Nelson Cruz Rumors
As camps open around the game, let's take a look at a few notable free agents who remain unsigned:
- Though long-time shortstop Derek Jeter is now set to retire after the year, and the club faces questions around the infield, the Yankees are still not interested in adding Stephen Drew, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. Marchand notes that the club could have its eye on a bigger fish as an eventual replacement for Jeter, suggesting the possibility of looking at next year's free agent market or trying to trade for a big-contract star like Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes. But the availability of those options remains unclear, especially given that the Yanks possess a farm that most regard as below average. And while 2015 currently promises a nice crop of free agent shortstops -- headlined, at present, by Hanley Ramirez, J.J. Hardy, and Asdrubal Cabrera -- it is far from certain that all of those players will reach the open market.
- Echoing Marchand on the Yankees' interest, ESPN.com's Buster Olney told WEEI's Mut & Merloni (via WEEI.com's Jerry Spar) that Drew's market looks poor. The Pirates make sense in theory, says Olney, but the club seems very unlikely to give up its first-round pick to land him. Olney opines that the shortstop's best bet, at this point, could be to wait and see if a contender loses an infielder to injury. Though he agrees that Drew faces difficult market, Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth argues that Drew and agent Scott Boras should instead act quickly to speed up negotiations and get the best deal possible.
- Of course, one obvious landing spot all along has been the Red Sox, who could use Drew to bolster the left side of the infield without giving up a pick (other than the one they stand to gain should he sign elsewhere). As WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports, however, Boston has settled into the position that it would be interested in a one-year arrangement. That could take the form of a straightforward one-year deal, or could be structured with a low-value player option for a second season (like Adrian Beltre's 2010 deal) that would spread the contract's luxury tax impact.
- The Twins, who have been mentioned as a dark horse suitor for both Drew and outfielder Nelson Cruz, likely have sufficient payroll space to make an addition, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. But the team is not willing to meet the demands currently being floated on those players, and has not been in recent contact on either.
- Bean Stringfellow, the agent for starter Ervin Santana, rejected an apparent rumor that the Blue Jays had offered his client a three-year, $27MM deal, reports John Lott of the National Post. Stringfellow also dismissed the rumor that he had earlier demanded five years and $112MM for Santana. Though some clubs may hope to wait out the market for prices to fall, Stringfellow says he is not concerned by that possibility. "The calendar doesn't really affect us in that regard," he said. "The teams need the pitching by Opening Day. That's when the bell rings. I think a lot of clubs might think that as [Opening Day] gets closer, the price comes down. I would simply say to that, 'You're not filling your need for pitching, so I don't know why our value is any less when your need is still as great as what it was.'"
- Though Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to comment on any offers to Santana, he said that the club would remain true to its internal valuations of free agents. "We just haven't been able to line up on value, on years and dollars," Anthopoulos added with regard to the team's possible targets.
- Another team that is reportedly dabbling in the starting pitching market is the Mariners. The club is not just looking at top options like Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), but is casting a "wide net" in its search for an arm.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson is looking for a major league deal, sources tell MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he received good reports from Madson's recent throwing session, but did not leave the impression that Philadelphia was the likely landing spot. "Our reports were good when we saw him," said Amaro, "so he's going to sign somewhere." As Zolecki notes, Philly may be unwilling to give out a major league deal, especially given Madson's injury history and the recent signing of A.J. Burnett.
Mets pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, Fla. tomorrow. In advance of the official onset of their Spring Training, here is the latest on the Amazins...
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News cites a Major League source in reporting that there's been some recent talk between the Mets and Nelson Cruz's camp, but the two sides are "highly unlikely" to strike a deal. Still, Cruz and agent Adam Katz seem likely to explore their options as talks between Cruz and the Mariners were said to be on hold as of yesterday (Seattle is currently pursuing starting pitchers).
- Martino also checked in on the Mets' interest in Kendrys Morales, and unsurprisingly was told that there hasn't been much interest since early in the offseason.
- Ike Davis says there was "a little bit of shock that I didn't get traded," writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Within Rubin's piece, Davis repeatedly states that offseason trade rumors were "not a big deal," and says he's happy to return to the Mets. Davis has been working on his swing since November and hopes that correcting an unnoticed bad habit involving his back leg can help to improve his production. He also joked, "Who knows? Not changing my swings 65 times might help."
- Rubin tweets that manager Terry Collins has stated Bobby Parnell will be his closer in 2014 despite the additions of former closers Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth. That's good news for Parnell, as the additional saves will help his final arbitration next offseason as he heads into his contract year.
FEBRUARY 13: Talks between Cruz and Seattle are on hold, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. With disagreement over contract value persisting, the club may be turning its attention to other priorities, says Cotillo.
FEBRUARY 8: It's only "a matter of time" before the Mariners agree to terms with Cruz, industry sources tell Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (on Twitter).
FEBRUARY 7: The Mariners are still in talks with Cruz even after agreeing to a two-year, $14MM contract with Fernando Rodney, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Last night, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that the Mariners were "all-in" following the Rodney signing and "cautiously optimistic" that they can land Cruz.
FEBRUARY 4: Talks between the Mariners and Nelson Cruz have gotten more serious in the past few days, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Seattle is believed to be open to offering a two-year deal and could possibly stretch to include an option or even a third guaranteed year, according to Heyman's report. Reports late last week indicated that the Mariners were preparing to make an offer to Cruz and agent Adam Katz of the Wasserman Media Group.
Seattle has the sixth overall selection in the 2014 draft, meaning its first-round pick is protected under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement. The Mariners have also already forfeited their second round pick in signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM contract, meaning they'd "only" be looking at forfeiting their Competitive Balance round pick. Seattle won the final pick of Competitive Balance Round B in last summer's Competitive Balance lottery.
The Mariners have been reported as one of Cruz's primary suitors all offseason, though he's been connected to the Orioles heavily at times as well. Recent reports have suggested that he could be a fallback option for the Rangers on a one-year deal or that the Twins could show interest if his price dropped to the point where he fell into their laps (i.e. less than $10MM annually at a maximum of two years).
Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury). While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.
- The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum. Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
- Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen. "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere." Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
- The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything." Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
- While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market. The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
- Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades. Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
- The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension. Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today." We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.
One prominent American League player told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he believes players put quite a bit of pressure on Alex Rodriguez to withdraw his lawsuit against the union. “It didn’t go over too well and Alex heard about it a lot. Nobody ever understood it. He did the right thing by dropping it,” said the players. Someone who knows A-Rod well believes that he's planning on resting up his hip for the year and coming back strong. Cafardo doesn't doubt that the third baseman can make a comeback, but he wonders if the Yankees might just eat the remainder of his contract and cut him loose. Here's more from today's column..
- There is mutual interest between the Pirates and Kendrys Morales, but the Bucs may prefer to find their first baseman via trade. Cafardo cites the Mets’ Ike Davis, the Blue Jays' Adam Lind, and the Rangers' Mitch Moreland among the possibilities.
- There's lots of competition for Suk-Min Yoon out there and while the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Diamondbacks are among the interested clubs, one National League GM says that the pitcher could go to anyone.
- The Mariners' interest in Nelson Cruz has not waned but the number of years remains the sticking point in talks.
- The Mets remain the best bet to land Stephen Drew, but he still receives text messages from Red Sox teammates hoping that he'll return.
- The Dodgers still have an outfield surplus with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig in tow, but they don't appear to be in any hurry to break it up.
The last major free agent closer domino fell today when Fernando Rodney signed with the Mariners. That deal carries implications for his new club and for other teams that had interest in his services. Here are the latest rumors on the free agent market ...
- After inking Rodney, the Mariners are "all in" and are "cautiously optimistic" that they will land outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. We heard recently that Seattle was talking with Cruz and was willing to give him multiple years.
- Though they had interest, the Orioles never pursued Rodney that aggressively, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Connolly says that Baltimore never indicated a willingness to spend near the $14MM guarantee that Rodney will receive from Seattle. "They liked him a little bit more than us," executive VP Dan Duquette told WBAL Radio (via a tweet from MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko). Of course, the O's had a two-year, $15MM deal in place with Grant Balfour until the team blew up the deal over issues with his physical.
- With Rodney out of the picture, internal option Tommy Hunter appears to be the likeliest choice to close for Baltimore, notes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore (via Twitter). Nevertheless, the Orioles have kept tabs on other late-inning relief options from the scratch-and-dent market. As Kubatko tweets, the club has shown interest in Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey as options to provide a mid-season boost. Both pitchers are coming off of surgeries, but offer plenty of upside. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported in early January that Hanrahan was preparing to audition in the spring, and also reported in December that Bailey has received significant interest, and expects to be ready by the middle of May.
- Of course, three other relievers also came off the board today, with Carlos Marmol and Chaz Roe signing with the Marlins and Pat Neshek going to the Cardinals.
- Now that Rodney has signed, it is clear that no reliever will beat Joe Nathan's guarantee of $20MM, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. That represents a notable shift, as every one of the last six signing seasons has featured a reliever deal with at least $25MM in guaranteed money. The changing market has not only opened the door for smaller-market clubs to ink top bullpen arms, Nicholson-Smith notes, but also creates an opportunity for teams to limit the earnings of their younger arms by preventing them from picking up saves and increasing their arbitration earnings. It is worth noting that this year's market featured an ample supply of excellent-but-aging closers, which could help explain why no single arm garnered a huge guarantee.
Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio spoke with multiple agents and executives over the weekend and got contradictory takes on the reasons for so many top free agents remaining unsigned (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Agents told Bowden that they (and the MLBPA) feel that the heightened media coverage resulting from social networking has damaged players' market values. Reports from media members about how teams value players and whether or not they've made offers to players could be violations of the CBA, those parties told Bowden. Meanwhile, executives said to Bowden that the market is simply full of players with baggage (draft pick compensation, PED usage, inconsistent performance) and added that agents entered the offseason with unnatural expectations for their clients.
Here are just some of the highlights from a jam-packed column from the former Nationals and Reds GM...
- Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are the two most likely candidates from next year's crop of free agent starting pitchers to sign an extension, Bowden writes. Despite the fact that Scherzer is a Scott Boras client (Boras prefers his clients to test the open market), Scherzer seems to want to remain loyal to the Tigers. However, Bowden notes that an extension would still need to be somewhere close to Scherzer's market value, which Bowden pegs at a whopping $196MM over seven years.
- The Red Sox have made a two-year offer to Stephen Drew, one source told Bowden. The value of that reported offer is unclear, as is the date on which it was made.
- The Nationals have discussed Jose Lobaton trades with the Rays as they look to add a backup catcher for Wilson Ramos. Lobaton figures to be expendable for the Rays, as they project to have a strong defensive tandem of Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina behind the dish. Shedding Lobaton's $950K salary would seem to be more beneficial to the tight-budgeted Rays than most teams, particularly if they don't have a roster spot for him.
- The Dodgers are pushing for an infielder over another starting pitcher and hope to have a deal done within the next 48 hours. Los Angeles isn't likely to bid on any of the remaining free agent starters unless they're willing to take a short-term deal, as Dan Haren did to play near his hometown.
- Kendrys Morales is the most likely free agent to be this year's version of Kyle Lohse, writes Bowden. He notes that the Orioles -- who still have about $15MM to spend -- and Mariners remain interested in the switch-hitting Scott Boras client. Both are still in on Nelson Cruz as well. MLBTR readers seem to agree with the Morales/Lohse comparison; in the poll I conducted earlier this morning asking which Top 50 free agent would be the next to sign, he drew the fewest votes.
- The Royals and Indians are both highly unlikely to be able to lure back their respective free agent pitchers, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. The Blue Jays are a likely landing spot for both pitchers.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares a few hot stove items in his latest Sunday column...
- Bronson Arroyo has been looking for a three-year deal or at least a vesting option for a third year, which could be holding up his market. If Arroyo was willing to settle for a flat two-year contract, Cafardo opines, he could find a deal, possibly with the Diamondbacks; Cafardo reported earlier this week that Arizona was "beginning to kick the tires" on the veteran right-hander. Arroyo recently said that he has yet to receive a concrete offer from any team, despite a lot of interest from around the league.
- The Dodgers are another team who "are very interested" in Arroyo but don't want to give him a guaranteed third year.
- Nelson Cruz's market is beginning to heat up, and “there could be up to four or five teams who could take the plunge in the end," a Major League source tells Cafardo. This interest could manifest itself into a multiyear deal for Cruz, though Cafardo notes that the slugger could still have to settle for a one-year contract. We've recently seen the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Twins linked to Cruz in rumors, though Texas and Minnesota only seem interested at a greatly reduced price.
- Cafardo thinks the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes is down to the Pirates, Phillies and Orioles, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees were also exploring a reunion with the veteran right-hander. The Rays and Blue Jays have also been connected to Burnett, though it seems more likely that Burnett will choose a team located closer to his home in Maryland.
- The Marlins have "asked a lot" about Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks but there doesn't seem to be a trade fit. Miami is one of several teams who have asked Boston about Middlebrooks' availability, but the Sox don't want to give up on Middlebrooks' power potential. Even if the Red Sox re-signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop and Xander Bogaerts took over at third, Middlebrooks would still receive playing time alternating between third and first base.
- While Jon Lester recently said he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox, Cafardo points out that it might not be a huge discount, as Lester also noted that "you never want to be the guy that takes the market backward."
- The Red Sox will experiment with Ryan Lavarnway as a first baseman during Spring Training, GM Ben Cherington confirmed. Since Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway's only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.
- "There’s a feeling that a team like the Yankees may pluck Fernando Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case David Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task," Cafardo writes. Rodney was reportedly drawing interest from four teams, though the Yankees hadn't spoken with him since November and may not have enough remaining payroll space to add to the bullpen.
Just yesterday, the reports indicated that the Mariners were "back in business" in their pursuits of Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney, and their pursuit of Cruz appears to be picking up. MLB Network Radio's Jim Bowden said on the air today that the Mariners could make an offer to Cruz as early as today (Twitter link from MLBN Radio).
Bowden also tweeted earlier today (prior to the above report) that the market for Cruz currently consists of the Mariners, Orioles and Rangers, with Texas only serving as a fallback option for Cruz should his market completely crash. Seattle is "clearly the best fit" for Cruz in Bowden's mind, he added.
Reports on the Mariners' ability to spend (or lack thereof) have gone back and forth since the team's blockbuster signing of Robinson Cano earlier this offseason. GM Jack Zduriencik quickly followed that mega-deal up by signing Corey Hart and swinging a trade for Logan Morrison, but since that time all has been quiet for the Mariners in terms of significant additions. Cruz is the most powerful bat left on the market, which would make him a welcome addition to a Mariners lineup that is in need of some thump even after the Cano deal.
Cruz would add another corner/DH bat to a mix that already includes Hart, Morrison and Justin Smoak, and his questionable defensive reputation would be magnified by the fact that other corner outfield options (such as Hart and Morrison) aren't considered strong defenders either. Mariners right fielders combined to bat just .239/.290/.400 in 2013, however, so Cruz's bat would be a clear upgrade.
As for the Orioles, they lack an obvious answer in left field and could also upgrade at designated hitter, though they recently signed Delmon Young to a minor league deal and could be looking at him as a potential platoon partner for David Lough in left field. From an offensive standpoint, however, Cruz would likely be an upgrade over that platoon or Baltimore's in-house candidates at designated hitter.
MLB.com's Jim Callis has an interesting breakdown of the dollars committed to the game's top prospects. Over $228MM has already been committed by teams to the prospects listed among MLB.com's top 100. Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Keith Law has released his own prospect rankings (Insider links), naming the Astros' system as the game's best and tabbing Byron Buxton of the Twins as the best overall prospect. In his own top 101 prospects list, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus agrees with Buxton as the top choice, which certainly appears to be the consensus. And Baseball America has completed its listing of the ten best prospects by team.
Here are some more links from around the game:
- The Twins are keeping tabs on free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but are a long shot to land him. Minnesota is probably only interested if Cruz drops his price fairly significantly, Wolfson adds, guessing that the club would probably only be involved at two years with an average annual value at or below the $10MM mark.
- Likewise, the Twins are waiting for the price to fall on South Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, Wolfson reports (Twitter links). When Wolfson floated the number of two years and $10MM total to his source, he was told that cost was likely too steep for Minnesota.
- Free agent reliever Ryan Madson plans to hold a full public workout on February 7th, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The 33-year-old threw yesterday for an unknown club that is reportedly a leading candidate to land him, Crasnick adds.
- Starter Scott Baker chose the Mariners over offers from the Indians, Rangers, and Royals, reports Wolfson (via Twitter). The Twins never had interest in a reunion, Wolfson adds.
- Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were discussing a deal in the range of $200MM to $205MM over the summer, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. By waiting until he wrapped up a Cy Young campaign, Kershaw was able to secure a deal with a $215MM guarantee.