As we wind up one of the busiest weeks in the history of baseball transactions, here are a few more notes as we head into the weekend...
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is happy to have acquired Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman before the Winter Meetings, but Luhnow tells reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that his club has more on its to-do list. “To have them both done before the Winter Meetings is a bonus," Luhnow said. "So now that we can focus on the bullpen and focus on potentially another position player somewhere....We may not be done with starting pitching either. We’re still actively talking to some other folks.”
- With the Phillies reportedly shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the team will have a tough time given Papelbon's large salary, signs of decline and his possible attitude issues.
- J.A. Happ could be a trade chip for the Blue Jays if the team needed to free up some payroll space, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Happ is set to earn $5.2MM in 2014 with a $6.7MM team option for 2015. The southpaw was limited to 18 starts in 2013 due to head injuries suffered when he was hit in the head with a line drive, as well as a knee injury also stemming from the incident.
- Also from Nicholson-Smith, nothing is imminent with Yuniesky Betancourt, though a number of teams are still interested in the veteran as infield depth. The Marlins were linked to Betancourt last month.
- Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has a good glove at shortstop, is lacking at the plate and is overall not going to provide the impact of recent Cuban signings, a scout tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. "This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop," the scout said. Arruebarruena will showcase his skills for teams this weekend, and the Mets have been identified as one of the attending clubs.
Here's the latest news from both the NL and AL Central divisions...
- The Brandon Phillips trade rumors may have temporarily stopped, though Reds president/CEO Bob Castellini left the door slightly open when talking to reporters today (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon and the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay). "Brandon is part of the team, boys," Castellini said. "Walt [GM Walt Jocketty] was just exploring. You have to understand what he's up against. He's got to look around. Brandon Phillips is an integral part of this franchise....But you never say never."
- The Cubs and John Axford share a mutual interest in each other, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports. Axford would get a chance to compete for the Cubs' closing job, though the right-hander seemingly has plenty of opportunities around the league, with a reported 14 teams checking in following his non-tender from the Cardinals.
- The Cubs and Royals are two of the teams who have shown interest in Joba Chamberlain, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets. No signing seems to be imminent for either team, however. Chamberlain is another relief arm who has drawn significant attention on the open market, as he may be seen as a reclamation candidate after some tough seasons with the Yankees.
- The Twins have spoken to John Buck's agent, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, and a source tells Berardino that Buck is Minnesota's top target amongst available catchers. It isn't clear how interested in the Twins are, however, given that Josmil Pinto is still the club's preferred choice to take over the everyday catching job now that Joe Mauer has been moved to first base.
- Carl Pavano talked with Berardino about his comeback attempt from a freak snow-shoveling accident that left him with a ruptured spleen and sidelined the veteran righty for the entire 2013 season. Pavano said the Twins haven't contacted him about a return: "I haven't really talked to them. I don't know if that would be a good fit anyway. I think we're in different places. They need those younger guys in their rotation."
Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, signing Carlos Beltran and watching Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson sign elsewhere --- even for hot stove perennials like the Yankees, Friday was a particularly noteworthy day. Here are some more items from the Big Apple.
- Omar Infante could be the biggest beneficiary of Cano's departure, Mark Feinsand and Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News report. The Yankees already extended an offer to Infante earlier this winter and, now that Infante is the top second baseman on the free agent market, he seems poised to command a larger offer from the Yankees or any suitor. Given position scarcity and the general rise of contracts this winter, Infante is in good shape to top the three-year, $25MM deal predicted for him by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes in September.
- Also from Feinsand (via Twitter), he doesn't think the Yankees are a contender to trade for David Price. The Yankees lack the prospects that the Rays would demand in return, and even if New York did have the minor league talent, it's unlikely that Tampa Bay would trade Price within the AL East anyway.
- Losing Cano won't slow the Yankees down, as the team plans to pursue several other free agents, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. Besides Infante and the already-signed Beltran, the Yankees will also continues talks with Shin-Soo Choo and Stephen Drew, as well as post a bid on Masahiro Tanaka if he's made available.
- With Beltran already in the fold, it would seem that Choo is no longer be a Yankee target, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes.
- For more Yankee-related material, check out this collection of reactions to Cano's signing with the Mariners.
Dave Stewart, Matt Kemp's agent, has a "strong feeling something could happen" involving his client at the Winter Meetings, the former pitcher tells ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes. "This is the first time we've experienced this," Stewart said. "This is the first time we've heard it this much, and the first time we really believe something could happen." The Dodgers have been listening to offers for Kemp, and the Mariners, Rangers and Red Sox have all been linked to the outfielder, plus other teams.
Here's the latest from around the NL West...
- The Rockies are still looking for bullpen help and have maintained their interest in Jose Veras and Jesse Crain, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (Twitter links). The club's interest in Crain, of course, hinges on whether he is healthy following the shoulder injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season.
- The Rockies had interest in Corey Hart and Mike Morse but both players profiled better as first basemen, Renck notes, a position that Colorado has since addressed by signing Justin Morneau. The Rockies have a hole in left field, with Carlos Gonzalez shifting to center and Michael Cuddyer remaining in right.
- The Padres had some interest in David Murphy and Nate McLouth, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. With Murphy and McLouth respectively signed by the Indians and Nationals, however, San Diego's search for a left-handed hitting outfielder may have ended with their trade for Seth Smith.
- Ichiro Suzuki seems relegated to the bench in New York, so John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links) thinks the Giants should try to acquire the veteran address their outfield depth. Shea notes that Suzuki and Giants manager Bruce Bochy share an agent, plus Suzuki could be cheaply acquired from the Yankees. San Francisco had some interest in Ichiro when he was a free agent last winter.
Robinson Cano's reported 10-year, $240MM deal with the Mariners is the most expensive and surprising transaction of the offseason thus far, and there has already been a great deal of reaction to Seattle's major signing. Here are some of the thoughts on how Cano's contract will impact several parties around baseball...
- Cano was the one player the Yankees were unwilling to break the bank on, despite spending freely to acquire Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes. Cano's Mariners contract, however, is "a Pyrrhic victory" for the second baseman, as he'll now go from a perennial contender to a club with a short postseason history.
- An NL official describes Cano's contract as "a lose-lose-lose deal" for Cano, the Mariners and the Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. "The contract is ridiculous and a desperate move from a desperate front office that seriously borders on moral hazard," the executive said.
- Despite calling the Cano deal "probably worse than you think," Jeff Sullivan of the USS Mariner blog is still excited by the signing as a transformative event for the Mariners. Even if the M's are going for it, however, Sullivan cautions that they should try to upgrade via signings and spending rather than trading their top prospects.
- Since the Mariners are already looking to make more moves, USA Today's Bob Nightengale (via Twitter) calls Cano "a $240MM recruitment tool" that proves Seattle is a serious player.
- "For everyone, respect trumped better judgment," Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes about the deal, arguing that Cano was turned off by the Yankees' contractual hardball when the team had already given Ellsbury a similar-sized contract. Passan also thinks the Mariners were desperate to regain some respect and stature within MLB, and while the contract will eventually be a burden for the M's, the team needs to do "everything possible to win the next five years" while Cano is still in his prime.
- Cano's representatives approached the Yankees earlier this week and lowered their demands to $235MM over the club's choice of eight, nine or 10 seasons, Joel Sherman reports. The Yankees countered with a seven-year, $175MM offer that they claimed was "their breaking point."
- Sherman chronicles the history of the Cano/Yankees negotiations and notes that the two sides never seemed particularly close to reaching an agreement. “This is a not a surprise to us,” a Yankees official told Sherman. “This is what the dialogue had been the whole time. There was never a warm, fuzzy we are getting close momentum. There was no traction. This is why we have been trying to cushion the blow with alternatives [Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, so far]."
- Writing for Grantland, Jonah Keri covers a number of topics about the signing, such as Cano's projected production over the next 10 seasons or how the signing is the best example yet of how MLB's national TV deal has been a windfall for mid-to-small market teams.
- Jay Z delivered a near-record contract to his first baseball client, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick writes, and it could help the rap mogul's Roc Nation Sports in attracting more big-name clients. That said, Crasnick notes that some in the industry believe that Jay Z was just a "figurehead" for a Cano management team that also included CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen. "If the only priority is to get paid, there's always a sucker -- and Seattle was the sucker," an agent tells Crasnick. "For everybody to say this is an A-plus for Jay Z, I just don't buy it. That would have been getting New York to pay $240MM. Getting Seattle to pay $240MM wasn't some masterstroke."
- Cano's departure will hurt the Yankees in the short term but it's "a victory for the organization," The New York Times' Tyler Kepner opines, since the team has learned to avoid handing out potential albatross contracts.
- The Mariners still need some other upgrades for 2014 and beyond, Fangraphs' Dave Cameron writes, making the Cano signing particularly risky since he isn't a final move to put the M's over the top as contenders. For Cameron, the signing reminds him of the Royals' acquisition of James Shields last offseason, an "all-in" kind of move that improved the Royals but didn't get them into the playoffs, leaving them just one more year of team control over Shields.
Here's the latest from Fenway Park...
- Edward Mujica will receive a $125K bonus for finishing 20 games, WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports. Mujica will receive the same bonus for every additional five games he finishes, up to 55, leaving the reliever eligible for $2MM in bonus money in each of his two seasons in Boston. Mujica took his physical today and his signing should be officially announced within the next few days.
- Also from Speier, he breaks down how the recent signings of Mujica, Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski affect the Red Sox payroll. The Sox payroll currently projects as roughly $187.95MM for 2014, leaving them just under the $189MM luxury tax threshold. While Speier argues that the club could go over the threshold, any further moves might have to come via trades, most likely from the team's excess of starting pitching.
- The Red Sox "would love to bring back" Stephen Drew but re-signing the shortstop could be difficult due to the aforementioned budget issues, Speier writes.
- The Sox are still looking for a left-handed bat for the left side of the infield as well as a right-handed hitting outfielder, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets. Drew, of course, would fit the bill as that infield bat.
Robinson Cano's blockbuster contract with the Mariners has generated the most headlines, but on another wild day of free agency, there's plenty of more news to go around. Here are some stray items about three of Friday's other major signings --- Curtis Granderson's four-year deal with the Mets, Carlos Beltran's three-year deal with the Yankees and Mike Napoli re-signing with the Red Sox for two years.
- The fourth year seemed to be the sticking point between Granderson and the Mets, but GM Sandy Alderson made the decision on Thursday night to offer the extra year and received approval from ownership, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (all Twitter links).
- Granderson gives the Mets a much-needed outfield bat, ESPN's Keith Law writes, though with Granderson already showing signs of decline, Law figures the Mets are only really counting on him to produce in the first two years of his deal. 2015 could be the key year, as it appears the Mets are looking to contend once Matt Harvey is back from Tommy John surgery.
- Also from Law, he thinks Beltran improves the Yankees lineup but it's a risky three-year commitment to a player entering his age-37 season. An ESPN Insider subscription is required to read Law's pieces.
- The Royals were rumored to have been the mystery team who made Beltran a three-year, $48MM offer earlier this week but a source tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that those rumors were "not accurate." Kansas City's trade for Norichika Aoki on Thursday seemed to be a sign that they had moved on from the Beltran sweepstakes.
- That larger offer could have come from the Diamondbacks, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the D'Backs offered Beltran a three-year deal worth more than the $45MM he received from New York. The signing would have boosted Arizona's payroll, and Piecoro wonders if the Snakes are willing to surpass the $100MM-payroll threshold to fill their needs this winter, or if they were just focused on Beltran in particular.
- Several members of the Red Sox roster urged the front office to up its offer to Napoli from two years/$30MM, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports. The players were responding to a rumor that the Rangers had made an offer "too good for Napoli to refuse," and the Sox indeed upped their offer to $32MM. The raise and the support from his teammates was enough to sway Napoli, who was already preferring to stay in Boston anyway.
- The Rangers actually never made a formal offer to Napoli, one source told Bradford.
10:31pm: The contract doesn't contain an opt-out clause, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets.
12:34pm: For what it's worth, the Mariners have released the following statement: “We are not able to confirm any news regarding Robinson Cano at this time. If and when an agreement is completed and finalized, we will announce.”
11:15am: Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that Cano receives a full no-trade clause as part of his deal.
9:57am: The Mariners and Robinson Cano are in agreement on a 10-year, $240MM contract, according to Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (Spanish link). The contract, negotiated by CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen and Jay-Z of Roc Nation Sports, will tie Albert Pujols for the third-largest deal in Major League history. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) first reported that the two sides were nearing agreement.
Reports from earlier today indicated that talks between Cano and the Mariners had crumbled after Jay-Z suddenly upped his demands back to $252MM when the Mariners were prepared to offer $225MM over nine years. The two sides appear to have reached a middle ground, with Cano's camp dropping by $12MM or so and the Mariners agreeing to add a tenth season at $15MM. Seattle's first-round draft pick is protected, meaning that GM Jack Zduriencik will only have to forfeit his second-round pick in order to bring Cano to the Emerald City.
Cano, who turned 31 in October, batted .314/.383/.516 with 27 home runs in 2013 and has averaged a batting line of .314/.369/.530 and 28 home runs over the previous five seasons. Paired with plus defense at second base, Cano has been worth an average of 6.8 (Baseball-Reference) or 5.8 (Fangraphs) wins above replacement. He's also one of baseball's most durable players, having missed just 14 games over the past seven seasons.
By joining the Mariners, Cano likely displaces one of Brad Miller or Nick Franklin. Miller impressed by batting .265/.318/.418 with eight homers in 335 plate apperances and playing solid defense at shortstop as a 24-year-old rookie in 2013. Though Franklin entered the season with more prospect hype, he wilted down the stretch and finished with just a .225/.303/.382 batting line. The 22-year-old Franklin spent nearly all of his time at second base this season (he played just 20 innings at shortstop), so it would seem that he is more likely to be the one who is displaced by Seattle's blockbuster addition.
MLBTR's Jeff Todd recently examined the future payroll obligations of all 30 Major League teams -- a study that showed the Mariners to be one of the best-equipped teams to accommodate a mega-deal of this nature. The only other players that the Mariners have signed beyond the 2014 season are ace Felix Hernandez and utility man Willie Bloomquist, who is a free agent following a 2015 campaign in which he earns $3MM. Despite the historic nature of this deal, the M's still have an annual commitment of roughly $50MM in the 2016-19 seasons -- the years in which the Cano and Hernandez contracts overlap. That should leave some room for further long-term additions this winter.
For the Yankees, the departure of Cano leaves a gaping hole at second base. They've added a bit of insurance in the form of Kelly Johnson but will almost certainly require a further upgrade. Omar Infante is the top free agent option, but the trade market presents additional options. Howie Kendrick and Brandon Phillips are said to be available, and the somewhat ironic scenario of a Franklin-to-New York trade at least seems conceivable. Cano's enormous sum is just $2MM more than the combined $238MM that the Yankees paid to sign Brian McCann (five years, $85MM) and Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153MM). I noted the similarity in that $238MM spend and the rumored $240MM figure for Cano on Twitter yesterday, and Jeff Todd chimed, in noting that the Yankees have diversified their risk and committed fewer years for the same amount of money.
In my free agent profile for Cano, I projected a nine-year, $234MM contract. Cano, Jay-Z and Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports deserve tremendous praise for securing a contract that ties for the third-largest of all-time and topping most pundits' expectations. Cano's deal serves as a reminder that even when a top free agent appears to have few suitors, the market will typically materialize for that free agent eventually, leading to a larger contract than appears likely at the onset of the offseason.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are today's minor moves and outright assignments from around the league...
- Eric Thames will play for the NC Dinos of the Korean Professional Baseball League in 2014, his agent tells Venezuelan reporter Ormuz Sojo (hat tip to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle). Thames posted a .799 OPS in 420 minor league PA in 2013, mostly at the Triple-A level for the Mariners' and Orioles' top affiliates, and was claimed off waivers by the Astros in September. Thames hit .250/.296/.431 with 21 homers in 684 PA with Toronto and Seattle in 2011-12.
- The White Sox have outrighted outfielder Blake Tekotte and infielder Mike McDade, reducing their 40-man roster to 37, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). The 26-year-old Tekotte hit .226/.306/.355 with one homer (his first in the Majors) in 36 PAs for the Sox in 2013. He hit .236/.319/.389 in 338 Triple-A PAs. McDade, 24, batted .250/.313/.371 in 428 PAs between the Triple-A affiliates for the Indians and ChiSox in 2013.
The Red Sox have agreed to terms with Mike Napoli, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports (Twitter link). The contract is a two-year deal worth $32MM, according to CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam (via Twitter). The slugger confirmed his return on his own Twitter feed, saying "The beard is coming back to Boston!!!" Napoli is represented by Brian Grieper.
Napoli's contact falls short of the three-year, $42MM deal that MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted he would receive this winter, though obviously Napoli's clear desire to remain with the World Series champions impacted his decision. Counting his $13MM salary from 2013 (in both base salary and incentives), Napoli will end up receiving $45MM between 2013-15 --- well above the $39MM he was originally set to earn from Boston before he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both of his hips, which caused the Sox to pull their multiyear offer and extend just the one-year pact.
The 32-year-old silenced all questions about his health by hitting .259/.360/.482 with 23 homers in 578 PA for the Sox last season, also posting big numbers in the ALCS during Boston's championship run. Napoli turned down a one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Red Sox earlier this winter and thus would've netted the club a compensation draft pick had he signed elsewhere, but now the club will have its starting first baseman back in the fold after already losing Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in free agency this offseason.
Earlier today, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that Napoli had received an offer from another club but his preference was to remain in Boston. The Marlins, Rangers, and Mariners were all rumored to be interested in Napoli's services. Texas was believed to have made Napoli a larger offer, Bradford and Alex Speier report, though sources later told them that the Rangers never made a formal offer. Napoli also turned down at least one three-year offer, according to Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith, but Napoli preferred to remain with the Sox and accepted their smaller deal.
Photo courtesy of Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports Images