Oakland Athletics Rumors
12:31pm: Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the A's aren't done trading and are nearing completion of another trade. Brett Anderson is not among the players being discussed, but there are Major League players being talked about (Twitter links). ESPN's Jerry Crasnick adds that it's the Rangers that are in the midst of discussions on a significant trade with Oakland (on Twitter).
The Twins agreed to sign Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24MM deal on Saturday, which would have been the largest free agent expenditure in their history had they not committed $49MM to Ricky Nolasco a few days prior. I don't think anyone would argue that the Twins needed to add a pitcher or two like Hughes, who has shown promise in his career and has yet to turn 28. We know Hughes will be better away from Yankee Stadium, but it's hard to say how much better, as he's an extreme flyball pitcher no matter where he goes.
Hughes had a serious bout of shoulder inflammation in a lost 2011 season, but he's otherwise shown good health even if he's not an innings guy. Left alone to take his turn every fifth day in a smaller market, with the security of the first multiyear deal of his career, it's feasible that Hughes could put up 180 innings of 4.25 ball. That would be good value for $8MM a season in today's market. I found Hughes' decision to go for a three-year deal coming off a bad season to be an interesting one. Prior to free agency, we've seen more and more young players choose multiyear security over maximizing their dollars going year to year. I'm guessing Hughes would have signed one of those types of arbitration-year extensions after 2010 had he been with a more willing team. Some pitchers will bet on their talent with a straight one-year deal and get right back out on the market, accepting the added pressure of having free agency looming again. Others, like Francisco Liriano last offseason, hedge their bets with a two-year deal. Hughes went for the comfort of three years, made possible in part by his youth compared to the typical free agent.
Scott Kazmir is an example of a pitcher who hedged his bet, by signing a two-year, $22MM deal with the Athletics. It seems likely that one year at $12-13MM was available to him. But as someone who hadn't had big league success since 2008 prior to 2013, it would have been very difficult for Kazmir to eschew multiple years in an attempt to maximize his career earnings. As it stands, Kazmir did much better than the two-year, $16MM contract I guessed in September. As a relatively young southpaw who returned to throwing hard and missing bats this year, Kazmir was a free agent you could dream on. And teams love to dream in free agency, where in a limited market certain players start looking better and better. Only in free agency can a team wipe out three or four years of data suggesting Kazmir was no longer an MLB-caliber pitcher, pointing only to his last 158 innings to project what he'll do in the next few seasons. Kazmir still seems like a wild card for 2014-15, but $22MM is not a huge commitment for an MLB team these days.
The Athletics have officially acquired closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) was the first to report the deal. The Orioles also pick up a player to be named later or future considerations in the deal, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
The Baltimore closer had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a $10MM+ payday through arbitration for the Orioles, but will now have the opportunity to try and break eight figures in Oakland. Rosenthal reported earlier this evening that talks were heating up between the A's and O's on Johnson.
The big right-hander has led the bigs in saves over 2012-13, with 101 total to his credit. Last year, he pitched to a 2.94 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 as well as a 58% ground-ball rate. Though he struggled for a stretch in May, Johnson rebounded with a strong run over the last four months of the season.
Weeks, meanwhile, has failed to reproduce his outstanding 2011 campaign, when he posted a .303/.340/.421 triple-slash in 437 plate appearances at age 24. Though he has struggled in the bigs since that campaign, Weeks did muster a .271/.376/.369 in Triple-A last year and still has the capacity to steal 15 to 20 bags a year. And with just 1.142 years of service under his belt, he will bring plenty of cheap years of control to Baltimore.
It appears that this deal fills holes for both clubs. The Athletics were in need of a back-end option with closer Grant Balfour hitting free agency, and the Orioles have long been searching for a reliable keystone option. The major questions, of course, will be whether Johnson can live up to his pay grade and whether Weeks will ever regain enough of his stroke to become a big league regular.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With tonight's non-tender deadline looming, several players figure to not only be tendered contracts but agree to their 2014 salaries prior to 11pm CT. We'll run down the players to avoid arbitration with their respective clubs in this post, and remember that you can track the progress on all arbitration eligible players by using MLBTR's 2014 Arbitration Tracker. For a reminder on the projected salaries for each of these players, check out Matt Swartz's projections in MLBTR's Arbitration Eligibles series.
- The Nationals announced they've avoided arbitration with righty Ross Ohlendorf, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. Ohlendorf's deal will guarantee him $1.25MM and can reach $3MM via incentives that can be achieved as a starter or reliever, per the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with utility infielder Donnie Murphy, reports Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com (via Twitter), agreeing to a one-year, $825K pact that includes incentives.
- The Orioles have avoided arbitration with outfielder Steve Pearce for $700K, tweets Rosenthal.
- The Padres have reached terms with pitcher Eric Stults on a $2.75MM deal to avoid arbitration, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He had been projected by Swartz to earn $3MM through arbitration. Unlike most arbitration deals, tweets Rosenthal, this one will be guaranteed. Also getting a guaranteed deal from the Padres, per Rosenthal, is righty Tim Stauffer at $1.6MM.
- The White Sox have avoided arbitration with catcher Tyler Flowers with a $950k contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- The Athletics have avoided arbitration with righty Fernando Rodriguez, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Rodriguez, who is represented by Metis Sports Management, LLC, will earn $600K plus award bonuses, MLBTR has learned. The A's will tender contracts to its remaining arb-eligible players, Slusser notes via Twitter.
- The Indians have avoided arbitration with relievers Frank Herrmann and Blake Wood, the club announced. Each player will earn $560k, tweets Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, which falls below their respective projections from MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
- Newly-acquired catcher George Kottaras has reached agreement on a one-year, $1.075MM deal to avoid arbitration with the Cubs, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The contract includes incentives, according to Heyman. A left-handed batter, Kottaras managed only a .180 batting average last year, but got on base at a .349 clip in addition to posting a .370 slugging mark in his 126 plate appearances.
- The Orioles have avoided arbitration with outfielder Nolan Reimold, sources tell Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (link to Twitter). The 30-year-old will get a one-year, $1.025MM deal that includes incentives. Reimold lost most of the last two seasons to injury, but has a career .252/.327/.439 slash in 1,056 plate appearances dating back to 2009. His salary will be guaranteed, tweets Connolly.
- The Phillies have avoided arbitration with infielder Kevin Frandsen, the club announced. Frandsen will receive a one-year, $900k deal that includes performance incentives. Last year, Frandsen had a .234/.296/.341 slash line in 278 plate appearances. The deal is guaranteed, Rosenthal tweets.
- The Braves announced that they have avoided arbitration with infielder Ramiro Pena and left-hander Jonny Venters (Twitter link). Pena, 28, batted a solid .278/.330/.443 in 107 PAs this season before shoulder surgery ended his season. Venters' contract was first reported two weeks ago and is said to be worth $1.625MM.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck tweets that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with Don Kelly by agreeing to a one-year, $1MM contract for 2014. Kelly will turn 34 in February and batted .222/.309/.343 in 2013 -- all numbers that are nearly mirrored by his career .229/.290/.344 batting line. He is represented by LSW Baseball.
- The Pirates have avoided arbitration with Chris Stewart, according to Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal (on Twitter). Barbarisi reports that the trade sending Stewart to Pittsburgh was actually in place on Friday but was also contingent on Stewart agreeing to a new contract with the Pirates. Stewart, a client of James A. Kuzmich, PLLC, agreed to his new contract today, thereby finalizing the trade. He projected to earn $1MM, per Swartz.
The Orioles are working on trading closer Jim Johnson, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Athletics are "most involved" in those discussions, says Rosenthal, while the Dodgers are also talking but do not expect to land the big righty.
With Johnson projected to earn $10.8MM in his final season of arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, he has increasingly been the subject of trade speculation. For an Orioles club that seems constrained in its efforts to fill other needs because of salary concerns, shedding Johnson certainly has some appeal. After all, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained in the above-linke post, the save numbers that have driven up his salary arguably overstate his true value. Last year, Johnson registered a 2.94 ERA in 70 1/3 innings, and his 2013 FIP (3.45) and xFIP (3.38) do not frame him as a dominant reliever.
In that respect, the interest of the Athletics is somewhat surprising. Though the club does need to replace closer Grant Balfour in some manner, it would cut against GM Billy Beane's track record to dedicate that much cash to a single reliever. And while the Dodgers have not hesitated to throw dollars at the bullpen, the club is set with Kenley Jansen at closer and is already carrying the sizeable contract of Brandon League.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Athletics offered the same two-year, $22MM contract to Tim Hudson prior to his two-year, $23MM agreement with the Giants.
- That Kazmir signed for two years and $11MM annually speaks to the expectations of Bartolo Colon, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Colon feels he can get multiple years at a higher annual value, according to Passan.
- Kazmir's agreement firmly takes the Athletics out of the mix for Colon, a source confirmed to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link).
- The Angels remain interested in Bronson Arroyo but the Dodgers aren't really in the mix, a source tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (on Twitter). However, the source adds that the market for the veteran hasn't really "heated up" yet.
- DiGiovanna adds that the Angels are expected to clear more than $10MM in payroll by non-tendering Tommy Hanson, Jerome Williams and Chris Nelson, which should allow them to pursue a free agent starting pitcher (Twitter links). DiGiovanna also mentions that Kevin Jepsen's status is still up in the air at this time and there's no decision on whether or not to tender him a contract.
- Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets that one of the reasons Joe Smith signed his three-year deal with the Angels is that his wife works as a sports radio host in Orange County.
- In a harsh review of today's Willie Bloomquist signing by the Mariners, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and the U.S.S. Mariner writes that Bloomquist "is Nick Punto minus all the things that make Nick Punto valuable." As Cameron points out, they're comparable hitters but Punto provides more baserunning and defensive value. However, Seattle paid nearly double the price for Bloomquist that Oakland did for Punto.
1:06pm: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports that it will be a straight two-year deal with no options for additional seasons (Twitter link).
1:04pm: Kazmir's deal will be for two years when it is finalized, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
This past season served as a rebirth for Kazmir, who returned to the Majors after throwing just 1 2/3 innings in 2011 and not pitching at all in the Majors in 2012. Kazmir posted a 5.54 ERA in 299 frames from 2009-11 but posted a solid 4.04 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 158 innings last season. His average fastball velocity of 92.5 mph was his best since 2005.
In his free agent profile of the resurgent Kazmir, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes projected that he would land a two-year, $16MM contract on the open market.
The A's have already informed first baseman Daric Barton that he will be tendered a contract for the 2014 season, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). In a second tweet, she adds that the A's appear likely to tender contracts to all of their remaining arbitration eligible players.
The cost to retain Barton, 28, will be minimal. MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects the former first-rounder to earn just $1.4MM in arbitration this offseason. Barton's 120 plate appearances this season were the fewest he's totaled at the Major League level since debuting in 2007, but he managed a respectable .269/.350/.375 batting line.
Barton has never developed much power, but he's an ultra-patient hitter at the plate, as evidenced by his career .360 OBP and 14.1 percent walk rate. He also fields his position very well, per Ultimate Zone Rating and The Fielding Bible. Barton showed his upside in a 2010 season that saw him bat .273/.393/.405 with 10 homers and an American League leading 110 walks.
Three-team trades aren't easy to dream up, let alone to achieve, but ESPN's David Schoenfield has five of them to entertain you in what's been a quiet day at the hot stove. One idea has the Rockies shipping Troy Tulowitzki to the Pirates and Dexter Fowler to the Marlins and receiving top Pirates prospects Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson, along with Marlins closer Steve Cishek and prospects Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino. The Marlins would also receive Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer in the deal. It's a fun idea, although, as Schoenfield suggests, it's questionable whether the cost-conscious Pirates would be willing to take on Tulowitzki's enormous contract. Here's more from around baseball.
- The Pirates have to decide whether to tender a contract to catcher Michael McKenry, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. McKenry's season ended in July after a knee injury, and he was in the midst of a weak season, hitting .217/.262/.348 with poor defense. The Pirates replaced him with prospect Tony Sanchez, who played credibly both at Triple-A and in the big leagues in 2013. McKenry only projects to make $900K in arbitration, though, and he has an option left, so the Pirates could tender him as an insurance policy if either Sanchez or Russell Martin get hurt. Other Pirates non-tender candidates include 1B/OF Garrett Jones, who was designated for assignment last week, and outfielder Travis Snider.
- In addition to Daric Barton (whose case we wrote about earlier tonight), the Athletics have a number of potential non-tenders, Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com writes. One is outfielder Seth Smith, who MLBTR projects will make $4.3MM if taken to arbitration. Another could be reliever Jerry Blevins, since the A's recently acquired fellow lefty Fernando Abad. Blevins was at least somewhat effective last season, however, and should be fairly cheap, with a projected salary of $1.5MM, so the A's could well keep him. Another is reliever Fernando Rodriguez, who missed 2013 after having Tommy John surgery, but Rodriguez figures to be so cheap in arbitration that there would be little downside to the A's tendering him a contract.
Tomorrow at 10:59pm CT marks the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Most arbitration-eligible players will be tendered, since players typically receive less in the arbitration system than they would be able to get in free agency. But a few dozen will likely be non-tendered, expanding the free-agent pool.
Clearly, that pool won't include any current stars. But it's likely a couple non-tenders will be contributors in 2014. Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca tweets a reminder that last year's crop of non-tenders included outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who ended up having a solid season with the Cubs, and reliever Brian Wilson. The list also included infielder Mark Reynolds, who landed a $6MM contract with the Indians, and Manny Parra, who posted a solid season out of the Reds' bullpen.
MLBTR will be updated with non-tender information throughout the day tomorrow. For more, you can check out MLBTR's list of non-tender candidates, as well as our arbitration tracker and list of tenders and non-tenders. The latter two resources will be updated as news rolls in. In the meantime, here are a couple notes on what to expect tomorrow.
- One player who could be non-tendered is Daric Barton, who is the Athletics' longest-tenured player, as MLB.com's Jane Lee points out. Barton arrived in Oakland's 2004 trade of Mark Mulder. He never really became the high-OBP first baseman the A's were likely hoping he'd be, with only one strong full-time season (2010) to his credit, but the A's did get Dan Haren in that trade, so it turned out well for them anyway. Barton hit .269/.350/.375 in limited duty with the A's in 2013, spending most of the season at Triple-A Sacramento.
- The Yankees could non-tender catcher Chris Stewart and infielder Jayson Nix, writes MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. The Yanks' signings of Brian McCann and Brendan Ryan don't bode well for Stewart or Nix, particularly given that GM Brian Cashman has said he will tender catcher Francisco Cervelli.
- The Tigers' only non-tender candidate is utilityman Don Kelly, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. Working in Kelly's favor are his low salary (MLBTR's projects he'll make $900K) and the fact that, even if they tender him a contract, the Tigers would be able to release him in spring training and pay only a fraction of his deal. It's currently unclear where Kelly will fit on the Tigers' roster next year. Kelly hit .222/.309/.343 in part-time duty for the Tigers last season.