- Chris Davis Suspended 25 Games
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Here’s the latest on the Diamondbacks’ search for a new GM following the recent removal of Kevin Towers from that role.
- Angels pro scouting director Hal Morris did not advance to the second round of interviews, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times (on Twitter).
- Watson has made it through to the second round and is considered a finalist, Heyman reports. One or two other candidates are expected to join him for final consideration.
- Dave Stewart will have an interview for the job this week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rosenthal had previously reported that Stewart might be a key candidate for the position, but that Stewart could not demonstrate overt interest in it unless he thought he could get it, since he might risk losing his clients as a player agent.
- Tony La Russa is nearing a decision on the finalists to replace Towers with the first round of talks possibly ending by the middle of this week, baseball sources tell MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Discussions have involved ten candidates, who Gilbert lists as: Allard Baird, Larry Beinfest, Billy Eppler, Gary LaRocque, Thad Levine, Ray Montgomery, Hal Morris, Tim Purpura, Dave Stewart and De Jon Watson.
- The Diamondbacks requested and received permission from the Yankees to speak with Eppler, but Gilbert reports Eppler declined the opportunity for a formal interview because of his commitment to the Yankees telling La Russa he only interviewed for the Padres’ opening because he is a native of the San Diego area.
The Blue Jays are pleased with Melky Cabrera both on and off the field and will make him a qualifying offer following the season with the hope of retaining the switch-hitter on a multi-year deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. A qualifying offer, expected to fall in the $15MM range this winter, will be worth nearly as much as the two-year, $16MM pact Cabrera inked with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season.
As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney recently said (Insider link), issuing Cabrera a QO appears to be a “slam dunk” for Toronto. Though his season ended a bit prematurely due to a fractured pinkie finger suffered this month, Cabrera certainly put up some impressive numbers in his walk season. The 30-year-old hit .301/.351/.458 with 16 homers with slightly below-average glovework in left field. In total, Fangraphs pegs him at 2.7 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference valued him at 3.1.
Cabrera, of course, brings with him to free agency the baggage of having served a 50-game suspension after testing positive for synthetic testosterone back in 2012. While many were quick to point to his disappointing 2013 season — he hit just .279/.322/.360 — as evidence that he’d benefited substantially from PEDs, doctors eventually found a benign tumor on Cabrera’s spine that had to significantly impact his ability to produce.
The question, of course, will be what type of deal Cabrera can command this winter — a topic which MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth examined in depth in a recent Free Agent Stock Watch post. Cabrera recently told reporters that he hopes to remain in Toronto, stating that he loves the city of Toronto and suggesting that he feels indebted to a team that gave him a chance when his value was at its lowest point. I’d think a four-year deal is attainable for Cabrera on the open market, particularly after Jhonny Peralta managed to secure such a contract on the heels of a much more recent PED suspension last winter.
A year ago, Melky Cabrera‘s value was at its nadir. After a PED suspension cut short his 2012 breakout season with the Giants, and after he left the team under bizarre circumstances, Cabrera became a free agent and landed a relatively meager two-year, $16MM deal with the Blue Jays. He then began that deal by hitting a disappointing .279/.322/.360 in his first year in Toronto, then had surgery in September to remove a benign tumor from his back.
Since then, though, a healthier Cabrera has improved his bargaining position, hitting a much better .301/.351/.458 in his walk year and emerging as one of the better hitters available in a very weak free agent class. Perhaps even more importantly, he’s another year removed from his PED troubles, and his good season, along with even better seasons from Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, might suggest that teams this offseason will be less wary of suspended players than they have been in the recent past.
Cabrera now is out for the rest of the season with a fracture in his right pinky, an injury that could have some effect on his market as a free agent. He’s had surgery and should be ready for spring training, although the injury could theoretically have a lingering effect on his power.
Still, Cabrera is likely to get a sizable deal, given the weakness of the outfield market. Rusney Castillo has already signed with the Red Sox, and there’s another Cuban outfielder, the very promising Yasmani Tomas, who’s currently waiting to be declared a free agent. There’s also Cruz, who will be coming off a very good offensive season but is already in his mid-thirties and has significant defensive limitations.
After that, there’s Cabrera, and then a significant drop-off. The best remaining outfielders are the aging, injury-prone Michael Cuddyer; the defensively challenged Michael Morse and Josh Willingham; and light-hitting types like Nori Aoki and Emilio Bonifacio. There will also be Colby Rasmus, a 28-year-old who has hit well at times and can play center field, but who was recently benched by the Jays. And the market could also include players like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, depending on the statuses of their options.
Leaving aside Tomas, there isn’t anyone on the outfield market who’s better rounded than Cabrera, even if one counts his PED past as a strike against him. Unlike Cruz, Morse or Willingham, he isn’t a terrible fielder (although he isn’t a great one, either). Unlike Aoki or Bonifacio, he has power. Unlike Cruz and Cuddyer, he’s still relatively young, at 30. And unlike Rasmus, he isn’t a complete question mark. The outfield market is full of dubious options. Teams considering punting on the left field position in order to upgrade their offense elsewhere won’t have much to work with, either.
Even better for Cabrera, there could be plenty of teams on the prowl for a corner outfielder this offseason. The Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Twins and White Sox could all make some degree of sense for Cabrera, depending on how the rest of the market shakes out. Cabrera has said that he wants to return to the Blue Jays, and a return to Toronto might be a good fit as well. The Jays have Jose Bautista in right, and assuming Rasmus departs, they’ll probably soon have top prospect Dalton Pompey as their regular starter in center. But they don’t have a stellar option in left field.
Given Cabrera’s performance, a potentially vigorous market and the Jays’ own need for an outfielder, extending Cabrera a qualifying offer seems like an obvious decision. Such an offer should help the Jays limit other teams’ interest (particularly from teams like the Mets and Reds, who currently look to have two of the first unprotected picks in next year’s draft), and could lead to some sort of multiyear agreement for him to remain in Toronto.
As long as teams aren’t worried about the lingering effects of his hand injury, Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency should be able to swing at least a three-year deal. Last month, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star polled various agents who suggested he could get anywhere from $36MM to $45MM over a three-year deal, meaning that the three-year, $39MM deal Shane Victorino received from the Red Sox before the 2013 season might be a precedent. A four-year deal might also be a possibility, with Cabrera’s camp possibly pointing to last offseason’s contracts for Curtis Granderson and Peralta.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
MONDAY: Despaigne’s showcase will now take place on September 23rd, Badler reports.
THURSDAY: Cuban right-hander Jorge Despaigne has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. He is yet to be cleared by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sign, it appears.
Despaigne, 23, presents a plus fastball that can hit the mid-90s, says Badler, though he can struggle to spot it. As Badler recently explained, Despaigne is said to have difficulty repeating his mechanics. Lacking international exposure, Despaigne is a “relative unknown” with “a higher uncertainty level,” according to Badler.
Importantly, with just three seasons of play in the Cuban league Serie Nacional under his belt, Despaigne will be subject to international bonus limits. With many clubs having already allocated their international spending, he may present an opportunity for a team that has already decided to accept penalties or that has some available space.
Despaigne, residing in Haiti, will put on a showcase in the Dominican Republic on September 25. He will be joined there by countrymen Dian Toscano (a 25-year-old outfielder) and Javier Gonzalez (a 20-year-old righty).
The Mets are expected to bring back both general manager Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins for the 2015 season, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Contract details haven’t been finalized with either man, though since Collins is already signed through 2015, Alderson’s status is the only one that needs to be immediately addressed. The GM’s previous deal will expire at the end of the season, and though the Mets hold a team option on his services for 2015, Martino reports that it’s more likely the Mets will work out an extension with Alderson rather than just exercise the one-year option.
Alderson and Collins both joined the team prior to the 2011 season, and the rebuilding Mets have a 297-339 record under both men. It had been assumed that Alderson would return in 2015, and though Collins’ status was perhaps in question earlier in the season, recent signs pointed towards his return as well. The skipper signed a two-year extension with the Mets last September that covers him through 2015, plus a team option for 2016.
While wins and losses haven’t been a major concern for the Mets in recent years, this could be a different story in 2015 when Matt Harvey is back from Tommy John surgery and joins the several other promising young players on New York’s roster. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Mets only announce that Collins is returning and don’t work out any further extension; the team will want to see if Collins is the right man to manage a contender before making a longer-term commitment. At most, the Mets could exercise Collins’ 2016 option so he could avoid lame-duck status next year.
The Mets will make an official announcement on Alderson and Collins at the end of the season, and sources tell Martino that the club could confirm both are staying during a single press conference, though nothing has yet been decided.
Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video at FOX Sports:
- Some within baseball believe Dave Stewart might be a top candidate for the Diamondbacks‘ open GM position, but that he can’t confirm that he’s overly interested in the job until he knows it can be his. Otherwise, he risks losing clients as a player agent.
- The Orioles are lucky to have avoided signing Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, Rosenthal suggests. Machado and Wieters are dealing with injuries, while Davis has struggled through a disappointing season and is now serving a 25-game suspension for amphetamine use. The Orioles, meanwhile, have Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy and potentially Nick Markakis due for free agency this winter, and they’ll need to have money available if they want to keep them.
- Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine could be a candidate for a top position with the Rockies if Colorado decides to make changes in its front office. Levine is also a potential candidate for the open GM job in Arizona. The Rockies could choose an internal candidate if they do replace or reassign Dan O’Dowd and/or Bill Geivett, however.
SATURDAY: Tomas will work out for teams September 21 at the Giants’ Dominican complex, Ben Badler of Baseball America writes.
THURSDAY: Slugging Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas has been unblocked by the United States Foreign Office of Assets Control and is currently waiting to be declared a free agent by Major League clubs, and MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez now reports that Tomas will soon showcase for MLB clubs. His showcase is “tentatively scheduled” for the end of next week, according to Sanchez.
Needless to say, it would be a surprise if all 30 clubs didn’t have some degree of representation at a showcase for a prospect of Tomas’ stature. The 24-year-old is said to possess 70-grade raw power (on the 20-80 scouting scale), and as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted when writing about Tomas being cleared by OFAC, both youth and power are prized commodities on the free agent market.
Tomas isn’t thought to be as advanced a hitter as Jose Abreu, but Sanchez reports that as has been the case with other recent Cuban signees, Tomas looks to be in markedly better shape now than when he was playing in Cuba. (Both Rusney Castillo and Yasiel Puig got themselves into much better shape upon defecting.) Sanchez notes that for his size — Tomas is listed at 6’4″ and 240 pounds — Tomas is surprisingly agile, and he also possesses a strong throwing arm. However, there are some questions about his glovework overall, and some international scouts do consider Tomas to be a fairly high-risk/high-reward prospect, Sanchez writes. Adding to the risk, Dr. Francis Montesinos has said to Cuban media outlets that Tomas did deal with a wrist injury recently in Cuba.
Nonetheless, Tomas ranks seventh on MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings and should command a significant contract this offseason, as he is not subject to the international spending limitations due to his age and professional experience. The Phillies will reportedly make a push for Tomas, though he will of course have numerous serious suitors. It’s possible that he could top Castillo’s record $72.5MM guarantee with the Red Sox and/or Abreu’s $11.33MM average annual salary with the White Sox, but it’s still too early to tell what kind of contract he will command once cleared by MLB.
Former Blue Jays top draft pick Phil Bickford will pitch for the College of Southern Nevada this season, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports. The move to a two-year college will officially make Bickford eligible for next year’s draft. CSN is already known in baseball circles for being the school attended by 2010 top overall pick Bryce Harper.
The Jays took Bickford tenth overall out of high school in 2013, but the two sides couldn’t agree to a deal, and Bickford headed to Cal State Fullerton. His stock improved this summer after showing great stuff in the Cape Cod League, and he currently appears likely to go even higher than tenth overall next time he’s draft eligible — Callis notes that Bickford could be a candidate to go first overall. Had Bickford gone back to Cal State Fullerton, he would not have been eligible for the draft until 2016.
“He had the best arm in the league,” says John Schiffner, an opposing Cape Cod manager. “He threw one of our guys a slider in a big situation, and three kids’ knees buckled in our dugout. And that’s not even his best pitch, because we saw 97 mph.”
The list of potential candidates for the Astros’ open managerial job could include former Indians and Nationals manager Manny Acta, former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times previously wrote that Ebel was a candidate for the position, and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Astros had interest in Wakamatsu, with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle being the first to note some of the other names.) Other potential candidates include Joey Cora, Bob Geren, Jim Riggleman, Bengie Molina, Tony Pena, Chip Hale, Tim Bogar, Mike Maddux, Dave Martinez, Tom Lawless, Pat Listach and Tony DeFrancesco.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has suggested that he might prefer candidates with previous big-league experience as a manager or bench coach. Heyman also notes that Wakamatsu and Hinch could fit the Astros’ desire for a manager with sabermetric leanings. Acta was previously a minor league manager in the Astros system, and he declined a chance at the Astros’ managerial job in 2009 in order to become the Indians’ manager.
Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa both spoke with Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic, providing an interesting look ahead at the club’s important upcoming decisions.
The Diamondbacks’ payroll will likely be scaling back from $112MM to about $100MM in 2015, Hall says. He did hedge his comment a bit by saying, “If we think we can spend more, we’re going to.” The reduction in payroll isn’t surprising given that Arizona is looking at its worst single-season attendance total in franchise history. As Hall noted, as with any team or business, anticipated revenues constitute a constraint on spending plans. “The formula that really works for major league teams is to try and keep your payroll at about half of your revenues,” he said. “For us, that’s what we’re looking at.”
With just over $67MM already committed to the 2015 roster and arbitration raises coming for Cliff Pennington, David Hernandez, Wade Miley, Addison Reed and Mark Trumbo, it’s possible that some players will be non-tendered to help meet the organization’s spending targets. Pennington and Hernandez are the most obvious candidates of that group, though Buchanan mentions that some salary could be moved via trade as well.
In part, shedding some dollars may be necessary to accomplish the team’s offseason priorities. Said Hall:
“Obviously we know there are some holes we have to fill. We’ve talked about wanting to go out and get a bat and we’ve talked about wanting to get starting pitching, and in order to do that you’re either going to have to go through trade or free agency and either way you’re going to probably spend dollars on it. To spend more dollars, we’re probably going to have to find areas to save more dollars.”
Hall did note that, so far as starting pitching is concerned, the team sees greater depth in next year’s free agent market than this one. “We’re going to be active,” said Hall, “but just how competitive it gets with fewer arms where the next year the free-agent market is much bigger and brighter … we’re going to be active, but there’s no crystal ball that’ll tell me if we’re going to outbid other teams in larger markets.”
Of course, the first order of business is for the club to install a new general manager. Preliminary interviews have already been conducted with four of the team’s ten initial candidates, says Buchanan, with the team expected to both finish those talks and conduct second-round interviews within the next ten days or so.
Team managing partner Ken Kendrick is not expected to become involved in the process until it comes time to make a final decision on whomever Hall and La Russa want to hire. “As I told him, ‘I don’t think you need to or I need to interview everybody now that we have Tony. Let’s let him do that and Tony and I can decide on the finalists,’” Hall said. “When we think we’ve picked the candidate, we’d like him (Kendrick) to sit down with him to make sure he’s comfortable with he or she as well.”
Beyond a new GM, the team is said to be considering other changes in its baseball decisionmaking. But widespread turnover seems not to be expected, with La Russa suggesting that the addition of statistical-oriented staff could come through the GM hire or a lower-level addition. “Baseball ops, I think we have a pretty healthy situation there as far as numbers, and everyone will be reviewed and analyzed,” said La Russa.
La Russa also emphasized that there is real interest in a continued relationship with former GM Kevin Towers, who will wait to see who replaces him before deciding whether to continue on with the organization. “I’ve said very clearly I’m distressed that the report was leaked early so that the initial headline said ‘dismissed, fired,’” said La Russa. “That’s 180 degrees from the arrangement we have potentially. Kevin has got a lot he can offer.”