Newsstand Rumors

Twins Extend Brian Dozier

The Twins have gained cost certainty over a key piece of their lineup after announcing a four-year, $20MM extension for second baseman Brian Dozier.  The deal will pay Dozier $2MM this season, $3MM in 2016, $6MM in 2017 and $9MM in 2018.  There isn’t any no-trade protection in the contract, as noted during the club’s press conference (hat tip to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press).  Dozier is represented by Damon Lapa of All Bases Covered Sports Mangaement.

The extension gives Dozier a raise for 2015 (he was already contracted for $590K as a pre-arbitration player) and covers his three years of arbitration eligibility.  There weren’t any option years attached to the deal, so the 27-year-old Dozier is still on track to become a free agent following the 2018 season.MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins

Looking at other recent extensions for second basemen with between 2-3 years of service time, Dozier’s deal has fewer years and dollars than the contracts signed by Matt Carpenter and Jason Kipnis within the last 13 months.  Carpenter received six years and $52MM (plus an $18.5MM club option) from the Cardinals while Kipnis received six years/$52.5MM (plus a $16.5MM club option) from the Indians.  If you look at just the first four years of those two contracts, however, both Carpenter and Kipnis received $22MM guaranteed over that span, so Dozier’s deal is a fair comparable.  (It’s also worth noting that Carpenter and Kipnis were both coming off overall stronger seasons prior to their extensions.)

The two sides were known to be discussing an extension earlier this month, and the Twins in fact first explored locking Dozier up last offseason.  “Many scenarios were discussed,” ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson reports, and Wolfson was a little surprised the Twins didn’t look to add at least one option year onto the deal.  On the one hand, if Dozier keeps producing, the Twins now face paying a lot more for his 2019 season and beyond if they want to keep him.  That said, the Twins would obviously be ecstatic if Dozier keeps hitting since it will make their four-year/$20MM commitment look like a bargain, yet the deal is also short enough that it gives Minnesota flexibility if Dozier comes back to earth.  From Dozier’s perspective, he scores one big payday now and still has the freedom to test the open market at age 31.

An eighth-round pick as a shortstop in the 2009 draft, Dozier has produced two solid seconds as Minnesota’s everyday second baseman.  He hit .242/.345/.416 with 23 homers, 21 steals and 112 runs in 2014, posting the fifth-highest fWAR (4.8) of any second baseman in baseball.  Most of that value came with the bat as Dozier is still a bit of a work in progress at second (a -4.4 UZR/150 and no Defensive Runs Saved last year), though it seems to be a tradeoff the Twins are happy to make for 20-20 production from the keystone.  The power is something of a new development for Dozier — he’s already hit 47 home runs over his 1670 Major League plate appearances after hitting only 16 homers over 1613 minor league PA.

Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports Images


White Sox Extend Adam Eaton

White Sox GM Rick Hahn announced a five-year, $23.5MM extension with center fielder Adam Eaton today on CSN Chicago. The deal includes two club options, which give the team risk-free control over Eaton for 2020 and 2021. Eaton is a client of Diamond Sports Management.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Chicago White Sox Here’s how the deal breaks out for the 26-year-old, who entered the spring with just over two years of service time and would have been playing for his first of three arbitration deals. Eaton receives $850K for the 2015 campaign, followed by $2.75MM, $4MM, and $6MM salaries for what would have been his arbitration seasons and $8.4MM for his first season of free agent eligibility. The club options are valued at $9.5MM and $10.5MM, respectively, and either can instead be bought out for $1.5MM. The last club option can increase to $12MM if Eaton finishes second or third in MVP balloting any season from 2015 through 2020, and $13MM if he wins the MVP any of those years.

So, what did the White Sox get for their investment? Last year, in his first full run through the bigs, Eaton slashed .300/.362/.401 and swiped 15 bases. While he has no power to speak of, Eaton’s cumulative, park-adjusted work at the plate checked in at about 15% above league average. He draws walks at about a league-average rate while striking out a good bit less than the mean. Eaton’s .359 BABIP is probably not quite sustainable, but Eaton’s speed makes him a candidate to maintain a rather high average on balls in play; indeed, he consistently topped that level as a minor leaguer.

That kind of output will play at most positions, but is especially valuable in an up-the-middle defender. How one views this deal largely swings on how one values Eaton’s defense. He was not considered a sure thing in center as a prospect, but had at least proven he can handle the position heading into last year and unquestionably has the speed required.

The question is: with one full season in the books, which rating system (if any) do you believe? In the estimation of Ultimate Zone Rating (-3.3 last year), Eaton is slightly below average at the position; thus, he checked in at 2.7 fWAR. But by measure of Defensive Runs Saved (12 runs above average), Eaton is an outstanding defender and was worth a staggering 5.2 rWAR last year.

If we split the difference and peg Eaton as an average to slightly above-average performer in center, and assume that he can continue to hit at an average or slightly better rate and provide value on the bases, then you have the makings of a solid 2.5 to 3.5 win player for the foreseeable future. That makes his new contract look rather appealing.

The closest comp for the Eaton deal is probably the 2012 extension between the Padres and Cameron Maybin. That contract went for five years and $25MM, with the team picking up just one option year. Maybin was obviously a high-variance player with bigger counting stats, so San Diego had to pay for his upside. Another obvious comparison point was just set: the $49.57MM Christian Yelich deal with the Marlins, which more than doubles the promise made to Eaton. While Yelich has more power upside, he plays in the corner. And though Yelich is a good bit younger (just 23), he also was one year further away from arbitration and free agency.

Of course, there are other elements weighing down Eaton’s price here. For one, his skillset is unlikely to translate into huge arbitration earnings And then there’s the fact that Eaton has dealt with a series of injury issues in recent seasons. Last year, it oblique and hamstring strains led to DL stints. In 2013, Eaton went down to a UCL sprain in his left elbow. It remains to be seen whether Eaton is uniquely injury prone or has just encountered some bad luck, but that track record certainly increased the deal’s logic from his perspective.

All told, the White Sox are undoubtedly pleased with how things have turned out with Eaton. Chicago was able to add him in exchange for lefty Hector Santiago, serving to facilitate the late 2013 Mark Trumbo deal.

Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune first tweeted the news. Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweeted the option details. Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune tweeted the annual breakdown, while CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted details about Eaton’s last option season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rangers Release Joe Beimel

The Rangers have released lefty Joe Beimel, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. They also reassigned top power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo to the minor leagues and optioned another top prospect, catcher Jorge Alfaro, to Double-A Frisco.

The Rangers signed Beimel to a non-guaranteed $1.5MM MLB deal earlier this month, but he allowed 14 runs in three innings this spring. The reliever had a fine 2014 season with the Mariners, posting a 2.20 ERA with 2.8 BB/9, albeit with an underwhelming 5.0 K/9, in 45 innings. That had been his first year in the big leagues since 2011. The 37-year-old veteran has appeared in 12 MLB seasons with the Pirates, Twins, Dodgers, Nationals and Rockies in addition to the Mariners.

As Grant points out, the move leaves Alex Claudio as the Rangers’ main left-handed option. The team has also been connected in trade rumors to the Marlins’ Mike Dunn, suggesting they might not be finished pursuing left-handed relief help.



Nationals Release Heath Bell

The Nationals have released reliever Heath Bell, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The Nats signed Bell to a minor-league deal in December. He struck out six batters and walked five while allowing five runs, four earned, in 5 1/3 innings in Spring Training.

The 37-year-old Bell established a strong track record as the Padres’ closer from 2009-2011, but began struggling after signing a three-year deal with the Marlins prior to the 2012 season. Bell headed to the Diamondbacks and then the Rays, for whom he allowed 16 runs in 17 1/3 innings last season while struggling with his velocity. After the Rays released him, he briefly signed on with the Orioles and then the Yankees, but struggled in Triple-A and did not appear in the big leagues with either team.


Dodgers To Sign Cuban Pitcher Pablo Millan Fernandez

The Dodgers have agreed to terms with Cuban righty Pablo Millan Fernandez on a minor-league deal with an $8MM bonus, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports. Fernandez still needs to take a physical for the deal to be complete. Fernandez had established residence in Haiti and was training with Julian Camillo, who scouted Hanley Ramirez when Ramirez was an amateur.

Badler writes that Fernandez previously had thrown in the 86-88 MPH range, but recently increased his velocity and now throws in the low 90s, a somewhat surprising development for a 25-year-old. He also throws a curve, slider and changeup. Badler notes, however, that Fernandez had not generated much excitement among scouts. Fernandez mostly pitched as a reliever in Cuba, posting a 3.59 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in parts of seven seasons there. The Dodgers will develop him as a starter, likely having him begin his U.S. career in the high minors.

Due to Fernandez’s age and experience in Serie Nacional, the signing will not count against the Dodgers’ international bonus pool. They will, however, have to pay 40% luxury tax on his bonus, which does not include any salary he might make in the big leagues.

The deal is the latest in a string of signings of Cuban players for the Dodgers, whose previous management signed outfielder Yasiel Puig to a $42MM deal that now looks like a bargain. They also infielders Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena to deals that have not worked out so far (although it might be somewhat premature to dismiss the Guerrero signing). More recently, the Dodgers have been connected with infielder Hector Olivera, who has yet to sign.


Rockies Release Jhoulys Chacin

The Rockies have granted right-hander Jhoulys Chacin his unconditional release, tweets MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The Rockies and Chacin had agreed to a one-year, $5.5MM deal to avoid arbitration back in January. The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders tweets Colorado will save $4.14MM by releasing Chacin now.

It’s obviously a difficult decision to make,” Rockies GM Jeff Bridich told Root Sports Rocky Mountain (transcript courtesy of MLB.com’s Thomas Harding). “With what has transpired here in camp, and the way things have gone just from a pitching standpoint, a competition standpoint, that looking at it, Jhoulys didn’t have a spot on our club.

The move comes one day after Chacin allowed four runs on seven hits during three innings of work against the Dodgers. “I’m surprised,” Chacin told Nick Groke of The Denver Post. “I didn’t expect it at this time, but now I have a chance to find something else. But my heart will always be with the Rockies.

Chacin, who was battling for a spot in the Rockies rotation, saw his 2014 campaign cut short after only 11 starts and 63 1/3 innings (5.40 ERA, 6.0 K/9, and 4.0 BB/9) because of right shoulder inflammation. It was just two seasons ago the 27-year-old put together a mark of 3.47 ERA, 5.7 K.9, and 2.8 BB/9 while throwing 197 1/3 innings (31 starts) for the Rockies. With teams like the Rays looking for starting pitching reinforcements, it would not be surprising for someone to take a flyer on Chacin even though, as noted in a second Saunders tweet, he is struggling to regain his velocity. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets the Rangers will discuss Chacin, but are unlikely to sign him.

David Hale, Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Christian Bergman are the leading in-house contenders to replace Chacin in the Rockies’ starting rotation.


Marlins Out Of Hector Olivera Bidding

The Marlins are not longer involved in the bidding for Cuban free agent Hector Olivera, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports on Twitter. Miami had been said to be interested in Olivera at about $53MM over seven years.

Though the Marlins never seemed to be the front-runners for his services — after all, the club just dealt for a second baseman and third baseman while extending two corner outfielders this offseason, leaving no obvious immediate fit — it was nevertheless apparent that Miami had real interest. Indeed, the team reportedly put that $53MM offer on the table earlier in the process before pulling it back.

Olivera, the lone remaining potential source of impact ability on the open market, was said to be on track to sign by the end of the week ending, presumably, today.


Marlins Agree To Extension With Christian Yelich

The Marlins have announced a long-term extension with outfielder Christian Yelich that will reportedly guarantee him $49.57MM over seven seasons. Yelich, a client of Paragon Sports International, can be controlled for an eighth season (2022) through a club option.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Pittsburgh Pirates

The deal breaks down as follows: after earning $570K this year, Yelich will received $1MM in 2016, $3.5MM in 2017, $7MM in 2018, $9.75MM in 2019, $12.5MM in 2020, and $14MM in 2021. The club option is valued at $15MM and comes with a $1.25MM buyout.

Miami reportedly made a run at Yelich earlier in the offseason, along with several other younger players. At the time, the Marlins were said to be proposing a similar structure — but lesser guarantee — than the six-year, $31.5MM Starling Marte deal (which came with two option years at the end). Yelich has just over one year of service time to his credit, meaning he was on track to reach arbitration eligibility in 2017 and free agency in 2020. That puts him in a functionally identical situation to Marte; despite having slightly different skillsets, the two are rather comparable on the whole and have been similarly valuable to the same points in their career.

In spite of that rather recent comp, the 23-year-old Yelich comes in a substantial margin ahead of Marte in the final analysis. His new contract is the second-largest ever for a player in the one-to-two year service class, ranking ahead of Ryan Braun‘s 2008 deal while falling shy of the $58MM pact agreed upon last year by Andrelton Simmons and the Braves. (Notably, Simmons also managed to avoid giving up an option.) As compared to Marte, Yelich not only can look forward to a larger total payday, due in part to a higher option value in the final year of control, but also picks up an additional guaranteed year.

It is not difficult to see why Yelich was deemed worthy of such a level of commitment. He followed a promising rookie effort, playing about a third of a big league season, with a stellar full-year campaign in 2014. Yelich maintains a combined .285/.365/.400 slash over his 933 total big league plate appearances. Batting near the top of the Marlins lineup last year, Yelich racked up 21 steals and nine home runs.

As impressive as Yelich is on the offensive side, he figures to deliver plenty of defensive value moving forward as well. He was awarded the National League’s Gold Glove for left field last year, and defensive metrics back that up: when playing in the corner, Yelich was worth 12.8 runs above average per UZR and racked up 13 Defensive Runs Saved.

Yelich’s net contribution last year was in the range of 3.5 to 4.5 wins above replacement. That obviously makes him quite a valuable contributor, especially when one considers that it came in his age-22 season and that he has a strong track record of hitting in the minors to back up the success.

Miami stands to achieve both control and cost certainty over two-thirds of its outfield, having already inked Giancarlo Stanton to a record-setting pact earlier in the offseason. That unit, which includes 24-year-old center fielder Marcell Ozuna, is one of the youngest outfields in the game but is shaping up to be one of its best.

All said, today’s signing puts another exclamation point on a busy offseason for the Fish. The team brought in several new names around the diamond, headlined by second baseman Dee Gordon, starter Mat Latos, and first baseman Michael Morse, and has now locked up two franchise-type players to sizable commitments. Given prior reports that the team was pursuing deals not only with that pair but also Ozuna, injured young ace Jose Fernandez, and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, it is plausible to think that president of baseball operations Michael Hill and GM Dan Jennings may not yet be done. Righties Steve Cishek and Henderson Alvarez, each of whom have two years of arbitration control remaining beyond 2015, also appear to be reasonable targets should Miami choose to engage them in multi-year talks.

MLB Network’s Mike Lowell gave the first word that a deal was coming to fruition. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reported that the pact was for seven years, while Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported that the deal included an option and that the value was approximately $50MM. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports honed in on the final number, with Passan reporting the option year details. (All links to Twitter.) Frisaro tweeted the annual breakdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Rangers Discussing Trade Involving Marlins Pitchers

Hoping to add pitchers, the Rangers are in trade talks with the Marlins, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. One possibility might be Brad Hand, who is out of options and could start or relieve. Another is Mike Dunn, who could help the Rangers as a lefty reliever. The Marlins had more than one scout watching Rangers players Friday, Grant adds.

As of yesterday, the Rangers were also reportedly discussing a deal with the Phillies to acquire Cole Hamels. That trade did not appear imminent, however, and it appears the potential deals the Rangers are discussing with the Marlins are more minor.

Hand, who turned 25 yesterday, made 16 starts and 16 relief appearances for the Marlins in 2014, posting a 4.38 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. He did induce ground balls at a 50.3% rate last season. The results he’s gotten so far in his career haven’t been spectacular, but he has two more years before he’s arbitration-eligible, and his versatility could help a Rangers staff that can use extra innings given the recent injury to Yu Darvish. Hand appears unlikely to make the Marlins’ rotation to start the season.

Dunn, 29, posted a 3.16 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 57 innings of relief last season. Dunn is prone to fly balls, but he’s a hard thrower with a track record of getting strikeouts, with 286 in 254 2/3 career innings. Dunn would pair with Alex Claudio to give the Rangers two potentially strong bullpen lefties. Dunn is signed through 2016 for a total of $5.8MM.


Rangers, Phillies Still Discussing Hamels Deal, But Nothing Close

The Rangers and Phillies are still talking about a deal that would send top lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. While the sides are talking about possible prospect packages, nothing is close at the moment.

Heyman notes that “there is no evidence the Red Sox and Phillies have talked seriously in recent weeks” on a deal involving Hamels, meaning that the Rangers could be the most promising landing spot at present. Philly is reportedly looking to add three legitimate prospects in a deal, with at least one potential impact player among them.

In addition to its impressive list of youngsters, the Rangers have some payroll flexibility, according to Heyman. After foregoing any significant spending this winter, the team appears likely to open the year with just under $140MM committed to its 25-man roster (and disabled list). Looking forward, Texas has over $100MM already on the books for 2016 and at least $50MM in each of the three years that follow. Hamels’s contract would tack on $22.5MM to those tallies over each of the next four years, and it also includes a $20MM option for 2019 that carries a $6MM buyout.

Yu Darvish‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery has left a void atop the Rangers’ rotation, and it is surely tempting to replace him with Hamels. Of course, such a deal probably would have made as much or more sense prior to that injury, given the team’s other rotation questions. Part of the motivation for continuing to talk with Philadelphia could well be that the club already had designs on adding another long-term arm at some point in the near future.