MLBTR Polls Rumors
The contracts signed by Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo have topped even some of the more aggressive projections from the onset of the offseason. Cano inked a ten-year, $240MM contract with the Mariners. Ellsbury became the latest mega-deal for the Yankees when he signed for $153MM over seven years. And though Choo reportedly turned down $140MM from the Yankees, he still found himself a seven-year, $130MM payday from the Rangers.
Each player comes with some concerns. Choo's defensive skills have slipped in recent years (though most still think he can be a solid defender at an outfield corner), and he struggles against left-handed pitching. Ellsbury's game is tied largely to his speed -- an asset that may deteriorate with age. He has just one season of elite power numbers under his belt. Cano is one of the game's best all-around players, but as such, he commanded the third-largest deal in baseball history and required an additional three guaranteed years over Choo and Ellsbury at a higher annual salary.
Each of these contracts comes with an enormous amount of risk, but such is the case when pursuing free agents of this nature. Technically, Brian McCann's contract could hit $100MM if his sixth-year option vests, but I elected not to include him for this poll because he wasn't guaranteed a nine-figure payday. That being said...
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes kicked off the offseason by providing our Top 50 list of 2014 free agents (along with predictions for where each would sign). Since that time, 35 of the 50 free agents have come off the board, including each of the top four. Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Brian McCann have all found new homes, leaving recently posted Masahiro Tanaka as the top remaining free agent from MLBTR's Top 50.
The remaining list features a mix of starting pitchers, infielders, outfielders and relievers, each of whom should still be able to add considerable value to a club. However, while most agreed that some combination of Cano, Ellsbury, Choo and McCann were the top four names on this year's market, opinions began to differ significantly after that point. In particular, there's a split as to which of Tanaka, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza is the best bet among free agent pitchers. Tanaka will almost certainly sign the largest contract, but that's largely due to his age (25) and his lack of draft pick compensation. Does that mean he's a better pitcher than the others? That's up for debate.
With all that said, let's open this up to MLBTR readership. Based purely on talent and expected contribution to a team, rank the remnants of our initial Top 50 list below.
Click here to see the results as they come in (apologies for including the wrong link initially -- results should be working properly at this time).
The Rakuten Golden Eagles have opted to post star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, and now MLB teams will have a chance to battle it out for the chance to sign an ace. The posting process will begin Thursday morning, and will be done by January 24. Effectively, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News notes, any team can negotiate with Tanaka if it's willing to pay the Golden Eagles a posting fee of $20MM.
Tanaka has chosen Casey Close of Excel Sports Management to represent him. Close represents star Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, as well as Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees. In addition to the Dodgers and Yankees, Tanaka has been linked to the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Angels, and Rangers. Not all those teams are equally likely to sign Tanaka, obviously. So have at it -- who do you think will get him?
While the MLB Winter Meetings are already fading in the rearview mirror, it seemed that we ought to do at least one poll on the results. With so much money already committed through free agency, I wondered at the outset of the meetings whether the stage was set for interesting trade scenarios. So, we'll ask MLBTR readers: which teams best utilized their time in Orlando to swing a trade?
Though nothing qualifying as a blockbuster went down, there were some interesting swaps. And each appeared to feature different strategic motivations and philosophies on player value. Such differences, of course, are fuel for the hot stove (and are what make trades so interesting). So, here are the four major deals in a nutshell:
- Diamondbacks acquire OF Mark Trumbo, RHP A.J. Schugel, and OF Brandon Jacobs in exchange for OF Adam Eaton and LHP Tyler Skaggs
- Angels acquire Skaggs and LHP Hector Santiago in exchange for Trumbo and Schugel
- White Sox acquire Eaton in exchange for Santiago and Jacobs
It was easy to see the respective clubs' motivations in making this deal, but check out their GMs' comments for a refresher. Power went to Arizona, young arms to Los Angeles (including one with upside in Skaggs), and a nice, affordable outfield piece to Chicago. The Diamondbacks got the biggest name and, perhaps, most immediate impact, but the other clubs filled holes in a cost-efficient manner. Which end do you like?
- Rockies acquire LHP Brett Anderson and $2MM in exchange for LHP Drew Pomeranz and RHP Chris Jensen
- Athletics acquire Pomeranz and Jensen in exchange for Anderson and $2MM
If you're interested in tracking buy-low opportunities on talented left-handed pitching, this deal is one to keep an eye on. Both pitchers were born in 1988, interestingly enough. Anderson brings a tantalizing MLB track record, but comes with serious injury concerns, a substantial price tag, and only two years of control. Pomeranz has yet to realize his ability at the game's highest level -- he has a 5.20 ERA in 136 2/3 MLB innings split over three seasons -- but still comes with five years of team control and his top-25 prospect pedigree. So, which southpaw was the better one to take a chance on?
- Nationals acquire LHP Jerry Blevins in exchange for OF Billy Burns
- Athletics acquire Burns in exchange for Blevins
Everyone knew the Nationals were going to add a southpaw reliever; it was just a question of who and how. With the price on the open market not to the club's liking, it decided to barter. Blevins is arguably a more attractive piece than Boone Logan, but his final two arb years should cost the Nats less than a quarter of Logan's $16.5MM guarantee from Colorado. Meanwhile, Burns was blocked in the D.C. system, but could provide cheap, solid production in Oakland before long. His top-level defense and baserunning give him the kind of floor that could be money in the bank in a year or two. This looks like a nice way for both teams to preserve future resources, but did either team achieve enough value to make their end of the deal the best at the Winter Meetings?
- Mariners acquire 1B/DH Logan Morrison in exchange for RHP Carter Capps
- Marlins acquire Capps in exchange for Morrison
A deal involving Morrison became a fait accompli when Miami inked Garrett Jones, but his market value remained difficult to assess. Once a top prospect, Morrison had hit at a well-above-average clip for his first 800+ plate appearances before injury and inconsistency derailed him in 2012-13. When Wednesday became moving day for corner outfield/first base/DH types with question marks, we got our answer on LoMo's return: Capps, a big-armed, cost-controlled 23-year-old who has a good bit of upside (within the bounds of possibility for a right-handed reliever). Do you see Morrison as an undervalued asset, view Capps as the kind of young power arm that the Cardinals just rode to a World Series appearance, or both?
To get at the true sentiments of MLBTR readers, I'll ask you to order the trades -- from most beneficial to least -- that were consummated at the 2013 Winter Meetings. (Note: response order is randomized.)
Click here to see the results as they roll in.
In the wake of Tim Lincecum's recent re-up with the Giants, I took a look back (using MLBTR's Extension Tracker) to see if there were any comparable starting pitching extensions agreed upon during post-season play. There were: each of the last four offseasons has seen one (and only one) rotation member sign a new deal with his club during the month of October. Though the Yankees' massive extension of C.C. Sabathia is not really comparable, the other two deals are. Rather than just asking for an up-or-down vote on the Lincecum deal, I thought it might be more interesting to approach the question in a bit of historical context.
In 2010, the Dodgers decided to hand Ted Lilly a three-year, $33MM deal. In doing so, Los Angeles kept Lilly from reaching the market as a probable Type-A free agent, which might have suppressed his value and would have allowed the club to recoup two draft picks if he signed elsewhere. And in 2012, the White Sox gave Jake Peavy a two-year, $29MM deal, including a club option for 2015 that could have vested (but will not) to become a player option. In so doing, Chicago also agreed to pay Peavy a deferred $4MM buyout on the $22MM option the club already held on him. Of course, the Sox could also have decided to make Peavy a qualifying offer -- at essentially the same average annual value they promised him for two years -- to keep his price down in free agency and deliver a first-round draft choice if he went elsewhere.
Of course, we now know how those two deals turned out for the clubs signing them. Lilly was solid, if unspectacular, in 2011, putting up a 3.97 ERA in 192 2/3 innings. He was off to a nice start over his first 48 1/3 innings in 2012 when he was knocked out of commission by a shoulder injury. He was ineffective in just 23 big league innings this season, and ultimately returned less than 2 WAR over the life of the contract. Meanwhile, Peavy fell well short of his outstanding 2012 season in the first year of his new deal, ultimately throwing 144 2/3 innings of 4.17 ERA baseball, good for 2.4 fWAR and 1.5 rWAR. He was reasonably effective, but hardly dominant, for a sputtering White Sox squad before suffering a broken rib that endangered his status as a trade deadline target. Nevertheless, his pre-deadline return enabled the South Siders to flip Peavy to the Red Sox and return prospect Avisail Garcia (and others), while shedding the remainder of his salary.
Much as with Lilly and Peavy, Lincecum signed his new contract before his present club could make him a qualifying offer that would have limited his free agent prospects. Indeed, the San Francisco front office sought to justify Lincecum's price tag in part by noting that he would have received about the same amount had he accepted consecutive qualifying offers this year and next.
Ultimately, the Lilly and Peavy deals show two possible outcomes for Lincecum's own contract. Though Lincecum is somewhat younger than the other two, he has nearly as many innings on his arm as they did. Injury or ineffectiveness could render the deal a major waste of resources. Or the Freak could pitch well enough for other teams to view the remainder of his contract as a valuable commodity. (Even if his no-trade clause would present a significant barrier to an actual deal.) Which outcome seems more likely at this point?
Last year marked the first time that the new qualifying offer system was employed. All nine players who were extended an offer declined to accept it. In addition to turning down a sure $13.3MM, those players hit the market with draft pick compensation attached. Things worked out well enough, as each ultimately signed for a comfortable bit more than the qualfying offer, with only one (Hiroki Kuroda) settling for a one-year deal and total guarantee of less than $24MM.
This time around, we learned today, a club hoping to affix the poison pill of draft pick compensation to an outgoing free agent will need to offer $14.1MM. With the number settled, I thought it would be interesting to see whether MLBTR's readers think we'll see a first for the QO system: a player that accepts the offer. Of course, there are good reasons to expect that such a result will be a relative rarity, beginning with the fact that borderline players may not get an offer in the first place. But it is bound to happen sooner or later.
Recently, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes asked our readers to assess which players would receive an offer from their club. (Here are the results.) Starting from his list, it doesn't seem worth considering everyone. Some are no-brainers both to get an offer and to reject it: Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Brian McCann. While things start to get debatable after that group, it is hard to see Curtis Granderson, Mike Napoli, or Ervin Santana taking a QO at this stage. (I considered excluding Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tim Lincecum, and Carlos Beltran as well, but decided to keep them in the poll.) Then, let's strike a few off the bottom of the list who probably have no chance at the offer at this point: Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, and Scott Kazmir. And, of course, Hunter Pence has already re-signed.
The remaining group includes the likeliest possibilities. All are at least plausible candidates to get an offer. And whether owing to age, market uncertainty, personal considerations, or a poor platform year, there is at least some reason to believe that each could be enticed to take a cool $14MM when it is the only money actually sitting on the table.
So, is there a team that will make an offer to a player that it expects to accept? And/or a player sufficiently concerned with the Bourn-Lohse effect to do just that? What is the likeliest situation to result in an accepted offer: an aging veteran starter looking for one last go (perhaps Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, Kuroda)? a high-upside arm looking to ensure a payday and build more value (Ubaldo Jimenez, Lincecum)? a low-ceiling, high-floor middle-infielder who a contender might pay handsomely for a single campaign (Stephen Drew, Omar Infante)? an established power bat with defensive limitations (Beltran, Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales)? or an emergent backstop who comes with some questions about the sustainability of his breakout (Saltalamacchia)?
Which -- if any -- of the following players do you see as the most likely to both receive and accept a qualifying offer from their current club during the coming off-season? (Response choice order has been randomized.)
Last offseason, nine players received qualifying offers worth $13.3MM. At least two more would have been likely to receive one had they not been deemed ineligible due to midseason trades. A qualifying offer, if turned down, enables the team losing the free agent to receive a draft pick as compensation. We haven't seen a player accept a qualifying offer yet, but the process is still in its infancy. I've estimated the qualifying offer amount at around $14MM for the 2013-14 offseason. Below, I've drafted an inclusive list of candidates to receive one on the fifth day after the World Series ends this year. In today's poll, please check all whom you expect to receive a qualifying offer. You can click here to view the results.
It's been another disappointing season for the Blue Jays' Josh Johnson, who was expected to be a big part of the Jays' playoff push after being acquired in last offseason's blockbuster deal with the Marlins. As Toronto mulls a qualifying offer for the big right-hander, they'll have to weigh his troubling injury history with his ability to dominate when on the mound.
Johnson seemingly righted the ship in 2012, when he posted a 3.81 ERA and managed 30 starts for the first time since 2009. However, he was sidelined for much of 2013 by a series of arm ailments and knee tendinitis, and was finally shut down in late August with a strained forearm. His final line, a 6.20 ERA in 81 1/3 innings, makes 2013 arguably the worst campaign of his career.
That's not the whole story, however, as peripheral numbers suggest that Johnson may have been the victim of some bad luck in 2013. His 9.2 K/9 this year is well above his career mark of 7.8, though it's offset by an uptick in walks, and his xFIP is just 3.60. Looking closer, we see that Johnson's 18.5 percent HR/FB rate may have been the source of his 2013 woes. That figure is more than double his career 8.2 percent mark and ranks as the third-highest in baseball among pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings.
There's also the fact that Johnson has consistently performed at a high level when healthy. His career ERA stands at 3.40, and he's still just 29. GM Alex Anthopoulos could make a splash in free agency or offer up more high-level prospects in a trade, but at just one year and $14MM or so, Johnson seems attractive in terms of upside.
Though the Blue Jays' offseason makeover hasn't worked as planned, the other major pieces the club acquired - Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey - all return for another playoff push in 2014. Given this and Johnson's encouraging peripherals, the righty may be worth the qualifying offer gamble. What do you think?
Much has been made of the Angels' need for young pitching this offseason, and there's been plenty of speculation that they'll have to acquire it via trade. Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo, Erick Aybar and Peter Bourjos are the names that come up most frequently when discussing the Halos' quest to acquire arms. While the team is reportedly more open to trading Kendrick than the others, they did discuss Aybar with the Cardinals this summer, and the Pirates attempted to land Trumbo, suggesting those names could surface in negotiations this winter.
Kendrick, 30, has batted .301/.341/.437 with 11 homers this season while delivering yet another season of solid defense at second base. He's under contract through 2015 and will earn $9.35MM in each of the next two seasons as he finishes out the four-year extension he signed prior to the 2012 campaign. Given the thin market for free agent second basemen, teams in need of an upgrade at the keystone may find Kendrick to be a highly appealing alternative.
Trumbo, who turns 28 in January, is having a down season at .244/.299/.471. He does have 32 homers and the best walk rate of his career (7.4 percent), and he's once again graded out as a plus defender at first base according to UZR and The Fielding Bible. Trumbo's on-base skills have long been questioned, but his walk rate has increased steadily since his rookie campaign. He'll be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and is controlled through 2016.
Aybar will turn 30 in January and is controlled through 2016 at $8.5MM per season. His stock is down thanks to a .267/.301/.380 batting line, but historically speaking he's been a plus offensive player at shortstop. He rarely walks but he also rarely strikes out (9.5 percent). It's not a surprise to see a decline in his stolen base total and advanced defensive metrics in a season where he's been slowed by heel and hamstring injuries, but he's a nice rebound candidate due to his age and track record.
The 26-year-old Bourjos is out for the season thanks to a fractured wrist but hit .274/.333/.377 in 55 games this year. Over the course of his career, he's graded out as one of baseball's best defenders in center and done so with an adjusted OPS that pegs him as a roughly league-average hitter. Like Trumbo, he's arbitration eligible for the first time this winter and can be controlled through 2016.
Realistically, Mike Trout is the best trade chip in all of baseball, but if we want to stick to realism, there's no chance the Angels would trade him, so he's been left off this poll. With all of this said, let's open up the vote.
Last night, I discussed the Braves overflowing cupboard of players that seem to fit the mold of early extension candidates, looking at whether GM Frank Wren would join the league-wide trend of locking up young talent. In a nutshell, the team seems to have at least eleven players that arguably could warrant extension consideration in the immediate future: Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson, Craig Kimbrel, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Jonny Venters, Julio Teheran, and Justin Upton. (I mention Upton last because, though he is just 26, he has already signed one extension and thus is not looking for his first big payday. All of the other players still have at least two years of arbitration eligibility remaining.) Inspired by the MLBTR commenters that endeavored to sort through this group, I thought it would be interesting to ask our readers to weigh in on the situation in its full context.
As noted in my earlier piece, Atlanta does have room in its future payroll to fit some extensions. Then again, it also has over $40MM committed to just three players over the next two years, and boasts an annual payroll that has tended to land right around $90MM at opening day. The list of players we've compiled is good enough that you could probably just add average players around it and still have a winner. Without demeaning the immense contributions this year of part-timers like Jordan Schafer and Evan Gattis, to say nothing of Brian McCann and a solid all-around pitching staff, that is very nearly what the Braves have done. But if the full core cannot be maintained for the long-term, with big arbitration raises ramping up beginning next year, then how should the team prioritize amongst its youngsters?
To keep things simple, we'll allow for three options on each of the youngsters noted above: First, go year to year for the time being, potentially risking losing the player through free agency and paying full boat (arbitration-wise, anyway) for their services. Second, explore a long-term extension that delivers cost-certainty and perhaps cost savings, while adding risk and reducing payroll flexibility. (Of course, the length and value will vary widely by player, but we will have to save that discussion for another day.) Third, shop the player on the open market, looking to return even younger, cheaper, close-to-the-bigs talent.
It is important, of course, to consider the internal options that the team's always-productive minor league system has in the pipeline. The Braves' top prospects include a bevy of young pitchers, some of whom -- in particular, J.R. Graham, Sean Gilmartin, and Cody Martin -- could soon be ready to contribute at the MLB level along with rookie Alex Wood. There are a few top position players in the upper minors as well, led by catcher Christian Bethancourt, outfielder Todd Cunningham, third baseman Edward Salcedo, and second baseman Tommy La Stella.
Here is a breakdown of the contract situations of the eleven players we will consider:
Second-Year Arb-Eligible (2013 salary; notes)
- Outfielder Jason Heyward ($3.65MM)
- Starter Kris Medlen ($2.6MM)
- Reliever Jonny Venters ($1.62MM; missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery)
- Third baseman Chris Johnson ($2.88MM; qualified for arbitration as Super Two)
First-Year Arb-Eligible (notes)
- Closer Craig Kimbrel
- First baseman Freddie Freeman
- Starter Brandon Beachy
- Starter Mike Minor (will have 2.138 years of service and likely be arb-eligible as Super Two)
- Shortstop Andrelton Simmons (will have 1.125 years of service)
- Starter Julio Teheran (will have 1.062 years of service)
Under Contract Through 2015 (salary)
- Outfielder Justin Upton (owed $14.25MM in 2014 and $14.5MM in 2015)
Click here to view the results as they come in.