- Recent agreements by the Blue Jays (Jose Bautista) and Phillies (Michael Saunders) have caused the Mets’ potential trade options for right fielder Jay Bruce to dwindle, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post. (I’d also note the Orioles’ acquisition of Seth Smith in that list of deterrents to a Bruce swap.) The Giants and Rangers could be the only two remaining plausible landing spots for Bruce, Puma continues, noting that each team has had previous interest in Bruce. However, according to Puma, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has not yet shown a willingness to absorb any of Bruce’s $13MM salary in a trade, which only further exacerbates the difficulty of trading him in a market flooded with cheaper corner options. Puma speculates that the Mets may be forced to open the season with Bruce on the roster and look to move him early in the regular season, as they did with Ike Davis back in 2014.
The Mets are reportedly asking for two prospects in exchange for Jay Bruce, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports. The Phillies have shown interest in Bruce in the past, though Salisbury points out that the rebuilding Phils could simply sign left-handed hitting free agents like Brandon Moss or Michael Saunders rather than part with minor league talent for Bruce. Of course, New York would hardly be demanding premium prospects for Bruce at this point, given how the outfielder hasn’t drummed up much trade interest this winter.
- Also from Gammons, he reports that the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox will be among the 12-20 teams watching Craig Breslow’s showcase on January 23. Breslow has adopted new pitch-tracking technology in order to reinvent his throwing habits, with input from training partner Rich Hill (who revived his career in spectacular fashion).
- Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom have each avoided arbitration with the Mets. Harvey gets $5.125MM in his second arb year, per James Wagner of the New York Times (via Twitter). Meanwhile, deGrom will receive $4.05MM in his first trip through the arb process, per ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin (via Twitter). New York has also agreed with lefty Josh Edgin, Rubin tweets, though terms remain unreported.
- The Mets and Travis d’Arnaud are in agreement on a one-year, $1.875MM deal, Heyman tweets. That’s $175K above the $1.7MM for the first-year arbitration catcher. Now 28 years old, d’Arnaud has yet to prove he can remain healthy and productive over the life of a full big league season. He’ll get another crack at doing so in 2017, it seems. He batted .247/.307/.323 with four homers in 276 PAs last year. The Mets also avoided arb with Addison Reed, Jeurys Familia and Lucas Duda, who are broken off into a separate post.
The 27-year-old Familia had another strong season on the mound in 2016, providing 77 2/3 innings of 2.55 ERA pitching with 9.7 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. Importantly, for arbitration purposes, he also recorded a hefty tally of 51 saves.
MLBTR had projected Familia to earn $8.7MM in 2017 after his productive campaign. But the second-time arb-eligible pitcher is facing a possible suspension after being charged over the offseason in a domestic violence incident. Though the charges were dropped, and the matter doesn’t technically impact his case, it may well be that the team had some extra leverage to exert.
JAN. 13: The Mets have also avoided arb with setup man Addison Reed and closer Jeurys Familia, per a pair of reports from Heyman and James Wagner of the New York Times (Twitter links). Reed will earn $7.75MM and Familia will take home $7.425MM. Familia was projected to earn $8.7MM and came in a fair bit shy of that sum, while Reed’s unique background somewhat “broke” MLBTR’s arbitration model and resulted in a $10.6MM projection. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who designed the model, explained earlier this week why Reed’s case was something of an outlier and suggested at the time that a salary in the range of $8MM was more likely.
That’s a fairly healthy bump over the MLBTR projection of $6.725MM, which would have been a repeat of Duda’s 2016 salary. Ultimately, he’ll get about half a million more after an injury-limited season in which he took just 172 plate appearances.
Duda will be looking to get on track before hitting the open market after the season. First, he’ll need to return to health after a long layoff due to back surgery. If he’s able to do that, there’s certainly reason to think he can be a productive bat at first base. Between 2014 and 2015, he slashed .249/.350/.483 with 57 home runs.
The Mets and Orioles will adopt a “file-and-trial” approach to their arbitration-eligible players this year, as Marc Carig of Newsday (via Twitter) and Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (also on Twitter) report. That means that the organizations will only negotiate with players up until tomorrow’s 1pm EST deadline to exchange filing figures; if no deal is found with a given player, they’ll take the case to arbitration.
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes explained the “file-and-trial” stance a few years back. Some organizations adopt it as a blanket rule, with at least some of those willing to make exceptions only in cases of multi-year arrangements. Others will utilize it on a case-by-case basis, notifying certain players of that intention in the course of negotiations.
It’s always tough to keep tabs on precisely which teams utilize this strategy, and it can certainly change — especially with front office turnover. At last check, though, file-and-trial teams include the Astros, Blue Jays, Braves, Marlins, Rays, and White Sox. And there are at least five others that seem to take that approach with some players: the Brewers, Indians, Nationals, Pirates, and Reds.
By adopting this approach, the New York and Baltimore organizations have turned up the heat on their final talks with arb-eligible players. As things stand, the O’s have yet to reach terms with a variety of notable players, led by Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, and Jonathan Schoop. The club also has to work out salaries with Brad Brach and Caleb Joseph. It’s not an easy season for the Mets, either; they have yet to settle with Addison Reed, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Wilmer Flores, Travis d’Arnaud, and Josh Edgin.
Wheeler comes in shy of the $1MM projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, although the unique circumstances surrounding his health make him a tricky player to project. Wheeler has undeniable talent and looked to be emerging as an excellent long-term rotation cog for the Mets when he tossed 285 1/3 innings of 3.50 ERA ball from 2013-14. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2015 and missed the entire 2016 season due to lingering complications in his recovery. This winter marked his first trip through the arbitration process, and he remains controllable through the 2019 season.
The Mets are planning on Wheeler returning to health in 2017, though it’s not known exactly how heavily his arm can be depended upon. Now 26 years old, Wheeler is just one of many talented Mets arms that carries significant injury question marks. Matt Harvey underwent surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome this past summer (and has a Tommy John procedure under his belt as well), while Jacob deGrom had surgery to repair the ulnar nerve in his right arm and Steven Matz underwent surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow (to say nothing of left shoulder issues that plagued him late in the year as well). Even ace Noah Syndergaard, who didn’t require any surgery or miss any time this year, was said to be pitching through a small spur in his own elbow.
As it stands, Wheeler could join that quartet in New York’s 2017 rotation, although there’s also been some talk of him working out of the bullpen as he eases back into the rigors of a Major League pitching regimen. If that’s the case, the Mets have a number of alternatives in the fifth spot of the rotation, headed by right-handers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa made his big league debut last year as well, and former top prospect Rafael Montero remains a depth option. Southpaw Sean Gilmartin, too, has plenty of experience starting, although he’s worked almost exclusively as a reliever in the Majors.
- The Mets continue to face a seeming dilemma with outfielder Jay Bruce, who hasn’t generated much demand on the trade market with a variety of power-hitting free agents still available on the open market. Joel Sherman of the New York Post takes a look at the situation, arguing that the club simply needs to make the best deal it can — even if it means eating salary. New York could explore ways to add a reliever in a Bruce swap, he notes, but shouldn’t allow his $13MM salary to get in the way of bolstering the pen.
Over the next few days, I will be discussing some of the higher-profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Modeling arbitration salaries is an inexact science, and sometimes “inexact” is too generous of a description. Setup man Addison Reed’s projected $5.3MM raise to $10.6MM is clearly one of those times. Even worse is that the model was only saved by the “Kimbrel Rule,” which states that a player can only beat the record salary for their service class by $1M in the model. The raw model projected a $5.8MM raise. Reed is going to get a far smaller raise than he projected, because the peculiarities of his case confuse the model so much.
Reed’s case is unique because he has 106 career saves but had 40 holds this year in lieu of working as a closer. Further, he struck out 91 batters in 77.2 innings while posting a microscopic 1.97 ERA. Relievers who have a career of closing success behind them tend to out-earn those who have a single good year as closers. So the model gives credit to career save totals, which boosts Reed’s projection significantly.
He is, however, unlikely to get extra credit for those saves in real life. Remove those career saves, and the model projects him for a $3.6MM raise. That’s still large, but much more reasonable.
Reed’s 40 holds this year put him in elite company on their own. In the last decade, only three relievers entering their third year of arbitration eligibility have even accumulated 30 holds—David Robertson in 2014, Tyler Clippard in 2014, and Mike Adams in 2012. They had 33, 33, and 32 holds, respectively, and earned raises of $2.12MM, $1.88MM, and $1.87MM. Their ERAs were strong as well: 2.04, 2.41, and 1.47, as compared with Reed’s 1.97 ERA total. The extra holds suggest Reed’s raise will be worth significantly more than Robertson’s $2.12MM.
That establishes a floor for Reed, but looking for a ceiling is tricky with a lack of relievers amassing 40 holds or anything near it. To find a potential ceiling, we can look to closers who pitched similarly. Among closers who had ERAs under 2.00 like Reed, only one name emerges from the last five years—Aroldis Chapman. He had 33 saves and a 1.63 ERA in 2015, with 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. Chapman got a $3.27MM raise. Although Reed had seven more holds than Chapman did saves, he had a higher ERA and fewer strikeouts.
Putting this together, it makes sense that Reed should fall somewhere between a $2.12 and $3.27MM. I suspect right in the middle at $2.7MM would make sense, putting him at $8MM. It is a far cry from the model’s $10.6MM projection ($11.1MM ignoring the Kimbrel Rule), but it definitely would be a healthy raise for Reed’s third year of eligibility.
- The Mets, too, might have erred in their approach on Jay Bruce. He now seems a superfluous piece after the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes, and Rosenthal says that he expects New York will need to pay down part of Bruce’s $13MM salary to deal him. The team picked up that option in large part to insure against the loss of Cespedes; a team source notes that insurance “doesn’t come for free,” and Rosenthal notes that the decision may have improved their bargaining position with their star free agent. But perhaps a greater recognition of the flood of sluggers would have led the team to choose an alternate path to protecting itself in the event of a departure of Cespedes.
- Heyman further notes that there remains robust demand for left-handed relievers. He lists the Mets, Yankees, Indians, and Blue Jays as teams still looking at southpaws. Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, Travis Wood, and J.P. Howell are among the established left-handed options that remain available.