Newsstand Rumors

Astros, Jacob Nix Settle Before Grievance Proceeding

TUESDAY: Nix was awarded the full $1.5MM that he had agreed to with the Astros, Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons reports (on Twitter).

MONDAY: The Astros have agreed to an undisclosed financial settlement with former fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. The sides had been headed toward a grievance proceeding brought by the MLBPA on Nix’s behalf.

Nix had reportedly agreed to a $1.5MM bonus to forego a commitment to UCLA. But that deal fell apart after Houston failed to reach agreement with first overall pick Brady Aiken. Without Aiken’s slot money available to cover the Nix overage, the Astros would have exceeded their bonus allotment and forfeited two future first-round draft picks had they gone through with the Nix signing.

The terms of the deal were not announced, but Houston will not have to face the possibility of an arbitrator ruling that they must sign Nix or otherwise sacrifice picks. Whether there remains any potential league action in that regard remains unreported.

As for Nix, the talented righty is said to be eyeing a one-year stint at a junior college. That would allow him to re-enter the draft next year and steer clear of the possibility of having to deal with NCAA eligibility issues relating to the public nature of his ordeal. So far as has been reported publicly, Aiken has not pursued a grievance action of his own; of course, his situation — the team was said to have been concerned with an MRI showing an abnormally small UCL — is somewhat different from that of Nix.


Royals Designate Moises Sierra For Assignment

The Royals announced today that they have designated outfielder Moises Sierra for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for new designated hitter Kendrys Morales.

Sierra was claimed by the Royals in the midst of the World Series after the White Sox placed him on waivers. In 135 plate appearances with Chicago this past season, the 26-year-old batted .276/.311/.417 with two home runs. Defensive metrics were never kind to Sierra while he was with the Blue Jays (from whom the White Sox claimed him), but he did post passable grades in both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating in a small sample of work with the Sox this past year.

The Royals have plenty of outfield depth on the Major League roster it is following the club’s reported agreement with Alex Rios, so it’s not particularly surprising to see Sierra cut loose. Kansas City still has Rios, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson on board to soak up most of the team’s playing time in the outfield.


Indians Sign Gavin Floyd

The Indians have signed righty Gavin Floyd to a one-year deal, the team announced. Floyd gets a $4MM guarantee with $6MM of bonuses achievable based upon starts made and innings pitched, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets.

Gavin Floyd

Floyd threw last year for the Braves on a similarly-structured contract before suffering an arm fracture that ended his season early for the second season in a row. The 31-year-old had worked his way back from Tommy John surgery to join the Atlanta rotation, and was throwing well at the time of his injury. Over 54 1/3 frames in nine starts, Floyd was carrying a 2.65 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

Of course, 2014 also marked his second straight season that was ruined by injury, so a multi-year deal was never likely. Floyd still possesses the upside of a mid-rotation innings eater when healthy, however, which is precisely the role he filled with his now-division-rival White Sox from 2008-12. In that span, Floyd posted a 4.12 ERA (108 ERA+) with 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 948 1/3 innings of work. Though he doesn’t come with the upside that many would expect from a player that once went fourth overall in the draft, Floyd had a track record of success in the American League. He should serve as a useful veteran complement to AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and a mix of arms that includes Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, T.J. House, Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister.

That Floyd represents a potential upgrade at a relatively modest price is particularly nice for the cash-strapped Indians. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his Offseason Outlook for Cleveland, the team has little financial wiggle room barring a trade of Nick Swisher and/or Michael Bourn, neither of which has come to fruition at this point. Of course, Cleveland has still taken on some significant salary by adding the likes of Brandon Moss in a trade with the Athletics.

The addition of Floyd could make the Indians more likely to move McAllister and/or Tomlin, though Tomlin’s projected arbitration salary is just $1.7MM, and McAllister has yet to qualify for that distinction. As such, there’s no financial impetus to deal either right-hander, but the team’s relative surplus of back-end rotation arms could appeal to clubs with a need for pitching depth.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Dodgers Sign Brandon McCarthy

The Dodgers have officially signed a four-year contract with Brandon McCarthy, as FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal first reported (Twitter link). The four-year deal will pay McCarthy $48MM, Rosenthal tweets. McCarthy receives a $6MM signing bonus, $11MM per year in 2015-16, and $10MM annually in the final two years of the deal, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

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The contract also gives the Dodgers a conditional club option for 2019, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. If he has spent more than 179 days on the DL due to a specific injury, McCarthy would be subject to a $5MM club option. If he has missed between 119-179 days, it would be a $8MM club option.

A four-year guarantee would’ve seemed like a fantasy for McCarthy as recently as last summer when he had a 5.01 ERA through 18 starts with Arizona.  Advanced metrics revealed that McCarthy pitched much better than his ERA indicated, however, and he ended the year on a dominant run after being traded to the Yankees.  In 90 1/3 IP in New York, McCarthy posted a 2.89 ERA, 6.31 K/BB rate and 8.2 K/9.

MLBTR’s Steve Adams projected McCarthy would receive a three-year deal this winter, though a four-year deal wasn’t out of the question given the amount of interest the veteran righty was likely to generate.  The wait for Jon Lester to sign likely held up McCarthy’s market, as only the Royals and Yankees had been linked to him, and New York was hesitant to give McCarthy even a three-year contract given his injury history.  Needless to say, the fourth year was a nice get for McCarthy and agent Ryan Ware.

If the deal is finalized, McCarthy joins Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu in what should be a very strong top four in the Dodgers rotation, with lefty Brett Anderson now reportedly also on board to fill the fifth slot.  Los Angeles had been linked to high-profile aces like Cole Hamels or James Shields, and though you can never say never with the Dodgers, McCarthy’s signing could mean the team is done with its rotation shopping this winter.

There is no denying the risk that the Dodgers are taking on with this deal. While any long-term pitching contract comes with it, McCarthy has a particularly spotty injury history. And while the conditional club option included in the deal offers some measure of protection, it is not as clear cut a benefit as was the John Lackey option. Then, of course, there is the fact that McCarthy greatly improved his stock with a strong second half and will need to maintain it for a full season. All of that is not to say, of course, that McCarthy is not capable of meeting and exceeding the value of the deal; the price tag obviously reflects his ceiling.

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported on Twitter that the deal was completed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Dodgers Designate Brian Wilson

The Dodgers have designated reliever Brian Wilson, the club announced. The move creates roster space for the addition of Brandon McCarthy.

While the end of Wilson’s tenure comes as something of a shock given his stout $9.5MM salary for next season, the fact is that he was not good at all last year. The 32-year-old pitched to a 4.22 ERA over 48 1/3 innings, with 10.1 K/9 against 5.4 BB/9.

He had shown excellent form over a short sample late in 2013, leading the Dodgers (under then-GM Ned Colletti) to award him a $10MM deal with a player option that floated in value and ultimately came in at $9.5MM. While it is likely that another team would be interested in bringing in Wilson to compete for a job in camp, his value obviously falls well shy of what he is owed.

The new brass in Los Angeles has been aggressive in turning over its roster, eating significant cash in the process. Wilson’s $9.5MM salary joins the $10MM owed to Dan Haren and $32MM piece of Matt Kemp‘s contract as cash on the books for players who are no longer on the team’s roster.


Angels, Rays Swap Kevin Jepsen, Matt Joyce

The Angels have sent reliever Kevin Jepsen to the Rays in exchange for outfielder Matt Joyce, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports on Twitter. The teams have already announced the move, making it official.

In adding Joyce, 30, the Halos have picked up a left-handed bat that has steadily delivered above-average offensive production. While Joyce’s offensive lines over the last three years (.243/.339/.410) have fallen well shy of the two that came before it (.265/.351/.478), he nevertheless is strong against righties.

It must be noted, however, that the Rays have done an excellent job of drastically limiting Joyce’s exposure to same-handed pitching, against whom he owns a lifetime .573 OPS. Joyce is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, with MLBTR and Matt Swartz projecting a $4.9MM salary. For Los Angeles, he will presumably slot in both in the outfield and at DH, perhaps sharing time with the right-handed-hitting C.J. Cron.

As for the 30-year-old Jepsen, he bolsters the back of a pen that just learned it will be without Jake McGee for at least some time to start the season, with elbow surgery shelving the player who ended last year as the team’s closer. Jepsen tossed 65 innings of 2.63 ERA ball last year with 10.4 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9, by far his most productive season as a pro. His projected arbitration salary is $2.6MM, offering Tampa some savings against the Joyce contract, and he will be controllable for an additional year.


Rockies Sign Daniel Descalso

1:17pm: Descalso will receive a $3.6MM guarantee, agent Steve Cantor tells ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). He will earn $1.5MM this year and $2.1MM next, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Each contract year also includes up to $500K in attainable incentives.

1:07pm: The Rockies have signed utility infielder Daniel Descalso to a two-year deal, the club announced. Descalso, 28, was non-tendered by the Cardinals earlier in the offseason; he had been projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $1.4MM.

Though he has spent most of his time at third and second, Descalso has played over 100 games at short as well. And his left-handed bat also increases his versatility for a club like Colorado, which fields three right-handed-hitting infielders at those positions.

On the other hand, defensive metrics have never been in love with his glove, especially at short. And Descalso owns a lifetime .243/.313/.341 slash over parts of five seasons. He has never finished a campaign with an OPS+ of greater than 91 or lower than 72, and he has settled right in the middle of that range in each of the last two years.

Notably, moreover, Descalso has fairly significant reverse platoon splits over his career: a .643 OPS against righties and a .696 mark versus same-handed pitchers. If that is a reflection of his true talent, then he may be less of a fit than might be seemed at first glance.


White Sox To Sign Brad Penny

The White Sox have signed righty Brad Penny to a minor league contract, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter links). The 36-year-old righty will look to continue his comeback with one of this offseason’s most aggressive teams.

Penny will have a chance to compete for a rotation spot this spring, Cotillo adds, though it would appear to be a longshot for him to earn a regular spot on a club that has declared its intentions to win now. Depth never hurts, of course, though another signing by the White Sox probably cannot be ruled out.

After a failed try in the spring with the Royals, Penny joined the Marlins late last year. His addition coincided with the departure of Jacob Turner, an odd move at the time and in retrospect. Penny threw 26 innings for the Fish over four starts and four relief appearances, posting a 6.58 ERA with both 4.5 strikeouts and walks per nine. ERA estimators painted a slightly better picture, but all saw him as well below average.


Yankees To Re-Sign Chris Capuano

The Yankees have agreed to a one-year deal with lefty Chris Capuano, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports (Twitter links). Capuano receives a $5MM guarantee, per Curry. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted this morning that Capuano was nearing a deal with an unspecified big league club.

Since his strong 2012 (198 1/3, 3.72 ERA), Capuano has been steady, if unspectacular, over the last two seasons. Last year, his age-35 campaign, he worked in a swingman capacity for the Red Sox and Yanks, posting a 4.35 earned run mark over 97 1/3 innings. He worked exclusively from the pen in Boston, and in the rotation in New York.

Capuano figures to provide some much-needed protection against injury for a New York rotation that includes question marks like Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. If he is not needed as a starter, Capuano should be able to work as a long man in the pen.


White Sox Sign Melky Cabrera

DECEMBER 16: The club has made the deal official (hat tip to Scott Merkin of MLB.com).

DECEMBER 15: The deal is done, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). After earning $13MM next year, Cabrera will take home $14MM in 2016 and $15MM in the final year of his deal. He also obtains a limited no-trade clause, per Heyman.

DECEMBER 14: The White Sox have agreed to terms with Melky Cabrera on a three-year contract, 670thescore.com’s Bruce Levine tweets. Cabrera’s deal is worth $42MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).

The deal, which is pending a physical, is only slightly backloaded, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The White Sox will pay Cabrera $13MM in 2015. Cabrera is a client of the Legacy Agency.

USATSI_8063396_154513410_lowresThe move continues an offseason transformation for the White Sox, who so far have traded for Jeff Samardzija and signed David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke to help aid a team that won 73 games in 2014. The switch-hitting Cabrera is a proven offensive player, and at age 30, there’s no reason he can’t produce at least a couple more productive, high-average seasons, as he did in 2014, when he batted .301/.351/.458 in 621 plate appearances for Toronto.

If anything, three years seems rather light for a player of Cabrera’s age and talent. MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted in October that Cabrera would receive five years and $66.25MM. The average annual value of his contract will, apparently, be slightly higher than that projection, but the difference in years is still significant. Cabrera rejected a four-year offer from an unknown team because his preference was to play for the White Sox, tweets CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.

Still, that Cabrera would receive a three-year deal was perhaps somewhat predictable after watching his market develop. It was surprising in the past week to read reports suggesting that the Mariners and other teams were unwilling to go past three years for Cabrera. (Cabrera had also previously been connected to the Orioles, Royals, Giants and Reds.)

While Cabrera isn’t a strong defensive player and he walks infrequently, he’s batted above .300 in three of the last four seasons, typically with a bit of power. His solid season in 2014 figured to put his past PED connections mostly behind him, too, especially since the examples of Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz provide precedent for PED-connected players receiving lucrative long-term deals.

Cabrera will presumably slot into left field in Chicago, bumping Dayan Viciedo from a starting spot. Viciedo hit just .231/.281/.405 while playing poor defense last season, so Cabrera represents a big upgrade. The Mariners, who were seen as front-runners for Cabrera, also have shown interest in Viciedo. Perhaps Cabrera’s pact with the White Sox will clear the way for a trade that sends Viciedo west.

Cabrera rejected the Blue Jays’ qualifying offer earlier this offseason, so Toronto will receive an extra pick at the end of the first round of the 2015 draft. The White Sox’ first-round pick, No. 8 overall, is protected, and they already gave up their second-round pick to sign Robertson, so they will have to sacrifice their third-round pick once their signing of Cabrera is complete.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.