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New York Yankees Rumors
Brett Gardner and the Yankees are on the verge of agreeing to terms on a four-year, $52MM extension that begins in 2015, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. The deal includes a $12.5MM team option with a $2MM buyout.
Nelson Cruz isn't a popular figure in some circles for his PED history, but Nick Markakis won't hold it against him. "It doesn't change my opinion toward anything,'' the Orioles outfielder said, according to Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. "I got to be a teammate, and no matter if you disagree or agree with your teammates, they are still your teammates. He’s going to be welcome here and we are going to play as one. That’s for sure." More out of the AL East..
- Chris Capuano was nearly traded to the Red Sox three years ago when they were desperate for someone to win a game in the final week of the regular season, writes John Tomase of the Boston Herald. Ultimately, however, Boston couldn't reach a deal with the Mets. “(The Mets) actually knew about it earlier, but kind of waited until the last minute to tell me so it wouldn’t be a distraction. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about it. It was just a couple-day conversation that didn’t end up happening, but I was excited at the prospect of pitching for the Red Sox," said the veteran.
- David Ortiz has few precedents when looking at what an extension might look like, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Speier looked at players who had ten or more seasons in an organization who signed deals that covered at least their age 39 seasons within a year of their free agency. That short list includes Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones, and Mariano Rivera.
- The Yankees have questions but no major concerns heading into spring training, writes Barry Federovitch of the Star-Ledger. Among the question marks, however, will be whether Masahiro Tanaka can make the transition to four or five days’ rest.
- Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger spoke with Yankees reliever Matt Thornton, who inked a two-year, $7MM deal this offseason, about what he expects his role to be with his new team.
Bailey, 29, had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in July, and was not tendered a contract by the Red Sox this offseason. Nevertheless, more than 15 teams had called to check in with the reliever by early December, according to an MLBTR report. If the timetable we reported at that time holds, Bailey will be ready to suit up for a Major League club by mid-May.
A former All-Star closer with the Athletics, Bailey has struggled with injuries since his rookie season, and managed just 44 innings for Boston after he was acquired in a winter 2011 trade. However, he's been excellent when he's managed to stay on the mound, as his career 2.64 ERA attests to.
Carlos Quentin tells Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune that at one point in the 2013 season, his injuries were nagging him to the point where he weighed retirement. The 31-year-old recalls thinking, "I can’t produce and do well, so I shouldn’t be out here." Quentin admitted to Acee that he wasn't honest last Spring when speaking about how healthy he was, but Acee notes the change in Quentin's demeanor this offseason as he told reporters that he wants to set a new career-high in games played this season.
The latest on the Padres and the rest of the NL West below…
- Dennis Lin of the Union-Tribune reports that Padres top prospect Max Fried has been shut down for at least two weeks due to soreness in the flexor-mass area of his left (pitching) elbow. GM Josh Byrnes said Fried initially felt the soreness when playing long-toss from 120 feet. "At this stage of his career, this time of year, we’re obviously gonna be careful and make sure he’s symptom-free before he gets going," Byrnes said. "There was still enough soreness in there that we’re gonna be conservative and make sure we knock it out."
- Giants first baseman Brandon Belt told reporters, including MLB.com's Chris Haft, that receiving the biggest payday of his life — a $2.9MM contract to avoid arbitration two nights ago — was a "magical" moment. Belt added that he would be open to discussing a long-term deal to remain in San Francisco: "I think anybody would be open to a long-term extension, especially with this organization. It's a first-class organization."
- Troy Tulowitzki knows that rumors will fly over the next year, as talk of the Yankees needing to replace Derek Jeter will likely connect him to the Bronx, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Tulo, who has looked up to Jeter since his youth and wears No. 2 in the Yankee Captain's honor, tells Renck that he's used to trade rumors and will remain focused on helping the Rockies win games.
- Chris Owings never let the Diamondbacks' acquisition of Didi Gregorius faze him last year, writes MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. Owings was thought of as the club's shortstop of the future when he was drafted in 2009 but looked to have been passed up by Gregorius at the time of last year's trade. Rather than dwell on it, Owings focused on his game and won the Triple-A Pacific Coast League's MVP Award, once again positioning himself a long-term answer for Arizona at short, writes Gilbert.
An opt-out clause is the ultimate safety net for an MLB player. Typically employed with deals of least five guaranteed years, an opt-out clause is inserted in the middle of the term and allows the player to abandon the rest of his contract and become a free agent.
Alex Rodriguez started the opt-out trend with his monster free agent deal with the Rangers in December 2000, and in total, ten players have received opt-out clauses. Six of those clauses have come due, and only one of those players, Vernon Wells, didn't secure additional money at the time. C.C. Sabathia leveraged his ability to opt out to add one year and $30MM to an already record-setting deal. The others — A-Rod, J.D. Drew, A.J. Burnett, and Rafael Soriano — got to take another lucrative bite at the apple of free agency.
A Deal-Making Idea
On the night before the 2005 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, agent Darek Braunecker had a client in A.J. Burnett who he felt was on an island in terms of being the best pitcher available. It was at that point Braunecker conceived of the idea of asking for an opt-out clause in Burnett's deal. "I wanted to create something that might add additional value to the deal as opposed to just the monetary component of it," explained Braunecker in a January conversation.
Burnett's five-year, $55MM deal with the Blue Jays came together quickly once the team agreed to include an opt-out clause after the third year. "Quite honestly, it was a deal-maker for us," said Braunecker. "I presented the idea to [Blue Jays GM] J.P. [Ricciardi] and told him that we had another club that had already agreed to that provision, and that if he was willing to do it that he would have a deal. So, really, no pushback to speak of. He obviously had to get approval from [club president] Paul Godfrey, and Paul gave his blessing on it almost immediately and that's essentially what concluded those negotiations." Braunecker added, "It really wasn't much of a challenge, to be honest with you."
Three years later, agent Greg Genske had the enjoyment of negotiating on behalf of the offseason's best available starting pitcher, C.C. Sabathia, and eventually landed a record-setting seven-year, $161MM deal with an opt-out clause after the third year. There seems to be some disagreement about who proposed the clause. Back in 2008, Matt Gagne of the New York Daily News quoted Yankees GM Brian Cashman saying, "I offered it. They never asked for it. They never said they were afraid of New York, I never heard that….Just in case it was an issue, I went to their house and I said, 'I think you're going to love it here. But let me just throw this out there.'" Genske disputed Cashman's account, telling me in January this year, "That's not true at all. That was a negotiated item that was difficult to get the Yankees to agree to. It was the last item agreed to."
The sheer rarity of opt-out clauses suggests they're not something teams are readily offering up. Only ten opt-out clauses have been given out in total, though two of them came in January this year for Excel Sports Management clients Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, 52 MLB contracts have been worth $100MM or more. Only seven of those included opt-out clauses. Asked if he's surprised we've seen so many top of the market deals without opt-out clauses, Genske replied, "I don't think I'm surprised. It certainly is a big deal for a club. If a club's going to commit themselves to those kinds of dollars, then they don't get the benefit of the upside fully if the player has the right to opt out. I certainly understand clubs' resistance to do it."
THURSDAY, 8:58pm: Add the A's to the list of teams with interest in Diaz, per the latest from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser writes that Oakland had interest in Diaz last year and has maintained that interest, with one official telling her, "We've gathered all the information we can."
The A's don't plan on holding a tryout for Diaz, as the Cardinals did.
Slusser points out that the need for Oakland may not be as strong as it is for other clubs due to the fact that top prospect Addison Russell is a shortstop by trade, and current big league shortstop Jed Lowrie is one of the team's better hitters. Of course, Lowrie is eligible for free agency at season's end.
1:32pm: The Blue Jays worked out Diaz last week, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, though he notes that there was no indication that the sides were approaching a deal.
Though they may appear at first glance to be a potential landing spot, the Mets are not in on Diaz, reports MLB.com's Anthony DiComo via Twitter.
12:32pm: Diaz and fellow Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne (a right-handed pitcher) continue to make their way around Florida for various showcases, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. (They had previously appeared in Arizona for teams that hold their springs there.) The pair is expected to appear in front of the Yankees today, says Sanchez.
8:57am: Other teams participating in talks with Diaz include the Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Braves, Phillies, and Mariners, Strauss reports in a follow-up piece.
Torres indicated that his client would focus his decision on maximizing dollars and opportunity. "We know he's going to be in the major leagues," said Torres. "It's only a matter of time. His preference is shortstop, but he's played second and third and I'm sure would be comfortable playing whatever position is necessary."
WEDNESDAY: After a private workout in front of top Cardinals brass today, Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz is expected to receive an offer from St. Louis within 24 hours, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Diaz, who is represented by Jaime Torres, has drawn wide interest around the league, but Strauss says that the Cardinals are believed to be among the four clubs that have shown the most interest.
Echoing an earlier report from MLBDailyDish.com's Chris Cotillo (via Twitter) that a signing could come in two or three days, Torres told Strauss that his client is "prepared to move very quickly" in reaching agreement. Diaz is eligible to receive formal offers starting today. Though he is awaiting authorization to play in full-squad spring outings, Diaz has been cleared to play in B games.
The 23-year-old worked out only at short for the Cards, though he has performed on both sides of the bag in front of other clubs. "He's a player we've had interest in for awhile and the next natural step in the process was to put him in front of our people in this setting," said GM John Mozeliak. Of course, the club has already made two significant additions to its infield, signing Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis to join a middle-infield mix that already included Kolten Wong and Pete Kozma.
Ubaldo Jimenez was introduced today by the Orioles, saying that he is looking forward to putting the "nightmare" of past inconsistency in the rearview mirror. Executive VP Dan Duqutte said that Jimenez was attractive to Baltimore because "he's been a proven, solid, dependable pitcher," and explained that he saw potential for new pitching coach Dave Wallace to help Jimenez maintain his form from the second half of last year. MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli has a full transcript from the presser.
Here's more from the AL East:
- Orioles young star Manny Machado is scheduled for a key visit with his doctor in the middle of March which could determine when he'll be ready to suit up, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). If he is cleared to play at that point, the hope is that Machado would be prepared for game action within the first few weeks of the season.
- Machado tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that being ready for Opening Day is last on his list of priorities: "That’s at the bottom of my list. It’s not even on my list, to be honest," says Machado. Instead, Machado and the Orioles are focused on making sure he's 100 percent when he takes the field. Says Machado: "When I’m ready, I’m going to be ready. And everybody’s going to know it. And that’s when I’m going to be out there with the team, whether it’s Opening Day or sometime in April."
- Red Sox DH David Ortiz and agent Fern Cuza met with club oficials today — including representatives from the ownership group — to discuss his contract status, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier.
- Ortiz has not been shy about discussing his contract situation publicly, and the team has likewise consistently indicated a willingness to talk. Speier breaks things down from a baseball perspective, arguing that Ortiz has in fact expressed a willingness to give his team a legitimate discount. The notion of adding another year to his current contract at about the same annual rate ($15MM) is valuable, says Speier, because it keeps him off of an open market that could well pay him more. Though he is aging, Ortiz's bat has shown little sign of slowing, and he would surely draw real interest from a power-sapped free agent market. Even if the slugger takes a step back, says Speier, Boston's payroll situation makes the downside scenario a reasonable risk to bear.
- As for those payroll considerations, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said yesterday that the luxury tax may not be a firm line for the club going forward, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Though the club has "learned from" its experiences with major deals in the past, Henry said that the team is always looking for ways to leverage its "big-revenue" capabilities. Though he was somewhat unclear as to his reasoning, Henry said that "there's some reason to believe that [staying under the luxury threshold] may not be as important as we thought a couple years ago."
- Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano is considering retiring after the season, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. The 38-year-old said it will all come down to whether he feels healthy, but acknowledged the possibility that he could join teammate Derek Jeter in making this his last go-round. Soriano, who produced a .255/.302/.489 line with 34 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 626 plate appearances last year, will be playing out the final year of the eight-year, $136MM deal he signed with the Cubs back in November of 2006.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Yankees made an offer to free agent infielder Stephen Drew earlier in the off-season, believed to be for two or three years, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Nevertheless, the report indicates, the Yankees do not appear to be one of the four teams still pursuing the 30-year-old.
At the time of the offer, says Sherman, New York was making offers to multiple players while explaining that they would pull them back as necessary as things developed. Drew hoped at the time to land a bigger deal, and the club ultimately withdrew its offer at some point during its massive outlay on several prominent free agents.
Notably, Sherman's article does not indicate that the Yankees have current interest in Drew, but instead throws more cold water on the idea. (Other recent reports, of course, have said that the team does not intend to pursue him.) Sherman writes that principal owner Hal Steinbrenner called for a halt to spending after signing Masahiro Tanaka, and that the club is "not bending for Drew."
Without Drew, argues Sherman, the club will likely find a mid-season need for a player of his ilk, but will be hard-pressed to acquire one. Sherman presented that situation to Steinbrenner for comment, and his response seems to indicate that the team feels ready to move forward as presently constructed:
"No team is without concerns. We will address those concerns as we go, just as we did in several areas last year. … I am comfortable with our payroll as it stands now. … We have a very good club and we will continue to improve in areas that we see need it; not just in areas that need it on paper. We need to see what actually transpires in those areas and react."
The Braves have signed Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel to long-term deals in recent weeks, but don't expect them to do the same with Jason Heyward, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Heyward recently signed a two-year deal with Atlanta that did not delay his free-agency eligilibility, and now it will be difficult for the Braves to get Heyward to commit to a deal that's worth less per year than the $20MM-$22MM Freeman will get at a comparable point in his service-time clock. Here's more from the East divisions.
- Homer Bailey's negotiations with the Reds could have an impact on Justin Masterson and the Indians, the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes writes. Hoynes broke the news that Bailey and the Reds are in discussions about a six-year deal that could be worth $100MM, and a Bailey deal could set a precedent for an extension for Masterson, who was similarly valuable in 2013 and also is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.
- The Yankees spent heavily this offseason, but they now have a injury-prone, top-heavy roster and little depth, Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues. That's especially true in their infield, although Sherman notes the situation might have been better if the Yankees had acquired Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante or Logan Forsythe, all of whom they pursued this offseason (Peralta and Infante on the free-agent market, and Forsythe via trade).
- The Red Sox are making plans now that Ryan Dempster and his salary are out of the equation for 2014, writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam. McAdam writes that the Red Sox have known about Dempster's decision for the past two weeks and have been looking for a veteran free agent pitcher, but probably one who would start the season at Triple-A and provide depth. The Red Sox could also save Dempster's salary for a trade-deadline acquisition.
- Stephen Drew and the Mets still aren't close on a contract, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. Carig also notes that the Mets have interest in former Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, who is making his way back from Tommy John surgery. The Mets' level of interest may depend on how well the team does at the beginning of the season. Hanrahan is not expected to be ready to pitch until May.
- The Phillies still aren't interested in rebuilding, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "We're committed to this core. We want to surround them with the best possible players. In time, hopefully we'll be able to transition to some of younger players," says Phillies president David Montgomery. "But now, we want to give this group every chance to win.'' GM Ruben Amaro Jr., meanwhile, repeats that he expects the Phillies to do better this season because of improved health. "Listen, if Ryan [Howard] is on the field, we are winning games," Amaro says.
Earlier today, Ryan Dempster announced he will not pitch in 2014 forfeiting the $13.25MM he was due in the final year of his pact with the Red Sox. Boston, however, does not intend to pursue Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, or other free agent starting pitching, writes WEEI.com's Alex Speier. The Red Sox expect to slot Felix Doubront into the starting rotation and Brandon Workman into the swingman role with their stable of pitching prospects providing depth, according to Speier. Elsewhere in the American League:
- Speier notes in the same article the Red Sox have newfound financial flexibility with Dempster's salary now off the books. Boston projects to have a 2014 payroll of $176MM (including $9MM allocated for in-season trades and roster additions), a $13MM cushion against the luxury tax. The Red Sox could re-sign Stephen Drew, but Speier wonders whether common ground can be found.
- GM Ben Cherington passed on the opportunity to discuss the Red Sox's unexpected financial windfall saying the focus should be on Dempster, reports the Boston Globe's Pete Abraham.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets the Yankees are not considering any additional free agent acquisitions, which would rule them out on Drew.
- Jimmy Paredes, claimed on waivers yesterday by the Orioles, is a prime candidate to lose his 40-man roster spot once the team makes its signing of Suk-Min Yoon official, according to MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. Yoon has passed his physical, per multiple reports.
- Mark Mulder, who saw his comeback bid with the Angels end when he ruptured his left Achilles tendon, told reporters, including Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, he has yet to decide whether he will attempt another return in 2015. "I'd love to say yes, but I don't know. I have to wait and see what the doctors say — see what the process is of how healthy I can get it, how good it feels." Mulder undergoes surgery Monday and the rehab could last up to eight months.