Newsstand Rumors

Latest On Red Sox, Pablo Sandoval

7:04am: Gustavo Vasquez says no agreement has been reached and that his client is still weighing offers, WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reports (Twitter link).

6:51am: The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  It’s a five-year contract worth in the range of $100MM.  Jake Wesley originally tweeted late last night that Sandoval and the Sox had reached a deal.  Sandoval is represented by Gustavo Vasquez of the SPS Sports Group.

Sandoval’s addition immediately addresses Boston’s need for a third baseman in the wake of Will Middlebrooks‘ disappointing 2014 season, and the switch-hitting Sandoval also adds some balance to a predominantly right-handed hitting Red Sox batting order.  While Sandoval never had much trouble hitting at AT&T Park (a career .853 OPS in San Francisco), it stands to reason that the move to hitter-friendly Fenway Park will only help his production.

With Sandoval in the fold and Hanley Ramirez reportedly also close to finalizing a deal, the Red Sox may have landed the two biggest infield bats on the free agency market.  It remains to be seen how the Red Sox will deploy their talent given Xander Bogaerts‘ presence at shortstop, though Sandoval is the obvious choice at third base given that he has posted above-average UZR/150 numbers in three of the last four seasons.

The Red Sox were one of three reported finalists for Sandoval along with the Giants and Padres.  (The Blue Jays and White Sox also showed some interest in Sandoval earlier this winter.)  This interest didn’t result in Sandoval finding his desired six guaranteed years, though if the contract does pay him a $20MM average annual value, it will be the second-highest AAV ever given to a third baseman, topped only by Alex Rodriguez‘s deal with the Yankees.

Sandoval, 28, has spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Giants, becoming a fan favorite due to his “Kung Fu Panda” persona and his clutch bat.  Sandoval owns a .344/.389/.545 slash line in 167 postseason plate appearances, most notably being named MVP of the 2012 World Series.  Losing Sandoval is a big blow to the Giants, who may be looking to replace his production by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.  Since Tomas could be deployed as a third baseman, he might end up as a direct replacement for Sandoval should he indeed wind up a Giant.  FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Giants are interested in Tomas as a left fielder and would likely pursue Chase Headley to fill their third base vacancy if Sandoval went elsewhere.

San Francisco will now receive a bonus pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as compensation for Sandoval signing elsewhere,  since he rejected the team’s one-year qualifying offer.  Boston’s first round pick (7th overall) is protected, so the Sox will instead give up their second rounder as a result of the signing.


Latest On Hyeon-jong Yang

MONDAY, 7:15am: The Rangers haven’t been told they’re the high bidders for Yang, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports.

SUNDAY,10:54pm: The Rangers, not the Twins, won the bidding for Yang, FOX Sports’ C.J. Nitkowski tweets. The fee was about $1.5MM, and Kia could opt to keep Yang. A previous report from Korea had indicated that the Rangers had posted the top bid.

9:10pm: Berardino now tweets that the Kia Tigers haven’t officially decided whether to accept the top bid for Yang, and MLB doesn’t notify the top bidder until the bid is accepted.

12:29pm: Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News hears from an informed baseball source that the Twins have in fact won the bidding.  The value of the Twins’ bid has not been announced and sources have thrown out estimates ranging from $700K to ~$1.5MM.

Both the Kia Tigers and Yang are disappointed with the size of the bid, but the pitcher is pushing the Tigers to accept it so that he can pursue his dream of pitching in the majors.  The team has previously said that it would accept a bid for Yang as long as it was of “a reasonable amount,” but never specified the monetary figure.  The KBO has said that it will inform MLB of the Tigers’ decision by 4pm CT on Friday, November 28th.

10:51am: The Twins are insisting that they haven’t been told they’ve won the bidding for Yang, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).

SATURDAY, 10:18am: The Twins have won the bidding for Korean lefty Hyeon-jong Yang and are nearing agreement on a deal, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. The Kia Tigers posted Yang earlier this week. The Twins have a 30-day negotiating window with Yang.

Yang, who will be 27 in March, posted a 4.25 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 165 innings in Korea in 2014. Those numbers don’t sound that impressive at first, but each team scores an average of 5.63 runs per game in the offense-heavy KBO, far higher than in the Majors, and Yang’s season earned him the KBO’s equivalent of the Cy Young award. Yang is viewed as a mid-rotation starter with No. 2 starter upside, the New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand reports. Yang has a smooth delivery and throws 92-95 MPH.

Feinsand had named the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Astros as teams that could have interest in Yang. The Red Sox also reportedly had interest. The Padres recently won the bidding for another KBO pitcher, Kwang-hyun Kim, for $2MM, although the top bid for Yang was expected to cost more.

The Twins were expected to pursue starting pitching this offseason, and Yang should give them an option to accompany Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco. Twins starters posted a league-worst 5.06 ERA in 2014.


Non-Tender Candidate: Mitch Moreland

Most Rangers players struggled or were injured in Texas’ disastrous 2014 season, and first baseman Mitch Moreland was no exception. The lefty hit .246/.297/.347 in 184 plate appearances through early June, then had ankle surgery and missed the rest of the year. Now, he’s heading into his second season of arbitration eligibility with a projected $2.8MM salary on the horizon.

USATSI_7950726_154513410_lowresMoreland is now 29 and is on the fringes, at best, as a starting first baseman. Since a partial season as a rookie in 2010, he hasn’t posted an OPS+ above 106 or an OBP above .321, and as a slightly above average defensive first baseman or below average corner outfielder, he doesn’t provide much value with the glove. Even before his injury, he might have been an acceptable choice as a starter only for a team like Texas that had plenty of stars elsewhere in its lineup.

One of those stars is Prince Fielder, who should return from his own injury to take over first base in Texas next year. There’s also limited room for Moreland in the outfield — Shin-Soo Choo will be in right, Jake Smolinski hit well down the stretch last season and could get playing time in left, and Moreland has played only sparingly in the outfield since 2011 anyway. That leaves DH, where the Rangers can be flexible in finding an alternative to Moreland. They’re likely to pursue a DH upgrade this offseason, possibly on the trade market. Another possibility for the Rangers might be to acquire Justin Upton and bump Smolinski to DH.

Moreland posted a wRC+ of 76 last season; every AL team but two (the Indians and Mariners) got better production from their designated hitters. Of course, Moreland’s ankle might partially explain his struggles, and some rebound is likely. Steamer projects Moreland will post a wRC+ of 99 in 2015, which would be more palatable, but still isn’t a figure to which a team should aspire at DH, even at a relatively low price.

If the Rangers don’t acquire outfield or DH help this offseason, however, or if they don’t acquire a left-handed hitter for one of those positions, perhaps they could consider re-signing Moreland at a reduced rate, whether or not they non-tender him first. Smolinski’s breakout in a month’s worth of games in his MLB debut was unsustainable, and entrusting him with an entire starting job, whether that’s DH or left field, without a viable backup plan seems too ambitious. 24-year-old Ryan Rua offers a potentially decent alternative, but like Smolinski, he’s right-handed. Then there’s Michael Choice, who’s also a righty and had a disastrous rookie season.

Giving a fair amount of playing time to some combination of Smolinski, Rua and Choice seems like a good idea for the Rangers, but having reinforcements at DH and in the outfield seems like a good idea as well. Moreland had a poor season in 2014, but he’s experienced and left-handed, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to the Rangers in 2015 one way or another. A tender is therefore a possibility.

The Rangers’ decision needs to be made in early December, however, and given Moreland’s struggles last season, the Rangers might feel it’s unnecessary to commit nearly $3MM without first exploring other possibilities. A trade before that seems unlikely, since Moreland isn’t an obvious upgrade for many teams at first or DH. Perhaps if he becomes a free agent, a team like the Yankees might be a fit — Moreland could pick up at bats against righties while occasionally playing first base, DH and right field. The Rangers could also wait until later in the offseason to decide what to do with Moreland, to ensure that Fielder is fully ready and to see if an injury in another organization might create a better market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Red Sox Finalizing Deal With Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez will go to Boston on Monday to finalize a deal with the Red Sox in the five-year, $90MM range, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Reports emerged this afternoon indicating that the Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Ramirez.

As Rosenthal wrote earlier today, the Red Sox‘ endgame with Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval is unclear. It’s possible they want Ramirez to play shortstop, but they already have Xander Bogaerts, who has upside and is a far superior defender. If they want Ramirez to play third, it’s unclear what will come of their outstanding offer to Sandoval (which reportedly was for a similar total of five years and $95MM). They could also try Ramirez at outfield, although he has limited experience there, and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox are still trying to sign both players.

As the previous paragraph suggests, however, there are big questions about Ramirez’s defense, particularly at shortstop. He has also had trouble staying healthy in the past several seasons. Still, Ramirez, who hit .283/.369/.448 for the Dodgers last season and is .300/.373/.500 for his career, clearly has an impact bat, and that’s a huge asset, particularly in an offense-thin free agent market. Earlier this month, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Ramirez would get a six-year, $132MM deal, so the reported total of his pact with Boston lags behind in both years and dollars. It could be possible Ramirez is willing to take less money to play for the Red Sox, the organization that signed and developed him before trading him to the Marlins in 2005.

Ramirez rejected the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, so L.A. will add a pick at the end of the first round of next year’s draft if the Red Sox do complete the signing. The Red Sox’ top pick (No. 7 overall) is protected, so they would lose their second-round pick as a result of signing Ramirez.


Athletics Fielding Calls On Left-Handed Hitters

After acquiring lefty first baseman Ike Davis from the Pirates, the Athletics are fielding calls on lefties Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and John Jaso, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The Blue Jays have reportedly asked the A’s about the now-healthy Jaso, with the Athletics showing interest in lefty starter Sean Nolin. (The Jays already have Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole to back up Russell Martin at catcher, although Navarro hopes to be traded.) The Athletics also have keen interest in finding a shortstop, given the likely departure of Jed Lowrie to free agency.

Seen in this context, the Athletics’ acquisition of Davis, who cost them only the rights to $270K in international spending, might mostly be an insurance policy in case they trade someone else. If the Athletics don’t deal another player, Slusser writes, they could non-tender Davis. Reddick (who boasts an above-average bat and a good corner outfield glove) and Moss (who’s a liability defensively but who has had three straight seasons of over 20 home runs) would appear to have significant trade value.


Non-Tender Candidate: Kris Medlen

This year, teams have until 11:59 ET on December 2 to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. About 40 players are non-tender candidates, per MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes. Included on the list is injured Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen.

Medlen, 29, earned $5.8MM through arbitration last season. He’s likely to earn a similar amount next season and no less than $4.64MM after missing the entire 2014 season due to his second Tommy John surgery. Based only on his statistics – a career 2.95 ERA, 7.62 K/9, and 2.15 BB/9 in 512 2/3 innings – he appears to be bargain. He’s been flexible about his role, with 61 starts and 89 relief appearances to his name. Return from major injury always comes with risk, especially for players who have undergone multiple Tommy John procedures. With only one more season of club control, the budget-conscious Braves may opt to cut ties with Medlen.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves Jon Roegele and Jeff Zimmerman of the Hardball Times recently researched Tommy John surgeries in separate articles. Pitchers usually see an increase in their walk rate, decrease in strikeouts, and allow more runs in their first year back from the injury. Zimmerman cites the American Journal of Sports Medicine as saying, “83% of the pitchers they looked at made it back to the majors after surgery and 97% were at least able to pitch in a minor-league game after the surgery.” Roegele found that 28-to-29-year-old pitchers (sample size 73) took an average of 16.9 months to return from the surgery. Only 71% of pitchers in the cohort returned to big league action. Roegele does note some sample size issues, but it’s safe to say Medlen is bordering on the danger zone where age begins to correlate with poorer outcomes.

The average recovery time is skewed by players who suffer extended setbacks – like Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson. Even so, there is a plausible chance Medlen won’t be ready to compete until next July – 16 months from his surgery on March 18. An efficent recovery of 13 months still has him missing the early part of the season. A more financially endowed club may feel inclined to hope for the best outcome, but the Braves may have to be more pragmatic with a possible $5.8MM investment.

Reportedly, Atlanta’s preferred option is to re-sign Medlen at a lower rate, possibly with performance bonuses. Last offseason, the club inked Gavin Floyd to a one-year, $4MM deal with $4.5MM in possible bonuses. Floyd was also coming off Tommy John surgery and was expected to miss the beginning of the season. He made his Braves debut in May, but landed back on the disabled list in June after fracturing a bone near his elbow.

The experience with Floyd may serve as both a benchmark for expected contract and a cautionary tale. Floyd has a career 4.40 ERA and 4.36 FIP, so his performance has been substantially worse than Medlen’s. However, Floyd was relatively durable prior to his injury, whereas Medlen has a history of problems. Another relevant anecdote is that of Andrew Miller. The Red Sox non-tendered and re-signed him prior to last season. Atlanta may wish to try the same tactic, although it will be a risky move if their goal is to retain him.

On the open market, I foresee a one-year, $5MM guarantee with performance bonuses. Mutual options are not uncommon with injured or injury prone players. With a mid-season return uncertain, a club option could prove attractive to teams hoping to get more than a couple months of production.

The injury complicates any potential trades. Obviously, the Braves cannot expect a substantial return – Medlen wouldn’t be a non-tender candidate if they could. Trades involving injured players are rare, so Braves fans shouldn’t expect a notable prospect in return if a deal is reached.

Medlen, who is represented by Wasserman Media Group, seemingly fits with any club in need of rotation depth and upside. Since that describes the Braves, they could be motivated to bite the bullet and tender a contract. While half of the teams in the league could serve as possible landing spots, a few suitable playoff contenders include the Angels and Dodgers. Both clubs could use rotation depth with the flexibility to work out of the bullpen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Sunday

We’ll keep track of any Yasmany Tomas-related rumors here, with the newest items at the top.

  • The Braves‘ pursuit of Tomas is unrelated to the progress of any trades involving Justin Upton or Evan Gattis, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. The Braves feel comfortable that they can get good value for Upton or Gattis whether or not they sign Tomas.
  • The Braves, Padres and Giants have extended offers to Tomas, with the Mariners, Phillies and Diamondbacks still lingering as possibilities, Peter Gammons tweets. That all makes sense — a report late last week indicated that the Braves and Padres were the favorites to sign Tomas, and another indicated that the Giants would turn their attention to Tomas if Pablo Sandoval were to leave for another team.

A’s Acquire Ike Davis, Designate Andrew Brown

The A’s have acquired first baseman Ike Davis from the Pirates for international bonus slot money, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The A’s and Pirates have both tweeted confirmation of the trade, which also includes a swap of international bonus slots: the Pirates receiving the A’s first slot ($501.9K) in exchange for their third slot ($232K). The Pirates will net $269.9K in the swap of bonus slots (figures courtesy of Baseball America’s Ben Badler). To create room on the 40-man roster, the A’s have designated outfielder Andrew Brown for assignment.

Slusser tweets acquiring Davis, who was designated for assignment by the Pirates on Thursday, is a depth move and not an indication the A’s are preparing to deal any of their first basemen. The trade comes less than a week after Oakland signed Billy Butler to a three-year, $30MM free agent contract. The 40-man roster logjam at DH/first base now include the aforementioned Davis and Butler plus Brandon Moss, John Jaso, Stephen Vogt, Kyle Blanks, and Nate Freiman. With this surplus, Slusser notes the A’s now have the flexibility to make a deal if they are overwhelmed by an offer.

Davis struggled to start 2014 with just five hits, including one home run, in 30 plate appearances before being dealt by the Mets to the Pirates in April. The 27-year-old fared slightly better in Pittsburgh slashing .235/.343/.378 with ten home runs in 397 plate appearances. Davis is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $4.4MM in his second time through arbitration.

The A’s claimed Brown off waivers from the Mets on Halloween. The 30-year-old produced a .182/.245/.341 slash with the Mets in 49 plate appearances. Brown has spent parts of four MLB seasons with the Mets, Rockies and Cardinals compiling a batting line of .220/.281/.390 in 362 trips to the plate.


Indians Designate Scott Barnes For Assignment

The Indians have designated left-hander Scott Barnes for assignment, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer (on Twitter).  The move will help the Tribe create room for right-hander Charles Brewer, who was acquired from Arizona last night.

Barnes, 27, has made 22 big league appearances for the Indians over the last two seasons, though he has spent more time pitching for their Triple-A affiliate.  This past season, Barnes pitched to a 3.69 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 24 relief appearances and one start.

As the MLBTR DFA Tracker shows, there are now 16 players in DFA limbo.


Indians Acquire Charles Brewer

The Indians have acquired right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer from the Diamondbacks in exchange for cash considerations, tweets Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Brewer was designated for assignment on Thursday. It’s the second trade of the evening for Arizona – they also dealt Mike Bolsinger to the Dodgers for cash considerations.

Brewer, 27 next season, had a brief cup of coffee with the Diamondbacks in 2013. Over a six season minor league career, he’s posted a 4.09 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. The righty has a 90 mph fastball. Prospect maven John Sickels of SB Nation wrote in 2012: “he has a short window of opportunity to establish himself but has a shot at becoming a back-end rotation member or a reliever.”

The Indians likely view Brewer as a useful depth piece who can help to provide stability at the Triple-A level. Their rotation is currently full, with viable major league starters Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin penciled in as sixth and seventh on the depth chart. Brewer has worked almost exclusively as a starter, but his best chance at reaching the majors may be as a reliever.