Rusney Castillo will make his highly anticipated debut with the Red Sox tonight, and WEEI.com’s Alex Speier breaks down which Red Sox players will be impacted by his arrival. As Speier points out, Castillo batted .293/.370/.463 in his 11 minor league games prior to his summoning to the Majors. He will split time with Jackie Bradley in center field, but if Brock Holt returns from a concussion, Will Middlebrooks could lose some playing time as well.
Here’s more on the Red Sox…
The one-year, $16MM extension (which comes with a pair of club options) that the Red Sox issued to David Ortiz has proven to be a good move, writes WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Big Papi himself said as much to Bradford, noting that critics and doubters have gone eerily silent following a strong season: “It’s all about having the chance by this time [of the season] to say, ‘See, I told you it was wrong to sign him.’ That’s what it’s all about, so that’s why I don’t pay any attention to that,” said Ortiz. Papi would’ve joined a thin list of free agent hitters, and multiple execs tell Bradford that at least two years and $40MM wouldn’t have been an outlandish ask on the free agent market. Ortiz doesn’t seem to have any regret that he signed the deal, though he did note that “it would have cost [the Red Sox] more” to sign him had they waited until free agency. Ortiz has batted .263/.357/.508 with 32 homers this season.
David Ross would like to return to Boston, he tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, but he knows that might not be in the cards. “I feel like if they really want me, they might’ve already come to me,” says Ross. The Red Sox are impressed with Christian Vasquez‘s glove behind the plate but may well feel the need to get more offense from their backstops, Lauber writes. Ross is hitting just .185/.264/.356 in 165 plate appearances this season. Lauber adds that Ross would like to play at least one more season for a contending team.
United States authorities are interviewing Cuban ballplayers as part of an investigation into smuggling rings, reports ESPN The Magazine’s Scott Eden. Driven by dramatic stories as well as high-profile success on the field, attention has increasingly focused on the issue of human trafficking of players hoping to reach Major League Baseball.
Here are some more notes to round out the evening:
The Orioles‘ run to take the AL East has a lot of plausible explanations, but one of them is as straightforward as it is surprising, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. Steve Pearce has had perhaps the most unexpected four-plus win season in history, largely making up for the downturn of Chris Davis. Even better, he cost the team virtually nothing to acquire. It remains to be seen whether he’ll carry much value into next year, but Baltimore will surely pay him a much-deserved raise through arbitration to find out. Pearce entered the year with over four years of service time, meaning that he has just one year of team control remaining. His 17 home runs and .907 OPS will set him up nicely for an arb payday, though he has logged under 400 plate appearances (still easily a career high) and does not have a large base point to work from.
Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo will undergo surgery on his troublesome left ankle, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. It will be up to two months before he can begin to run, but that should still give him plenty of time to prepare for the spring. Of course, Texas will hope that a healthy ankle will go some way to allowing Choo to return to form next year. He is owed $116MM on his contract through 2020.
Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to tip his hand regarding the status of manager John Gibbons for 2015, but MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm senses a change of tone from the GM. Anthopoulos emphasized that Gibbons is under contract, saying that he would treat the skipper like any other team employee: “you support them until you don’t support them.” Though Anthopoulos said that nothing should be read into his comments, Chisolm notes that the GM’s comments last year at this time revealed less reserved support for Gibbons.
A repeat of last year’s late-season extensions seems unlikely for the Giants, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club is not talking about new deals with any of its pending free agents, says Schulman. That would include, of course, third baseman Pablo Sandoval. In a recent poll, MLBTR readers indicated a collective expectation that Sandoval will find a new home next year.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson explained that his recent comments on the club’s younger players have been somewhat misinterpreted as forecasts of the team’s spending plans, as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Saying that his statements were intended to focus on the team’s younger players, particularly given his audience (related to one of the team’s affiliates), Alderson emphasized that it would be unfair to “assume that we’ve made decisions about what we’re going to or not going to do at those positions.” Though Martino notes that the organization still needs to prove it actually has the ability and willingness to bump up its spending, Alderson maintains that he has no complaints and believes in the club’s process. “It’s important to keep in mind a couple things,” he said. “One is, I actually believe we will have some payroll flexibility that goes beyond what some people are thinking. But at the same time, I don’t think we expect to go out and spend money just to get to a threshold. We have to see what’s there, both in terms of the free agent market and over time the trade market. We have to evaluate what we have.”
Veteran Phillies righty A.J. Burnett has bumped the value of his 2015 player option to $12.75MM with tonight’s start, his 32nd, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes on Twitter. While it remains to be seen whether he decides to return, Burnett’s injury-free but less productive 2014 campaign makes it unlikely that he would deliver much in return via trade. (Of course, his 20-team no-trade clause also presents a significant barrier.)
After being outrighted by the Indians, outfielder Chris Dickerson has elected free agency, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Dickerson, 32, slashed .224/.309/.327 in 112 plate appearances this year for Cleveland. He has seen part-time duty with five different clubs in each of the last seven seasons, but has not managed to keep a sustained role at the game’s highest level.
The Braves announced at a groundbreaking ceremony today that their new home will be called SunTrust Park, reflecting a sponsorship agreement with the financial institution. Set to open in time for the 2017 season, the new ballpark is expected to deliver an important new revenue stream for the organization. Of course, the surprise deal to move the club to Cobb County has drawn its share of criticism for the financing agreement and political maneuvering that paved the way.
Here’s more from the National League:
While the Braves entered the season with a whole new financial outlook — having completed the stadium deal, a restructuring of the club’s television contract, and several notable player extensions — things have not gone as hoped on the field. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looked back at some of the developments that have led to what he calls the team’s most disappointing season in decades. Given the club’s difficulties, Bowman suggests that the job security of GM Frank Wren is increasingly in question looking forward.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson has indicated that the team has more young players that it would like to protect from the Rule 5 draft than it has 40-man roster spots to do so, as ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin reports. The club will, of course, need to be strategic regarding its eligible players, assessing the possibility that another team will take certain players and keep them active for the full season necessary to keep control. Rubin lists all the team’s possibilities for elevation to the MLB roster, along with the slightly more advanced players who could be set loose to accommodate new additions.
The shortstop position continues to be a major question mark for the Mets heading into the offseason. As Rubin notes, Ruben Tejada could theoretically be a non-tender (or release) candidate, less due to concerns with cost than the roster crunch. Tejada has only a .225/.338/.284 slash, though defensive metrics like his work and he has yet to turn 25. Meanwhile, Wilmer Flores has not yet delivered on his well-regarded ability at the plate at the MLB level, but has had less trouble handling the position than many expected. As Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs writes, advanced metrics have viewed his work (in a limited sample) as roughly league-average, which could be enough to give him a shot next year given his offensive upside. As with last year, the upcoming free agency period could be an interesting one for Mets fans hoping for a long-term solution at the shortstop position. Though GM Sandy Alderson has expressed that payroll expansion is unlikely, the market includes a number of quality veterans.
The Blue Jays are pleased with Melky Cabrera both on and off the field and will make him a qualifying offer following the season with the hope of retaining the switch-hitter on a multi-year deal, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. A qualifying offer, expected to fall in the $15MM range this winter, will be worth nearly as much as the two-year, $16MM pact Cabrera inked with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season.
As ESPN.com’s Buster Olney recently said (Insider link), issuing Cabrera a QO appears to be a “slam dunk” for Toronto. Though his season ended a bit prematurely due to a fractured pinkie finger suffered this month, Cabrera certainly put up some impressive numbers in his walk season. The 30-year-old hit .301/.351/.458 with 16 homers with slightly below-average glovework in left field. In total, Fangraphs pegs him at 2.7 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference valued him at 3.1.
Cabrera, of course, brings with him to free agency the baggage of having served a 50-game suspension after testing positive for synthetic testosterone back in 2012. While many were quick to point to his disappointing 2013 season — he hit just .279/.322/.360 — as evidence that he’d benefited substantially from PEDs, doctors eventually found a benign tumor on Cabrera’s spine that had to significantly impact his ability to produce.
The question, of course, will be what type of deal Cabrera can command this winter — a topic which MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth examined in depth in a recent Free Agent Stock Watch post. Cabrera recently told reporters that he hopes to remain in Toronto, stating that he loves the city of Toronto and suggesting that he feels indebted to a team that gave him a chance when his value was at its lowest point. I’d think a four-year deal is attainable for Cabrera on the open market, particularly after Jhonny Peralta managed to secure such a contract on the heels of a much more recent PED suspension last winter.
Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine has withdrawn himself from consideration for the Diamondbacks’ GM vacancy, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (via Twitter). Levine tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he had a good talk over the phone with Arizona chief baseball officer Tony La Russa prior to his decision (Twitter link). As of this weekend, it was reported that Dave Stewart, former pitcher and current agent to Matt Kemp (among others), is considered the favorite for the job.
Here’s more on the D’Backs…
Cody Ross understood the reason that the Diamondbacks sat him in favor of impressive rookie David Peralta upon his activation from the disabled list, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. However, now, with Peralta out due to a back injury, Ross is trying to prove himself once again and prove that he belongs on the team in 2015. Ross tells Buchanan that he hopes to remain in Arizona. Given his $8.5MM salary next season and lack of production over the past two seasons, it’d be tough for a new GM to move him anyhow, Buchanan notes.
In a second piece, Buchanan writes that last offseason’s hiring of first base coach Dave McKay away from the Cubs has paid significant dividends for the D’Backs. McKay has placed a strong emphasis on improving the club’s baserunning, and the results show in baserunning metrics on both Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus, Buchanan notes. The D’Backs jumped from respective marks of -10.5 runs and -9.7 runs in 2013 to +0.4 runs and -0.5 runs in 2014.
The Rockies’ payroll will likely remain near its Opening Day mark of $94MM, a team spokesperson tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. This is problematic for the Rockies, Saunders writes, given that Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Jorge De La Rosa will combine to earn $48.5MM of that figure next season. Season-ending injuries to Tulowitzki and Gonzalez will make it difficult to extract full prospect value for either star in a potentially cost-saving trade, meaning that the team is likely to have 51.8 percent of its payroll tied up in three players. That, in turn, would make it difficult to adequately address the rotation, bullpen and catching situation this offseason — all of which are areas of need in Denver. Geivett recently reiterated to Saunders that the team has had no discussions about trading either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez
Here’s more from Saunders and more on the Rockies…
Saunders spoke to senior VP of Major League operations Bill Geivett about the team’s $12MM option on Brett Anderson. Geivett said that the Rockies “really think he’s an impact starter when healthy,” but that the option would be discussed following the season. Given the team’s payroll constraints, it seems almost impossible to imagine Colorado paying Anderson $12MM after starting just 32 games over the past four seasons.
Saunders also notes that Michael Cuddyer is a favorite of owner Dick Monfort and manager Walt Weiss, both of whom want the veteran back. However, Saunders feels it’s difficult to imagine the Rockies paying even $4-6MM for Cuddyer next season, and I’d wager that he’s looking for more than that despite an injury plagued 2014. Cuddyer, 36 next March, has batted .328/.382/.530 in 170 games over the past two seasons.
Twenty-eight-year-old lefty Yohan Flande will get a couple of starts before season’s end in an audition for 2015, writes Saunders’ colleague, Nick Groke. Weiss said the organization feels Flande can transition to the bullpen if needed, but they’ve yet to give up on him as a starting pitcher. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding notes that top prospect Eddie Butler, too, will receive a look in the final two weeks. While it seems Colorado is evaluating its internal options, I have to think they’ll at least attempt to lure in a veteran starter to complement De La Rosa alongside younger arms such as Butler, Jordan Lyles, Tyler Matzek and, eventually, Jon Gray. Jhoulys Chacin also figures to be in the mix, though he’s battled shoulder injuries this season.
A look at Cot’s Contracts reveals that the Rockies currently have about $61.4MM on the books in 2015. That doesn’t include arbitration raises for Chacin, Drew Stubbs, Juan Nicasio, Rex Brothers, Tyler Chatwood, Wilin Rosario and Adam Ottavino. Wilton Lopez and Nicasio seem like clear non-tender candidates, and it’s possible that a few others could meet that fate as well. Nonetheless, Colorado’s glut of forthcoming arbitration raises doesn’t seem to leave the team with much wiggle room, if payroll truly is to remain in the $94MM range.
Cubs catcher Welington Castillo wants to be part of the future in Chicago, but he understands that in order for that to happen he likely has some more improvement to do, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Castillo, 27, is entering his prime-age seasons but doesn’t hear his name mentioned alongside younger core players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Castillo specifically mentions that he recognizes the fact that baseball is a business and he can’t assume that he will be in a starting role. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer again said to Wittenmyer that the team plans to add at least one everyday veteran this winter, leading Wittenmyer to speculate on Russell Martin, who would give the Cubs a major defensive boost behind the plate. While catching coach Mike Borzello feels that Castillo is “the best in the business” at blocking pitches, Castillo ranks at the bottom of Baseball Prospectus’ Blocking Runs Added stat and ranks 72nd among 97 catchers in extra strikes via pitch framing (also via B-Pro). Hoyer, however, did give Castillo a vote of confidence: “I really believe in Welly. … He doesn’t get mentioned a lot when we talk about our established young veterans, but he can be in that mix as well.”
Here’s more from the NL Central…
ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers also has quotes from Hoyer on his desire for veteran leadership, and Rogers wonders if the club would pursue a veteran such as Jonny Gomes to help out in left field. While he notes that Gomes, of course, wouldn’t be an everyday player, “a quasi-starter who has winning experience might be the best option” given the lack of starting-caliber bats at positions of need for the Cubs, Rogers opines. He, too, notes that Martin would be a good fit in Chicago, though.
Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the extraordinary preparation and conditioning that have contributed to Russell Martin‘s brilliant season. Brink spoke to Martin’s coaches and teammates about what he means to the club, with GM Neal Huntington stating that the club is going to do everything it can to re-sign its catcher. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the fact that Brink notes that the Pirates offered Martin a two-year, $17MM deal and a three-year, $21MM deal when signing him prior to the 2013 season. Martin explains to Brink that he didn’t want to sign for three years, because he felt he could improve his stock on a two-year pact, which he has done in dramatic fashion.
One veteran scout tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Cardinals outfielder Peter Bourjos is the best defensive center fielder he’s seen in 38 years as a scout. Bourjos and Randal Grichuk were acquired from the Angels with the idea that one of them would be the team’s everyday center fielder in 2015, writes Hummel, but Jon Jay‘s solid offense has muddied the picture and left the Cardinals with choices to make. Bourjos has hit better of late, boosting his season batting line to .241/.305/.367, and he drew praise from manager Mike Matheny as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals decide to proceed, not only in the next few weeks, but in the offseason as well.
A year ago, Melky Cabrera‘s value was at its nadir. After a PED suspension cut short his 2012 breakout season with the Giants, and after he left the team under bizarre circumstances, Cabrera became a free agent and landed a relatively meager two-year, $16MM deal with the Blue Jays. He then began that deal by hitting a disappointing .279/.322/.360 in his first year in Toronto, then had surgery in September to remove a benign tumor from his back.
Since then, though, a healthier Cabrera has improved his bargaining position, hitting a much better .301/.351/.458 in his walk year and emerging as one of the better hitters available in a very weak free agent class. Perhaps even more importantly, he’s another year removed from his PED troubles, and his good season, along with even better seasons from Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, might suggest that teams this offseason will be less wary of suspended players than they have been in the recent past.
Cabrera now is out for the rest of the season with a fracture in his right pinky, an injury that could have some effect on his market as a free agent. He’s had surgery and should be ready for spring training, although the injury could theoretically have a lingering effect on his power.
Still, Cabrera is likely to get a sizable deal, given the weakness of the outfield market. Rusney Castillo has already signed with the Red Sox, and there’s another Cuban outfielder, the very promising Yasmani Tomas, who’s currently waiting to be declared a free agent. There’s also Cruz, who will be coming off a very good offensive season but is already in his mid-thirties and has significant defensive limitations.
After that, there’s Cabrera, and then a significant drop-off. The best remaining outfielders are the aging, injury-prone Michael Cuddyer; the defensively challenged Michael Morse and Josh Willingham; and light-hitting types like Nori Aoki and Emilio Bonifacio. There will also be Colby Rasmus, a 28-year-old who has hit well at times and can play center field, but who was recently benched by the Jays. And the market could also include players like Nick Markakis and Alex Rios, depending on the statuses of their options.
Leaving aside Tomas, there isn’t anyone on the outfield market who’s better rounded than Cabrera, even if one counts his PED past as a strike against him. Unlike Cruz, Morse or Willingham, he isn’t a terrible fielder (although he isn’t a great one, either). Unlike Aoki or Bonifacio, he has power. Unlike Cruz and Cuddyer, he’s still relatively young, at 30. And unlike Rasmus, he isn’t a complete question mark. The outfield market is full of dubious options. Teams considering punting on the left field position in order to upgrade their offense elsewhere won’t have much to work with, either.
Even better for Cabrera, there could be plenty of teams on the prowl for a corner outfielder this offseason. The Astros, Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Twins and White Sox could all make some degree of sense for Cabrera, depending on how the rest of the market shakes out. Cabrera has said that he wants to return to the Blue Jays, and a return to Toronto might be a good fit as well. The Jays have Jose Bautista in right, and assuming Rasmus departs, they’ll probably soon have top prospect Dalton Pompey as their regular starter in center. But they don’t have a stellar option in left field.
Given Cabrera’s performance, a potentially vigorous market and the Jays’ own need for an outfielder, extending Cabrera a qualifying offer seems like an obvious decision. Such an offer should help the Jays limit other teams’ interest (particularly from teams like the Mets and Reds, who currently look to have two of the first unprotected picks in next year’s draft), and could lead to some sort of multiyear agreement for him to remain in Toronto.
As long as teams aren’t worried about the lingering effects of his hand injury, Cabrera’s representatives at the Legacy Agency should be able to swing at least a three-year deal. Last month, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star polled various agents who suggested he could get anywhere from $36MM to $45MM over a three-year deal, meaning that the three-year, $39MM deal Shane Victorino received from the Red Sox before the 2013 season might be a precedent. A four-year deal might also be a possibility, with Cabrera’s camp possibly pointing to last offseason’s contracts for Curtis Granderson and Peralta.
Pablo Sandoval is playing out his age-27 season as one of the game’s better third basemen. Barring a last-minute run at an extension, he will enter the open market as one of the most desirable position players available. Though he doesn’t provide as much value at the plate as he did in the earlier part of his career, and is a below-average baserunner, Sandoval has produced consistently at a well-above-average rate with the bat and the glove. (And did I mention that he just turned 28 a little over a month ago?) Of course, he comes with questions of conditioning, though Sandoval reported in good shape this spring and has seemingly carried that positive vibe through the season. He should have a number of suitors awaiting him if he tests the market.
With a seller’s market awaiting him, it is hard to see Sandoval taking any sort of discount to re-up with San Francisco. But the club kept Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum off the market with late-breaking extensions last year, and GM Brian Sabean has recently given expression to the club’s oft-noted penchant for retaining its own players. (Of course, he also noted that difficult decisions will need to be made, and added that payroll will be an issue.) Sandoval is a highly marketable player for a large-market team that lacks an obvious replacement. He has spent his entire career with the Giants, and there are plenty of reasons to think that the Giants will look to make a run at him (whether through an extension or via free agency).
So, the question is simple: will Sandoval be back in San Francisco next year, or will he find a new home?
MLBTR has been keeping track of all the rumors and candidates tied to the Diamondbacks‘ GM search, and it appears as if Dave Stewart is now “the favorite” to be the team’s next general manager, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. Stewart will formally interview for the job this week. Here’s some more news from around baseball…
Aaron Hill tells FOX Sports’ Jack Magruder that he wants to remain with the Diamondbacks next season. Hill has lost September playing time to some of the D’Backs’ young infielders and was shopped before the July trade deadline. It’s no surprise that Arizona might be looking to the future given that Hill has struggled this season, he’ll be 33 next Opening Day and the second baseman is still owed $24MM through the 2016 season.
While the Braves are still on the fringes of the NL wild card race, it looks like this could be a lost season for Atlanta. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman looks at how the team was hurt by some front office and player (namely, Tim Hudson) losses and Bowman wonders if the Braves could shake up the coaching staff or even consider replacing GM Frank Wren.
The Rangers have used 27 different position players this season, and MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan looks at how each of them could fit into the 2015 team as Texas looks to rebound from this injury-riddled campaign. Sullivan’s comments include his opinion that the Rangers will pick up Alex Rios‘ contract option for 2015 and that the catching situation “may be the most intriguing decision” of the offseason as the team will have to decide if Robinson Chirinos will be the regular catcher.
Despaigne, 23, presents a plus fastball that can hit the mid-90s, says Badler, though he can struggle to spot it. As Badler recently explained, Despaigne is said to have difficulty repeating his mechanics. Lacking international exposure, Despaigne is a “relative unknown” with “a higher uncertainty level,” according to Badler.
Importantly, with just three seasons of play in the Cuban league Serie Nacional under his belt, Despaigne will be subject to international bonus limits. With many clubs having already allocated their international spending, he may present an opportunity for a team that has already decided to accept penalties or that has some available space.
Despaigne, residing in Haiti, will put on a showcase in the Dominican Republic on September 25. He will be joined there by countrymen Dian Toscano (a 25-year-old outfielder) and Javier Gonzalez (a 20-year-old righty).
Here are today’s minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…
The Diamondbacks selected the contract of catcher Bobby Wilson, according to a team press release. The veteran backstop signed a minor league deal with Arizona last November and he will look to appear in his first Major League game since 2012. Wilson hit .208/.272/.321 in 447 career PA, all with the Angels from 2008-12, and he spent 2013 playing for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate. In a corresponding move to open a 40-man roster spot for Wilson, the D’Backs transferred Bronson Arroyo on the 60-day DL.