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JAN 29th: The Pirates have outrighted Elmore to Triple-A Indianapolis, according to MLB.com’s transactions page.
JAN 20th: The Pirates have designated infielder Jake Elmore for assignment, the club announced. The move creates 40-man roster space for the addition of Jung-ho Kang.
Most recently, Elmore was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh from the Reds, but he has also bounced around with the Athletics and White Sox in recent memory. The 27-year-old obviously holds appeal as a utility option, though clubs are wary of holding a roster spot for him when the need arises. Over 221 career MLB plate appearances, Elmore owns a .221/.288/.291 slash.
Longtime big leaguer Miguel Tejada, now 40, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Mexican League’s Pericas de Puebla, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deports reports. Tejada does not appear to be looking to spark another return to the big leagues, but instead says he wants to play out the season and enjoy one more winter league run before hanging up his spikes.
Here are some more notes with an international flare:
- While Yoan Moncada has drawn much of the attention, fellow young infielder Andy Ibanez is a legitimate prospect in his own right, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Ibanez figures to command a pool-busting bonus, says Badler, who breaks down the full history and book on the 21-year-old. Though he lacks the flashy tools of Moncada, Ibanez is framed as a solid all-around player with a promising bat. All said, he is a better prospect than Roberto Baldoquin, who just landed $8MM from the Angels, in Badler’s estimation.
- The transition from playing in one country to another can be difficult on many levels, as Ryan Sadowski — now the first-ever full-time international scout for the KBO’s Lotte Giants — explained to me on a recent episode of the MLBTR podcast. New Pirates addition Jung-ho Kang is in the midst of just such a move, as Bill Mitchell explores for Baseball America. Kang is currently training in the United States with his now-former KBO club, the Nexen Heroes, before heading to camp with the Bucs to begin his new journey.
6:36pm: One name involved in talks, according to Connolly, is Class-A left-hander Steven Brault (Twitter links). Connolly gets the sense that if Brault and a second prospect are sent to the Pirates, the second player would be a hitter.
5:06pm: The Orioles are attempting to acquire Snider for “less” than two minor leaguers at present, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
4:42pm: The Orioles and Pirates have rekindled their previous trade talks regarding Travis Snider, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. While Connolly cautions that a deal is not complete, it seems that the general parameters have been discussed in some depth, as he adds that Snider would cost the Orioles one or two non-40-man prospects — at least one pitcher and possibly another player (that could also be a pitcher).
The 26-year-old Snider (27 next week), formerly one of the Top 10 prospects in all of baseball according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, never was able to live up to those lofty expectations, but he enjoyed a solid season in 2014. Last year with the Pirates, the former Blue Jays top pick batted .264/.338/.438 with 13 homers in 359 plate appearances.
Snider and the Pirates have already agreed to a $2.1MM salary this season, avoiding arbitration. He’s controllable through the 2016 season, as he currently has four years, 91 days of Major League service time. Previous talks regarding Snider involved Brian Matusz, according to Connolly, though he is not under consideration as a part of this deal.
The Orioles lost both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to free agency this offseason and have yet to replace either, with the current starting outfield projecting to feature Alejandro De Aza in left field, Adam Jones in center and David Lough in right field. Both Steve Pearce and Delmon Young could serve as right-handed options at the outfield corners, though Young figures to spend most of his time at DH. The left-handed hitting Snider would give the Orioles a third lefty-swinging corner option, though perhaps the team feels that the defensively oriented Lough is best deployed as a fourth outfielder.
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince takes a look at some folks around the league who are, in his view, facing make-or-break seasons. He includes some less obvious names, but two players stand out who could conceivably be All-Stars or become non-tender candidate: Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates and Mike Moustakas of the Royals.
Here are some notes from the game’s Central divisions…
- The Indians had the team’s defense in mind when they traded Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the July 31 non-waiver deadline, manager Terry Francona explains to MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). However, Francona admits that there was some hesitation on Cleveland’s behalf because of how they thought the move would be perceived by fans and the rest of the roster. “…[GM Chris Antonetti] was justifiably concerned about the perception, that we were throwing up the white flag. So we had to kind of decide, ‘OK, look, we believe in what we’re doing and we’ll make sure the players understand that we think we can actually be a better team and get a prospect back.’ I think it took awhile, but once [Jose] Ramirez came up and everybody saw how he played shortstop, they saw why we wanted to make the move. We love Cabby — always will — but we felt we had a chance to get a little bit more athletic at shortstop and you saw the way Jose played.”
- Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets that the Royals are still monitoring James Shields‘ free agency, though he notes it’s likely just due diligence. Said general manager Dayton Moore said to McCullough: “I’m not sure there’s a fit.” As McCullough notes in a followup tweet, the Royals have six starting pitchers under contract (including Kris Medlen), and the team’s payroll is already set to top $110MM — a club record.
- The Reds completed a four-year extension with catcher Devin Mesoraco earlier today that bought out all three of his arbitration seasons and one free agent year, but it doesn’t sound like agreements for the team’s remaining arb-eligible players are close. GM Walt Jocketty told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that the Reds are “a ways apart” with both Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman (Twitter link). It sounds like Cincinnati may have spoken with Frazier’s agents at CAA about an extension as well, via the Cincinnati Enquirer’s John Fay, but things don’t look promising based on his tweet. Jocketty tells Fay that the Reds talked to Frazier about a new deal, “but we’re not nearly as close as we were with Mesoraco.”
The Pirates deserve praise for the depth they’ve built on their Major League roster, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily Insider-only blog post (subscription required and recommended). More and more, Olney writes, the Pirates are beginning to look like the second coming of the perennially-contending Cardinals, with talented players that can handle multiple positions, safeguarding the club against regression and injury. For instance, Josh Harrison can play right field if Gregory Polanco‘s adjustment to the Majors stalls again in 2015, with Jung-ho Kang sliding into third in his stead. Kang could also unseat Jordy Mercer at short if Mercer struggles, and the team has plenty of options at first base in addition to Pedro Alvarez, including Corey Hart, Sean Rodriguez and Andrew Lambo. That depth breeds success, which paired with the revitalization of pitchers A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley, makes Pittsburgh a very desirable free agent destination — particularly for pitchers.
More on the Pirates and the NL Central…
- The questions about Kang’s defense may not be an issue given how the Pirates have used shifts to cover up for their generally unimpressive fielding, Fangraphs’ Miles Wray writes. If Kang’s defense isn’t an issue, Wray feels the Bucs made an acceptable risk in signing Kang given his power-hitting potential.
- Javier Baez is having a tough time in Puerto Rico winter ball, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reports, as the Cubs prospect is still plagued by strikeouts. It is starting to look like Baez could begin the 2015 season in Triple-A unless he enjoys a big Spring Training.
- Tony Cingrani and Anthony DeSclafani are the current favorites to fill the two remaining spots in the Reds rotation, though manager Bryan Price tells reporters (including C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that nothing has been decided. Jason Marquis, David Holmberg and Raicel Iglesias stand out as possible contenders to earn a rotation spot in Spring Training, with Iglesias something of an “X-factor” given how he went several months without pitching while arranging his departure from Cuba.
Recent discussions between free agent James Shields and the Tigers make sense for both sides, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. The Tigers have a good rotation for 2015 but could lose David Price and Alfredo Simon after the season, meaning Shields could be a good addition both for 2015 and beyond. Morosi adds that the Tigers have maintained contact with Scott Boras about Max Scherzer, although there are no indications that discussions have gotten very far. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Likewise, it makes sense for the Cardinals to sign Scherzer, Morosi writes. Morosi reports that Scherzer and the Cardinals have made known to one another that both sides are interested, but notes that the length and dollar amount of the sort of contract Scherzer is seeking might be an issue for the Cardinals. One way for the two sides to come to terms, Morosi suggests, would be for the Cardinals to offer fewer years (perhaps five) at a high average annual value. (Morosi suggests $156MM, which would give Scherzer the highest AAV ever for a pitcher.) Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said today, however, that the team is not shopping for expensive pitchers (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Twitter).
- The Pirates‘ signing of Jung-ho Kang has upside but comes with little risk, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates’ financial obligations are minimal (about $16MM over four years, including Kang’s posting fee), and if Kang proves effective, he could give the Pirates valuable infield insurance in case third baseman Josh Harrison or shortstop Jordy Mercer don’t continue to work out. (Harrison would appear to be set as a starter for the next couple years after a borderline-MVP-caliber season in 2014, but anything can happen.) Also, Kang is signed through at least 2018, while second baseman Neil Walker has only two years remaining before he’s eligible for free agency. As Sawchik points out in a separate article, Kang could also make plenty of money for the Pirates by attracting advertising from Korean companies.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said at Cubs Convention today that other teams have inquired about catcher Welington Castillo, but that the Cubs haven’t yet received any compelling offers, Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune tweets. With the additions of Miguel Montero and David Ross this offseason, there’s no obvious role for Castillo in Chicago, even though he has a solid track record as an offensive catcher. Via Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter), Hoyer added that Ross was too good not to acquire, despite Castillo’s talent. The 37-year-old Ross has hit sparingly in the past two seasons but has a solid record as a pitch framer.
With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).
MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.
Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.
That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).
Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.
And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:
- The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
- Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
- Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
- Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
- Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).
Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:
- David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
- Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
- The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
- Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
- The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
- On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.
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Earlier today, the Pirates announced that they have officially signed Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang to a four-year deal. The appeal to Kang is clear. He slashed .356/.459/.739 for the Nexen Heroes of the (admittedly hitter-friendly) Korea Baseball Organization with 40 homers across 117 total games in 2014. What wasn’t so clear about the signing is where Kang will fit in with the Pirates. Earlier today, I asked General Manager Neal Huntington about how he anticipates that Kang will be used in Pittsburgh.
“We like the player a lot but we also understand and respect that there’s going to be a significant transition period here, not just on the field, but off the field as well. We want him to transition culturally as well as professionally and as he comes into camp he’ll very much complement our major league team,” Huntington said on the conference call. “We’re looking forward to confirming our belief about his ability at shortstop, he has played some third, and we know he can play some second but right now he’ll come in as a complementary player as he adjusts to major league baseball and the United States in general.”
While there will be an adjustment period for Kang, the Pirates want the infielder to get acclimated to life in the majors right away. That means that Huntington & Co. have no intention of sending Kang down to the minor leagues for seasoning.
Huntington says that Kang is on board with serving in a complementary role in 2015, despite recent comments that he made which suggested that he wanted to start immediately. The Bucs GM chalked that up to something of a miscommunication: any major leaguer, he says, will assert that they are starting caliber if asked. By the same token, Huntington says that Kang respects the hard work that Bucs teammates like Josh Harrison have put in to earn their leading roles.
The Pirates are excited about welcoming Kang into the fold but not everyone in the baseball world is a believer. The KBO boasts notoriously boosted batting lines and many equate the league’s level of competition with Double-A baseball. In Huntington’s mind, that’s not necessarily a fair comparison nor is it an accurate predictor of how well a Korean player can fare in the big leagues. Japan’s NPB has a stronger level of competition but Huntington notes that many Japanese players haven’t been able to hack it in the States, and vice versa.
That skepticism over his level of competition led to a more tepid market than some anticipated at the outset of the offseason. I asked Huntington if he had a sense of how many teams were ultimately in on the bidding process.
“It’s a blind process and on one hand its a bit disconcerting to not know, but on the other hand we don’t really care. We got the player wanted for what we feel is a fair dollar amount that works for him and for us,” Huntington said.
If things work out with Kang, it certainly seems possible that he could displace someone in Pittsburgh’s current infield. Huntington isn’t thinking that far ahead, however.
“This move was made to make us a better team. You can never have enough good players, You can never have enough quality major league players, especially ones that have versatility and can do it from the left side. There’s no set script [that says] if he becomes a good player, we’re going to trade player X or player Y. If things go well, we’re going to have a very talented and deep position player group,” the GM explained.
In an interesting twist, Kang’s Nexen team will be training in Arizona this spring. The Bucs will allow the infielder to work out with his former squad before flying across the country to meet them in Florida.
Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.
MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …
- The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
- Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
- Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
- Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
- Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
- Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
- Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
- Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
- Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
- The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
- Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
- The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
- Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
- Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
- The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
- Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
- Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.
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With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
- The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
- Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
- Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
- The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
- ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
- Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
- Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
- Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
- Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
- Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
- Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.
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