Royals Claim Moises Sierra From White Sox

The Royals have claimed outfielder Moises Sierra off outright waivers from the White Sox, according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin (Twitter link). Additionally, the Sox have outrighted outfielder Michael Taylor to Triple-A Charlotte.

The move comes at a somewhat unexpected time for the Royals, who are in the midst of the World Series, but Sierra will add to the team’s outfield depth for the 2015 season. The 26-year-old batted .276/.311/.417 with a pair of homers in 135 plate appearances for the White Sox this season after they claimed him on waivers from the Blue Jays. Sierra has played mostly right field in his career, and while defensive metrics didn’t like his work with the Blue Jays, both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating gave him positive reviews in a small 372-inning sample this season. Sierra has less than two years of Major League service and can be controlled through the 2019 season if Kansas City sees fit.

Taylor, 28, at one time ranked as high as the No. 29 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, but his career stalled after a few promising seasons at the Triple-A level. Taylor was one of three players, along with Travis d’Arnaud and Kyle Drabek, traded by the Phillies to the Blue Jays in exchange for Roy Halladay. Toronto traded him to Oakland for Brett Wallace (another top prospect who ultimately did not pan out), who eventually flipped him to the White Sox in a minor deal for right-hander Jake Sanchez. Taylor is a career .167/.254/.216 hitter in 114 big league plate appearances, though he sports a .278/.369/.441 batting line at Triple-A.

With these moves, Chicago’s 40-man roster is down to 37, Merkin notes.


Offseason Outlook: Tampa Bay Rays

There’s a new man in charge but the mantra remains the same: do more with less.  The Rays will trot out the lowest payroll in the AL East once again and after a sub-.500 season Matt Silverman is charged with the task of getting them back to the playoffs.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)

Contract Options

Apparently, the Rays’ shakeup will extend beyond the front office.  Earlier today we learned that Joe Maddon has decided to opt out of his contract with the Rays.  The 60-year-old was quick to tell the world that he wanted to stay in Tampa Bay after Andrew Friedman left to join the Dodgers, but upon learning that his contract contained a two-week opt-out window in the event that Friedman left the organization, he had a change of heart.  Maddon is said to be seeking a five-year deal worth around $5MM annually, so it’s not surprising that Tampa shied away from that level of commitment.  The Rays now have to add finding a skipper to their to-do list in the coming weeks and months.

After years of working in the Rays baseball ops department, Silverman is well-prepared for his new role.  He’ll be joined by the recently promoted Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, both of whom have been named vice presidents of baseball operations.  That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. The Rays set a new franchise high with their $80MM+ payroll last season, but we shouldn’t expect to see that again.  Overall spending is “clearly going to be lower,” owner Stuart Sternberg said in September.  While Silverman doesn’t have to worry about carving out room for an arbitration raise for David Price or paying Heath Bell‘s salary, it looks like he’ll be restricted in free agency given the long list of arbitration eligible players listed above.

With everyone under contract or team control, it would appear that the Rays more or less have their core in place for 2015.  Still, they might try to be proactive about improving their offensive production with an emphasis on fixing their recent power outage.  In 2014, the Rays hit a total of 117 home runs – their second-lowest total in franchise history – and they probably want to avoid a repeat.

When considering the club’s desire to rediscover the long ball and limited payroll, Matt Joyce appears to be a likely trade candidate.  In fact, the 30-year-old even acknowledged at the end of the season that he could be changing addresses this winter.  Joyce is projected to earn $4.9MM through arbitration and that $1.2MM pay bump doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Rays given Joyce’s declining power.  The corner outfielder slashed .254/.349/.383 in 2014, a notable drop off from his All-Star campaign in 2011 where he posted a batting line of .277/.347/.478.  If the Rays can unload Joyce’s salary for something useful in return, they might be able to carve out enough space to go after a difference-maker in free agency or trade for one.  Inexpensive power options from around the league include Chris CarterBrandon MossEvan Gattis, Dayan Viciedo, and Pedro Alvarez, though their asking prices and availability will vary.   Yoenis Cespedes also fits the bill as a power bat, but he’s slated to earn $10.5MM in his walk year.

Alternatively, they could simply pocket that cash as a part of their plan to trim payroll and stick with what they have in-house.  If Wil Myers rebounds as many expect him to, the trio of him, Kevin Kiermaier, and Desmond Jennings should be pretty productive.  Trading Joyce seems even less painful when you also consider a supporting cast of Brandon Guyer and David DeJesus, part-time help from Ben Zobrist, and prospect Mikie Mahtook waiting in the wings.

The Rays could also tighten up their payroll by trading Zobrist and his $7.5MM salary.  Of course, Silverman would want a massive return if he considered such a move and that asking price could be well beyond what another club would give up.  The 33-year-old second baseman turned in 5.7 WAR last season, a rating that put him in the top 15 in the majors, and the Rays know how valuable he is.  Still, his salary is nothing to sneeze at for the small market Rays and he’ll be a free agent after the coming season.  On top of that, the free agent second base market is paper thin with options like Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera, if they’re not signed to play shortstop, at the top of the heap.  Moving Zobrist would allow the Rays to meet their budgetary goals while also replenishing their once strong farm system.  Entering this year, Baseball America (No. 20), Keith Law (No. 23), and Baseball Prospectus (No. 26) all put the Rays’ minor league talent near the bottom of the league.  The Rays surely have an attachment to Zobrist on a personal and professional level, but as a club committed to player development, they have to get their farm system back on the right track in short order.

One has to imagine that the Rays would like to get out from under Jose Molina‘s $2.75MM contract for 2015 and find a better backup to catcher Ryan Hanigan.  Despite his experience behind the dish and solid pitch framing, his .178/.232/.188 makes him a less-than-desirable fill-in for the oft-injured Hanigan.  If there’s a trade to be had here, it will probably require the Rays to pick up most of the money owed to Molina.  Catcher Curt Casali doesn’t seem ready for the big show just yet, so if they move on from Molina, they’ll have to land a replacement.

It’s tough to gauge what the Rays’ new regime will want to do this offseason, but the starting rotation appears to be set with the likes of Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Jake Odorizzi.  In the summertime, Matt Moore will join that group upon completing recovery from Tommy John surgery.  In the interim, the Rays could plug Hellickson into the back of the rotation or call upon Alex Colome or Nate Karns.  Hellickson, who made just 13 starts last season (4.52 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9), could be seen by some as a trade candidate, but he probably won’t yield a great return at this time.  If Hellickson can rebound and look a little more like the pitcher we saw in 2011-12, then he’ll make a deal much more worthwhile for the Rays.  If the Rays choose to deal from their pitching surplus this winter it might make more sense to dangle Triple-A Durham notables like Enny Romero, Matt Andriese, and Mike Montgomery.

The Rays’ bullpen is currently slated to feature Brad Boxberger, Jake McGee, Grant Balfour, Kirby Yates, and Jeff Beliveau as well as right-hander Michael Kohn, who was signed to a major league deal just last week.  Joel Peralta, who has a reasonable $2.5MM club option, will probably be back as well.  Peralta’s 4.41 ERA looks pretty ugly, but his 3.11 xFIP is far more forgiving.  And, while Balfour’s 2014 campaign was pretty bad, Boxberger and McGee project to be solid late-inning options.  The Rays could beef up their ‘pen with some of the low cost veteran arms that will be waiting around after the New Year and it’s conceivable that they could find a trade partner for Balfour, though it may require them to eat some of his salary.

The Rays’ flexibility is limited in more ways than one but they have shown year after year that they are unwilling to let their limitations hold them back.


Free Agent Profile: Alex Rios

Alex Rios‘ up-and-down career trend continued in 2014, with an ill-timed replacement-level performance.  The Rangers declined the outfielder’s club option, putting the 11-year veteran on the free agent market for the first time in his career.

Strengths/Pros

Rios has had a productive career.  A first-round pick of the Blue Jays out of Puerto Rico in 1999, Rios finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in ’04.  A few seasons later he nabbed back-to-back All-Star appearances, and went on to post seasons worth three or more wins above replacement in 2010, ’12, and ’13.  When he’s at his best, Rios has shown 20 home run power as a right-handed hitter and the ability to hit .280 or better.

Alex RiosThere were positives in his 2014 season.  Rios hit .304/.335/.430 through July, which was a little better than his successful 2013 campaign.  For all of 2014 Rios hit .325/.353/.545 against southpaws.  Over the 2012-14 seasons, Rios’ .530 slugging percentage against lefties ranks 22nd in baseball.

Rios is also an asset on the basepaths.  He’s posted a positive baserunning runs above average figure in every season of his career, and ranks 18th in baseball from 2012-14 with 13.9 BsR.  He’s shown the ability to steal bases at a high success rate as recently as 2013, when he swiped 42 bags in 49 tries.

Though he missed most of the final month of the 2014 season, Rios has a track record of durability.  From 2007-13, Rios averaged 153 games per season, never dropping below 145.  This is a clear advantage over a few other corner outfield types he’ll be competing with in free agency, Mike Morse and Michael Cuddyer.  Rios didn’t technically go on the disabled list this year; he hasn’t done so since 2006.

Weaknesses/Cons

Rios’ season was seemingly spoiled by a pair of injuries.  He twisted his ankle on July 19th, and believes he developed a thumb injury as a result of compensating for the ankle.  With the bruised thumb at risk for infection, he was officially shut down on September 21st.  Explained agent Paul Kinzer to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, “His numbers were down because of the injuries. He stayed in the lineup and tried to do all he could because of what was happening with the team.”

There are concerns independent of Rios’ 2014 injuries.  Just looking at the period prior to his ankle injury, Rios hit only three home runs in 297 plate appearances.  With 15 doubles and eight triples in that time he still managed to slug .462, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s more of a 10-15 home run guy moving forward.

There’s also the issue of Rios’ defense.  He was below average in UZR/150 this year, and has been below average in defensive runs saved in each of the last two campaigns.  A right fielder by trade, Rios’ ceiling might now be slightly above-average in the outfield, as opposed to the defensive weapon he once was.

Rios’ terrible performance in August this year still counts, and the result was a season with negative offensive value.  Throw in unimpressive defense and it was a replacement level campaign.  It’s not the first time — Rios was worth less than one win above replacement in each of the ’05, ’09, and ’11 seasons as well.  Rios’ batting average on balls in play seems to lack stability, with low marks in ’09 and ’11.

Rios is not much for the free pass, drawing walks at a 5.9% clip in his career and 4.4% this year.  Among those with at least 500 plate appearances this year, only ten players drew walks at a lower rate than Rios.

Personal

Rios was born in Coffee, Alabama but grew up and resides with his wife and two children in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  What were Rios’ parents doing in Coffee, Alabama, anyway?  “They must have been passing through,” the outfielder told Mike Ulmer of the Toronto Sun a decade ago.

As Rios told Ulmer, as a child growing up in Puerto Rico, he wanted to quit baseball at age 13 to spend more time with his friends.  His father, Israel, pushed him to continue playing.

Rios participated in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico in ’06, ’09, and ’13.  He told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times last year, “When you represent your country and the name of your country is across your chest, it really means a lot.”

Market

With Adam Dunn expected to retire, Rios is now the active leader for most games played with no postseason experience.  Having earned almost $75MM in his career, it’s possible Rios will prioritize finding a contending club, not that contenders are always easy to predict.

Rios’ competition in the market for corner outfielders this winter includes Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis, Mike Morse, Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, and Nori Aoki.  For a team that misses out on Cabrera or can’t fit him into their budget, Rios should be a palatable alternative.  The Orioles, Reds, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Twins, Mets, Yankees, Phillies, and Giants seem like potential fits.

Expected Contract

Rios could choose the security of a two-year deal this winter, as Justin Morneau and Garrett Jones did last offseason.  However, Rios already has financial security, and seems more likely to bet on himself and take a one-year deal as Corey Hart, Chris Young, and Mike Morse did last year.  I’m pegging Rios for one year and $8.5MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Orioles Outright Steve Johnson

1:37pm: Johnson will be a free agent, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Baltimore hopes to sign him to a minor league deal, however, while he continues to rehab his shoulder.

1:12pm: The Orioles have outrighted right-hander Steve Johnson, the club announced. With the move, Baltimore has opened a 40-man roster spot.

Johnson, 27, did not see any time at the MLB level this year after receiving brief stints in each of the last two seasons. In total, he owns a 3.67 ERA over 54 big league innings. Johnson struggled mightily this year at Triple-A, allowing 7.11 earned runs per nine over 13 starts (over which he lasted just 38 innings).

Control issues were the primary culprit, as Johnson issued more than seven free passes per nine innings after never coming close to that mark in prior years. Of course, underlying that may well have been the presence of a significant bone spur in his throwing shoulder, which was ultimately removed surgically.


Joe Maddon Opts Out Of Contract With Rays

12:29pm: Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, tells Topkin (Twitter link) that he expects Maddon will manage a team in 2015. Friedman tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter) that his new team, the Dodgers, will not be among the suitors regardless of Maddon’s newfound availability.

On Tampa’s end, team president Matt Silverman says that the team will pursue a full search for a replacement, considering internal and external candidates, per Topkin (via Twitter).

11:27am: Rays manager Joe Maddon has opted out of his contract with the Rays and will be leaving the team, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. The move comes as a major surprise, as Maddon had said recently that he expected to remain in Tampa.

Maddon represents the second key departure to hit the Rays in recent weeks, as the team lost long-time GM Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers. Indeed, the opt-out clause vested with Friedman’s departure, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

Speculation immediately began that Maddon could follow Friedman to Los Angeles, though all involved shot that down quickly. Indeed, the Dodgers have stated publicly that they intend to keep skipper Don Mattingly in place heading into 2015. The only open managerial seat at present is the Twins’, though Minnesota appears to be well down the line in its search.

In a statement confirming the news, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says that the club “tried diligently and aggressively to sign [Maddon] to a third contract extension prior to his decision.” Sternberg added that Maddon, whose deal ran through 2015, has “enabled himself to explore opportunities throughout Major League Baseball.”

Maddon had been at the helm of the Rays for nine seasons, during which he established a reputation as one of the game’s most innovative and forward-thinking skippers. After two years in the basement, Maddon helped to oversee a stunning rise to prominence in Tampa. He ran the dugout for two AL East crowns and four total postseason appearances.

Despite that run of success, Maddon tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (links to Twitter) that a combination of financial disagreement and his own curiosity to seek out a new opportunity led to the move. Though a new deal was discussed, Maddon says that the sides “were still too far apart.” Maddon says he hopes to manage next year but has nothing set up at this point.


Offseason Outlook: Seattle Mariners

Fresh off the largest signing in franchise history — and the third largest in MLB history — the Mariners came within one game of a Wild Card playoff berth. They’ll look to improve upon their 87 wins and set their sights closer to the top of the division in the coming offseason.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)

Options

  • Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP: $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
  • Justin Smoak, 1B: $3.65MM club option with $150K buyout (arb-eligible if bought out)

Free Agents

The Mariners stayed in the playoff hunt until the very last day of the season, which is more credit than many pundits gave them at the onset of the 2014 campaign. The strong showing led to an extension for general manager Jack Zduriencik this summer. While the exact length of the extension is unknown, it runs through at least 2016, as it was announced as a multi-year deal.

Zduriencik will have more to work with from a financial standpoint in the 2015 season, as team president Kevin Mather recently explained in a candid interview on 710 ESPN in Seattle. The Mariners, Mather explained, overshot their allotted player personnel budget by nearly $16MM in 2014. However, ownership had no complaints after seeing the team’s strong performance. Rather than asking how the $16MM would be recouped, they instead asked Mather how the team was going to get six more wins in 2015. The Mariners topped the two-million mark in attendance for the first time since 2010, leading Mather to definitively conclude, “…the answer to that question is ‘yes,'” when asked if payroll would increase.

It makes sense for the M’s to bulk up their spending in 2015 for a number of reasons. In addition to their near-miss of the postseason this year, next season marks the final year of team control over co-ace Hisashi Iwakuma. His $7MM salary is a bargain for the team and allows them to offer a formidable one-two punch that they’re not guaranteed to replicate in 2016. Additionally, Robinson Cano will play next season at age 32, and Felix Hernandez will play it at 29. While each may still have some prime years left, they’re nearing the point where it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some decline. Next year also marks Jackson’s final year of team control before hitting the open market.

The potential departures of Jackson and Iwakuma, paired with the waning primes of Cano and (to a lesser extent) Hernandez give Zduriencik plenty of motivation to be aggressive, and the Mariners will likely aim to do so by augmenting an offense that again struggled to put runs on the board, albeit not as badly as in years past. Seattle hit .244/.300/.376 as a team, good for a 93 wRC+ mark, which ranked 19th in the Majors. Their 634 runs scored tied them with the Red Sox for 18th in the Majors and 10th in the American League. At an end-of-season press conference, manager Lloyd McClendon voiced a desire to add a pair of bats to the middle of the order for 2015.

The question, then, is: where can Seattle add offense? Cano is entrenched at second base, and Kyle Seager has emerged as one of the game’s best two-way third basemen. Jackson will man center field, and Dustin Ackley seems ticketed for left field duty after hitting .274/.313/.463 from July 1 through season’s end. First baseman (and occasional corner outfielder) Logan Morrison put together a similar hot streak, slashing .284/.334/.447 over his final 79 games. While Ackley and Morrison aren’t as locked in as Cano, Seager and Jackson, I’d imagine other positions are perceived as bigger areas of need.

Perhaps the clearest weakness was in the team’s DH slot. Seattle designated hitters batted a woeful .206/.276/.335 in 2014 — marks that topped only the Indians in terms of production. They’ve already been connected to Victor Martinez, who would give them a strong middle-of-the-order presence but also come at a likely exorbitant price, as he seems destined to top Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45MM contract. The team could also rekindle its interest in Nelson Cruz in the wake of his 40-homer season with Baltimore. Cruz is best-deployed as a DH himself, so it seems unlikely that the M’s would pursue both him and Martinez. A third name to consider, should his option be bought out, is Billy Butler. He’s coming off a down season with the Royals, but he’s been connected to the Mariners many times in recent years and could likely be had at a modest price. That would give the team the chance to upgrade more significantly elsewhere.

Melky Cabrera‘s name is one worth keeping an eye on as well. The switch-hitter is said to be close friends with Cano and represents one of the top corner bats on the market. Though he’s played primarily left field in his career, his defensive marks in an admittedly small 625-inning sample in right are respectable, and his arm has typically graded well, per UZR and DRS. The Mariners are also said to be one of the front-runners for Yasmany Tomas, whose reported 70-grade power would certainly fit into the lineup.

Behind the plate, Mike Zunino‘s .199 average and .254 OBP look like areas for upgrade, but they’re accompanied by a .404 slugging percentage and 22 homers. Zunino’s .205 ISO (slugging minus average) ranked third among catchers with at least 100 PA and 23rd in all of baseball among players with at least 450 PA. He also grades out as one of the very best pitch-framers in baseball and caught 28 percent of base-stealers. Catcher is unlikely to be a priority.

The other hole in the lineup comes at shortstop, where the Mariners combined to hit .239/.295/.344. Each of those collective rate stats ranked in the bottom-third of the league, and their collective wRC+ of 83 ranked 20th. Brad Miller took a step back at the plate, but his solid defensive work still left him as a roughly two-win player in a full-time capacity. Call-up Chris Taylor looked sound late in the season, hitting .287/.347/.346, but that production was propped up by an unsustainable .398 average on balls in play.

If the Mariners are not comfortable letting Miller and Taylor battle it out this spring, they could conceivably look for a veteran. Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew are each on the market, but none of the three are a clear upgrade at short. Lowrie and Cabrera have defensive question marks (Seattle shortstops did field quite well in 2014), and Drew’s bat is a wild card. One all-in possibility would be a pursuit of Hanley Ramirez, whose bat would be an unequivocal upgrade to the Mariners’ lineup. However, doing so would also mean that the M’s would need to put up with Ramirez’s poor defense, and they’d need to commit to him well into the future on a likely five-year commitment, if not more. There wouldn’t be a possibility of moving him to third anytime soon, either, with Seager looking very much like a cornerstone player.

A long-term commitment is something the Mariners are well-positioned to tackle, though. Seattle has just two players — Cano and Hernandez — on guaranteed contracts beyond the 2015 season. While the annual commitment on each of those contracts is enormous, it does allow Seattle the luxury of adding another significant AAV to the mix, especially if payroll is going to continue increasing after this season’s eventual mark of $107MM.

Of course, they could look to the rotation to spend if there is again a difficulty in luring free agent hitters to Safeco Field. It may not be a necessity for the team, but some additional certainty could be a benefit. Hernandez and Iwakuma form one of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, and that duo figures to be backed up by a pair of highly touted young arms in James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Roenis Elias seems a capable fifth starter, and there’s been talk of moving Tom Wilhelmsen to the rotation as well. However, the team could rekindle the interest it showed in Ervin Santana last offseason, and names like Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Liriano represent mid-tier options with high ceilings.

The bullpen isn’t necessarily a significant need either, but it could be an area for Zduriencik to make an addition. Fernando Rodney will again own the ninth inning. Danny Farquhar has emerged as a bullpen weapon over the past two seasons and will be joined by standout rookie Dominic Leone in bridging the gap to Rodney. Additionally, a move to the bullpen appears to have ignited Brandon Maurer‘s career, as the struggling starter became a lights-out reliever upon making the switch (2.17 ERA, 1.85 FIP, 9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 in 37 1/3 innings). Charlie Furbush represents a strong option from the left side, though the club could look to add a second bullpen piece with Joe Beimel departing. Beimel has said he’d like to return, but names like Neal Cotts, Zach Duke and Joe Thatcher are also on the market, to say nothing of the electric Andrew Miller. There’s also room for perhaps a veteran right-handed addition. Pat Neshek and Jason Grilli are attractive setup options, while Luke Hochevar and Kyuji Fujikawa present high-upside options that come with a bit of risk, as neither is all that far removed from Tommy John surgery.

One final thing to consider for the M’s will be whether it’s time to move on from some players that were formerly believed to be core components. The team does have a number of trade and non-tender candidates, with Justin Smoak certainly being one. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times recently wrote that it’s a near certainty that Smoak’s option will be bought out and the first baseman will be non-tendered, though it’s possible that Zduriencik will try to gauge his trade value first. Even if he’s able to move Smoak, the return would be meager at best.

Jesus Montero, too, could be on thin ice with the organization. The catcher-turned-DH/first baseman did hit well in 97 Triple-A games this season, but his conditioning has been questioned in the past and he finished the season on the suspended list after getting into a bizarre altercation with a since-fired scout. Once touted by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com and ESPN as one of baseball’s top prospects, Montero’s star has dimmed considerably. Another club may have interest, but again, the return on a trade would be a letdown.

Finally there is the case of Michael Saunders. The outfielder’s agent, Michael McCann, recently expressed disappointment in the Mariners organization after Zduriencik made a comment at the end-of-season press conference that McCann felt called his client’s work ethic into question. Zduriencik clarified shortly after that his message — which urged Saunders to reassess his offseason maintenance to better prepare himself to stay healthy for a full season — was a general message that could be applied to any young player. Zduriencik said the organization is not giving up on Saunders, but with McCann expressing frustration on his client’s behalf, it’s worth wondering if a change of scenery will be explored for Saunders — especially if Seattle does add a right field bat.

Certainly, Saunders would be appealing to other teams with outfield needs. Though he’s battled shoulder and oblique injuries in recent years, he’s also batted .248/.320/.423 with 39 homers and 38 steals over the past three seasons (349 games). The Mets, White Sox, Giants, Phillies and Reds are just a few teams I can envision as fits, if Seattle adds a corner bat and decides to market him. One possibility would be to double-down on a current strength by packaging Saunders with a young, MLB-ready rotation piece for Johnny Cueto, whose name has frequented the rumor mill of late.

Ultimately, Seattle seems like a good bet to make a significant addition — if not two or three — between the end of the World Series and Opening Day 2015. The team has plenty of long-term flexibility and an ownership group that is willing to increase payroll to surpass 2014’s total of 87 wins. That’s a recipe for an aggressive approach, so don’t be surprised to see the team connected to some of the top names on the free agent and trade markets this offseason as it looks to end a 13-year playoff drought.


Dodgers Hire Andrew Friedman As President Of Baseball Operations

OCTOBER 24: Friedman will earn a record-setting $35MM over a five-year term, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports via Twitter. The contract also includes incentive mechanisms, per Olney.

OCTOBER 14: The Rays and Dodgers have announced the franchise-altering news that Andrew Friedman will be leaving his role as GM of the Rays to become the new president of baseball operations for the Dodgers. Now-former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will remain in the organization as an adviser to president Stan Kasten, while Rays president Matthew Silverman will now oversee baseball operations in St. Petersburg. Former VP of business operations Brian Auld will now fill Silverman’s former role of president.

Andrew Friedman In a prepared statement, Friedman had the following to say about his time with the Rays:

“As I embark upon my next journey, I have only thanks and gratitude to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay region for a wonderful 10 years together. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so special and for the passion and support of this exceptional fan base. The Rays organization is loaded with talent from ownership to players and everyone between. We were able to create together an unbelievable culture that no doubt will continue, and I am absolutely confident that the successes we achieved will continue into the future.”

Clearly, the move comes as a significant blow to the Rays, who will lose one of the most respected baseball executives in the entire game. And, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets, Friedman worked for the Rays without a contract, so there will be no compensation heading to the Rays from the Dodgers. Friedman is considered by many to be a wizard of sorts, turning the low-budget Rays into a perennial contender despite low revenue stemming from attendance issues and a dilapidated stadium. The Rays have only twice had a payroll over $70MM in Friedman’s tenure, so even amid reports that the Dodgers will scale back spending, to an extent, Friedman should have significantly more than double 2014’s Rays franchise-record $76MM payroll.

Friedman’s work with a modest payroll has garnered limitless praise from peers and pundits alike. Some of the 37-year-old Tulane grad’s most recognizable moves include a pair of extensions for Evan Longoria (the most recent of which guarantees him $100MM over six years); acquiring Ben Zobrist for Aubrey Huff and eventually signing him to a four-year, $18MM extension with two club options; the acquisition of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young; signing Matt Moore to a five-year, $14MM contract with three club options; signing Chris Archer to a five-year, $20MM extension; and acquiring Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. (For a full list of Friedman’s moves while with the Rays, check out MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker.)

Incredibly, Friedman’s hiring and the reassignment of Colletti means that four of the five teams in the National League West have made a GM change in a five-month span. The Padres dismissed Josh Byrnes late in June, and the D’Backs dismissed Kevin Towers in September. Dan O’Dowd resigned from the Rockies last week after declining an extension offer (Jeff Bridich was named the team’s new GM), and now Friedman has a new role in a new organization at Colletti’s expense.

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times recently noted that Colletti’s job was in peril and reported that Friedman was the team’s top target as a replacement. Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the two sides have been talking “for weeks,” adding that negotiations predate the Dodgers’ disappointing exit from the National League Division Series at the hands of the Cardinals.

Topkin first reported that Friedman was leaving and Silverman would oversee Rays baseball operations (Twitter link). Sherman tweeted that Friedman would be the Dodgers’ new GM. ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne reported that Colletti would remain with the Dodgers as an adviser (Twitter link). Topkin tweeted that Auld would be the new Rays president.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Introducing The Trade Rumors App

After many months of hard work, we’re very excited to bring you the new Trade Rumors app for iOS and Android devices!

The Trade Rumors app brings together content from our three sites: MLB Trade Rumors, Hoops Rumors, and Pro Football Rumors.  You can easily scroll left to right and click on the image of the article you want to read.  You can also filter your feeds to show only the top stories within that category, if you prefer.

Once you’re within a feed, you can swipe to read older or newer articles without going back to the home screen.  Each article can be easily shared via Twitter, Facebook, email, or text message.

The Trade Rumors app is highly customizable.  You can add feeds for any of the 92 MLB, NBA, and NFL teams, as well as for any of the thousands of players in our archives, by using the settings icon up top for iOS and the pencil icon up top for Android.  You can create a multi-sport experience tailored to your specific interests, or you can limit your app entirely to one sport by removing the others.

Best of all?  The Trade Rumors app is free!  Download it for iOS or Android and leave a review!

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AL Notes: Provas, Beimel, Correa, Shields, Royals

Sad news today out of Chicago, as longtime White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away from brain cancer at age 63. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports, Provas had been scouting for the South Siders since 1993 after doing the same for the cross-town rival Cubs dating back to 1983. MLBTR extends its condolences to his family and friends.

Here are the day’s news and rumors out of the American League:

  • Left-hander Joe Beimel would love to return to the Mariners, and the team has expressed interest in re-signing him as a lefty specialist, reports Greg Johns of MLB.com in his latest Mariners Inbox. The veteran southpaw made the club after signing a minor league deal and posted a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings. Beimel’s 5.0 K/9 leaves something to be desired, but he was a legitimate weapon against lefties. Beimel held same-handed hitters to a .188/.217/.288 batting line. Sabermetric stats such as FIP (3.18) and xFIP (2.96) both approved of his work against left-handers, though he was well north of 5.00 in each stat when facing righties.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow tells Marius Payton of CSN Houston that top prospect Carlos Correa‘s rehab is considered complete at this point (h/t: Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle on Twitter). Baseball America’s No. 3 midseason prospect saw his season come to an end prematurely due to a broken leg, but he was impressive when on the field, hitting .326/.415/.510 with six homers and 20 steals in 62 games at Class-A Advanced.
  • Even as the Royals are gunning for a World Series title in 2014, thoughts inevitably must drift at times to the future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders whether starter James Shields may present a double-edged sword with his history of huge innings totals: on the one hand, those innings show his durability; on the other, they act as an arm odometer. Then, of course, there is the matter of his increasingly poor postseason track record.
  • Kansas City faces tough decisions as it ponders its amazing late-inning arms, Sherman adds. Wade Davis and Greg Holland might combine for a $15MM tab next year, with further increases for 2016. GM Dayton Moore said the team can fit those salaries, but also indicated that he already is thinking about how things will play out in the long run. “Yes, in the immediate, it works,” he said. “We can make that fit. But we do have to analyze our roster from an economic standpoint every year.”
  • Meanwhile, former Royals GM — and current Red Sox VP of player personnel — Allard Baird tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he looks back fondly on his time in Kansas City and is pleased with the club’s run of success. As Cafardo notes, Baird’s time resonates in the current roster, as he drafted players like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Zack Greinke (who was later flipped for several current key roster pieces) during his time at the helm.

NL West Notes: Sandoval, Minniti, Geaney, Rockies

The Giants, unsurprisingly, plan to make third baseman Pablo Sandoval a qualifying offer after the season, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Heyman notes that the two sides have not engaged in any extension discussions since the spring, which would seem to indicate that a late-breaking deal is rather unlikely — particularly since both team and player are rather occupied at the moment. All said, it seems that Sandoval will test the market, where he will be among the most hotly-pursued free agents.

As the rest of the division looks to emulate San Francisco’s success, here are some non-player moves of note from the NL West:

  • In yet another round of important front office additions, the Diamondbacks have announced the hiring of former Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti to the AGM post. Also joining the mix in Arizona is Mike Russell, formerly a scout with the Tigers, who has been named Special Assistant to the Senior VP of Baseball Operations and Coordinator of Professional Scouting.
  • The Padres announced today that they have hired Sam Geaney away from the Athletics to serve as San Diego’s new director of player development. According to the press release, Geaney, who had been serving as Oakland’s coordinator of international scouting, will be “responsible for managing all of the organization’s player development efforts, including working with roving coordinators as well as managers and coaches at each of the club’s affiliates.” Geaney graduated from the University of California Cal Berkeley in 2007 and had been with the A’s since joining the organization as an intern in 2006.
  • The Rockies have fired pitching coach Jim Wright and bullpen coach Bo McLaughlin, the team announced today. Colorado will immediately begin a search to fill both positions, the team added. As the Denver Post’s Nick Groke writes, Wright has been pitching coach for three seasons and was initially a co-pitching coach with McLaughlin before the latter assumed the role of bullpen coach in 2013. The Rockies’ 4.83 team ERA over the past three seasons is the worst in baseball, as is their collective 4.33 FIP.

Phillies Avoid Arbitration With Cesar Jimenez

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration with lefty Cesar Jimenez, the club announced. Terms were not made available, though MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected Jimenez to earn just over league minimum, $600K, through the arbitration process.

In concert with the team’s recent one-year extensions — really, pre-market free agent deals — with Grady Sizemore and Jerome Williams, it appears that Philadelphia is pursuing a strategy of locking in cost certainty early on with several veterans.

Jimenez, 29, had his best season as a pro in 2014. After largely struggling in limited MLB action, he tossed 16 innings of 1.69 ERA ball. But his peripherals were less promising, as he struck out 4.5 and walked 3.9 batters per nine while generating a 40.8% groundball rate. And ERA estimators provided cause to expect regression, as Jimenez put up a 4.26 FIP, 5.22 xFIP, and 5.02 SIERA.


Phillies Extend Grady Sizemore For 2015

The Phillies have agreed to a one-year, $2MM extension with Grady Sizemore that will keep the outfielder in Philadelphia for 2015, the club announced. Sizemore’s contract includes performance incentives that could boost its value to $5MM, per MLBDailyDish.com’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter).

Sizemore, 32, was one of the game’s most interesting stories last year, when he returned from a long layoff and had a big spring with the Red Sox. The fairytale took a turn when Sizemore struggled to keep pace in Boston, however, and he ultimately was designated for assignment as his OPS dipped to .612.

Philadelphia gave Sizemore a late run, however, and he had better overall success there. With the Phillies, Sizemore put up a .253/.313/.389 slash with three home runs over 176 plate appearances.

Spending most of his time in the corner outfield with the Phillies, Sizemore ultimately landed with approximately average defensive ratings there. His time in center, mostly with Boston, was less promising, as both UZR and Defensive Runs Saved viewed him as a below-average performer.

For the Phillies, the move does offer some cost certainty, and opens renewed questions about the team’s intentions as the offseason nears. All three of the team’s Opening Day starters — Domonic Brown, Marlon Byrd, and Ben Revere — have been mentioned as trade candidates (the former two in particular). Brown and Revere both swing from the left side of the plate, as does Sizemore.


Blue Jays Begin Contract Talks With Melky Cabrera

The Blue Jays are hopeful to retain Melky Cabrera and have opened preliminary discussions with his representatives at the Legacy Agency, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Toronto is said to be willing to offer “at least” a three-year contract, according to Heyman, though he’s spoken with some in the industry who expect Cabrera to pursue a five-year pact.

Two-thirds of the Blue Jays’ outfield is hitting the open market this winter, as center fielder Colby Rasmus is also eligible for free agency. However, Heyman says that there’s been no thought to bringing Rasmus back, and the team is instead focused on retaining the switch-hitting Cabrera at this time.

Cabrera struggled through the worst season of his career in 2013 before a benign tumor was found on his spine. Surgery to remove the tumor ended his season, and he bounced back in a big way this year, slashing .301/. 351/.458 with 16 homers in 139 games. Cabrera’s season did end early once again when he broke a pinkie finger on a headfirst slide.

Nonetheless, Cabrera has set himself up for what will easily be the largest payday of his career. However, a three-year pact seems highly unlikely get the job done, in my estimation. In my free agent profile for Cabrera two weeks ago, I pegged him for a five-year deal given his relative youth and status as one of the best bats on this year’s thin free agent market.

Cabrera has said that he wants to return to Toronto, so it’s possible that the Jays have some hope of getting a deal done before he hits the open market. If a deal is not reached by the time qualifying offers are due, the Blue Jays will make the $15.3MM QO, which Cabrera will almost certainly decline in search of that big payday.


Minor Moves: Mark Hamburger, Josh Stinson

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Twins have re-signed minor league right-hander Mark Hamburger to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. The 27-year-old St. Paul native has had a brief taste of the Majors, tossing eight innings for the 2011 Rangers after the Twins sent him to Texas in exchange for Eddie Guardado. Last season, Hamburger split the season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a combined 3.69 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 70 2/3 innings.
  • The Pirates announced that they have signed right-hander Josh Stinson to a minor league contract that contains in invitation to Major League Spring Training. The Moye Sports client has big league experience with the Mets, Brewers and most recently the Orioles. Over the past two seasons, Stinson has posted a 4.50 ERA with 18 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 innings for Baltimore. Stinson, who will turn 27 next March, has a career 4.47 ERA in 52 1/3 Major League innings and a 4.88 ERA in 306 innings at the Triple-A level.

Braves Name John Hart President Of Baseball Ops

12:25pm: The Braves will not change Coppolella’s title and have no plans to hire a new GM, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). Coppolella will have some of the duties of a normal GM, however. Atlanta is essentially grooming Coppolella to take over as the next GM in 2017 without directly saying as much, he adds.

9:58am: The Braves have officially announced the move, adding that Hart signed a three-year contract which will run through the 2017 season — the first in their new stadium, SunTrust Park.

“I’m delighted that John Hart has agreed to accept the position of President, Baseball Operations,” team president John Schuerholz said in a press release. “Our organization is now poised to move forward in the best possible manner to do the important work that lies ahead. John’s credentials speak for themselves. He has had great success as a baseball executive and demonstrated remarkable ability to construct championship teams. We are excited by John’s dynamic and positive leadership style and look forward to him leading our baseball operations.”

9:44am: Rosenthal tweets that the Braves are indeed likely to hire a GM to work with Hart.

9:32am: Interim Braves GM John Hart has now accepted an offer to take a permanent role with the club and will be soon be named as the new president of baseball operations, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

The Braves have been on the hunt for a new leader of their baseball ops department since firing longtime GM Frank Wren a month ago. Hart, who joined the team as a senior adviser last offseason, will now be tasked with that role. The former Indians GM had an immediate impact on the Braves, as he was said to have played a key role in working out long-term extensions for Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Craig Kimbrel and Julio Teheran last winter. The 66-year-old Hart was one of the pioneers of pre-arbitration extensions in his days with Cleveland. Hart has also served as GM of the Rangers and an analyst for the MLB Network.

It remains to be seen whether or not Atlanta will name a GM to work underneath Hart, but there has been wide speculation that assistant GM John Coppolella is being groomed to take over as the next GM. It seems possible that he could rise to the GM role underneath Hart, with Hart serving as a veteran mentor to Coppolella as he acclimates himself to a larger role. Another widely speculated candidate for the GM position has been Royals GM Dayton Moore — a former AGM with the Braves. Of course, Moore has larger things on his mind with his current club just three games away from a World Series championship.