Newsstand Rumors

Projected Super Two Cutoff

The projected cutoff for players to achieve “Super Two” status this year will be two years, 140 days of Major League service time (commonly written as 2.140), according to Ryan Galla of CAA Baseball (Twitter link). Super Two status can have significant financial implications for teams and players, but before we delve into which players stand to benefit and which will be harmed by this year’s projected cutoff, here’s a quick refresher for those who have forgotten or are unfamiliar with the Super Two distinction.

The most common way for MLB players to become eligible for arbitration is simply to accrue three years of Major League service time. A full year of Major League service is defined as spending 172 days on a 25-man roster or on the Major League disabled list.

However, the top 22 percent of each year’s class of players with between two and three years of service time that also spend at least 86 days (half a year of MLB service) on a 25-man roster or on the Major League DL are also deemed eligible and referred to as “Super Two” players. These players will be eligible for arbitration prior to reaching their third year of service and commonly go through the arbitration process four times, as opposed to the standard three.

Among the current Major League players that would qualify for this distinction upon collecting a full year of service in 2015 are Dan Jennings (1.171 years of service), George Kontos (1.171), Justin Grimm (1.170), Dan Otero (1.169), David Lough (1.169), Avisail Garcia (1.167), Jurickson Profar (1.167), Didi Gregorius (1.159), Danny Farquhar (1.158), Nolan Arenado (1.155), Jean Machi (1.154), Seth Maness (1.154), Marcell Ozuna (1.153), Scott Van Slyke (1.151), Tyler Thornburg (1.146), Evan Scribner (1.142) and Alex Torres (1.141). It remains possible that not all of the names listed here will accrue the necessary service time to cross the 2.140 threshold, so not all of these names are locks to receive Super Two status.

There are also a number of players who could be recalled from the Minor Leagues and achieve Super Two distinction, presuming they’re on a roster for the required 86-plus days. Brandon Barnes (2.058), Steve Clevenger (2.058), Chris Parmelee (2.058) and Scott Diamond (1.161) are just a few examples of such players that began the season in the Minor Leagues but could end up as Super Two players. (Of course, with enough service time, the players with two-plus years could also hit three years of MLB service, bringing them a year closer to free agency and reducing the minimum number of trips through arbitration to three.)

This year’s cutoff projects to be a bit higher than it has been in recent years:

  • 2014: 2.133
  • 2013: 2.122
  • 2012: 2.140
  • 2011: 2.146
  • 2010: 2.122
  • 2009: 2.139

If the 2.140 cutoff holds, a few players that looked likely to end up as Super Twos will instead fall just shy of eligibility. T.J. McFarland (1.138), Zach Putnam (1.135), Oswaldo Arcia (1.132), Kole Calhoun (1.130), Anthony Rendon (1.130) and, to a lesser extent, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Alex Wood (1.123) all stood a chance at reaching Super Two status based on previous cutoffs but appear to be on the outside looking in at this point.

It should also be noted, though, that last year’s April projection of 2.128 wound up falling a bit shy of the actual 2.133 cutoff, leaving Drew Hutchison, Eduardo Escobar and D.J. LeMahieu worse for the wear, financially speaking. Of the players currently on the bubble, Torres would be the most susceptible to missing in this fashion. We’ll have a clearer picture of the firm cutoff date later in the year, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported the 1.133 figure late last September.

One player of particular note in all of this is Tampa’s Chris Archer. While Archer is already signed to a long-term deal, his contract calls for different base salaries depending on whether or not he’d have otherwise qualified as a Super Two. It seems like a virtual lock that he’d have qualified at this point (and that was the expectation all along), as Archer entered the season with 1.156 days of service. Archer’s deal guaranteed him $20MM at least, but the guarantee is $25.5MM if he would otherwise qualify for Super Two status. Archer earns $1MM in 2015 regardless, but he will earn $2.75MM in 2016 (as opposed to $1MM), $4.75MM in 2017 (vs. $3MM), $6.25MM in 2018 (vs. $4.75MM) and $7.5MM in 2019 (vs. $7MM) thanks to his presumed Super Two status. His $9MM and $11MM club options for the 2020 and 2021 seasons remain unchanged.


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Pirates Extend Josh Harrison

The Pirates have announced a four-year extension for infielder/outfielder Josh Harrison. Pittsburgh will guarantee the super-utility man $27.3MM over the next four seasons and will also hold two club options that could bring the deal’s total value to $50.3MM.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies

Harrison, who is represented by MSM Sports, will take home a $1MM signing bonus. After earning his previously agreed-upon $2.8MM salary this year, he will earn $5MM (2016), $7.5MM (2017), and $10MM (2018). The options are worth $10.5MM ($1MM buyout) and $11MM ($500K buyout). The options can each increase by up to $1MM depending upon escalators based upon MVP voting, accounting for the rest of the achievable value.

Harrison, 27, broke out last year for the Bucs after several years shuttling between the big leagues and upper minors. Despite previously carrying a sub-.700 OPS, Harrison slashed .315/.347/.490 in 550 plate appearances in 2014, adding 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases.

Playing excellent defense at multiple infield and outfield positions not only helped enhance Harrison’s overall productivity, but makes him a highly versatile piece moving forward. In the aggregate, Harrison posted 5.3 rWAR and 5.0 fWAR last year.

That elite contribution came at an opportune time, as it landed Harrison a $2.8MM contract in his first year of arbitration eligibility. In exchange for promising away the rest of his arbitration years and three seasons of free agent eligibility (two via options), Harrison now pockets an additional $24.5MM in guaranteed money.

MLBTR’s Steve Adams took a look at Harrison as an extension candidate back in September. After a detailed breakdown of his surprising emergence, Steve explained the difficulties that the two sides might encounter in valuing a new contract. A new factor was introduced when the Bucs landed Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang.

But with Harrison showing no signs of slowing down over a solid spring, team and player were able to bridge any differences and find common ground. In the end, Pittsburgh will commit slightly more than the Indians did last year for Michael Brantley but will pick up an additional season of control in the second option. The club will now enjoy the wide flexibility that Harrison offers in planning their next several offseasons, while hoping that his contract pays off as much as Brantley’s has.

Detractors will note that Harrison benefited from a .355 BABIP last year. But he has traditionally carried a high mark in the minors and still would have had plenty of value on offense — to say nothing of the other elements of the game — had that number been lower. If Harrison can remain even a slightly above-average hitter, he ought to justify his contract and then some.

All links to Twitter: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the total value of the deal. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported details while Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review also reported financial details and Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette added the deal’s escalator clause.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Huston Street, Angels Still Open To Extension

APRIL 7: Street is still interested in an extension with the Angels, but he told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter links) and other reporters that he’s re-hired former agent Alan Hendricks to handle the bulk of the negotiations now that the season has started. “We are close enough that I’m still engaged,” said Street.

APRIL 6: Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link), that an extension with closer Huston Street is “still possible.” Negotiations have remained “friendly,” he adds,’ noting that “Opening Day was never a deadline.”

Talks have been well-publicized, with the self-represented Street making clear that he knows what kind of deal he wants to give up the right to free agency after this season. The sides have not seemed to be close on numbers this spring, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times tweets.

Street, 31, does not have the kind of obscene strikeout numbers that the game’s best relievers tend to carry. Nevertheless, he has produced impeccable results, even though ERA estimators suggest he has outperformed his true contributions. Since leaving the Rockies for less hitter-friendly environs after the 2011 season, Street has thrown 155 innings of 1.97 ERA ball with 8.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9.

Valuing Street as an extension candidate or free agent remains challenging, however. Aging relievers with a fair bit of mileage are notoriously fickle investments, and Street has missed some time over the years with shoulder and lower-leg issues (among other things). Then again, he has never relied on velocity and still throws as hard as ever (high 80s).



Athletics To Sign Cody Ross

The Athletics will sign outfielder Cody Ross once he officially clears release waivers tomorrow, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Oakland will be responsible for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum in terms of Ross’ salary, while the D-Backs, who released him this weekend, will be on the hook for the remainder of his $8.5MM salary and $1MM option buyout.

Cody Ross

Last night, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the A’s were on the hunt for veteran outfielders in the wake of surgery that will sideline Coco Crisp for up to two months, and Oakland clearly acted quickly upon that interest, reaching an agreement with Ross’ agents at Relativity Baseball.

Ross, 34, signed a three-year, $26MM contract with the D-Backs in the 2012-13 offseason that proved to be a bust, due largely to injuries. A .267/.326/.481 batting line and 22 homers with the 2012 Red Sox earned him that sizable deal, but Ross batted just .268/.322/.378 in 177 games (570 plate appearances) over the past two years in Arizona. Calf injuries and hip surgery limited his ability to stay on the field, and the presence of A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, Mark Trumbo and Yasmany Tomas in the D-Backs organization left Ross without a spot on the roster.

Oakland figures to deploy Ross primarily in left field, as a platoon of Craig Gentry and Sam Fuld will handle center field, and Josh Reddick will be the primary right fielder once he is activated from the disabled list. Speedster Billy Burns and Rule 5 pick Mark Canha seem to be the likeliest candidates to be squeezed out of playing time, but the A’s regularly rotate a mix of players throughout various positions on the diamond, with many players serving in more of a part-time role than in true full-time capacities.

Ross is particularly effective against left-handed pitching, having authored a .294/.360/.557 batting line when holding the platoon advantage over the duration of his 11-year Major League career. From a defensive standpoint, he’s experienced at all three positions, but he hasn’t seen significant time in center field since 2010. He’s graded out as a plus corner outfielder in his career, per Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, though his marks in the eyes of those metrics have been skewed by the aforementioned injuries to his lower half in recent years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Aaron Crow To Undergo Tommy John Surgery

Marlins right-hander Aaron Crow is slated to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery tomorrow, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (on Twitter).

The unfortunate reality has been the expected outcome for Crow for about a week’s time now. Losing Crow for the year and losing Preston Claiborne for at least one month has thinned out Miami’s bullpen bullpen depth, and those injuries are likely a driving factor behind the team’s reported interest in adding a bullpen upgrade.

The Marlins sent left-hander Brian Flynn and Minor League righty Reid Redman to the Royals to acquire Crow this winter, but the former first-round pick won’t throw a pitch in his new environment this season. Crow delivered generally strong ERA and strikeout marks for the Royals from 2011-13, working exclusively out of the bullpen, but he struggled in 2014; Crow’s ERA spiked to a career-worst 4.12, and he posted the worst K/9 (5.2) and ground-ball (43.2%) marks of his career.

Miami acquired Crow in the hope that it was buying low on a previously successful reliever with two years of team control remaining at a not-unreasonable price. Crow is earning $1.975MM this year after avoiding arbitration for the second time. Speculatively speaking, the injury presents the possibility that Crow will be non-tendered next winter. Miami’s payroll is among the league’s lowest, so the preference may be to cut Crow loose and try to re-sign him to a cheaper deal. However, that also poses the team with the risk of losing Crow and receiving nothing from the trade that brought him to Miami in the first place.

The Royals selected Crow with the 12th overall pick in the 2009 draft, and while he didn’t develop as they’d hoped in the rotation, he’s spent four full seasons in a Major League bullpen. In 233 2/3 Major League innings, Crow has a 3.43 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, a 49.2 percent ground-ball rate and an average fastball of 94 mph.


Indians, Carlos Carrasco Agree To Extension

The Indians have announced yet another extension, this one with righty Carlos Carrasco. The contract guarantees him $22MM over the next four years and includes two club options.

Carrasco will earn $4.5MM next year, $6.5MM in 2017, and $8MM in 2018. The option years are for $9MM and $9.5MM, respectively, and can each be escalated by $4MM based on top-ten Cy Young finishes, bringing the total max value of the contract to $48MM. Those options come with $662.5K in total buyouts. Carrasco was already set to earn $2.337MM in his first of three arbitration years, which the new deal leaves in place — meaning that Carrasco nets just under $20MM in new money.

Carlos Carrasco (featured)

Carrasco, who just recently celebrated his 28th birthday, posted a 5.29 ERA over his first four seasons (238 1/3 IP) with the Tribe and struggled last April, losing his starting job and even getting designated for assignment last summer. However, he started to turn things around after a stint in the bullpen. As a reliever, he posted a 2.30 ERA with 43 relief innings.

When Carrasco came back to the starting five, he closed out 2014 and in a small sample size of ten games he looked like an absolute superstar.  During that span, the hurler posted a 1.30 ERA and 78 strikeouts (against just 11 walks) over 69 innings.

Carrasco, an ACES client, now has financial security going forward despite a rocky career which included a lost 2012 season thanks to Tommy John surgery.  Now, with Carrasco and Corey Kluber both under contract, the Indians could have a potent No. 1 and No. 2 locked in for years to come.  The Cy Young winner’s deal looks different however as he’ll earn a reported $38.5MM across his guaranteed five seasons while Carrasco will get $22MM across his additional three years.  Kluber receives additional years on his deal, but the difference in average annual value is a modest $400K.

Carrasco, in theory, could have rolled the dice with another solid season of pitching.  Even though he could have secured a sizable arbitration raise and even more leverage in extension talks by building on his close to 2014, he understandably opted for security.

On Saturday night, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the two sides were discussing a deal. Rosenthal tweeted that the deal was done. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links) reported contract details, as did MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Padres Looking For Shortstop Upgrade

The Padres are “scouring the shortstop market,” sources from other teams tell Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). San Diego has been incredibly busy on the trade market under new GM A.J. Preller, and apparently is not stopping with the season underway.

The Padres currently feature a duo of Alexi Amarista and Clint Barmes at short, which obviously does not represent the most offensively potent pairing. Of course, they do form a strong defensive platoon partnership that could at least conceivably deliver reasonable production, but it is an underwhelming situation for a team that obviously has designs on contending.

As far as possibilities for a trade partner, the report does not give any hints. There are some established players that might be had, though the most obvious candidates are rather pricey. We just heard that the Cubs’ Starlin Castro could still be a trade candidate. The Rangers no longer have a pressing surplus up the middle, but Preller’s former employer is likely quite willing to discuss Elvis Andrus.

San Diego has been rather creative in formulating deals to add established talent, so nothing can be ruled out at this point. Of course, it could be that the team is primarily looking for a more modest upgrade.


Athletics Looking At Veteran Outfielders

The Athletics are looking outside the organization for outfield options to fill in while Coco Crisp is down, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Crisp is not expected to be out longer than two months to start the year, making a significant acquisition seem somewhat unlikely. Recent roster casualties may offer some value in the interim at no cost other than a league-minimum roster spot.

Among the possibilities, per Slusser, are Cody Ross, who was just released by the Diamondbacks, and recently-designated Padres-turned-Braves veteran Carlos Quentin. Both of those players would appear to be bat-first options — Ross struggled defensively last year after returning from hip surgery while Quentin has always been regarded as a poor defender — but the club has several good gloves in the mix already.

Of course, Ross and Quentin also face significant questions beyond their limitations in the field (and would not otherwise be freely available). The pair owned matching offensive production last year (75 OPS+) that hardly inspires confidence, though of course their longer-term track records show much greater ability at the plate if their bodies are still willing.


Matt Cain Undergoes MRI Due To Forearm Tightness

12:45am: After tonight’s win over the D-Backs, Bochy told reporters that there’s no torn ligament in Cain’s elbow and the injury is more of a “two week thing,” via Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Cain himself termed the injury a flexor strain but also noted that the team’s trainers are fairly optimistic about his prognosis. Based on the timeline suggested from Bochy, however, it sounds like a DL stint is in the cards.

8:23pm: Giants right-hander Matt Cain underwent an MRI today after experiencing pain in his right forearm, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters, including Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area.

While the result is presently unknown, Cain’s 2014 season came to an end after he underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow, and Pavlovic writes that Giants officials privately expressed concern that the issue could eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. Forearm pain is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery, so it seems reasonable to have some legitimate concerns about Cain’s immediate future. Of course, there are a number of other, more minor issues, that could result in forearm pain for Cain. It sounds like Cain will miss his first scheduled start, at the very least, as Bochy said “There’s got to be some concern” and indicated that the team would withhold him on Wednesday if necessary.

To further complicate the team’s pitching outlook, Jake Peavy will miss his first start due to a back injury, although the hope is that he can make a start in the second series of the season in San Diego. Still, it’s troublesome for Giants fans that two of the team’s five projected starters are already facing injury issues of any magnitude.

The Giants’ pitching depth was called into question this offseason by many pundits. Beyond ace Madison Bumgarner, there was little certainty in San Francisco’s rotation picture. Cain’s recovery from surgery was a question mark, and 39-year-old Tim Hudson had ankle surgery this winter. Tim Lincecum has been ineffective for three years now, and Peavy’s own injury history is lengthy.

Such concerns may have played a role in the Giants’ decision to re-sign Ryan Vogelsong late in the offseason, and Bochy has already informed reporters that Vogelsong will start in place of Peavy. Beyond him, the next line of defense in the rotation is excellent swingman Yusmeiro Petit, who stepped into the rotation with aplomb late last year when Lincecum’s struggles became too great to ignore.


Rangers Sign Wandy Rodriguez To Minor League Deal

9:04pm: Rodriguez will earn the pro-rated portion of the league minimum upon promotion to the Majors, but his contract also contains up to $1.8MM worth of incentives for games started, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

7:01pm: The Rangers announced that they’ve signed left-hander Wandy Rodriguez to a Minor League contract. The veteran southpaw will be assigned to Triple-A to begin his Rangers career.

Rodriguez, 36, made a name for himself in the Astros rotation beginning in 2008, and from that season through 2013, he worked to a combined 3.48 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 997 1/3 innings between Houston and Pittsburgh. He was in the mix for a rotation spot with the Braves in March but wasn’t able to lock down a spot despite enjoying an excellent spring. In 23 innings this spring, Rodriguez notched a 3.13 ERA (eight earned runs) on 22 hits and eight walks with 23 strikeouts.

The Rangers’ pitching woes have been well documented, with the most notable blow coming earlier this spring when they learned that ace Yu Darvish required Tommy John surgery. Additionally, former rotation cornerstone Matt Harrison‘s career is in jeopardy after a series of back injuries, and lefty Derek Holland missed much of the 2014 season due to knee troubles. The Rangers are currently relying on a rotation of Yovani Gallardo, Holland, Colby Lewis, Ross Detwiler and Nick Martinez — a questionable group whose ranks could eventually be cracked by a healthy Rodriguez.