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Nick Swisher Rumors
Here’s the latest from around the AL Central…
- Left-hander Troy Patton can opt out of his minor league deal with the Royals on August 15 if he isn’t called up to the MLB roster, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports. Patton served an 80-game suspension after testing positive for amphetamines last November, and has posted a 3.07 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and a 5.5 K/BB rate over 14 2/3 relief innings at Triple-A Omaha. As McCullough notes, the Royals may not be able to find a place for Patton in the already-stacked K.C. bullpen.
- New Tigers GM Al Avila faces a number of pressing questions about the 2016 team, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News writes. Beyond the payroll, young pitcher development and fixing the Tigers bullpen, Henning also speculates on the future of manager Brad Ausmus. “It would be no shocker if Avila” wanted to hire his own manager to run the team, and if a change was made, Henning believes that the Tigers would pursue an experienced skipper, namely Ron Gardenhire.
- Nick Swisher‘s tenure with the Indians is recapped by Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. While Swisher helped the Tribe earn a wild card slot in 2013, that contribution alone wasn’t worth his $56MM contract with the team. Meisel also hints at a bit of tension between Swisher and some teammates, writing that “his relentless enthusiasm wore on members of the clubhouse” and “when his performance went south…his insistence on being the club’s commander and cheerleader didn’t carry much weight.”
- From the Braves’ perspective, one key to the deal was the financial flexibility they’ll add as they open their new stadium in 2017, GM John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think for us, a part of it was the flexibility we’re going to have going into ’17. That’s going to be extra dollars that we’re going to be able to have then,” says Hart. “And I think for Cleveland, even though they’re paying a significant piece to fill the large gap (in salaries), I think this gives them a little more flexibility to do some things in ’16.” Bourn and Swisher are both likely to become free agents after 2016 (both have options that are unlikely to vest), whereas Johnson doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2017 season.
- The trade provides the Indians with “roster flexibility,” Bud Shaw writes for the Northeast Ohio Media Group. The Indians won’t have roster spots locked down for two players to whom they feel obligated to give chances. The Indians saved a bit of money in the deal too, Shaw notes, but not so much that it’s likely to make them big players in the free agent market this winter.
- In a Q+A addressing a variety of questions about the Indians’ recent moves, the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Paul Hoynes writes that the Indians’ trades are unlikely to make their attendance much worse. Hoynes notes that the Indians’ attendance to this point has been better than only that of the Rays, so it isn’t as if they can fall much further. It might also be worth noting that while the trades of Brandon Moss and David Murphy might hurt the Indians a bit in the short term, the departures of Bourn, Swisher and Marc Rzepczynski should have little negative on-field impact on the team. The Indians have retained most of their core players, like Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Francisco Lindor and Cody Allen.
SATURDAY: The Indians will send closer to $15MM, not $10MM, to the Braves, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince tweets. Swisher and Bourn are owed about $38MM combined for the remainder of their contracts, while Johnson is owed about $19.5MM, so it appears the Indians will save between $3MM and $4MM total on the deal.
FRIDAY: The Braves and Indians have announced a swap of three bad contracts that will send Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and cash considerations (reportedly about $10MM) to the Braves in exchange for third baseman Chris Johnson.
Both Swisher and Bourn are in the third season of significant four-year pacts ($56MM and $48MM, respectively). Swisher is owed $15MM in 2016, whereas Bourn is owed $14MM next season. Both players have 2017 vesting options, but neither figures to accrue the necessary 550 plate appearances in 2016 to trigger the additional year.
Johnson’s contract calls for him to earn $19.5MM through the end of the 2017 season, so the roughly $10MM included by the Indians will balance out the money on the two contracts.
In this week’s MLBTR Newsletter, I examined the possibility of a Johnson-for-Bourn swap. This expanded iteration of the deal, in essence, boils down to a swap of bad contracts that will allow the Braves to free up some money in 2017 (when they reportedly plan to push for contention in their new stadium, SunTrust Park) and give Cleveland more immediate roster flexibility at the cost of paying some of the remaining salary up front.
Swisher, 34, underwent arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees last August in an effort to correct pain that had caused a rapid decline in his production at the plate. However, Swisher has followed up a .208/.278/.331 campaign in 2014 with a .198/.261/.297 batting line in 30 games this season. Inflammation in his left knee has again landed Swisher on the disabled list, though he was on a rehab assignment at the time of the deal. The Braves’ key motivation in making this deal is to move around some finances, but they’d undoubtedly be pleased if Swisher were able to return to anything resembling the form he showed in 2006-13, when he batted .257/.362/.464 and averaged 26 homers per season.
Though Swisher is on the disabled list, MLBTR has confirmed that players on the disabled list can be sent through revocable trade waivers if their minimum period of inactivity has passed and if they’re healthy and able to play at their accustomed level. Because Swisher has been on the 15-day for more than 15 days and is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A, he was eligible to go on waivers.
Bourn, 32, has seen a similar downturn in his production since signing in Cleveland, as he’s batted just .257/.315/.345 in 1388 plate appearances. Like Swisher, he’s been hampered by injuries, though his have primarily been of the hamstring variety. Bourn underwent surgery on his left hamstring in 2014 and has been sidelined by a strain in that same hamstring this season. The leg injuries have significantly slowed him down, as he’s swiped just 46 bases in 331 games with Cleveland after stealing 42 in his final season before free agency. (A season that he, coincidentally, spent with the Braves.)
As for Johnson, he signed a three-year, $23.5MM contract prior to the 2014 season. Then 29 years old, Johnson was coming off a career year in which he batted .321/.358/.457 with 12 homers. However, much of that production was the result of a .394 batting average on balls in play, and his overall numbers have come back down to Earth as his BABIP regressed to his career norm.
Over the past two seasons, Johnson has batted .257/.288/.352. He’ll probably get a fair chance at playing time in Cleveland, though, as Lonnie Chisenhall has been moved to the outfield after struggling again in 2015, and rookie Giovanny Urshela hasn’t hit much in his debut. Cleveland is lacking in MLB-ready options at the hot corner, so Johnson could find semi-regular at-bats and a chance at redemption. If nothing else, he’s proven to be a useful platoon bat over the course of his career; Johnson is a .313/.349/.439 hitter in 692 plate appearances versus lefties.
Yahoo’s Tim Brown first reported (via Twitter) that Swisher was about to head to Atlanta. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted that an agreement was in place. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Bourn and cash considerations would round out the deal (Twitter links). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted the financial details on the swap.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Raul Mondesi is the Royals‘ “most appealing asset for trade discussions,” rival evaluators tell Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, though “the Royals have little interest in parting with him.” Mondesi was a consensus top-40 prospect in preseason rankings from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, with BA listing him 28th before the year began and updating his status to 25th in their recent midseason rankings. Despite a less-than-stellar showing at Double-A this season, the 19-year-old Mondesi has been discussed as a possible September call-up. Here’s some more from around the AL Central…
- Before Nick Swisher went on the DL, the Indians and Braves discussed a trade that would’ve sent Swisher to Atlanta in exchange for Chris Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). The Braves ended talks since Swisher is owed significantly more than Johnson (approximately $6.25MM to $2.5MM) over the remainder of the 2015 campaign. Johnson is guaranteed $17.5MM over the 2016-17 seasons while Swisher is owed $15MM in 2016 and he has a $14MM vesting option for 2017. The deal would’ve been an interesting case of clubs essentially swapping one disappointment for another, as both Swisher and Johnson have posted underwhelming numbers over the last two seasons.
- Indians scouting director Brad Grant discusses his team’s top three draft picks (Brady Aiken, Triston McKenzie and Juan Hillman) with Fangraphs’ David Laurila, noting how the Tribe wasn’t shy to take a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery and two high school arms.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski has a very impressive history at the trade deadline, as Tony Paul of the Detroit News lists nine deals that benefited the team over Dombrowski’s tenure.
The Tigers will have a significant amount of money coming off the books with nine player set to hit free agency this coming winter, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. With David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Alfredo Simon, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny all ticketed for free agency, Iott looks at each player and the likelihood that he’ll return. Iott feels that Price could land a $200MM+ contract on the open market next year. I agree that there’s a chance of that with a typically strong season, making it difficult for the Tigers to retain him when considering the long-term commitments already guaranteed to Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and, to a lesser extent, Victor Martinez.
A bit more from the AL Central…
- Unlike some big-name free agent hurlers heading into their walk year, White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija hasn’t taken out an insurance policy on his arm, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. For example, Max Scherzer recently revealed that he paid $750K for a $40MM insurance policy on his arm that protected him against shoulder and elbow injuries in his walk year. Samardzija could be in line for $100MM+ next winter if he can repeat last season’s success.
- Samardzija’s best case scenario is to remain in Chicago for the rest of his career, he recently told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. However, Samardzija also feels a responsibility to the Union and other players to keep salaries in line with the $9 billion industry that is Major League Baseball, writes Levine.
- While Nick Swisher‘s goal is to be ready for Opening Day, there’s no timetable for when the Indians switch-hitter will be ready to make his Cactus League debut, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees on Aug. 20 last year, is still working on running drills, performing serpentine and ribbon runs to get his body used to running in something other than a straight line, Hoynes writes. Swisher’s timetable bears monitoring, as it’s been speculated previously that a healthy Swisher and Brandon Moss (who is returning to action today) could mean that David Murphy will end up being traded.
Recently-retired veteran Kevin Youkilis will be joining the Cubs as a special assistant, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports on Twitter. The connection will be obvious for many: Youkilis rose to prominence and made most of his impact on the field playing for former Red Sox GM and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
Here’s more from the central divisions:
- Pirates starter Francisco Liriano held talks with the Red Sox, Twins, Astros, and Royals before re-signing with Pittsburgh, the lefty told Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan (Twitter links). Kansas City went as high as $36MM over three years, said Liriano, who ultimately took home $39MM from the Pirates. Interestingly, Liriano noted that he felt the qualifying offer did not significantly hinder his market.
- If Brandon Moss and Nick Swisher prove their health this spring, outfielder David Murphy (or another roster candidate) will likely need to be dealt before breaking camp, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. It may be hard to find a taker without eating a good bit of Murphy’s $6MM salary, should that come to pass. For now, this remains an interesting story to watch over the coming months.
- While the Tigers do have some worrying signs in their large contracts and low-rated farm, they are not yet facing the kind of difficulties that the Phillies have found, Mike Petriello of Fangraphs writes. If nothing else, Detroit still looks to be legitimately competitive at present, and has time to prepare for a soft landing when its window does finally begin closing.
Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.
More on the Twins and their division…
- Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
- The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
- Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
- At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).
The Indians have a logjam of players who can handle right field, first base and DH, but Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that the surplus doesn’t mean a trade is likely. David Murphy‘s name has come up in rumors, but team has to first determine the health status of Nick Swisher, Brandon Moss and Ryan Raburn. Swisher had surgery on both knees in August, Moss had hip surgery in October and Raburn had left knee surgery in September in addition to dealing with a sore wrist for much of the season. Hoynes provides a health update on each player, and he also spoke with Francona, who sounded happy to have a number of options on his hands: “You walk that fine line. You have guys who expect playing time … but at the same time we can’t let our season be derailed by the unknown. I think [GM] Chris [Antonetti] did a really god job protecting us … I think it’s going to make us a better team and protect us from the unknown.”
A couple more Indians notes…
- The Indians’ signing of Gavin Floyd was all about adding depth and innings to a promising but young rotation, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. While the team does have other arms that had figured to compete for time in the rotation, they can continue to develop in the upper minors and remain ready to step in if a need arises.
- Also from Bastian, the club announced today that Jason Bere, a special assistant to the baseball operations department, has been named the club’s new bullpen coach in the wake of Kevin Cash’s departure to manage the Rays. “He’s been with the organization a long time, so everybody knows him,” Francona told Bastian. “By design, we had him around a lot, not just in Spring Training, but in September and at a few key points during the year, because of what he can add to a staff.”
- After receiving his release today from Cleveland, righty Tyler Cloyd is expected to reach agreement with the KBO’s Samsung Lions, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The club had announced that it was releasing Cloyd so that he could pursue an opportunity in Korea.
The Mariners have unfinished business heading into the new year, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. They’ll need to find a platoon partner for righty Justin Ruggiano in right field, with Seth Smith of the Padres as one possibility. They could also move Brad Miller to the outfield if he loses the shortstop job to Chris Taylor. The M’s could also find a catcher in the Humberto Quintero mold to provide depth at Triple-A Tacoma. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Signing Robinson Cano to a $240MM contract last offseason helped the Mariners press the reset button, Dutton writes. Led by Cano and their pitching staff, the Mariners improved by 16 games in 2014, although they just missed the last AL Wild Card berth.
- The remainder of the offseason could feature plenty of trades for outfielders, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The Phillies, Reds, Rays, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Indians and Angels could all have outfielders available, with about the same number of teams looming as potential buyers. Still, it might take time for the market to resolve itself — the key to the outfield market could be the rumors about the Padres trading a package centered around Wil Myers to the Phillies for Cole Hamels, and that might not be resolved until Max Scherzer and James Shields sign.
- Pirates reliever John Holdzkom has been released “five or six” times, he tells MLB.com’s Tom Singer. Some of those releases were no doubt even more depressing than such transactions usually might be. “I got released without the team even calling me. I looked on the Internet and saw my name next to ‘Transactions’ — five days before I was supposed to report,” says Holdzkom. “Yeah, that was bad.” And that team wasn’t even a Major League organization, but the independent Laredo Lemurs. Holdzkom emerged seemingly from out of nowhere to become a key part of the Pittsburgh bullpen down the stretch in 2014.
- The Indians‘ signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn haven’t worked out so far, at least not from a baseball perspective. But they were still the right moves, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. The signings prevented a big drop in the Indians’ season-ticket sales and helped them increase revenues while also helping make them more relevant. Bourn’s presence also allowed Michael Brantley to move to left field.
- Infielder Rafael Furcal has a torn hamstring and will miss Winter League playoffs in the Dominican, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com tweets. Furcal had hamstring issues in the 2014 regular seasona and only made 37 plate appearances with the Marlins, so this latest injury could affect his attempt to come back next season.
Here are the latest pieces of information on the trade front from the morning’s action at the Winter Meetings:
- The Rockies approached the Mets today to gauge interest in discussing star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Martino’s sources tell him a deal that would send Tulowitzki to the Mets is “not happening.” On the other hand, Colorado’s actions obviously suggest that there is at least some possibility that the club would consider dealing him.
- The Phillies would not demand that the Red Sox include top catching prospect Blake Swihart in a deal involving Cole Hamels, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports on Twitter.
- Were the Red Sox to make a push for Jeff Samardzija, however, the Athletics would insist on the inclusion of shortstop prospect Deven Marrero, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets.
- Nick Swisher of the Indians is available in trade, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, but there has been minimal interest to date.
- The Mariners could “circle back” to the Braves regarding Justin Upton if the team does not land free agent Melky Cabrera, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But Seattle is highly unlikely to sacrifice one of its prized young arms in a deal for Upton, he adds.
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