Oakland Athletics Rumors
Current Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein covered a range of subjects in a fascinating interview on WEEI's Hot Stove Show on Thursday (audio link; transcript). In addition to discussing the two clubs he has headed from a baseball ops perspective, Epstein emphasized the impact of changes to the CBA. The new system has both reduced teams' abilities to reap draft picks from outgoing free agents, Epstein said, and made it difficult to pay for hard-to-sign talent in later draft rounds. Here's more from around the league, including other notable talking points from Epstein:
- Discussing his current club's reported pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka, Epstein noted that the pitcher likely cost the Yankees more in real terms than the team's $175MM contract and release fee commitment, once the collective bargaining tax is accounted for. The signing, said Epstein, "reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars."
- "There are lots of teams demanding talented, prime-age players, and supply is really a trickle," Epstein continued. "Fewer and fewer players of that ilk are reaching free agency. ... You're going to see these prices that cause people to shake heads. ... Because of the TV deals, the teams that have them have a lot of money and not a lot of attractive players to spend the money on." Indeed, as I explored earlier tonight, some teams' desires to use free cash to enhance the value of their player assets (i.e., control and contract rights) could result in increasingly robust contracts for some younger players that remain years away from free agency.
- One player that seems suitable for an attractive, long-term investment is Yoenis Cespedes of the Athletics. Fresh on the heels of today's extension of teammate Coco Crisp, Cespedes said that he, too, hopes to ink a new pact, tweets John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 28-year-old slugger, who still has two years remaining on the deal he signed out of Cuba, said that he hopes to play for the A's for his entire career. Of course, given his relative youth, upside, and high profile, Cespedes figures to command a much higher price than the $22.75MM over two years just given to Crisp. It remains to be seen whether the A's will be willing to dangle a sufficient guarantee to get a deal done.
- Turning back to the aforementioned Tanaka, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio today (via ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand) that the club views its new acquisition as "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Cashman noted that, though the club scouted Tanaka extensively, uncertainty remains as to how he will transition to the big leagues. "If we get more than that," Cashman said, "all the better. He's got a great deal of ability."
- Two arbitration hearings took place today, after none occurred last year. Andrew Cashner of the Padres and Vinnie Pestano of the Indians both made their cases to their respective panels. Cashner and the Padres are quite close in filing numbers ($2.4MM against $2.275MM), while Pestano ($1.45MM) and the Indians ($975K) left a larger absolute and relative sum to chance.
- Glancing in at MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, 16 cases remain unsettled as hearings begin to take place. By my count, just over $23MM remains at stake between the player filings ($79.325MM total) and team counters ($56.15MM). Only the Indians, with Justin Masterson, Michael Brantley, and Josh Tomlin (in addition to Pestano), have more than one outstanding arbitration case.
2:45pm: Crisp receives $11MM in 2015 and 2016, and his vesting option is worth $13MM with a $750K buyout, Slusser tweets.
2:38pm: John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports that Crisp's extension guarantees him $22.75MM (Twitter link). Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the option breakdown: Crisp's 2017 option will vest if any of these conditions are met: 550 PAs in 2016; 1100 PAs in 2015-16; 130 games played in 2016; or 260 games played from 2015-16 with at least 110 of those coming in 2016.
1:41pm: The Athletics have announced (via Twitter) a two-year extension for center fielder Coco Crisp that includes a vesting option for the 2017 season. The Steve Comte client had been scheduled to hit free agency following the 2014 campaign but is now controllable by the A's through his age-37 season.
Crisp, who turned 34 in November, slugged a surprising 22 homers in 2013 -- a new career-best. Those 22 homers were accompanied by 21 stolen bases (in 26 attempts) and a strong .261/.335/.444 triple-slash line, resulting in career-highs in OPS+ (119) and wRC+ (117). Ultimate Zone Rating pegged Crisp's glove in center field as slightly below average for the the third straight season, but Defensive Runs Saved rated him at +6 runs and feels he's been slightly above average in that same three-year span.
Crisp originally came to the A's on a one-year, $5.25MM deal prior to the 2010 season. Oakland exercised a $5.75MM club option for the 2011 season and then re-upped with Crisp on a two-year, $14MM contract following the completion of that campaign. Earlier this offseason, GM Billy Beane picked up his primary leadoff hitter's $7.5MM option. All told, he's earned $31MM in his Athletics career to this point (including his 2014 salary) and rewarded the team with a .264/.327/.417 batting line, solid defense in center field and elite value on the basepaths. Dating back to 2010, only four players in baseball -- Michael Bourn, Elvis Andrus, Drew Stubbs and Rajai Davis -- have added more value on the basepaths than Crisp, per Fangraphs.
Crisp should be flanked corner outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick for at least the next two seasons in Oakland. His extension weakens what already looked to be a thin market for free agent position players next offseason -- particularly outfielders. Brett Gardner and Colby Rasmus are among the top names in next year's class, which also includes aging sluggers such as Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham. Rebound campaigns from Chris Young, Grady Sizemore, Melky Cabrera and/or Nick Markakis could improve the outlook.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
It's hard to believe that Roberto Alomar isn't even the best player with an "A" name born on February 5th, but those are the breaks when you share a birthday with the legendary Hammerin' Hank Aaron. Happy birthday to both Hall of Famers, as Aaron celebrates his 80th birthday while Alomar turns 46 today. Here's some news from around the baseball world...
- In his latest article for his Gammons Daily site, Peter Gammons opines that several of the free agents whose markets are hurt by being tied to draft pick compensation (such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew) may have been better served by accepting qualifying offers from their former teams and using those one-year deals as pillow contracts to multiyear deals next winter. The qualifying offer issue isn't nearly as big a problem facing the game, Gammons believes, as the issue of smaller-market teams having fewer avenues to signing amateur and international talent. "The system rewards a top five market like Houston for losing, and punishes the Rays, Indians and Athletics for being highly competent small markets," Gammons writes.
- Also from Gammons, he notes that Scott Boras, Drew's agent, "is invested" on getting the Red Sox to re-sign the shortstop to a three-year deal that includes an opt-out clause. Such a clause would create a possible pillow contract situation for Drew, and also possibly clear room for prospect Deven Marrero to soon take over at short in Boston (Marrero also happens to be a Boras client).
- Six teams were interested in right-hander Chaz Roe when he elected free agency earlier today, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Roe has narrowed his choice down to two of the six clubs.
- Athletics director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was recently promoted to the role of assistant general manager, and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles Zaidi's impressive (and unconventional) rise up the ranks. The 37-year-old Zaidi is highly regarded around baseball, and he's credited within the A's organization as being a key figure in the club's use of platoons and the signing of Yoenis Cespedes.
- The Twins "have expressed zero interest" in signing Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (Twitter links). It's possible the Twins could still make a move, Wolfson notes, as the club did heavily scout Diaz last year. The Twins were one of several teams linked to Diaz last offseason but their interest had cooled due to Diaz's asking price.
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post shares his predictions on where the seven top remaining free agents on the market will land.
- The fates of Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo could impact the Red Sox, as teams that come up short in signing any of the free agent hurlers could approach the Sox about a trade for their excess starters, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. This scenario wouldn't include the Blue Jays or Orioles, however, as the Red Sox aren't interested in sending pitching to division rivals.
The Athletics have agreed to terms with outfielder Sam Fuld on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Fuld is a client of Munsey Sports Management.
The will 32-year-old left-hander will earn $800K if he is on the MLB roster and has $100K in incentives based upon games played. He can opt out in late March or on June 1, if he has not been added to the active roster.
Fuld has spent his last three seasons with the Rays, serving as a reserve outfielder, but was non-tendered after a rough year. Over 2011-13, Fuld saw 653 plate appearances and posted a .230/.301/.326 triple-slash. He stole 35 bases, but was caught 12 times in that stretch. Last season, Fuld saw his numbers dip to a .199/.270/.267 line in an even 200 trips to the plate over parts of 119 games. Though he does not generally impress with the bat, Fuld is regarded as an excellent defender at the corners who also can be trusted in center.
For the A's, Fuld comes with less than four years of service time, so could potentially be controlled for three more seasons. Fuld will look to crack the roster and join an outfield mix that includes Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Craig Gentry.
11:59am: Brown has elected free agency, reports Cotillo (via Twitter).
JANUARY 31, 8:28am: Brown has been outrighted to the A's Triple-A affiliate, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. The outfielder has yet to decide whether to elect free agency or accept the assignment (and qualify for free agency at season's end, if he is not put on the 40-man in the interim), tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Because he has been outrighted previously, Brown has the right to refuse the assignment.
JANUARY 22: The A's announced that they've designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment in order to free a 40-man roster spot for southpaw Eric O'Flaherty, whose previously reported two-year deal has been announced.
Brown, 28, is a career .175/.250/.400 batter in 45 Major League plate appearances. At the Triple-A level, he's slashed .254/333/.461 in 1602 career plate appearances. Brown was originally drafted by Oakland before being included in a deal with the Nationals that netted Josh Willingham. The A's took Brown in the supplemental round of the 2007 draft as compensation for the loss of Frank Thomas.
Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio said on MLBN's Inside Pitch show today that the Blue Jays expect to land one of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez (Twitter link from MLB Network Radio). While Toronto has yet to make a formal offer to either right-hander, the team has had discussions with each former AL Central hurler's camp. More from around the league...
- Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the Dodgers' lack of infield depth could be troubling when the season gets underway. Of particular concern is Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero, who could struggle with the transition from shortstop to second base. The Dodgers have little in the way of alternatives, with Chone Figgins, Dee Gordon and light-hitting Miguel Rojas as the primary in-house candidates. Saxon also wonders how many games Hanley Ramirez can stay healthy for, and asks if the Dodgers are relying too heavily on Juan Uribe.
- JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago looks at the savvy scouting of Joe Siers and Daraka Shaheed of the White Sox -- the two scouts who pushed the team to pluck lefty Jose Quintana off the scrap heap following his release from the Yankees organization. General manager Rick Hahn wasn't shy about his praise for Quintana, who he feels has exceeded expectations and become a strong No. 2 starter behind Chris Sale. "He doesn't have to improve in my book," Hahn said. "If he does, fantastic. He certainly has the aptitude and athleticism and now the knowledge of the league that it's not unrealistic to expect the improvement. ...if he's this guy for the next several years we'll be very happy."
- The Blue Jays will move waiver claim Brent Morel from third base to second base, Morel told Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter link). Toronto claimed the former White Sox top prospect off waivers earlier this year. The move isn't all that surprising given Toronto's lack of depth at the keystone.
- Bowden writes (Insider subscription required) that Athletics GM Billy Beane and Rays GM Andrew Friedman are the GM stars of the offseason. While Yankees GM Brian Cashman spent the most money, and Rangers GM Jon Daniels made the second-most noise with acquisitions of Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Bowden feels that the two small-market GMs shined above all others. In particular, he praises Beane's stockpiling of elite bullpen arms and Friedman's decision to resist the pressure to deal David Price.
The Blue Jays almost finalized trades that would've seen them acquire Ian Kinsler from the Rangers and Brett Anderson from the Athletics earlier this winter, but both deals ended up as "near-misses," Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reports.
Kinsler, of course, was part of the offseason's biggest blockbuster to date, when he was traded to the Tigers in exchange for Prince Fielder and $30MM. Before that deal occurred, however, the Jays' proposed swap for the second baseman fell through due to Kinsler's partial no-trade clause that allowed him to block deals to up to 10 teams. It's unknown what the Jays would have given up for Kinsler, though I would guess it would've been on a much lesser scale than Fielder; it wouldn't have made much sense for Toronto create another hole in the lineup by dealing the likes of Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.
The Jays had long been rumored to be suitors for Anderson and they discussed a trade with the A's that would've sent Sergio Santos to Oakland in return for the southpaw. Anderson's extensive injury history, however, ended up dimming Toronto's interest and Anderson was instead traded to the Rockies in December. Interestingly, the Jays also had Santos tabbed to go to the Rangers as part of a potential three-team deal in November that was scuttled when another player in the deal failed his physical.
Second base and the starting rotation were the Blue Jays' two biggest areas of need going into the offseason, so had these two would-be deals gone through, GM Alex Anthopoulos' winter shopping could have essentially been complete. With January almost over, however, the Jays are still looking for rotation upgrades and a Ryan Goins/Maicer Izturis platoon is still penciled into the keystone position.
The Mariners are "back in business, showing strong interest" in Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney again, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest column. The Mariners, who are said to have some financial leeway by new team president Kevin Mather, is also looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, though they're not currently focused on David Price or Jeff Samardzija. Rosenthal also notes that the Indians aren't having any conversations on Justin Masterson, nor are the Reds inclined to move any of their starters, further limiting the list of trade targets. More highlights below...
- Cruz could be a fallback option for the Rangers, but probably only if he's willing to sign a one-year deal. Bringing Cruz back would allow the Rangers to deal Mitch Moreland.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Reds should be thinking about dealing a starter. While they're trying to extend Homer Bailey, that seems to be a tall order as he's just one year from free agency. Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto are all only controlled through 2015, and as Rosenthal notes, not all can be long-term pieces.
- The Athletics aren't considering making a run at Stephen Drew and shifting Jed Lowrie from short to second base. The A's are comfortable platooning Eric Sogard and Nick Punto.
- A rival executive wondered to Rosenthal if the Braves would match up with the Mariners on a Dustin Ackley trade, but Rosenthal hears that the Braves aren't looking for a second baseman. They currently have Dan Uggla, who is owed $26MM through 2015, and three fallback options in Ramiro Pena, Tommy La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky.
- Braves GM Frank Wren said he doesn't hold any ill will toward players who go to arbitration hearings -- such as the ones he could face with Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman: "We don’t look at it as an antagonistic process. We look at it as a solution to a disagreement on a player’s salary."
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball:
- Left-hander Erick Hurtado has signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports. The 19-year-old has limited professional experience, logging just 12 1/3 innings in two seasons for Astros and Yankees affiliates, but stands an imposing 6' 4".
- The Pirates have brought in catcher Erick Fernandez on a minor-league deal, according to Eddy. The 25-year-old was released by the Nationals on July 22. He has a career .224/.294/.264 line in three seasons for Nationals affiliates.
- The A's inked catcher Dusty Brown to a minor-league contract, Eddy reports. Brown saw sporadic Major League playing time from 2009-2011, but hasn't reached the big leagues since and did not play at all in 2013.
- The Angels have signed catcher Anderson de la Rosa to a minor-league deal, per Eddy. The 29-year-old catcher has never reached the majors, spending his entire career in the Brewers system.
- The Brewers have signed outfielder Jeremy Hermida and infielder Joe Thurston to minor-league contracts, according to a team release. Hermida, formerly an everyday player with the Marlins, played the entire 2013 for Triple-A Columbus in the Indians organization, batting .247/.365/.416. Thurston collected 307 plate appearances for the Cardinals in 2009 and last appeared in the big leagues in 2010. He played in Mexico in 2013.
- Pitcher Barry Enright tweets that he has signed with the Phillies. Enright, who will be 28 in March, struggled in 2013, posting a 7.12 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 116 1/3 innings with Triple-A Salt Lake. He also appeared in four games with the Angels. The righty pitched in the Diamondbacks rotation for parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
JANUARY 23: O'Flaherty's contract has a unique structure: he will earn $1.5MM this year and $5.5MM in 2015, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He can potentially boost his 2015 base salary by up to $3.5MM through bonuses for games pitched, games finished, and days spent on the roster.
JANUARY 22: The Athletics continued to bolster their bullpen today, as they announced the signing of left-hander Eric O'Flaherty to a two-year contract. O'Flaherty, a client of the MVP Sports Group, is recovering from 2013 Tommy John surgery and expected back on the mound in July. His deal is reportedly worth a total of $7MM.
O'Flaherty was a dominant force coming out of the Atlanta 'pen from 2009-13 after being selected off waivers from the Mariners, posting a 1.99 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 to go along with a 54.6 percent ground-ball rate. While he's unquestionably better against left-handed hitters, as one might expect, O'Flaherty has also held right-handed opponents to a sub-.700 OPS four times in the past five seasons. However, news broke in late May that the 28-year-old would require Tommy John surgery.
O'Flaherty's agents did well to secure him a contract only slightly below that of the one signed by Sean Burnett last winter (two years, $8MM) despite the fact that he isn't projected to return to the mound until July. His addition continues an offseason trend for Oakland GM Billy Beane and his staff, as they've loaded up on impact relievers. Oakland has also acquired Jim Johnson from the Orioles and Luke Gregerson from the Padres, adding to what already looked to be a solid group.
Despite his injury status, O'Flaherty was connected to a number of clubs this offseason, including the Braves and Nationals. The signing with Oakland, however, appears to be a bit out of the blue. The A's did lose a lefty in dealing Jerry Blevins to the Nationals, and they also receive the added benefit of having O'Flaherty around for the 2015 season at what will likely be a discount rate. That, of course, assumes a normal recovery for O'Flaherty, which isn't a given. The A's are taking on risk in this deal, and as a club with a low payroll, their margin for error is considerably lower than that of a team with deeper pockets.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the contract (via Twitter).