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On Friday, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at where free agent shortstop Stephen Drew could help the most, including teams like the Astros, Marlins, Twins, Royals and Yankees. In the comments, a reader added the Athletics as a team that might make sense, with Drew taking over at shortstop at Jed Lowrie moving to second base.
Just because a player might be able to help a given team doesn't mean that team will sign him, however. The Yankees, for example, have said they're not interested in Drew. And teams like the Twins and Pirates, who might otherwise be able to use Drew, appear set to go with internal options (Pedro Florimon and Jordy Mercer, respectively) rather than signing Drew and giving up a draft pick to get him. As a result, the market for Drew doesn't appear to be particularly strong.
Since Friday, we've heard that the Mets, who would represent a potential fit for Drew, are "divided" on how valuable he would be to them. The Mets are the team most consistently connected to Drew, but reports on the intensity of their interest vary, and they could easily simply go with Ruben Tejada and address the shortstop position later if he doesn't work out. There's also the chance that Drew could re-sign with the Red Sox, who could move Xander Bogaerts to third base and Will Middlebrooks to the bench. All sorts of dark-horse teams could sneak in as well, with the stable potentially expanding if teams decide Drew could play second base or third base for them.
Right now, it appears that the Red Sox and Mets are the only significant suitors. If the market is going to widen much beyond those two teams, Scott Boras may have to get creative. So just for fun, we'll include every team in the poll. Regardless of who needs him the most, who do you think will sign Drew?
As baseball fans around the world mark the end of 2013, let's take one more look back before plowing ahead to 2014. As always, all manner of different MLB transactions went down this past year, and each and every one was documented by MLB Trade Rumors. Signings, extensions, trades, and more — every move took place in a different context and was subjected to public scrutiny.
So, now that we have the benefit of looking back at the year as a whole, which single move was the best, considering the particular situation and what we now know? Was it a wise extension, a nifty trade, or a big free agent signing? I browsed through the MLBTR Transaction Tracker and came up with a (highly subjective) list of my favorite moves over the past year. Though the some moves have already begun to bear fruit, while others await a new season, each still has years to go until it can be evaluated in its entirety. Nevertheless, I think it will be interesting to see how MLBTR readers view things.
Here are the nine candidates I chose, along with a brief synopsis of the reasons why they merit consideration. (Needless to say, feel free to disagree with my choices in the comments.)
- White Sox extend LHP Chris Sale for five years, $32.5MM — Chicago locked up a young ace-caliber pitcher for the same type of contract that has been used to secure other good young arms. But Sale may be the best of the bunch, and he signed his deal just before new money and spending patterns may have broken the mold of young starter extensions.
- Brewers extend CF Carlos Gomez for three years, $24MM — Talk about buying low. Milwaukee locked up Gomez for his first three free agent-eligible seasons, right before the center fielder broke out with a stellar 8.4 rWAR campaign. While I won't proffer a guess as to what he'd ultimately have commanded in free agency this offseason, I think it is safe to say it would be multiples of his actual deal.
- Diamondbacks extend 1B Paul Goldschmidt five years, $32MM — This one does not require much explanation. Goldschmidt signed his extension with Arizona after a very promising run in his first season of full-time action. Then, he nearly won an MVP award.
- Red Sox extend 2B Dustin Pedroia for eight years, $110MM — The heart of the Sox has been worth at least three wins above replacement in every season he has seen regular action (and even reached that mark in the 75 games he played in 2010). His $13.75MM average annual value looks quite affordable compared to the $24MM guaranteed on average annually to Robinson Cano for the next decade.
- Nationals acquire RHP Doug Fister for LHP Robbie Ray, IF Steve Lombardozzi, and LHP Ian Krol — Fister has been one of the best ten pitchers in the game over the last three years, by fWAR, and has two seasons of reasonably-priced arbitration eligibility still to come. Yet the Nats were able to bring him in for a good-but-not-great prospect and two players with seemingly limited ceilings.
- Tigers acquire SS Jose Iglesias for OF Avisail Garcia — Even if you think that this was an even-value deal, it must be counted as a win for Detroit. Why? Just look at the haul that Matt Garza brought to serve as a short-term rental. GM Dave Dombrowski not only filled a sudden and unexpected hole during a key part of the season, but managed to adapt to Jhonny Peralta's suspension in a way that arguably enhanced the club's long-term health as well.
- Braves acquire LF Justin Upton and 3B Chris Johnson for UT Martin Prado, RHP Randall Delgado, SS Nick Ahmed, RHP Zeke Spruill, and 1B Brandon Drury — The signature trade of the 2013 offseason was a coup for Atlanta, in ways expected and not. Upton provided a strong season, even if he did not keep up his torrid start over the course of the year. But the real stunner was the huge campaign from Johnson; he was more productive than Prado, the main piece that the Braves gave up.
- Red Sox sign 1B Mike Napoli for one year, $5MM — While the limited guarantee came only after Napoli's original three-year deal fell apart over health concerns, GM Ben Cherington still deserves kudos for holding together the relationship. Even as he limited the club's exposure with a minimal $5MM promise, Cherington got his man into Fenway and held onto the upside. Needless to say, it worked out well for Boston, which was happy to pay Napoli his $8MM in earned incentives (and to lock him up to another seemingly solid deal for the club).
- Yankees sign C Brian McCann for five years, $85MM — No, we don't know how this deal will turn out. And yes, there have been other big-money signings to consider. But, to me at least, this contract stands out amongst recent major free agent signings for its value potential. Not only does McCann take over a spot that had been filled essentially at replacement level, but the limited length of the deal lowers the risk compared to other top-flight players that have signed. And it comes with upside, as the slugging lefty could reach new heights at Yankee Stadium and can take plenty of at-bats at DH to preserve his legs.
So, which move do you think was the best of 2013? (Response order will be randomized.)
2013 is about to become 2014, and free agent slugger Nelson Cruz still hasn't found a home. Today, Rangers GM Jon Daniels said he does not expect Cruz to return to his club. Cruz's reported desire for a $75MM contract could be an impediment for many teams. With that in mind, let's look at Cruz's market.
Mariners. A report two weeks ago indicated the Mariners still had interest in Cruz despite having already acquired Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. In light of a more recent report that the Mariners were approaching their payroll limit, one might think that another defensively-challenged corner player, particularly an expensive one, might be a luxury the Mariners could do without. But the Mariners have seemed unusually interested in such players in recent years.
Orioles. The Orioles have made contact with Cruz's agent, but there have been few indications that negotiations have progressed much. The O's would have to forfeit the No. 17 overall pick in next year's draft to sign Cruz, who declined the Rangers' qualifying offer, and they might not want to. Nonetheless, there's plenty of space for Cruz in Baltimore's lineup.
Rockies. Colorado has had some interest in Cruz, although it does not appear to be serious.
Royals. Kansas City tried to sign Carlos Beltran. They could still look to Cruz as a possible replacement, particularly if they're able to trade Billy Butler. That seems unlikely now, however, with the signing of Omar Infante taking up much of the money they had available.
Those are that teams that have been most closely connected to Cruz in the past month. Cruz would be a tricky fit with many NL teams, due to his defensive limitations, and many of them don't have an obvious spot for Cruz to play anyway. One team, the Pirates, that would make at least superficial sense for Cruz has ruled out signing him. Many remaining AL teams either appear to be mostly done making moves (Indians), don't want to lose the draft pick (Twins), don't generally make huge free-agent splashes (Athletics, Rays) or wouldn't be great fits for Cruz (Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Blue Jays).
Here are a few possibilities that are more speculative:
Tigers. Cruz would be a good fit in Detroit's lineup, which currently has Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis in left field and Victor Martinez as DH. The Tigers just signed Davis and therefore might not be likely to add another outfielder, but Davis would also be helpful in a reserve role. The Tigers' seeming disinterest in re-signing Jhonny Peralta, who was suspended last year for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, might also suggest a lack of interest in Cruz, who was also implicated. That might be a red herring, however, since Jose Iglesias' emergence was certainly a factor in Peralta's departure.
Astros. Houston could use help at the corner spots and DH and was connected to Choo, but they would likely be reluctant to part with a draft pick to sign Cruz, and would probably only be interested if he were a bargain.
Reds. The Reds tried to trade Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner, and they showed interest in Carlos Beltran, indicating that they aren't completely satisfied with their outfield in the wake of Choo's departure. That they never appeared to be serious players for Choo and that they've tried, unsuccessfully, to clear Phillips' salary might indicate that they won't be able and/or willing to spend on Cruz, however.
Cubs. The Cubs should have money to spend and don't have much outfield talent (at least not currently in the big leagues), but as with the Astros, draft pick forfeiture could be an issue, and it doesn't seem like them to sign an expensive, win-now player like Cruz in the midst of a rebuilding project.
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).
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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.
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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.
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