Pedro Alvarez Rumors

NL Notes: Desmond, Alvarez, Gomes

Free-agent-to-be Ian Desmond is focused on the upcoming season, but he would love to stay with the Nationals past 2015 if he can, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes. The Expos drafted Desmond in 2004, and he’s been with the organization ever since. “I was 18 when I signed, I had like four armpit hairs. Now I’ve got three kids,” says Desmond. “This is an organization I’ve been with a long time. Obviously I want to be here and play here, but this is a business.” Here’s more from the National League.

  • The Pirates plan to play Pedro Alvarez at first base against both lefties and righties, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets. “It’s going to be Pedro’s job to keep,” said manager Clint Hurdle at today’s PirateFest. That suggests that the Pirates are unlikely to hunt for a replacement for righty first baseman Gaby Sanchez, who they recently designated for assignment and then non-tendered. Brink also notes, however, that right-handed catcher Tony Sanchez will get work at first base and could potentially win a bench job, giving the Pirates an extra option in case Alvarez continues to struggle against lefties after hitting .175/.241/.263 against them last season.
  • The Reds are looking for outfielders, but they haven’t shown interest in Jonny Gomes, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Gomes played with the Reds from 2009 until they traded him to the Nationals midway through the 2011 season, but it seems they aren’t interested in a reunion after he hit .234/.327/.330 in 321 plate appearances for Boston and Oakland in 2014.

Winter Meetings Rumors: Giants, Santana, Marlins, Morneau, Dodgers, Angels

Needless to say, it was a frenetic end to the Winter Meetings. Over the course of the morning, several forward-looking reports emerged. We’ll round those up here:

  • The Giants are focused on free agent starter James Shields, according to Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News (via Twitter). San Francisco is alive on both Shields and Ervin Santana, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle adds on Twitter. The club met with Shields in San Diego, as Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported yesterday (Twitter link).
  • The Twins are still trying to land Santana, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who adds that the GiantsRoyals, and Yankees have also expressed interest in the free agent righty.
  • The Marlins are still looking hard at the free agent and trade market for a first baseman, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. A deal could come at any time, Spencer adds.
  • Attempts by the Marlins to deal for Justin Morneau of the Rockies have fallen apart, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer. He hears that Miami could rekindle talks with the Pirates regarding a Pedro Alvarez-for-Nathan Eovaldi swap.
  • Communications between the Marlins and Rockies regarding Morneau will continue, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports on Twitter, though Harding’s source says he is not sure if the potential match “has legs.”
  • The Dodgers did not make their moves as a prelude to dealing away Zack Greinke or dealing for Cole Hamels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has already done its heavy lifting with yesterday’s series of moves, says Sherman.
  • After trading away second baseman Howie Kendrick, the Angels are “open to opportunities” for additions at the position, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Halos are not interested in free agents Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew, per Dipoto. Of course, the team just added Josh Rutledge to join in-house option Grant Green in the current mix.

Marlins Interested In Morse, Morneau

As the Marlins continue to look for upgrades at first base, the team is considering free agent Michael Morse and trade target Justin Morneau of the Rockies, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports on Twitter.  Miami is looking for a left-handed bat, but Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates does not seem like a fit.

Morse, 33 in March, enjoyed a strong season with the bat in 2014 with the World Series Champion Giants, batting .279/.336/.475 with 16 homers in 482 plate appearances despite playing in the cavernous AT&T Park.  Morse’s offensive contributions were 30 to 33 percent above league average, per park-adjust stats like OPS+ and wRC+.  Late last month, the Marlins were said to have lukewarm interest in Morse, but things have apparently picked up since then.  Last week we learned that the Orioles were showing strong interest in Morse.

Morneau, 33 (34 in May), enjoyed a bounce back year with the Rockies in 2014, batting .319/.364/.496 with 17 homers in 550 plate appearances.  He offers not only solid production but a palatable contract as well.  He’ll make $7.25MM next season (that’s including the extra $500K he earned by reaching 550 PA last season) along with a $750K buyout on a $9MM mutual option for 2016.



NL Central Notes: Gallardo, Morton, Huntington, Alvarez

Here’s the latest out of the NL Central …

  • The Brewers have decided to exercise a $13MM option over starter Yovani Gallardo, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy recently explained, that move was widely expected with the 28-year-old righty coming off of 192 1/3 frames of 3.51 ERA ball. Gallardo would have presented an interesting free agent case; though he would have faced a lot of competition in the mid-tier starter’s market, his age remains intriguing.
  • Pirates starter Charlie Morton has undergone surgery on a torn right hip labrum, the club announced today. That procedure is expected to sideline him for between six and eight months, meaning that he may not be counted on to start the year in the rotation. The 30-year-old righty has posted a 3.72 ERA over 157 1/3 innings this year, after signing a three-year, $21MM extension before the season.
  • As the Morton situation serves to illustrate, things never slow down for Pirates GM Neal Huntington, as Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Regarding the team’s slate of pending free agents, Huntington indicated that he hopes to retain at least some of its players but, if not, will work hard to find the next bunch of undervalued open market assets. Looking back, Huntington said he has continued to wonder what the team missed in not pushing harder to bring back Justin Morneau“What did we miss in that process that he would go out and have such a great year?” Huntington asked. “That’s been a challenging one, absolutely, especially given our continued challenges at first base and what that production would have looked like in the middle of our lineup.”  
  • As he looks ahead to the offseason, Huntington says that he believes Pedro Alvarez will return to being an important part of the club. The struggling third baseman has taken a step back after two productive seasons, but is still just 27 and comes with two more years of control through arbitration.

Red Sox Notes: Tomas, Castillo, Uehara, Alvarez

Despite their outfield logjam, the Red Sox will be in attendance for Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase in the Dominican Republic on Sunday, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford spoke with Boston’s newest outfielder, Rusney Castillo, about his countryman and received strong reviews. “He’s a really high quality baseball player, and a really good person,” said Castillo through an interpreter. “He’s got a ton of power. For his physique, he actually moves pretty well. He’s pretty quick for a big guy.” Castillo agrees with scouting reports that say Tomas isn’t the same athlete that Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes is, but likened his power to that of Jose Abreu.

More from Bradford and some additional pieces on the Red Sox…

  • Red Sox owner John Henry told Bradford, via email, that the team’s near-miss on Abreu fueled the club’s aggressiveness on Castillo. Boston bid just $5MM less than the White Sox did to secure Abreu, prompting Henry to admit: “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework.” 
  • GM Ben Cherington appeared on the Dennis & Callahan radio show to discuss a number of Red Sox topics, and WEEI’s Jerry Spar has some highlights. Cherington said that while the team doesn’t consider Castillo to be have one elite tool, they feel he’s very good in a lot of categories and should be a quality Major League outfielder. Cherington stopped short, however, of proclaiming Castillo the team’s center fielder in 2015. (The Arizona Fall League announced today that Castillo will play there this offseason, which should give Boston more time to make that evaluation.) He also addressed the Mookie Betts situation, noting that the team most likely projects Betts as an outfielder moving forward and has not discussed playing him at third base.
  • “I think it’s safe to say we would still have interest in keeping him here,” Cherington said in that same appearance when asked about Koji Uehara. Cherington praised Uehara’s accountability during his recent rough patch, and that accountability is an appealing factor when pursuing a new contract. Boston has yet to make an offer or discuss a new contract with Uehara at this time, per Cherington.
  • As John Tomase of the Boston Herald points out, the Red Sox, by some metrics, have had the worst production in the league at third base. As such, they’ll be on the hunt for third basemen with power this offseason, preferably ones that hit left-handed or are switch-hitters in order to balance out a right-leaning lineup. Tomase expects Pedro Alvarez to be on the team’s list, as the club tried desperately to sign him as a 14th-round pick out of high school back in 2005. Boston was willing to offer Alvarez $850K and showed a late willingness to push the number closer to Alvarez’s $1MM asking price, but he instead attended Vanderbilt. The decision paid off, as Alvarez was drafted No. 2 overall and received a $6MM signing bonus from the Pirates three years later. Tomase speculates that a swap of underachieving third basemen — Alvarez and Will Middlebrooks — might make sense for both clubs (presumably, other pieces would be required in such a deal).
  • The right-leaning nature of Boston’s lineup is the focus of the latest from Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe, who notes that the Sox currently project to have just one regular lefty bat in the lineup next season — David Ortiz. While others such as Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley and the switch-hitting Daniel Nava could be worked into the mix, the team cannot afford to have such a glaring deficiency, as other clubs will exploit it, writes Massarotti.

Injury Notes: Alvarez, Pedroia, Iglesias

The Pirates announced, via press release, that Pedro Alvarez has been diagnosed with a stress reaction of the fourth metatarsal in his left foot — an injury that comes with a four to six week recovery timeline. The powerful Alvarez had lost playing time to Josh Harrison at third base but has still seen the occasional start at the hot corner plus some starts at first base and DH (during interleague play, of course). That injury seems likely to sideline him for the remainder of the 2014 season, meaning that his campaign will come to a close with a rather disappointing .231/.312/.405 slash line and 18 homers.

Here are some more notes pertaining to notable injuries from around the league…

  • Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia will undergo surgery on his left hand tomorrow, thereby ending his 2014 season. It’s been a rough few weeks for Pedroia, who also missed time due to concussion-like symptoms at the end of August after an on-field collision. The ’08 MVP batted .278/.337/.376 this season, which despite translating to league-average production (101 OPS+), is the least-productive full season he’s had in terms of rate stats.
  • While the Bucs and BoSox received bad news today, the Tigers got some good news regarding Jose Iglesias‘ injuries, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Iglesias was cleared for lower body workouts after receiving a CT scan and MRI that showed the stress fractures in each of his shins have healed. The defensive wizard has not been able to do any lower body work while dealing with the injuries but will now accelerate his rehab with a physical therapist in Miami before beginning an offseason training program in November. He appears to be on track for a 2015 return, says Iott, who spoke with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and was told this was “the best possible outcome we could hope for.”

Extension Candidate: Pedro Alvarez

USATSI_7848313In May 2013, Pedro Alvarez's agent, Scott Boras, declared that he and his client would be "open" to the possibility of a long-term contract with the Pirates. Since then, and particularly since the Bucs inked Starling Marte to a long-term deal last month, the Pittsburgh media has chattered about the Pirates' chances of signing Alvarez.

That Boras was open to an Alvarez extension wasn't that surprising. Boras' antipathy to pre-free agent deals, or perhaps the impact of his antipathy to pre-free agent deals upon actual negotiations, is sometimes overstated — a number of Boras clients, including Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Carlos Pena, Elvis Andrus, Jered Weaver and Ryan Madson, have signed them. (Besides, Alvarez was hitting just .200/.257/.406 at the time of Boras' comments.)

Nonetheless, that Boras is Alvarez's agent is still an issue. Alvarez himself would probably have to be strongly in favor of a deal for Boras to sign off on it. The squabbles between Boras and the Pirates after the Bucs drafted Alvarez in 2008 might be anecdotal evidence that neither Boras nor Alvarez will cede much ground on an extension (although 2008 was also long enough ago that it might not matter). And Boras recently criticized "donut contracts" for pre-free agency players that feature options at the end. It probably would not be easy at all for the Pirates to work out a long-term deal for Alvarez.

Alvarez is set to make $4.25MM this year, his first year of arbitration eligibility, and to become eligible for free agency following the 2016 season. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review beat writer Travis Sawchik has frequently compared Alvarez's career to that of Chris Davis, and if Alvarez's age-27 season were to go as well as Davis' did, Alvarez would get enormous raises in his last two arbitration seasons — Davis, for example, got a raise from $3.3MM to $10.35MM after hitting 53 home runs last year. Still, a 50-homer season isn't likely for Alvarez, and arbitration salaries are broadly predictable, so let's guess that Alvarez will make about $22-25MM from 2014 through 2016 if the Pirates don't sign him long-term. (A $22MM-$25MM projection suggests he will still get fairly steep raises, given that power tends to be rewarded in arbitration.)

A long-term deal for Alvarez would likely start there. Where it would end up is another matter, and Freddie Freeman's enormous eight-year, $135MM contract with the Braves would be a very tough precedent for the Pirates to get around, given that both Freeman and Alvarez are both corner sluggers with between three and four years of service time. The Pirates might argue that Freeman is two-and-a-half years younger than Alvarez, and has a much better track record hitting for average. But even if we lop the last two years off Freeman's contract to address the age difference, we're left with six years and $91MM, which would be a lot for the Pirates to pay Alvarez, given that his next three seasons will be relatively cheap. Dropping that $91MM total somewhat to reflect Freeman's broader base of offensive skills would only help so much.

And even that might concede too much for Boras' taste. While Freeman is a better player than Alvarez, Boras might not see it that way, perhaps arguing that Alvarez's superior power ought to make him every bit as valuable to the Pirates as Freeman was for the Braves.

At this point, we're left with the question of just what a pre-free agency extension for Alvarez would be for. Alvarez is already 27, and the Pirates control him through his age-29 season. The only point in signing Alvarez long-term would be to control seasons beyond that, and Alvarez and Boras would surely want to be paid quite well to give up those seasons.

The problem is that it's not clear how valuable Alvarez will be in his thirties. His raw power is outstanding, on par with Davis', but only so much of Alvarez's raw power is usable, because of his struggles with strikeouts (he whiffed at least 180 times in both 2012 and 2013) and hitting for average. The track records of sluggers with serious strikeout issues are spotty — Mark Reynolds, for example, was productive while striking out prodigiously in his mid-twenties, but he hasn't had a truly strong offensive season since age 27. Ryan Howard's career and contract provide more cautionary tales. Alvarez's low averages (he's only hit above .244 once in his career) are already a concern. His plate appearances so far in 2014 have looked much better than in years past, so perhaps there's a faint possibility that Alvarez can master his strikeout issues. Unless he can prove himself over a longer time frame, however, it makes little sense to bet on that.

Then there are Alvarez's other skills. He's become an average third baseman and baserunner, but it's questionable whether he'll be able to maintain his current defensive and baserunning abilities as he heads into his thirties, given his bulky physique and lack of raw speed.

Given the likelihood that Alvarez won't age well, then, the Pirates' best course of action may simply be to enjoy the three years of him they have left. Signing a big, strikeout-prone slugger into his thirties doesn't make sense, even accounting for the slim possibility that he'll break out and become the next Chris Davis. Long-term contracts are calculated risks, and other things being equal, it's better to take the risk on a younger, more athletic player like Marte.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)


NL Central Links: Walker, Alvarez, Cards, Rule 5

Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central….


NL Notes: Rockies, Pirates, Mets, Managerial Searches

The NLCS is taking a day off as the scene shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 tomorrow night with the Cardinals leading the Dodgers 2-0. Here is the latest news and notes out of the National League today:

  • The Rockies need to improve their talent acquisition via the draft and Latin America in order to overcome the crushing injuries suffered in recent seasons, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver PostTim Hudson, whose free agency was profiled this past week by MLBTR's Steve Adams, would make a perfect middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Rockies, Renck opines.
  • The Pirates' payroll will increase significantly in 2014 aiding their efforts to retain free agents Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett while also trying to sign Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez to long-term extensions, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel.  
  • The Mets will face a dilemma with their 40-man roster when it comes time to protect minor league players from the Rule 5 draft, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. The Mets' 40-man roster is currently full and will be so again once the eight players on the 60-day disabled list replace the eight pending free agents on the 40-man. Jordany Valdespin headlines Rubin's list of eight Mets who could lose their roster spot.
  • The Reds' managerial search is centered on pitching coach Bryan Price and Triple-A manager Jim Riggleman, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Fay expects Price to get the job; but, if neither candidate impresses ownership in upcoming interviews, the search may be expanded.
  • Nationals third-base coach Trent Jewett has an excellent shot to become the team's next manager, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required).