best arms from a year ago?
3) Trade Tanner Roark: I’m not entirely sure why this scenario has not been discussed, but to this point Roark has been masterful and is fairly young and very cheap. If controllable, established arms are so sought after, might Rizzo entice another team to give up a similar-situated position player or a haul of prospects? Then again, perhaps Roark constitutes useful depth, this year and into the future, to say nothing of an immediate replacement for Tyler Clippard in the bullpen.
4) Trade Ian Desmond: Many suggested that the Nationals were interested in trading away Desmond and installing Yunel Escobar at short after acquiring him. Of course, unless such a scenario brought back a new, starting-caliber middle infielder in return, it would not seem to make much sense. But can such a package be found? And, if so, might it make sense to ship out one the organization’s longest-tenured player and most reliable clubhouse presence?
5) Stand pat: Yes, this is an option, and a rather appealing one in my view. With Scherzer’s money comfortably deferred, and Clippard gone to clear extra space, the Opening Day payroll is not too scary to look at. Having six quality starters is something of a luxury, but then again Roark does slot in nicely in the relief corps and would be available (along with Blake Treinen and others) for the inevitable spot duty. If things break right and the club is overflowing with arms come the trade deadline, a deal can always be struck to fill in any other needs that have arisen. In the meantime, they can add another pen arm if the price is right or otherwise head to camp with what they have.
Those are the options. What say you? Responses randomized below.