- The Athletics have avoided arbitration with catcher/DH Stephen Vogt, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Vogt will receive $2.965MM, falling shy of his $3.7MM projection. Oakland has also reached agreement with starter Sonny Gray for $3.575MM, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter), which is just shy of his $3.7MM projection. Also, reliever Liam Hendriks has agreed to terms, per John Hickey of the Mercury News. He’ll get $1.1MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is the place to go to see the arbitration contracts agreed upon thus far, as well as the figures exchanged between teams and players that were not able to reach agreement before today’s deadline to swap salary positions. Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections are available here.
After a busy day of dealmaking, 152 players (at last check) have reached agreement on arbitration salaries for the coming season. But 36 other tendered players have yet to reach reported agreements with their clubs. Of course, those players can still settle before their hearings (which will take place in early to mid-February). If the case goes to a hearing, the arbitrator must choose one side’s figures, rather than settling on a midpoint.
We’ve gathered the highest-stakes arbitration situations remaining — those where the player files for at least $4.5MM — in this post, but you can find them all in the tracker. We’ll update this list as the figures are reported:
- Danny Duffy, Royals: $8MM versus $7.25MM (Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, via Twitter)
- Tony Watson, Pirates: $6MM versus $5.6MM (Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, via Twitter)
- Pedro Strop, Cubs: $6MM versus $4.6MM (Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, via Twitter)
- Drew Pomeranz, Red Sox: $5.7MM versus $3.6MM (Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kelvin Herrera, Royals: $5.6MM versus $5.05MM (Heyman, via Twitter)
- Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks: $5.1MM versus $4.7MM (Heyman, via Twitter)
- Khris Davis, Athletics: $5MM versus $4.65MM (Heyman, via Twitter)
- Dellin Betances, Yankees: $5MM versus $3MM (Heyman, via Twitter)
- The Athletics announced that infielder/outfielder Max Muncy has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A (h/t: Melissa Lockard of OaklandClubhouse.com). He’ll head to Spring Training on a non-roster invitation and hope to work his way back into the team’s big league plans down the line. The 26-year-old Muncy has been up and down between Triple-A and the Majors with the A’s over the past two seasons and has batted a combined .195/.290/.321 batting line with five homers in 295 plate appearances.
- As they continue to look to bolster their lineup, the Athletics are showing interest in free-agent third baseman Trevor Plouffe, per Rosenthal. He’d presumably be a value-focused addition to the overall mix at third and first base. Of course, Oakland is also said to be looking at Mark Trumbo, so it seems the organization is still casting a fairly wide net.
- While the Reds just announced a deal with righty Drew Storen, they are still in the market for relievers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Also seeking pen arms are the Brewers and Athletics, per the report. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon adds that Cincinnati is additionally looking at the market for a veteran starter as well as some catching depth, so there may yet be some more additions on the horizon.
1:15pm: Oakland is indeed still interested in adding a righty bat, GM David Forst tells reporters including Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area (Twitter link).
10:33am: The Athletics have at least expressed some interest in free-agent slugger Mark Trumbo, according to a report from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. Oakland played a notable role in driving the market for Edwin Encarnacion, offering him a high-AAV, short-term deal before he landed with the Indians.
It’s worth emphasizing, as does the report, that it’s not yet clear to what degree Oakland intends to push for Trumbo. In theory, the organization could take an approach analogous to its pursuit of Encarnacion by dangling a shorter-term arrangement; or, it could perhaps go slightly longer at a lower annual salary. But the A’s may also be looking to function as a landing spot if Trumbo ends up failing to find a substantial contract elsewhere.
Previously, the Orioles reportedly made Trumbo an offer of four years and over $50MM. But that particular arrangement isn’t on the table at present (so far as the most recent reporting suggests). The Rockies, too, are said to be keeping an eye on Trumbo as they continue to weigh their various options — which could theoretically involve adding a first baseman, shifting Ian Desmond to the outfield, and moving an existing outfielder for pitching.
As for the Athletics, it’s possible to imagine them utilizing Trumbo in any number of ways. He could spend time at DH and first base, joining lefties Stephen Vogt and Yonder Alonso. It’s possible to imagine Trumbo spending time in the corner outfield, too, though the team has already added two outfield pieces this winter (Matt Joyce and Rajai Davis). And, of course, Oakland already has a lumbering, OBP-challenged, right-handed-hitting corner outfielder in Khris Davis, who turned in a 2016 season remarkably similar to Trumbo’s.
Trumbo, much like Davis, drove over forty long balls in his most recent campaign (47, in the case of the former). Both posted impressive .277 isolated slugging rates, and landed with identical 123 wRC+ marks for their overall production at the plate. But their overall values were limited by relatively hefty strikeout tallies, slightly below-average walk rates, and poorly rated glovework and baserunning.
8:52pm: ESPN’s Buster Olney provides further detail on Davis’ incentives (Twitter link). He’ll earn $100K for reaching 500 plate appearances, $150K for reaching 550 plate appearances and $200K for reaching 600 plate appearances.
8:40pm: After spending much of the offseason looking for a center fielder, the A’s announced on Tuesday that they’ve signed free-agent outfielder Rajai Davis to a one-year deal that will reportedly guarantee him $6MM. The 36-year-old Legacy Agency client is also said to be able to earn up to $450K worth of performance bonuses in the new contract, which will bring him back to Oakland for a second stint with the A’s. Davis previously played in Oakland from 2008-10.
Davis will give president of baseball operations Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin a much-needed option in center field, although he could also shift over to left field in the event that Oakland adds an additional center-field-capable outfielder. He’ll join an outfield mix that currently includes Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Brett Eibner and Jake Smolinski. Presumably, Davis will be in line for regular work in the outfield, with Khris Davis and Joyce regularly finding their names penciled into the lineup (though Khris may see frequent time at designated hitter, depending on how the rest of Oakland’s offseason shakes out).
With this new deal, Davis will receive a slight raise from last year’s $5.25MM salary with the Indians, and he’s a good bet to make good on that modest investment based on his glovework and baserunning alone. Davis posted a fairly lackluster .249/.306/.388 batting line in 2016, though he did tally the second-most plate appearances of his career and belt a career-best 12 homers (not including his dramatic home run against Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the World Series, which cemented Davis in Cleveland sports lore and will forever live on as an iconic Indians moment).
Davis’ batting line was still decidedly worse than the league average, but he managed to add value in the outfield (depending on your preferred defensive metric) and was among baseball’s best baserunners. Per Fangraphs, the only player in baseball who provided more value on the bases than Davis was Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton. Indeed, Davis swiped an AL-best 43 bases and also proved adept at taking extra bases in first-to-third situations, second-to-home situations and other baserunning scenarios.
Strong baserunning has been a hallmark of Davis’ career, as he’s averaged 39 steals per season and 52 per 162 games played since cementing himself as a semi-regular player with the 2009 A’s. While he isn’t a force at the plate, Davis does have a very strong track record against opposite-handed pitching, as he’s hit lefties at a .288/.343/.437 clip over parts of 11 Major League seasons.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently ran down the Athletics’ top three remaining needs of the offseason, and adding a center fielder was tops among those yet-unresolved priorities. From a payroll vantage point, Davis will send Oakland’s projected total to about $70.3MM, as MLBTR’s Jason Martinez outlines in the above-linked Roster Resource payroll projection. Oakland was reportedly willing to offer a two-year, $50MM pact to Edwin Encarnacion and is still about $16MM shy of their payroll from Opening Day 2016 even after adding Davis to the fold, so the team should have the spending capacity to add help at first base and/or in the rotation — both of which were also on Jeff’s list of remaining needs for Beane and GM David Forst.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The A’s announced tonight that infielder/outfielder Max Muncy has been designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for outfielder Rajai Davis, whose one-year contract with Oakland has now officially been announced.
The 26-year-old Muncy has been up and down between Triple-A and the Majors with the A’s over the past two seasons, spending time at first base, second base, third base and in the outfield corners at the Major League level. That versatility aside, however, he’s managed just a .195/.290/.321 batting line and five homers over the life of 96 games (245 plate appearances) in green and gold. He has a solid, albeit unspectacular track record in the minors, including a .262/.355/.407 slash in more than 500 plate appearances with the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate. A former fifth-round pick, Muncy has worked primarily as a first baseman throughout his minor league tenure.
To set the stage for the remainder of the offseason, we’ll take a look at the most pressing remaining needs of every team in baseball over the coming week or so, division by division. (Hat tip to MLBTR commenter mike156 for the idea.) We often discuss things through the lens of an organization’s trajectory; thus, a rebuilding team might “need” to move some salary, while a contender might “need” an expensive starter. But with camp in sight, every club is making final calls on who’ll compete for big league jobs in the season to come (while also pursuing broader opportunities), so the focus here is on specific positions on the MLB roster. Fortunately, the task of roster analysis is made much easier by the MLB depth charts available at RosterResource.com. Each team listed below is linked to its respective depth chart, so you can take a look for yourself.
- First Baseman/DH: The Rangers make obvious sense for a first base/DH addition after watching Mitch Moreland and Carlos Beltran depart via free agency. Texas can utilize Joey Gallo and/or Jurickson Profar in those roles, but neither has hit to expectations in the majors. The club has been tied frequently to Mike Napoli, but there are other options on the open market as well. Relatedly, the Rangers will need to decide what to do with both Gallo and Profar in the near term, as both appear to have uncertain futures in Texas.
- Starting Pitcher: Though the Rangers already slotted in Andrew Cashner after declining a club option over Derek Holland, the team also lost Colby Lewis from last year’s staff. He is among the veterans still available in free agency, presumably on short-term arrangements, and Texas could certainly stand to bolster the back of its rotation. At present. A.J. Griffin seems likely to take the fifth slot, though a few upper-level youngsters could also factor in. Texas would do well at least to enhance the overall depth here, at a minimum.
- Sorting out the bullpen: Texas has a variety of interesting arms available to take closing duties, with last year’s ninth-inning man Sam Dyson returning. But the club has been rumored to be dangling some of its righty arms in trade, and could conceivably deal from what is something of a surplus to improve elsewhere (or even just to bolster its prospect pool).
- Starter: Seattle’s first three rotation spots are set. Behind that group, though, the club is currently set to sort through Ariel Miranda, Nathan Karns, Chris Heston, Rob Whalen, Brad Mills, and Christian Bergman in camp. Adding another established arm isn’t perhaps an outright necessity, but it would go a long way to firming up the roster.
- First Base/Corner Outfield mix: Currently, the M’s project to utilize some sort of platoon involving youngster Dan Vogelbach (a lefty hitter) and Danny Valencia (a righty). But the latter could also factor into the outfield mix while also providing a reserve at third. Meanwhile, the corner outfield situation includes a whole variety of options, including lefty Seth Smith, who is said to be on the trade block. Adding a righty slugger from the still-stocked free-agent market while thinning the corner outfield herd could make good sense for Seattle.
- Utility Infielder: With Jean Segura locked in at shortstop and the durable Robinson Cano set to return at second, there’s not a huge need in the middle infield. But projected reserve Shawn O’Malley has never hit much in the upper minors or in his brief MLB time, so at least adding some camp competition would be worthwhile.
- Left-handed Reliever: Entering the winter, Houston was said to be looking for a southpaw to pair with Tony Sipp, who disappointed after returning via free agency last winter. Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, J.P. Howell, and Travis Wood (who’d also represent some rotation depth) are among the open-market options. Houston could also continue exploring the trade market; the club is said to have checked in on Justin Wilson of the Tigers.
- Starter: Houston has a five-man rotation mix in place after already adding Charlie Morton early in the offseason, and possesses some quality young arms as well, but the team could certainly stand to improve its starting staff as a way of rounding out an aggressive winter. The club has been tied to pitchers such as Jose Quintana, Danny Duffy, and Yordano Ventura, while the free-agent market still includes Jason Hammel and a few bounceback options. Even if a larger strike doesn’t prove achievable, adding a minor-league free agent could make sense.
- Another bat? There are limits to the number of true needs for some organizations, and that’s particularly true of Houston, which has accounted for most of its roster holes and touts plenty of versatility on its roster. But the club has looked for ways to add yet more talent in a variety of ways, and reportedly stayed involved on Edwin Encarnacion right up to his eventual signing. It would rate as a surprise at this point, but the ’Stros could conceivably add a power bat at first base (bumping Yulieski Gurriel into the corner outfield mix) or acquire a center fielder (shifting George Springer back to a corner spot) if an opportunity arises.
- Closer: While Los Angeles has options for the ninth inning — Huston Street could re-take the reins if he can return to form, Cam Bedrosian has the arm for the job, and Andrew Bailey is back after spending time as the closer late last year — that doesn’t mean the organization should rest on its laurels. Several experienced late-inning arms remain available in free agency, potentially creating a solid value opportunity and adding what could be an open camp competition for the closer’s job.
- Left-handed Reliever: Jose Alvarez has turned in two solid campaigns as a lefty setup man, but he’s hardly an overwhelming pitcher. Adding another lefty — some possible options are noted above — might provide a nice boost to the late-inning mix while allowing the club to use Alvarez for matchups earlier in a game.
- Rotation Depth: Signing Jesse Chavez likely rounds out the Halos’ staff, but that doesn’t mean there’s adequate depth. That’s especially true given the health questions surrounding Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, and Matt Shoemaker. While pitchers like Alex Meyer, Nate Smith, Chris Jones and perhaps Manny Banuelos and John Lamb provide upper-level depth, it wouldn’t hurt to plug in a veteran on a minor-league deal (or perhaps even aim higher, if a good value can be found on a pitcher such as Hammel).
- Center Fielder: The A’s currently project to utilize some combination of Brett Eibner and Jake Smolinski up the middle, making for one of the least promising center-field situations in baseball. At a minimum, adding a veteran, left-handed hitter (such as Michael Bourn) would allow the team to set up a platoon. There are also some bounceback players on the open market (including Austin Jackson and Desmond Jennings), and the A’s could still pursue a more impactful asset via trade.
- First Base: It came as something of a surprise when Oakland reached agreement on an arb deal with Yonder Alonso, who had seemed a non-tender candidate. But the club has still looked to improve at first, most notably chasing Encarnacion, despite also possessing some other internal possibilities. Stephen Vogt is one, though he could serve as the DH and still appear at times behind the dish; Mark Canha is back as a righty bat; and Ryon Healy may profile as a first bagger if he can’t handle the hot corner defensively. With so many sluggers still floating around in free agency, Oakland could add some thump while deepening its overall roster. As an alternative, the A’s could add a third baseman (Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe remain available) while bumping Healy into the first base/DH mix.
- Veteran Starter: While the A’s are said to be high on their rather expansive mix of young starters, the current staff is short on MLB experience outside of staff ace Sonny Gray, who will be looking to return to form in 2017. There’s not a need, strictly speaking, for innings, but Oakland has had success in the past with short-term starters, and a targeted strike could pay dividends — by improving the team’s near-term outlook, but also by adding depth to account for a hypothetical mid-season trade of Gray and reducing the need to press less-established arms into major-league service.
8:20pm: Napoli and the Rangers are discussing a two-year deal, reports Sullivan, and both sides are “highly motivated” to finalize a contract. However, an agreement is not yet imminent, according to Sullivan, who reports that Napoli is still receiving interest from other clubs. Sullivan lists the Athletics (as Grant speculated upon below) and, a bit more curiously, the Orioles as teams with potential interest.
Oakland could certainly use an offensive upgrade over Yonder Alonso at first base and did finish as a sort of runner up to the Indians in the Encarnacion sweepstakes. Baltimore, meanwhile, has an opening at designated hitter, and Napoli could also help to spell Chris Davis at first base from time to time there as well. The O’s have been more focused on outfielders as of late, however, making the link to Napoli a bit of a surprise.
DEC. 28, 5:45pm: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that with the holidays in the rear-view mirror, the Rangers have become more aggressive in their pursuit of Napoli. That meshes with a recent tweet from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, who reported that the market for Napoli has “intensified,” though Morosi also adds that the Rangers are one of multiple teams in the mix.
Earlier today, FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported that Napoli aiming for a two-year deal. Per Heyman’s report, there’s a yet-unreported suitor in the mix for Napoli’s services. Grant speculates that Oakland could consider Napoli after missing out on Encarnacion, knowing he could be flipped in a trade later this year if he performs well.
DEC. 23: There’s a “strong possibility” that in the wake of Edwin Encarnacion’s three-year agreement with the Indians, free-agent slugger Mike Napoli will land with the Rangers, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (on Twitter). While there’s no deal done between the two sides, Sullivan adds that there are indications that talks between the two sides are “hot.” Earlier today, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM tweeted that the Rangers had become the front-runners for Napoli now that Cleveland is out of the mix.
Napoli, 35, would give the Rangers a needed option at first base and/or designated hitter. Texas lost Prince Fielder due to persistent neck issues that forced him to abruptly retire earlier in 2016, and longtime Ranger Mitch Moreland has already inked a one-year deal with the Red Sox this winter. Napoli, as previously noted, is a known commodity for Rangers GM Jon Daniels and manager Jeff Banister, as he enjoyed a highly productive 35-game run with the Rangers in 2015 after being acquired from the Red Sox in an August swap and spent the 2011-12 seasons in a Rangers uniform as well.
Napoli hit .295/.396/.513 with the 2015 Rangers and went on to bat a solid .239/.335/.465 with a career-high 34 homers for the Indians this past year. That gives the slugger a .246/.342/.471 batting line and 39 home runs in 736 regular-season plate appearances dating back to when he was acquired by the Rangers in 2015. However, it’s also worth noting that Napoli was dreadful down the stretch for Cleveland in 2016, hitting just .157/.292/.279 over his final 40 games of the season. He also failed to turn things around in the postseason, hitting .173/.232/.288 as Cleveland made a deep run to Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs.