Neil Walker Rumors

Players Win Six Of 14 Arbitration Hearings

The Mariners’ defeat of reliever Tom Wilhelmsen today ended this offseason’s arbitration season. This year, 14 players went to arbitration hearings, with the players winning six times and teams winning eight. Via MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, here are the results.

Player Team Player Amt. Team Amt. Player won?
Pedro Alvarez Pirates $5.750MM $5.250MM Yes
Jerry Blevins Nationals $2.400MM $2.200MM Yes
Alejandro De Aza Orioles $5.650MM $5.000MM No
Josh Donaldson Blue Jays $5.750MM $4.300MM No
Mat Latos Marlins $10.400MM $9.400MM No
Mike Minor Braves $5.600MM $5.100MM Yes
Jarrod Parker Athletics $1.700MM $0.850MM No
David Phelps Marlins $1.875MM $1.400MM No
Wilin Rosario Rockies $3.300MM $2.800MM No
Mark Trumbo Diamondbacks $6.900MM $5.300MM Yes
Danny Valencia Blue Jays $1.675MM $1.250MM Yes
Neil Walker Pirates $9.000MM $8.000MM No
Tom Wilhelmsen Mariners $2.200MM $1.400MM No
Vance Worley Pirates $2.450MM $2.000MM Yes

A few notes:

  • Via MLBTR’s 2014 Arbitration Tracker, only three players (Andrew Cashner, Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin) had hearings last year, so 14 hearings this year marks a dramatic spike. No players had hearings in the 2012-2013 offseason, and seven players did in 2011-2012. The number of hearings this offseason was the most since 2001, although not everyone is convinced this is the start of a trend, according to the Associated Press. ”Just as I didn’t think [2012-2013] was the start of a trend when we had no hearings, I do not think any conclusions can be drawn at this point from the increased number of hearings this year,” says MLB chief legal officer Don Halem.
  • The Pirates alone took three players to arbitration, as many as all teams combined in the previous two offseasons.
  • Teams will pay the 14 players who went to arbitration $57.925MM next season, saving a total of about $1.5MM versus the midpoints between those 14 players’ proposed figures and those of their teams.
  • There appears to be no obvious pattern in which players won and which lost (which isn’t necessarily surprising, since the terms of each arbitration hearing are set ahead of time by the teams and agents who determine the figures, and not by the arbitrators). As CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman notes (via Twitter), better established players (like Josh Donaldson, Neil Walker and Mat Latos) mostly lost their hearings, while players coming off mediocre or poor seasons, like Pedro Alvarez, Mark Trumbo and Mike Minor, won theirs.
  • In terms of overall dollar value, Donaldson might be the player most affected by the result of his hearing, which he lost. There was a fairly large gap (over $1.4MM) between his proposed figure and that of the Blue Jays. Donaldson is also a Super Two player in the midst of his first year of arbitration eligibility, and his salary for 2015 could impact his salary in the next three seasons after that.

Pirates Win Arbitration Hearing Against Neil Walker

The Pirates have won an arbitration hearing against second baseman Neil Walker, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer (on Twitter). Walker, who had filed at $9MM as opposed to the club’s $8MM figure (as shown in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker), will earn that $8MM sum in 2015. He’d been projected to earn $8.6MM in arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz — a figure he may have approached had team and player been able to find a middle ground.

The 29-year-old Walker has now gone through the arbitration process three times, and the Super Two player will be eligible once more next winter before hitting free agency in the 2016-17 offseason. Walker had a breakout season in terms of power in 2014 but missed time due to both an appendectomy and lower back pain. He batted .271/.342/.467 with a career-high 23 homers, however, despite appearing in just 137 games.

Durability has long been an issue for the Excel Sports Management client, as Walker went through two turns on the 15-day DL in 2013 (though one was for a lacerated hand upon being spiked) and missed significant time in 2012 due to a herniated disc in his lower back. However, there’s been little question about his productivity when on the field; since establishing himself as Pittsburgh’s everyday second baseman in 2010, the hometown hero has batted .274/.341/.435, averaging 15 homers per season and an adjusted OPS of 116+ (indicating that he’s been 16 percent better than a league-average hitter when adjusting for league and park).

With Walker’s case out of the way, the Pirates have to remaining situations to settle, as both Pedro Alvarez and Vance Worley have unresolved cases.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.


Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …

  • The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
  • Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
  • Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
  • Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
  • The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
  • Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
  • Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
  • Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
  • Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.

NL Central Links: Walker, Cubs, Cardinals

We’ve already shared one set of NL Central notes earlier today, and here’s even more news out of the division…

  • The possible addition of Jung-ho Kang could be a sign that the Pirates are preparing to eventually part ways with Neil Walker, MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes.  The Bucs have discussed an extension with Walker, who will be 31 when his current deal expires after the 2016 season, though seemingly little progress had been made.  Singer notes that shortstop prospect Alen Hanson has been playing second base in Dominican Winter League action, which could simply be a developmental move, or another hint that the Pirates are covering their bases if a Walker extension can’t be worked out.  Of course, this could be a moot point if Pittsburgh doesn’t sign Kang — the team has about two more weeks to work out a contract with the Korean infielder after posting the highest bid for his services.
  • With the Cardinals rumored to be looking for a top-tier starting pitcher, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculates that this interest could be fueled by the Cubs‘ aggressive offseason.  “If indeed the Cardinals view the Cubs as a rising power, then that’s another reason to make a big move here to strengthen your roster for the long haul,” Miklasz writes.
  • The Cubs and WGN-TV announced a new broadcasting deal today that will see the local station air 45 Cubs games per year through the 2019 season.  No financial terms of the contract were revealed.  As Robert Channick of the Chicago Tribune notes, the Cubs’ local and cable TV rights are now both set to expire after the 2019 season, so the team could pursue creating its own regional sports network.

Pirates, Neil Walker Have Discussed Extension

The Pirates have spoken to second baseman Neil Walker about an extension, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The negotations are not active at the present time, however, and the two sides aren’t close regarding the financial terms of a potential deal.

We would love nothing more than to have Neil Walker end his career as a Pirate,” says Bucs GM Neal Huntington. “We understand he’s a really good player. We understand the local implications and the local ties he has.”

Walker, a Pittsburgh native, had an outstanding season in 2014, hitting .271/.342/.467 in 571 plate appearances. On its face, though, an extension would seem tricky for the cost-conscious Bucs. They control Walker for the next two seasons, with Walker being projected to make $8.6MM in 2015; after those two seasons, Walker will be 31, and the Pirates are probably unlikely to be highly motivated to commit to him beyond that point. He’s already a marginal defensive second baseman and might have to move elsewhere within the next couple years, which could become a problem if his offense slips. And with his arbitration-year salaries already so high, there’s no financial reason for him to settle for a cheap long-term deal.


NL Notes: Hamels, Morse, Diamondbacks, Walker

There was some great news out of New Jersey today, as venerable Hinchliffe Stadium was designated a National Historic Landmark. As MLB.com's Mark Newman reports, the Art Deco structure is one of just a few still standing to have hosted Negro League action. 

Here are some notes out of the National League:

  • The Phillies are close to welcoming back Cole Hamels from the DL, reports CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank. Assistant GM Scott Proefrock said that the lefty may return as soon as next week. Needless to say, a healthy Hamels is absolutely critical if Philly has any hope of contending — and avoiding the need for a possible sell-off of veteran pieces — in 2014.
  • Michael Morse has looked to be an excellent addition for the Giants in the early part of the season, writes Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News. The hot start for Morse has answered the question whether he could return to health, and validated manager Bruce Bochy's internal push for the slugger. For his part, Morse says he was guided to San Francisco by former Giant Mark DeRosa and 49er running back Frank Gore. While Morse is never going to look good in the outfield or on the basepaths, Bochy has managed that issue by frequently replacing the lumbering 32-year-old late in games. Morse will re-enter the open market after playing out his one-year, $6MM deal, and should be an interesting player to watch as the season goes on.
  • Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall says it is too early to throw around blame for the team's rough start, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Hall said that "it's far too early to say" that either GM Kevin Towers or manager Kirk Gibson are in danger of losing their jobs. "I wouldn't say anybody's in trouble at this point." The tandem was extended over the offseason, but nevertheless could face hot seats if Arizona cannot turn around a 4-14 start that has left them already 7 games back in the division.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker has seen promising returns on his offseason work to revamp his swing from the right-handed side of the plate, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Though he has just a few regular season plate appearances so far, the switch-hitting 28-year-old has continued the solid work he did off of southpaws during Spring Training. For his career, Walker has touched righties for a .799 OPS, but has only notched a .665 mark against lefties. Set to reach free agency after the 2016 season, Walker could significantly increase his utility, value, and potentially his extension candidacy if he can up his production from the right side.

Pirates, Neil Walker Avoid Arbitration

The Pirates have ducked an arbitration hearing with Neil Walker by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5.75MM, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune (Twitter link).

Walker, a client of Excel Sports Management, receives a raise from the $3.3MM salary he received last season as a first-time arb-eligible Super Two player. He had been projected to earn $4.8MM by MLBTR's Matt Swartz, so his agents did well to approach the $6MM mark. Walker will be eligible for arbitration two more times before hitting free agency following the 2016 season.


NL Central Links: Walker, Alvarez, Cards, Rule 5

Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central….


Blue Jays Rumors: Lind, Loney, Moreland, Morrison

Earlier today, we heard from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that a trade agreement between the Rangers and Blue Jays fell through when a player involved in the deal failed his physical. The FOX duo reported that Sergio Santos would have been sent to Texas in the swap, and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca adds another detail, revealing that the agreed-upon trade would have seen the Blue Jays land a starting pitcher. Here's more on the Jays from Orlando:

  • The Pirates approached the Jays about Adam Lind, but talks quickly fizzled when Toronto countered by asking about Neil Walker, according to Davidi.
  • While the Jays aren't necessarily looking to move Lind, the team has asked around about other first base options like James Loney, Mitch Moreland, and Logan Morrison, in case a Lind deal presents itself.
  • GM Alex Anthopoulos didn't comment specifically on whether the Blue Jays would bid on Masahiro Tanaka, but said, "I think it’s safe to say any good starter that’s out there we’re going to be active, we’ll try to be involved and see if it makes sense for us."
  • Anthopoulos added that the Jays are "having some dialogue" on a smaller deal that would add a right-handed bat to the team's bench.
  • Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com passes along a transcript of manager John Gibbons' conversation with the media today, which includes plenty of discussion about possible holes on the roster and potential moves to address them.