SATURDAY: The deal is official, with the club issuing a press release announcing Mujica's signing. As the Red Sox note, the team's 40-man roster is now at full capacity. Mujica's contract includes up to $1MM in incentives based upon games finished, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
THURSDAY: The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a two-year, $9.5MM contract with right-hander Edward Mujica, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Mujica, who is represented by Octagon, will take a physical today, according to Passan.
Mujica, 29, possesses some of the best command of any pitcher in the Majors. He issued just five walks in 64 2/3 innings this season to go along with 46 strikeouts and a 2.78 ERA. Mujica entered the season buried on St. Louis' bullpen depth chart but ascended to the role of closer. Jason Motte underwent Tommy John surgery, Mitchell Boggs flopped and the Cardinals elected to deploy rookie Trevor Rosenthal in a setup role. The end result was Mujica notching 37 saves for the Redbirds, though he wilted down the stretch and was a complete non-factor in the playoffs.
Mujica's late-season swoon likely cost him several million dollars, as did a free agent market stuffed with closer types of relievers. Mujica, Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Chris Perez, Kevin Gregg and Jose Veras all saved 20-plus games in 2013. The market also features plenty of former closers in the form of John Axford, Brian Wilson and Andrew Bailey (Axford and Bailey were non-tendered), further presenting teams with late-inning alternatives that helped to suppress Mujica's price tag.
Mujica will join a Red Sox bullpen that figures to be once again anchored by Koji Uehara. Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and a presumably healthy Andrew Miller should join Mujica in bridging the gap to Uehara as the BoSox look to capture a second consecutive World Series title.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Orioles officially announced today, via press release, that they have reached a Major League deal with outfielder Francisco Peguero. Peguero, who is represented by Dan Rosquete and Elliott Vallin of Boston Sports Counsel, will earn $550K next season with Baltimore, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
Peguero, 25, was non-tendered by the Giants earlier in the week. He's batted .200/.217/.289 in a pair of brief Major League stints (46 plate appearances) but has fared better in the minor leagues. Peguero is a career .288/.318/.399 hitter in 764 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, though those numbers are likely dampened a bit by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.
Rosquete and Vallin did a nice job securing a Major League deal for their client given his scant MLB experience. The Orioles have been aggressive in securing players of this nature, having also given MLB deals to Kelvin De La Cruz and Edgmer Escalona. Indeed, Baltimore could be a nice landing spot for Peguero. As Kubatko reports, executive vice president Dan Duquette said that Peguero has big league talent. "He just needs an opportunity," said Duquette. "I'm glad we could add him to the organization."
Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America ranked Peguero eighth among Giants prospects, noting that he had perhaps the best combination of power and speed in the Giants' system. BA called Peguero a "hyper-aggressive" hitter, likening his approach to that of his now-former teammate, Pablo Sandoval. BA also noted that he has the tools to profile as a regular in the Majors if he can improve his recognition of the strike zone.
The Rockies and Athletics talked yesterday about a potential trade involving A's left-handed starter Brett Anderson, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but were not able to line up on a deal. The clubs are not expected to revisit the possibility of Anderson moving to Colorado, Rosenthal adds.
Anderson has been one of the most interesting trade targets reportedly available. Though the 6'4 southpaw has seen his last several seasons derailed by Tommy John surgery and a fracture in his right foot, he is just 25 years of age and still has plenty of upside. Anderson threw 175 1/3 innings and posted a 4.06 ERA as a rookie in 2009, but has not maintained a full season of starting work since. When healthy, Anderson has generally been effective; he has a lifetime ERA of 3.81 in 450 2/3 innings. Last season was his roughest on the mound, as he posted a 6.04 ERA in 44 2/3 innings, though metrics like FIP (3.85) and xFIP (3.26) were much more favorable.
Meanwhile, for the Rockies, MLBTR's Zach Links wrote before the off-season that the rotation was an area that the club could make an impactful addition. After adding LaTroy Hawkins to the bullpen and Justin Morneau at first via free agency, but shedding the salary of Dexter Fowler via trade, Colorado might be in a position to take on payroll obligations for a starter. Anderson is due to be paid $8MM next season and comes with a $12MM option for 2015 ($1.5MM buyout).
We have all heard the talk of new money infusing the game of baseball, and early free agent spending seems to reflect that. The numbers on the recent run of free agent signings sound high, but what do they tell us about overall spending levels? A quick look reveals that, indeed, spending seems destined to rise significantly this year.
Working from the MLBTR Free Agent Tracker, and taking out the non-guaranteed deals and exercised options that are reflected in that database, MLB clubs have now committed nearly $1.24B to free agents for the 2013-14 signing period. (That number includes today's share of the binge, at least as of the moment of publication.) That money has gone to 55 players and guaranteed a total of 126 years. Teams have, to date, given out an average guarantee of $22.52MM per player at an average annual value of $9.83MM.
Let's try and put that in context. I have been hard at work compiling various information on spending over the 2007-08 through 2012-13 signing seasons. (There will be plenty more to come on that, so consider this a preview.) The results show that we could be looking ahead to some remarkable new levels.
Here are the total dollars committed by season through free agency over the last six, completed signing seasons, compared to the current one. Note that prior years include all free agent spending, while this year's figures are only as of today (in $MMs):
As these numbers show, the league is well on its way to shattering previous high free agent spending totals: current commitments are already just under 85% of last year's sum, but we have probably seen less than half of the MLB deals that ultimately will be signed. Indeed, at last look, only half of MLBTR's top fifty free agents have reached agreement so far.
Of course, the rate figures presented in the table will probably drop as the Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury deals are balanced out by smaller, shorter contracts. And it is doubtful that the other half of the market will command as much as the first half has. Indeed, as the table shows, the total number of years guaranteed through free agency has been fairly uniform. If that is any indication, teams may not be handing out all that many more multiyear deals, having already signed up to pay for 126 years to date; over 60% of the deals signed thus far have been for multiple seasons, an unsustainable level.
If we do a more apples-to-apples comparison, the multiyear deals we've seen thus far are also coming in above historical levels. Again, we might expect some regression here, but the initial returns are interesting to look at. Compared only to multiyear deals signed in past seasons, here is where the rates presently stand:
As this chart hints, there are some interesting similarities so far between this signing season and the 2007-08 period, which came before the global economic downturn. But that will have to remain a topic for another day. For now, while it is still too early to know where things will fall out, the total commitments per player and AAV numbers will be worth watching over the rest of the signing season.
And it is probably not too early to say that, at this point, it would be a considerable surprise not to see a sizeable jump in overall free agent spending levels when we ultimately look back on this signing season.
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.