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- Central Notes: Richard, Tigers, Verlander, Royals, Cueto
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Omar Infante Rumors
Eight Royals hitters lead their positions in AL All-Star balloting, which is amusing story for Royals fans and for Major League Baseball. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star points out, however, that so many All-Star selections could have an effect on the Royals’ bottom line. If the Royals do in fact send eight starters to the All-Star Game, it could cost them $1.25MM in escalators and incentives. If reliever Wade Davis makes the team, he would get a $25K bonus as part of the contract he originally signed with the Rays, raising the Royals’ total payout to $1.275MM.
Second baseman Omar Infante would get $250K in 2016 and again in 2017 due to a clause in his contract that gives him $250K for each future season after receiving an All-Star berth or Silver Slugger award. Catcher Salvador Perez could receive $350K spread over his three option seasons ($50K in 2016, $100K in 2017 and $200K in 2018). In addition, each player selected (also potentially including Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas and Kendrys Morales) would get a $50K bonus as part of a standard clause in the Royals’ contracts.
The Royals had already reportedly been planning to consider re-working Perez’s incredibly cheap contract. They’re under no obligation to do so, but if they do, the All-Star clauses in his current deal won’t be likely to matter much.
McCullough points out, however, that an additional cost of the Royals’ All-Star berths might come in the form of greater arbitration raises for Moustakas and Cain. Moustakas currently makes $2.64MM, while Cain makes $2.73MM. Both have two years of arbitration eligibility remaining. All-Star selections could increase their future arbitration-year salaries.
McCullough notes that Cain has interest in a long-term deal. Hosmer, meanwhile, is signed through 2016, and it does not appear likely the Royals will keep him after he becomes a free agent following the 2017 season.
Nonetheless, the Royals don’t appear outwardly concerned about the additional payouts. Their financial effect probably pales in importance to the success the Royals have experienced in the past few seasons and the goodwill their players’ current standing in All-Star balloting seems to reflect.
“Every single night, you pull hard for your players,” says Royals GM Dayton Moore. “I hope they reach all their goals. I hope they reach all their bonuses. It’s good for them.”
Let’s have a look at a few American League notes to round out the day’s news:
- Royals second baseman Omar Infante is considering offseason elbow surgery — next offseason, that is — as he tells Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (Twitter link). Infante recently took a cortisone shot to help reduce inflammation in his right arm, which has kept him out of game action thus far this spring. His ability to play through the difficulties in 2015, and rebound from a tough 2014 campaign, will be important to Kansas City’s ability to return to the postseason.
- The Angels will finally get a look at major offseason international free agent signee Roberto Baldoquin, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Baldoquin, a twenty-year-old infielder out of Cuba, signed for $8MM but was kept out of camp by visa issues.
- Righty Mike Pelfrey is vying to make good on the two-year, $11MM deal he signed with the Twins last year by battling his way into the fifth starter role, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports. Last year was a wash for Pelfrey and Minnesota, as he struggled mightily before going down to elbow surgery. Pelfrey says he still believes in his ability to succeed as a starter, but is willing to throw from the pen if that’s what the team needs.
TODAY: Kansas City is leaving other clubs with the impression that they are willing, albeit hesitant, to deal from amongst its trio of late-inning arms, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). To do so, however, the Royals would need a controllable player at a position of need: either an impact bat in right or a starting pitcher.
Roughly one year ago today, the Royals signed Infante to a four-year deal for more than $30MM plus incentives with a $10MM team option for 2018. The soon-to-be 33-year-old batted .318/.345/.450 with 10 homers and solid second base defense for the Tigers in 2013. However, his production slid in 2014 as he hit just .252/.295/.337 with subpar work in the field (-3.0 UZR/150). His .632 OPS was his worst in nearly a decade, but with a lack of quality second base options out there, Infante could have value.
12:08pm: The Royals have been telling teams that relievers Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera are not available, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). McCullough cautions (link) that that things could conceivably change with David Robertson now off the market, however.
That news comes as something of a surprise given the amount of trade buzz we’ve heard about the trio this week. Just yesterday we heard that the Royals were listening to offers on all three relievers with an eye on turning their bullpen strength into an outfield bat. Trading a reliever could bring KC a much more affordable outfield solution than, say, free agent Melky Cabrera, but it would also chip away at what helped make the Royals such a strong team in 2014.
The Blue Jays were said to be in pursuit of Holland and the Royals reportedly considered him to be available, albeit with a high price tag. McCullough speculated that Holland’s delivery and build could have KC worried about his durability, but their concerns might not be enough for them to ship him out. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him to earn $9.3MM in 2015, but that doesn’t appear to be a prohibitive cost for KC.
MLBTR's Zach Links spoke to Giants vice-president and assistant GM Bobby Evans about the team's remaining offseason plans and about one move that didn't pan out…
- The Giants were linked to Omar Infante earlier this winter but Evans said the two sides weren't that close to a deal. "I think that we really were more or less trying to stay flexible in terms of where we might have the best fit, but the challenge for us was that we didn't necessarily have Omar's first position available," said Evans of Infante, whom the Giants were said to be considering in left field. Ultimately, Evans said San Francisco wasn't ready to make the four-year commitment that Infante got from the Royals. The Giants took care of their left field situation last week when they signed Mike Morse.
- Echoing recent comments from Giants GM Brian Sabean, Evans said that most of the club's "boxes are checked" at this stage of the offseason, meaning they'll be focusing on organizational depth rather than moves that will affect the 25-man roster.
- While the club has been getting some calls on Brett Pill, Evans says he doesn't have a read on whether Pill will wind up staying or going. Evans spoke highly of Pill while also acknowledging that he's more or less blocked in the Giants organization. The Brewers were recently said to have some level of interest in Pill to address their first base vacancy.
TUESDAY: Infante will get $5MM in 2014, $7.5MM in '15, $7.75MM in '16, and $8MM in 2017, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The $10MM option for 2018 can be bought out for $2MM.
DECEMBER 16th: The Royals have announced the signing, and they'll hold a press conference Tuesday morning. The deal evidently includes a team option for 2018, although the terms aren't yet known.
DECEMBER 13th: The Royals and Omar Infante have agreed to terms on a four-year contract, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter links). The deal is for $30.25MM and also includes incentives, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that the two sides were "very close" to a deal (also on Twitter). Infante is represented by agent Gene Mato. Infante was MLBTR's 18th-ranked free agent heading into the offseason.
Infante, 32 in two weeks, batted .318/.345/.450 with 10 homers and solid second base defense for the Tigers in 2013. The veteran also drew interest from the Yankees and Reds, with the Yankees reportedly offering a three-year deal worth $24MM.
The move marks the next step in the Royals' offseason, a relatively eventful one for a small-market team. In addition to Infante, they've also added Jason Vargas and Norichika Aoki. As with Vargas' contract, Infante's offers the Royals a very reasonable average annual value, although it's a strong possibility that Infante won't be particularly effective at the end of the deal, when he'll be 35. Infante had been rumored to be seeking north of $8MM per year, and he settled for slightly less, though four years is a longer contract than he might have expected. At the beginning of the offseason, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted Infante would win a three-year, $25MM deal.
Before Infante agreed to terms, Emilio Bonifacio and Johnny Giavotella had been the Royals' top options at second base. Infante did not receive a qualifying offer, so the Royals will not have to sacrifice a draft pick to sign him.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.
On this date in 1980, the Yankees made Dave Winfield the highest-paid athlete in all of sports with a ten-year, $16MM contract. In the intervening four decades, a ten-year MLB contract is now worth something in the neighborhood of $240MM (Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols) to $275MM (Alex Rodriguez). Meanwhile, $16MM will only buy you one year of Hiroki Kuroda or two years of Marlon Byrd this offseason, per MLBTR's Transaction Tracker. As you rush out and buy your child a bat, a glove, and every baseball instructional video ever made, here's today's American League news and notes:
- The Rays feel justified in giving James Loney the most lucrative free agent contract during Andrew Friedman's tenure, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays value Loney's defense, quality at-bats, clubhouse presence, and his left-handed bat which balances a predominantly right-handed lineup.
- Also from Topkin's article, the Rays will now turn their attention to adding bench and bullpen pieces with catcher Jose Lobaton and outfielder Matt Joyce as possible trade chips.
- The market for Matt Garza is strong because of his 2013 season, AL East pedigree, and not being attached to draft pick compensation, tweets CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
- The Angels believe they can sign both Garza and Raul Ibanez and still fall below the $189MM luxury tax threshold, writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes the Angels' interest in Ibanez stems from his career slash line of .349/.407/.522 in 327 plate appearances at Angel Stadium.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Astros are still in the market for a first baseman and could turn to the Nationals' Tyler Moore.
- Despite the signing of Joba Chamberlain, the Tigers' preference is to have Bruce Rondon set up closer Joe Nathan, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Royals are to be commended not just for signing Omar Infante away from the Yankees, but also strengthening their ballclub immediately at a reasonable cost, opines Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan.
Homer Bailey is due to become a free agent after the season, but the Reds are telling other teams that they don't want to trade him, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter). The Reds are worried about their depth in starting pitching, and Heyman notes that the return of Bronson Arroyo might be able to help them. Heyman also tweets that the Reds are one of the finalists for Arroyo, along with the Twins and two other teams. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Braves are not interested in Arroyo, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. They would prefer a starting pitcher with better stuff, O'Brien says.
- One player the Braves do like is sidearmer Luis Vasquez, who they recently signed to a minor-league contract, O'Brien writes. "He’s [Peter] Moylan plus five miles an hour," says GM Frank Wren. "Moylan at his best was probably 92, and this is 94, 97 routinely. It’s definitely a different look." Vasquez, who will be 28 in April, posted a 2.52 ERA with 11.6 K/9 and 7.1 BB/9 in 35 2/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. Clearly, he'll have to improve his control to make an impact in the Majors.
- The Giants had interest in Omar Infante, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets. Somewhat surprisingly, they were interested in using him as a left fielder in 2014, before eventually moving him to third base. Infante today agreed to terms on a four-year deal with the Royals to be their second baseman.
- The Phillies are neither rebuilding nor contending, and their plan is unclear, argues Matt Gelb of the Inquirer. Since late July, for example, the Phillies have spent $69MM signing or re-signing aging veterans Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd, and yet they are trying to trade veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon. Meanwhile, Gelb argues, they agreed to sign Roberto Hernandez because they hadn't developed enough pitching on their own.
4:49pm: Infante and the Royals are closing in on a four-year deal worth roughly $30MM, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link).
The Royal and Yankees have been said to be the top suitors for the Gene Mato client. New York has reportedly offered a three-year, $24MM contract, but Infante has seeking a four-year, $40MM pact.
7:48pm: The Yankees and Infante are "too far apart" in their negotiations and a deal is unlikely, a source tells ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews. The Yankees will keep their three-year/$24MM offer to Infante on the table but in the meantime will consider Stephen Drew as an alternative.
11:19am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Yankees offered Infante $24MM over three years.
THURSDAY, 11:08am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Yankees have made a three-year offer to Infante, but the second baseman is looking for a four-year, $40MM pact (Twitter link).
WEDNESDAY, 1:45pm: The Yankees have no desire to go to four years on Infante, and the Royals may be the the favorites in talks, per Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (on Twitter).
11:21am: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (on Twitter) that the Yankees are one of the teams talking to Infante.
8:37am: The Royals are a serious possibility for Omar Infante and may even be considered the favorites, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweeted late last night. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that Infante is currently talking with the Royals and two other teams.
Yesterday it was reported that Infante is seeking north of $8MM per year on a multiyear deal this offseason. The soon-to-be 32-year-old batted .318/.345/.450 with 10 homers and strong defense at second base last season in the final year of a two-year, $8MM pact he signed when coming off a down season.
Kansas City's second basemen combined to bat just .240/.296/.306 as a collective unit in 2013, so Infante makes some sense as a target for GM Dayton Moore. Emilio Bonifacio turned things around after coming over from Toronto and projects as their current starter. However, he's been an inconsistent performer throughout his career, and the Royals, who are hoping to build on last year's winning season, could prefer a more stable option. Bonifacio's versatility would allow him to be used in a super utility role should Kansas City ink Infante.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that a surprising name has popped up on the list of suitors for Omar Infante; according to Nightengale, the Reds are "quite interested" in Infante but would obviously need to move Brandon Phillips in order to pursue him (Twitter link).
The Yankees and Royals are said to be the strongest suitors for Infante at this time, with the Yankees reportedly having offered three years and $24MM to Infante shortly after Robinson Cano signed with the Mariners. Infante, however, is said to be seeking a four-year, $40MM pact similar to the extension signed by Martin Prado last winter.
Phillips' name has been on the block, and though the Reds have publicly downplayed his availability, recent reports have indicated that he's still in play. Phillips' name surfaced in a prominent rumor last night, as it was said that the Yankees turned down a swap of Phillips for Brett Gardner. There was more to the story than the initial report, as Phillips has the Yankees on his no-trade list and tried to re-open his contract talks to get more money in order to facilitate the deal.
Phillips is owed $50MM over the next four years, which isn't much more than the $40MM sought by Infante over the same term. However, such an offer doesn't appear to be on the table for Infante, so in the event that they find a taker for Phillips, perhaps the Reds could swoop in, sign Infante for $30-35MM and save $15MM or more.