Click here to view the transcript for MLBTR Chat With Jason Martinez: October 19, 2016
The Reds and FOX Sports Ohio have agreed to a 15-year extension of the current television contract, which will now run through the 2032 season, reports Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Their current contract had been set to expire at the end of the 2017 campaign.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Reds COO Phil Castellini stated Wednesday that the extension will provide the Reds with a “nice increase” in their yearly rights fees, per Buchanan, which currently pay the team about $30MM annually. The contract also comes with an unspecified equity stake in the network for the Reds. However, Castellini also indicated that the Reds’ new television contract is still a small-market deal relative to monster contracts signed by other teams in recent years. The D-backs and Cardinals, for instance, each signed new television contracts that were valued at more than a billion dollars over the past three years (1.5 billion in Arizona’s case).
As Buchanan points out, though, the fact that Castellini somewhat downplayed the size of the deal doesn’t mean it can’t afford the team with a substantial increase. The Padres, he observes, play in the 28th-ranked U.S. television market but still landed a 20-year television contract worth one billion dollars back in 2012. The Reds, who play in the 34th-ranked market, likely fall shy of that deal but could still see a marked uptick in yearly television rights fees.
Castellini notes that the dip in the team’s attendance (and, subsequently, overall revenue) impacted the talks somewhat, but he stressed that all of the added revenue will go toward improving the on-field product. “…[A]s you all know, we budget this team to break even,” the COO explained. “We don’t pull any money out of the franchise. So we will continue to reinvest all topline revenues back into the product, and we define the product as player development, scouting and the major-league payroll, everything that goes into what (general manager) Dick (Williams) does to put the team on the field as well as the game-day experience at Great American Ball Park.”
Reds fans probably shouldn’t anticipate an immediate hike in the payroll, however. For starters, the team is still in the midst of a rebuilding effort that began in 2015, and it’s unlikely that they’ll make a large splash on the free-agent market (especially in a weak year for free agency). Secondly, as has been the case with other television contracts around the game, the increases in revenue are built in gradually as opposed to one mammoth leap in the first year of the deal. Specific details on the nature of those increases remains unclear, but it’s worth noting that the Reds haven’t exactly operated like many other small-market teams around the game. Cincinnati, for instance, averaged a $112.1MM payroll from 2013-15 and signed players like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Homer Bailey to significant contract extensions (albeit with varying levels of success). The team has also been aggressive on the international market at times, signing Aroldis Chapman to a six-year, $30MM contract as a free agent that proved to be one of the game’s great bargains over the life of the pact. Likewise, Cincinnati inked right-hander Raisel Iglesias to a seven-year, $27MM contract that looks like a promising investment to this point as well. Currently, the Reds project to have an $88.5MM payroll on Opening Day next year, though that figure will of course change due to their offseason maneuverings.
Per Buchanan’s report, the Reds looked into the possibility of establishing and operating their own regional sports network, but it was deemed too difficult to get off the ground, specifically due to potential difficulties in negotiating distribution fees with cable providers and ensuring that the network would be accessible enough for fans.
Yesterday, we took stock of the results of the most recent Rule 5 draft, which resulted in five players sticking with their new organizations by holding a roster spot all year long (and three others staying around by other means). Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper puts those results in context, explaining that it was a fairly typical success rate by historical measure, though the last four years all saw a higher percentage of players kept. He also looks at some of the players who had substantial major league impact in 2016 despite being passed over in the draft last winter. Cooper’s BA colleague Matt Eddy also takes a close look at some of the minute details of Rule 5 eligibility, focusing on the case of Mariners lefty Luiz Gohara — who won’t need to be protected by being added to Seattle’s 40-man roster because he was assigned to the now-defunct Venezuelan Summer League upon signing. Eddy goes on to explain the importance of future Rule 5 eligibility to the international market, where players sign at a much younger age — often forcing tough, early decisions on their organizations.
Here are a few more notes from around the game:
- It’s tough to deny that relievers are playing an ever-more notable role in this year’s postseason, as Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explore. Though Arthur notes that the run-scoring gap between the postseason and regular season isn’t much different than usual, Cameron argues that hitters are performing worse than ever thanks to aggressive bullpen usage.
- As Arthur suggests in his piece, postseason trends can be reflected in regular seasons that come thereafter. (Of course, as Orioles reliever Zach Britton explains in an interesting chat with Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com, it’s much easier to push high-leverage arms in the postseason because there are more built-in off-days.) In this case, the value of employing a variety of high-octane pen arms might be reflected on a free agent market that offers several top-end relievers. ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden argues, further, that there may be a related impact on free agent starters. Obviously, the weak crop of rotation pieces available this winter will lead to a much lower overall outlay on starters than we saw in the last free agent class. Beyond that, though, Bowden says that a shift northward in relievers’ value, along with improved defensive positioning, will weaken market demand for back-end starters whose primary appeal lies in the ability to gobble up innings.
- The looming idea of an international draft has led to many warnings about its possible ramifications, and Latin American “trainers” are among the groups who are most concerned. Ben Badler of Baseball America looked at the subject a few years back. It isn’t a universal viewpoint, Badler noted, but many trainers, agents, and also team personnel have expressed worry that a draft is being negotiated by a union that doesn’t truly represent the young amateur players whose future will be impacted by any decision. Badler’s piece represents a worthwhile look at some of the viewpoints of people who live and work in the areas that will be directly impacted by any changes to the system, focusing on the trainers who exercise significant influence over players who seek opportunities with major league organizations.
MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams. Click here for the other entries in this series.
After a season that was destroyed by injuries, the Angels will attempt to assemble a healthier, more competitive team for 2017.
- Albert Pujols, 1B: $140MM through 2021
- Mike Trout, OF: $119MM through 2020
- Andrelton Simmons, SS: $47MM through 2020
- Ricky Nolasco, SP: $13MM through 2017 (includes $1M buyout on 2018 option; Twins to pay $4MM)
- Huston Street, RP: $10MM through 2017 (includes $1M buyout on 2018 option)
- Cliff Pennington, IF: $2.25MM through 2017
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLB Trade Rumors)
- Garrett Richards (4.148) – $7.0MM
- Shane Robinson (4.124) – $600K
- Kole Calhoun (3.130) – $6.9MM
- Matt Shoemaker (2.156) – $3.8MM
- Cory Rasmus (2.155) – $700K
- Brett Oberholtzer (2.127) – $1.0MM
- Non-tender candidates: Robinson, Rasmus, Oberholtzer
- Yunel Escobar, IF: $7MM or $1M buyout
You’ve heard the Angels’ sob story by now. They suffered a rash of injuries early in 2016 that effectively ruined their season, forcing them to lean on questionable starters like Tim Lincecum in a desperate effort to find someone, anyone, who could take the ball every fifth day. They have Albert Pujols signed to a toxic contract. And they have a thin collection of prospects that, before the season, ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider-only) described as “by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Woe be the Angels, woe be Mike Trout, and woe be GM Billy Eppler, who took the job last October.
Or so it would appear. Without a doubt, the Angels have problems. But their situation is more complex than their 74-88 2016 season and terrible farm system make it seem. The worst might be over, and the team can take big steps this winter toward a much-needed reboot.
The Angels’ poor 2016 performance was due in large part to a pitching staff that, by advanced metrics like xFIP and SIERA, ranked with the Reds as one of the league’s worst. That staff should be much better next season. Garrett Richards, who pitched just 34 2/3 innings in 2016, appears to be healthy after opting for stem cell treatments rather than surgery to rehab his torn UCL. It’s far from certain dodging Tommy John will work out for him, or that he’ll return to his earlier form, but the news so far is promising. Tyler Skaggs, too, could pitch a full season after missing all of 2015 and most of 2016 due to arm trouble. The 2017 Angels already appear to have more healthy rotation talent than the 2016 team did, and that’s before even making a move.
Then there are Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, who made a combined $40MM in 2016. Neither helped the team — Weaver spent the season on a futile quest to prevent opposing hitters from smashing 83-MPH fastballs to smithereens (although he deserves some credit for soaking up 178 innings despite his velocity troubles), and Wilson was hurt. They’ll both be free agents, and their departures will give the Angels considerable payroll flexibility, as they’ll only have about $125MM in payroll commitments for 2017 (including their arbitration-eligible players) compared to $165MM last season. In the recent past, they’ve limited payroll in an effort to stay beneath the luxury-tax threshold; it’s not entirely clear where the threshold will be next year, but it is clear the Angels will be comfortably beneath it before they begin shopping.
This is, unfortunately, not a good offseason to go hunting for pitching help, which the Angels will still need even if we make the tenuous assumption that Richards and Skaggs will be fully healthy. Those two could join Matt Shoemaker and Ricky Nolasco in the Angels’ 2017 rotation, but the team still needs a starter, or maybe two. The best starters the organization has who haven’t yet been mentioned here are Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, who are both likely to miss the 2017 season after having Tommy John surgery. And the team’s farm system seems unlikely to produce much in the way of starting pitching help, or to give it much currency to acquire a starter on the trade market. The Angels do have lefty Nate Smith at Triple-A, and perhaps Brett Oberholtzer could be an option if he misses Super Two. Alex Meyer is another possibility. But the Angels don’t have much in the way of depth.
That could mean they enter a free agent market headed by Rich Hill, Ivan Nova and Jeremy Hellickson. Alternately, as Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register recently suggested, they could use their available funds to take on a bad contract. They’ll have to get creative to make trades, but there should be a variety of pitch available with salaries high enough to limit the prospect cost they’ll take to acquire — someone like Jaime Garcia or Clay Buchholz, who both have 2017 team options, could make sense, or perhaps the Angels could pursue a young veteran like Tom Koehler or Drew Smyly.
The Angels’ position players were productive in 2016, as any group of hitters led by Mike Trout will tend to be. Trout, Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons give the Angels a formidable core, and the team also seems somewhat settled at third base (where they’ll almost certainly exercise the option of the productive Yunel Escobar, although perhaps it’s at least faintly possible they could move Escobar to second and try to acquire a third baseman instead) and 1B/DH (where they have C.J. Cron and Pujols’ immovable contract).
That leaves catcher, second base and one outfield spot. Luckily for the Angels, the markets at those positions are more robust than the starting pitching market. Available catchers include Matt Wieters, Jason Castro and the injured Wilson Ramos. There’s also the chance the Angels could again gamble on Geovany Soto, who missed most of 2016 due to various injuries but was productive when he played. Soto might be an especially good fit for the Angels in that he would likely only require a one-year deal, helping the Angels balance their desire to be competitive in 2017 with the likelihood that they won’t contend until future seasons. Whoever the Angels end up with, he’ll likely pair with Jett Bandy, who struggled to get on base but otherwise had a reasonably productive rookie season in 2016.
The second base market is headlined by Neil Walker and Chase Utley, with only Walker requiring what figures to be a significant long-term commitment. It’s surely a long shot, but signing both Utley and either Sean Rodriguez or Steve Pearce would be an interesting outside-the-box move. Rodriguez and Pearce are both right-handed batters who hit well and could be good complements to the lefty-swinging Utley, while also potentially helping the Angels’ outfield situation.
The top prize in the outfield will be Yoenis Cespedes, making the relatively safe assumption that he’ll opt out of his deal with the Mets. The Angels weren’t among the top contenders for Cespedes last offseason because of luxury-tax concerns, but that could be different this winter. Jose Bautista, Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez are also available. A left-handed hitter like Michael Saunders, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, Colby Rasmus or Jon Jay, or a switch-hitter like Angel Pagan, could work, since the Angels currently have a righty-heavy lineup. (The list of current Angels righties also includes former top Mets prospect Jefry Marte, who hit well down the stretch last season and could get playing time in the outfield as needed.) Former Angels slugger Mark Trumbo will be available after a 47-homer season, but the Angels would do well to avoid him at the price they’re likely to have to pay, since he’s poor defensively and they don’t have space at DH.
The bullpen’s 3.77 ERA in 2016 was merely respectable, and its 4.45 xFIP and 4.15 SIERA indicate that Angels relievers were weaker than their ERAs suggested. Closer Huston Street figures to be healthy after a terrible 2016 season in which he posted a 6.45 ERA in 22 1/3 innings and missed time to oblique and knee problems. It remains to be seen whether he can return to form, given his poor 2016 performance and his velocity, which has declined since 2009 and now rests at around 88 MPH. Cam Bedrosian likewise ended the season on the DL due to a blood clot, but his future appears brighter than Street’s — he had a brilliant 2016 season and figures to be healthy for Spring Training.
The 2017 bullpen should also feature some combination of Jose Alvarez, J.C. Ramirez and Mike Morin, all of whom soaked up innings at least somewhat effectively last season. And, depending on who remains on their 40-man roster once the offseason is through, the Angels will also have a variety of even lower-wattage options to sort through, like Blake Parker, Deolis Guerra, Kirby Yates, Meyer, and lefties Cody Ege, Ashur Tolliver and Greg Mahle.
Parker, Yates, Ege and Tolliver are all recent waiver claims, and the waiver claim has lately been the Angels’ most-used tool to compensate for their lack of farm system depth. The team could continue to tread down that narrow avenue and others like the Rule 5 Draft, which is where they originally got Guerra. It might even work, at least to a degree — Parker, in particular, seems likely to be at least somewhat productive in the big leagues, based on his recent minor league numbers. Still, the Angels will probably want to grab at least one experienced reliever on a big-league deal this offseason, particularly given the uncertainty regarding Street. They might also want to re-sign Andrew Bailey, who pitched well in 12 appearances with the team.
The Angels have many holes. Even if they spend relatively heavily, they aren’t likely to adequately fill them all, and it will be awhile before Eppler and his front office can produce enough homegrown talent for the team to start filling talent gaps with farm-raised players. For now, they’ll have to spend money, and be creative where spending on free agents won’t work. (The Angels do currently have the last protected pick in the 2017 draft, and therefore won’t risk losing a farm-system-nourishing first-round pick if they pursue free agents who have been extended qualifying offers.)
The good news is that they have Trout, a player so terrific that the Angels can be competitive if the rest of their players are even adequate. A player who routinely produces nine-win seasons can hide a lot of problems. The 2017 Angels aren’t going to be perfect, but Trout alone gives them a solid chance at being decent, and some smart free-agent signings could make them even a bit better than that.
After the Angels’ rash of injuries last year, there was plenty of outside discussion about the team potentially trading Trout. But the speculation went nowhere, and understandably so. It would be extremely difficult for the Angels to get fair value for Trout, for one thing. Also, he only recently turned 25, and he’ll be under team control for four more seasons. That should be enough time for Eppler to improve the Angels’ talent base. If the team’s big-league core hasn’t significantly improved in a couple years, the Angels can easily wait to trade Trout then, as long as he stays healthy.
In the meantime, the situation in Anaheim isn’t as dire as last season made it look. The team’s farm system is an ongoing problem, and it gives the organization a low floor — injuries ruined the Angels’ 2016 season, and that could happen again next year or in 2018, because the organization currently doesn’t have the depth to compensate for them. That’s a serious concern, given that it isn’t automatic that Richards will be ready to pitch and pitch well. But with Trout, Calhoun, Simmons, Richards, Shoemaker and Bedrosian aboard, there’s plenty of talent. And with money to spend, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Eppler were able to cobble together another contending team before too long.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Dodgers lefty Rich Hill is one of the more unique players we’ll ever see, and it’s his unfathomable transactional path that makes his current performance all the more amazing. SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee pens an interesting piece in honor of a hurler whose success nobody saw coming when he was suiting up for the Long Island Ducks last year. Hill just carved up the Cubs last night in game three of the NLCS, striking out six and allowing two hits and no runs over a half-dozen frames. That outing bolsters an already-intriguing free agent resume for the 36-year-old.
Here’s more from out west:
- The Dodgers represent a unique compilation of talent, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark writes. Los Angeles managed to cover for an unbelievable number of injuries — though, to be fair, at least some were anticipated given the team’s risky investments (Hill included) — and still managed to take the NL West. Despite near-constant change in the major league roster and its in-game deployment, the club has thrived and seemingly hit its stride at the right time.
- Across town, the Angels are holding out at least some hope for infielder Roberto Baldoquin despite two forgettable campaigns, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes. Injuries have kept him off the field and limited his developmental opportunities, though Fletcher notes that conditioning may be partially to blame. Certainly, what the team has seen hasn’t been promising. The 22-year-old, who signed on for an $8MM bonus that nearly doubled with penalties and restricted the organization’s international spending, has stalled out at High-A with a composite .219/.269/.267 batting line over the last two years. But the Halos developmental staff says that Baldoquin works hard, with coaches suggesting that he has at least shown enough in the field to warrant the continued investment of resources into his future.
- While the Rangers and the City of Arlington have maintained that the costs of their new stadium project will be split evenly, WFAA-TV has found several factors which significantly complicate that characterization. Following up on a prior report that suggests tax revenues may be diverted to the team, shifting the burden away from the Rangers and onto the city’s taxpayers, the most recent report outlines other significant ways in which anticipated revenue will flow to the club’s coffers. Stadium naming rights and seat licenses — both highly valuable commodities — would flow to the club despite the fact that the city is set to own the ballpark itself. In the aggregate, the news station assesses the split in real costs at about $1.675 billion for the city (including interest on a bond issue to fund it) versus $500MM for the team. These revelations, which are disputed by Arlington mayor Jeff Williams, come as voting polls show a tight split in opinion on the upcoming referendum. (For opposing viewpoints, see here and here for just a few examples.)
- One major question for the Rockies this winter is how to handle the catching position, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com covers in response to a reader question. Colorado does see improvement in the glovework of Tom Murphy, but at present there’s a gulf between his pitch framing ability and that of incumbent part-timer Tony Wolters. Of course, free agent-to-be Nick Hundley does not excel in that area either, which perhaps suggests the team will be willing to move on from him this winter.
In a piece today, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News calls upon the Rangers to commit to a path with young slugger Joey Gallo this winter. It’s a major question for Texas, with several possible strategies, so it seems worth posing the matter to MLBTR’s readers.
Though he’s still just 22 years of age, and continues to carry jaw-dropping power potential, Gallo wasn’t deemed worthy of a significant chance at major league action last year. He ultimately struck out 19 times and recorded just one hit in thirty MLB plate appearances scattered over 17 games. But Gallo continued to thrive at Triple-A, where he banged out 25 home runs and posted a .240/.367/.529 slash over 433 plate appearances.
The biggest question mark on Gallo remains the strikeouts. He walks quite a bit — 15.7% over his Triple-A season and 13.1% over his 153 MLB plate appearances — so it’s not as if he lacks for zone awareness. But Gallo has also struck out in just under half of his trips to the plate in his brief time in the majors while swinging through 22.5% of the pitches he offered at. (Khris Davis was worst among qualified MLB hitters last year with 16.6%.) And while Gallo trimmed his K rate a bit at the highest level of the minors in 2016, he faded after a promising start in that regard and still ended up going down on strikes 34.6% of the time.
While Texas can still option Gallo, the team faces the proposition of filling in two primary power spots in its lineup. Mitch Moreland is set to vacate first base via free agency, with Grant suggesting he won’t likely be pursued by the Rangers. And the team is also bidding adieu to DH candidate Carlos Beltran, who was acquired in the aftermath of Prince Fielder’s injury-induced retirement. With other positions also in need of solutions, Texas probably can’t afford to spend big on two bats to step into these openings.
Grant suggests that Texas could look to bring in free agent first baseman Mike Napoli for a third go with the organization. The right swinger is capable of playing first and would complement the left-handed-hitting Gallo. Alternatively, the club could look elsewhere, possibly attempting to re-sign Beltran — a switch-hitter who has logged all of five career innings at first base. Either way, that kind of addition would leave the team reliant upon Gallo, unless he is paired with another righty bat in some kind of DH platoon.
There are several other possible routes to consider, it seems. With a rather robust group of slugging types available this winter, the Rangers could add two lesser-priced bats and try to cash Gallo in to address another need. As Grant writes, though, his difficulties in turning the corner may make it hard for the team to cash Gallo in for a starting pitcher good enough to punt on his upside. He might also be used in some kind of platoon role — with players like Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar representing possible mates. And it’s certainly possible that Gallo could be sent back to Triple-A, but that would represent his third consecutive year at that level and would add to the payroll and roster pressures.
While the Rangers will get to watch Gallo play in Venezuelan winter ball action, and can to some extent delay final decisions until the spring, the organization largely knows the state of play and will need to chart a course for the winter market. What’s the best course of action?
Let’s take a look at a few recent notes out of the AL East:
- Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista still seems likely to depart in free agency, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag writes. While Toronto figures to have some level of interest, it probably won’t outbid the market for a player who has been the organization’s biggest star. While it’s never worth putting too much stock in postseason results, it may not help that he has just four hits and six walks in his 35 plate appearances in this year’s playoff action — though Bautista did enjoy a productive stretch to end the regular season.
- Fellow star Blue Jays slugger Edwin Enarnacion still seems most likely to head to the Red Sox this winter, Heyman suggests. While Boston has given some signals that it may not go big for a free agent bat, the team does appear to represent a good fit for a player who raked for most of the year. Other potential landing spots, per Heyman, include the Yankees and Rangers. For what it’s worth, Encarnacion’s overall postseason results have been quite good: he’s slashing .323/.400/.645 with three home runs and four walks against just three strikeouts.
- Devon Travis wasn’t able to carry on for the Blue Jays in the ALCS and won’t play again in 2016 due to a knee injury. He has continued to put up good numbers when healthy, but a variety of ailments have clouded his long-term outlook. Heyman does say that Toronto expects him to be ready for a full spring next year, but notes “there’s concern about his ability to stay healthy” within the organization.
- Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald examines the case of Red Sox lefty David Price, who never quite seemed to gain his footing in Boston and has continued to come up short in the postseason. Unlike Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, who has excelled this year after several notable disappointments in the playoffs, Price is still awaiting his time for redemption. Two general managers who employed Price in the past — Andrew Friedman and Alex Anthopoulos — discussed his situation, both suggesting that he has the competitive fire and track record to suggest he’s still a good bet to perform when the stakes are highest.
- While the Red Sox have several options behind the plate in 2017, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal questions whether the overall quality is sufficient. Sandy Leon’s hard-to-fathom breakout stalled late in the year, Christian Vazquez never found his groove at the plate, Blake Swihart was moved to the outfield at Triple-A before a season-ending ankle injury, and veteran Ryan Hanigan posted an injury-plagued, anemic offensive season. All said, adding depth wouldn’t make much sense, and it’s not clear that there’ll be an opportunity to find a top-quality backstop this winter. That could leave Boston with some tough questions — beginning with a call on Hanigan’s $3.75MM option (which comes with a $800K buyout). As MacPherson notes, too, both Leon and Vasquez lack remaining options. While Swihart does have one more option year remaining, his most recent usage suggests that the organization isn’t bullish on his ability to stick behind the dish.
MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams. Click here for the other entries in this series.
Despite a virtually unprecedented sell-off at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Yankees were in the thick of the Wild Card race through late September thanks to some significant strides from their young talent. With the path to playing time for a number of upstart players beginning to clear, they’ll look to supplement their increasingly youthful core in an effort to return to postseason play next year.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, OF: $89.57MM through 2020 (including $5MM buyout of 2021 club option)
- Masahiro Tanaka, RHP: $89MM through 2020 (may opt out of contract after the 2017 season)
- Brian McCann, C: $34MM through 2018 (plus 2019 club option)
- Starlin Castro, 2B: $31MM through 2019 (including $1MM buyout of 2020 club option)
- Chase Headley, 3B: $26MM through 2018
- Brett Gardner, OF: $25MM through 2018 (including $2MM buyout of 2019 club option)
- CC Sabathia, LHP: $25MM through 2017
- Tyler Clippard, RHP: $4.15MM through 2017
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections by MLB Trade Rumors)
- Michael Pineda (5.099) – $7.8MM
- Dustin Ackley (5.087) – $3.2MM
- Nathan Eovaldi (5.013) – $7.5MM
- Adam Warren (4.031) – $2.3MM
- Didi Gregorius (3.159) – $5.1MM
- Dellin Betances (3.078) – $3.4MM
- Austin Romine (3.045) – $900K
- Aaron Hicks (3.041) – $1.4MM
- Tommy Layne (2.139) – $1.2MM
- Non-tender candidates: Ackley, Eovaldi
Other Financial Commitments
- Alex Rodriguez, DH: $21MM through 2017
Few would’ve pegged the Yankees as likely contenders after dealing Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, but the team hung around in the Wild Card race, buoyed largely by the superhuman performance of rookie Gary Sanchez and late flourishes from arms like CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka — each of whom was excellent in September.
However, while Sabathia, Pineda and Tanaka each finished strong, that performance is potentially misleading. Each member of that trio entered the 2016 campaign with significant health questions — Sabathia’s knee, Pineda’s shoulder, Tanaka’s elbow — and it’d be unwise to expect that group to combine for 30 starts apiece once again in 2017. With the loss of Nathan Eovaldi to Tommy John/flexor repair surgery, the Yankees’ pitching depth took a further hit, leaving it unclear as to exactly who can shoulder the load for the rotation next season.
Certainly, Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia are penciled into the mix, but the two additional spots beyond that group of veterans is up for grabs. Chad Green, Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa are all candidates, and Adam Warren has done his share of starting for the Yankees in the past as well. But it’s not entirely clear that Severino’s future is in the rotation after a ghastly 8.50 ERA as a starter (47 2/3 innings) against a ridiculous 0.39 ERA as a reliever (23 1/3 innings). Obviously, those are small samples, but questions about Severino’s long-term ability to start date back to his days as a prospect, and the 2016 season certainly lends some credence to those who advocate for him to join Dellin Betances as a rotation prospect that instead thrives as a power arm in the bullpen. The 52 strikeouts that Green piled up in just 45 2/3 innings make him the next-most intriguing name of the bunch, but he finished the season on the shelf due to a flexor strain of his own, so there’s little certainty with regard to the 25-year-old.
The free-agent market is notoriously thin this offseason, though if GM Brian Cashman wants to utilize the financial flexibility he gained via the retirement of Mark Teixeira and the shedding of the Beltran, Chapman and Miller contracts to chase upside, the Yankees can certainly afford to beat the market for Rich Hill. The 36-year-old’s renaissance has been one of the most remarkable storylines of the past season, and Hill is unquestionably the only thing resembling a top-of-the-rotation pitcher on the free-agent market. He’d add his own laundry list of injury question marks to the Yankees’ ledger, of course, but Hill’s 2.21 ERA and 178-to-39 K/BB ratio across his past 146 1/3 big league innings (postseason included) are difficult to ignore.
The other top names on the market include Jeremy Hellickson, who figures to reject a qualifying offer (which curbed the Yankees’ free-agent pursuits last winter in an offseason in which they remarkably elected not to sign a single MLB free agent), and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Bounceback arms will be plentiful, with the likes of Charlie Morton, Brett Anderson, Bud Norris, Jake Peavy and Henderson Alvarez all available if they’re comfortable trying to reestablish themselves in the tight confines of Yankee Stadium.
The trade market represents Cashman’s other primary avenue to a big league rotation piece, but the GM has indicated that he doesn’t think he’s at the point where he’s ready to offload a newly acquired plethora of high-end minor league talent in order to procure a front-line starter. That could be a smokescreen and could change as opportunities arise throughout the offseason, but for now it sounds like Yankees fans should think more along the lines of Ervin Santana than Chris Sale or Chris Archer when it comes to trade targets. The subtraction of a number of a number of expensive commitments — Teixeira is already off the payroll, and both Alex Rodriguez and Sabathia will be next offseason — also allows Cashman to consider the possibility of taking on a burdensome contract from another club that would be more manageable for the Yankes. Whether it’s achieved through free agency or trades, adding an arm that’s controllable beyond the 2017 campaign seems imperative, as the Yanks could see Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia all depart next offseason.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tackled questions from a number of fans earlier today and addressed a wide number of topics pertaining to the team’s offseason. First and foremost, Goold reports that he’s heard “more and more… how the Cardinals see trade opportunities as their preference” in their search for a center fielder. Specifically, he mentions Charlie Blackmon and Adam Eaton as speculative possibilities, though it personally strikes me unlikely that the Sox would deal Eaton. Blackmon has been an oft-rumored trade candidate over the past few seasons and will be again this winter with a projected arbitration salary of $9MM and a surplus of left-handed outfield bats in Colorado (Blackmon, David Dahl, Carlos Gonzalez, Gerardo Parra). Regarding Dexter Fowler, Goold notes that the Cardinals typically shy away from committing lengthy free-agent contracts to players on the wrong side of 30, downplaying the team’s potential interest.
More from Goold’s Cardinals rundown…
- Goold characterizes a significant investment into a starting pitcher as unlikely, noting that last winter’s pursuit of David Price was considered by the team to be a “special situation.” That type of opportunity isn’t present on this year’s free-agent market, though he does note that the Cardinals would consider Chris Sale a similarly “special” situation if he were to be made available on the trade market. That’s far from a guarantee, of course, as the White Sox could opt to take aim at contending once again in 2017.
- The Cardinals will be without left-hander Zach Duke for all of the 2017 season due to his recent Tommy John surgery, and Goold rattles off a number of internal replacements without making mention of the team potentially pursuing outside help. Among the candidates are Tyler Lyons, Marco Gonzales and “sleeper picks” Corey Littrell and Ryan Sherriff, each of whom is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
- St. Louis will pursue other options early in the offseason as opposed to exploring a reunion with Brandon Moss, per Goold. If the team is unable to acquire a center field upgrade and Moss lingers on the free-agent market, a fallback would be signing Moss to play left field and keeping Randal Grichuk in center field.
- Despite a midseason demotion to Triple-A Memphis for Kolten Wong, the St. Louis front office remains “bullish” on the 26-year-old and would like to see him get a prolonged look at second base in 2017. According to Goold, there’s long been a separation between the front office and the manager when it comes to dividing playing time, but there was an agreement in place late in the season that Mike Matheny would give Grichuk an extended look in center field down the stretch. Wong could be the beneficiary of that same extended stint despite his disappointing April and May in 2016. For what it’s worth, Wong did hit .251/.341/.401 in 217 plate appearances following his recall from Triple-A.
While former Braves/Orioles general manager Frank Wren, currently the Red Sox’ senior vice president of baseball operations, had previously been tabbed as a leading candidate for the GM vacancy in Boston, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Wren is now “unlikely” to become the team’s next general manager (Twitter link). Wren, as WEEI’s Rob Bradford recently pointed out, resides in Atlanta and wasn’t a guarantee to accept a greater role with the Sox even if the team wanted to promote him. Per Rosenthal, Wren is happy with his current position within Boston’s front office. The Sox, of course, are in the market for a new GM after Mike Hazen was hired as the new GM of the Diamondbacks.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said yesterday that the ideal scenario for the Sox would be to fill the GM void internally. That leaves a fair number of options, but MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reported earlier today (via Twitter) that the question among GM circles is whether Red Sox vice president of amateur/international scouting Amiel Sawdaye would take the “diminished” GM role in Boston. Certainly, even though Sawdaye would be second in command as opposed to the top decision-maker, it would seem logical that Sawdaye would welcome the promotion. And indeed, the Boston Herald’s Evan Drellich tweets that the likely removal of Wren’s name from the running now places Sawdaye in the spotlight.
Also of note with regard to the Boston front office is Gammons’ report that analytics director Tom Tippett has left the team. Drellich reports that Tippett, who spent the 2008-13 seasons as the team’s director of information services before rising to the role of senior baseball analyst, was offered the opportunity to return but elected to pursue other avenues. Tippett told the Herald’s Michael Silverman that he could end up working for another club or within baseball in another capacity, adding: “…but I’m also interested in other spots and opportunities outside the sports world.” Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that Dombrowski said Tippett’s role will be filled, though he declined to specify if it’d be an external or internal hire and added that the position’s title is to be determined.
Those interested in the inner-workings of the Red Sox’ front office under current and prior leadership groups will want to check out Drellich’s above-linked column, as he quotes Tippett in discussing the leadership styles and strengths of Dombrowski as well as former Boston GMs Ben Cherington and Theo Epstein. Notably, Drellich reads between the lines a bit and wonders how heavily Tippett was leaned upon by Dombrowski, as Tippett said back in August when speaking at a seminar entitled Sabermetrics, Scouting and the Science of Baseball that Dombrowki has a “smaller inner circle that he works with when he’s making decisions” than either Epstein or Cherington did.