Rick Porcello Rumors

Quick Hits: Shields, Porcello, Buxton

It’s still unclear where James Shields will wind up, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tracks Shields’ hard-to-read market, guessing at nine potential destinations for the free agent righty. Topping the list is the Cardinals, who showed some interest in Jon Lester and Max Scherzer and likely have room for Shields in their budget. Still, much about the Shields market remains uncertain, without much reported action from traditionally heavy-spending teams, leaving teams like the Marlins, Astros and Padres near the top of Heyman’s list of possible destinations. Here’s more from around baseball.

  • New Red Sox staring pitcher Rick Porcello is not yet ready to discuss an extension, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. “I just got here and met the guys last night so I think it’s premature for that,” says Porcello. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody, get to know the staff and the guys.” Mastrodonato notes that the Red Sox would also probably like to get to know Porcello a bit better before signing him long-term. With a year remaining before free agency and youth on his side, the 26-year-old Porcello stands to cash in if he has a 2015 season similar to his 2014, when he had a 3.43 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and a stingy 1.8 BB/9 in 204 2/3 innings.
  • GM Terry Ryan says that although the Twins aren’t planning to have top prospect Byron Buxton break camp with the team, Buxton could make his big-league debut at some point during the season, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets. Buxton only recently turned 21, has only a few plate appearances in the high minors, and missed most of the 2014 season with a wrist injury, so such an aggressive promotion schedule would be unusual for most players, particularly given the Twins’ typically cautious approach. Buxton has exceptional tools, however, and MLB.com currently rates him the top overall prospect in the game, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the Majors at some point this season.

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With Rick Porcello

The Red Sox have avoided arbitration with right-hander Rick Porcello with a $12.5MM agreement, WAPT’s Mike Perchick reports on Twitter. He lands just above the $12.2MM projection of MLBTR/Matt Swartz.

Boston acquired Porcello in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes earlier in the offseason. This is the fourth and final run through arbitration for the former Super Two player, who will hit the open market after the year.

Porcello, 26, is coming off of his best season as a pro. He logged 204 2/3 innings of 3.43 ERA ball, striking out 5.7 and walking 1.8 batters per nine.


Quick Hits: Rule Changes, Draftees, Porcello

MLB owners are likely to discuss a variety of potential rule changes next week at their quarterly meetings in Arizona, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi writes. One change that isn’t likely to take place for next season is the addition of a pitch clock, due to a lack of support from both the league and its players. Other rules, however, will receive strong consideration, including a rule requiring batters to keep one foot in the batter’s box between most pitches, and another requiring runners to slide directly toward second on double plays rather than going out of their way to slide into middle infielders. There could also be discussion about modifying the instant replay rule and Rule 7.13 (the rule designed to prevent collisions at home). MLB and the MLBPA will also meet this month to discuss a new policy regarding domestic violence, Morosi writes. Here’s more from around baseball.

  • High school draftees are often more coachable than prospects from college, writes David Laurila of Fangraphs. High school draftees “usually listen more,” says Brewers farm director Reid Nichols. “Part of the reason is because everyone is as good, or better, than they are. They struggle, and when you struggle you look for help. In a more general sense, you have those extra three years to mold them and help them.” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow echoes Nichols’ sentiments but notes that because high school draftees are further from the Majors, there’s greater variance in how they ultimately turn out.
  • Both Rick Porcello and the Red Sox are gambling on the righty’s performance this year, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Porcello will make about $12.2MM this year, based on MLBTR’s projections, and then he’ll be eligible for free agency. With his age (he’ll be 27) and history, he could be in for a huge payday if he has a good year, even with a crowded 2015-16 free agent market that also looks to include David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann and Jeff Samardzija.


Quick Hits: Molina, Porcello, Scherzer

Jose Molina is the “Strangest But Truest Man Of The Year,” writes Jayson Stark of ESPN. Last season, Molina was the first player aged 39 or older since Ricky Henderson to record more stolen bases than extra base hits in a season. Of course, while Henderson swiped 36 against 20 extra base knocks, Molina managed just three and two respectively. Check out Stark’s post to learn more strange but true facts about Molina and others.

  • Buster Olney, writing for ESPN Insider (subscription required), evaluated 11 players and managers at a career crossroad. Among them was new Red Sox hurler Rick Porcello, whose performance in media hungry Boston will set the stage for his first foray into free agency. The former Tiger is a command and control specialist with a career 4.30 ERA. Last season was his best, with a 3.43 ERA and strong peripherals. A repeat performance will presage a tidy payday.
  • Top free agent Max Scherzer is a potential fit for 11 clubs, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. Justice describes the use case for each potential. From my own perspective, none of the potential fits is particularly compelling. Either budget or need seemingly provides a barrier. Still, if history has taught us anything, somebody is going to pay for Scherzer. Even if they’re bidding against the Mystery Team.

AL Notes: Cespedes, Mariners, Orioles, Howard

Trading Rick Porcello to the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier will likely cost the Tigers a draft pick, as MLive.com’s Chris Iott explains. Porcello and Cespedes are both free agents after the 2015 season, but the Tigers will not be able to extend Cespedes a qualifying offer. Cespedes will only have four years of service time, and so in order for his team to meet the requirement that he be a free agent after the season, he’ll have to be non-tendered. Non-tendered players can’t be extended qualifying offers. There are no such restrictions on Porcello (or most other pending free agents) being extended qualifying offers. So unless Porcello has a poor season (or re-signs with the Red Sox), the most likely outcome of the deal is that the Red Sox will get a draft pick as a result, and the Tigers will not. Here’s more from the American League.

  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik thinks he’ll be able to add an extra outfielder or two this offseason, Shannon Drayer of 710AM ESPN tweets. “I feel confident we will get something done,” he says. “There may be more than one thing.” The Mariners have reportedly made Melky Cabrera a three-year offer, and they’ve also had serious trade talks with the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo. Justin Upton is another possibility.
  • Another team looking for an outfielder is the Orioles, who seem more likely to sign one than to trade for one, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. Delmon Young and Michael Morse are possibilities, and so is Cabrera, but only if he’s willing to settle for less than four or five years. The Orioles were also connected to Colby Rasmus last week. Kubatko notes that the O’s spoke to the Phillies about Marlon Byrd, but the Phillies offered a package that included Byrd and Ryan Howard. Howard, of course, is owed $60MM over the next two seasons, so taking on Howard’s contract just to get a good but not franchise-changing outfielder in Byrd would seem like a very tough sell for any team.

Arbitration Breakdown: Rick Porcello

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Rick Porcello enters his fourth and final arbitration year coming off of a career year — and heading to a new team. With a 3.43 ERA, he bested his career ERA by over a run, and he had personal records with 15 wins and 204 2/3 innings too. Porcello had never had an ERA better than 3.96—and that was his rookie year—and he had gotten 14 wins a couple times, although not since 2011. Porcello had also never thrown more than 182 innings, yet he beat that handily this year. After establishing himself as a slightly below average starter whose best characteristic was that he was durable, Porcello emerged as an important contributor in 2014.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers

Those three key statistics for which Porcello had a career record in 2014 (ERA, wins, innings) are by far the most important ones for starting pitchers in arbitration. Furthermore, in general only the most recent season counts towards a player’s arbitration raise once they have reached their second year of eligibility or later. The previous years’ performances only really matter in as much as they affect the salary base from which the player will earn a raise. As a result, Porcello is likely to get a healthy raise from his $8.5MM salary in 2014, and my model projects his raise to be $3.7MM, putting him at $12.2MM. By looking at other comparables, this looks like a reasonable estimate.

Shaun Marcum in 2012 received a $3.30MM raise after going 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 200.2 innings. Although strikeouts do appear to have some effect on starting pitchers’ arbitration cases, and Marcum had 158 to Porcello’s 129, the rest of Marcum’s case seems to be slightly worse across the board. His ERA is barely higher, his innings are barely lower, yet he won two fewer games. As a result, Marcum is likely to be seen as floor for Porcello. This means that Porcello is likely to be able to argue that any agreement should give him a raise of more than the $3.3MM than Marcum received.

A possible ceiling for Porcello could be Justin Masterson’s $4.07MM raise last year. Masteron had a 14-10 record, so he did win one fewer game than Porcello, and his 3.45 ERA was similar. Masterson also had 193 innings, which is less than Porcello’s 204.2. However, all of those numbers are similar and Masterson had 195 strikeouts, beating Porcello by 69. If strikeouts are given any real weight in Porcello’s process (which does not always seem to be the case), they are likely to make Masterson look like a ceiling because of the similarity of his case otherwise. However, if they are not considered strongly, then Masterson would look more like an even comparable for Porcello.

Another possible comparable could be Jason Vargas from 2013, who got a $3.65MM raise—just $50K less than my model predicts. Vargas went 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA, so he had one fewer win and an ERA 0.42 higher. But Vargas had 217.1 innings, topping Masterson by 12.2 innings, and he struck out twelve more batters. The case is definitely similar, with the extra win and better ERA not necessarily giving a better case because of the 12.2 fewer innings and twelve fewer strikeouts. As a result, the $3.65MM seems likely to be close to what Porcello earns.

I suspect that the model will nail this case based on these three comparable pitchers. This would put Porcello at $12.2MM in his last year before free agency.


AL Central Notes: Porcello, Scherzer, Melky, Twins

The Tigers didn’t trade Rick Porcello to the Red Sox due to a lack of progress in extension talks, Porcello’s agent Jim Murray tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi.  The two sides “briefly discussed” extending Porcello’s contract beyond the 2015 season, Murray said, “but it was more in the context of something both parties may or may not talk about in the future.”  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t get a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for Max Scherzer, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the agent will indeed give Tigers owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.”  The good relationship between Boras and Ilitch has paved the way for several Boras clients to come to Detroit, perhaps most notably Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.
  • Also from Beck, he passes along comments from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski reiterating that nothing has changed between Detroit and Scherzer.  “I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said.  “Again, we love him, but as I said at the time, we were the sole club that could sign him last spring. It didn’t work. I don’t think our odds improve with 29 other clubs that could potentially try to sign him.”
  • Melky Cabrera is still the Royals‘ top choice to fill their hole in the outfield, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  If Cabrera can’t be signed, K.C. has such options as Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus or Alex Rios as fallback options.
  • The vesting option on Ervin Santana‘s four-year contract with the Twins will require more than just 200 IP from the righty in 2018 to guarantee his 2019 season, a source tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
  • The Twins haven’t discussed extensions with Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe yet this offseason, Mike Berardino reports (via Twitter).  Berardino suggests that talks could wait until January.  The three players have very different contract situations — Dozier isn’t arbitration-eligible until next winter, Plouffe is projected to earn $4.3MM in his second of four arb years as a Super Two player and Hughes still has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $24MM deal he signed last winter.  Of the three, Hughes would clearly be the most expensive to extend given his tremendous 2014 campaign.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Miley, Cashman, Bruce

Even with Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and (eventually) Wade Miley now in the fold, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington didn’t close the door on the possibility of more pitching moves.  “I think we’€™re going to keep working and see what comes to us. Our hope was to really strengthen our rotation, our position with the rotation, this week, or at some point soon. Hopefully we’€™ll be able to do that,” Cherington told reporters, including WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  The GM said he thinks teams can get by without having a frontline ace atop their rotation, though also pointed out his roster has “a lot of younger pitching that we think in time, some of them have a chance to develop into that type of guy.”

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Miley trade hasn’t yet been finalized since the Red Sox and Diamondbacks are “still squabbling about the extra player,” Arizona GM Dave Stewart tells reporters, including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert.  The player in question is a prospect Boston will be sending to the D’Backs along with Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster.
  • The Yankees talked to the D’Backs and Tigers about Miley and Porcello, Brian Cashman told reporters (including George A. King III of the New York Post).  “Did I call Arizona? Yes. Did I call Detroit? Yes. I didn’t have [Yoenis] Cespedes to send to Detroit. We are waiting for something we are comfortable with,” Cashman said.  The GM said he “threw a lot of different ideas a lot of different ways” during a quiet Winter Meetings for the Yankees and he’ll “keep conversations alive” throughout the offseason.
  • The Orioles “kicked the tires” on Reds outfielder Jay Bruce but couldn’t match up on a trade with Cincinnati, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets.  In the wake of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis signing elsewhere, the O’s have a definite need for corner outfield help.
  • Scott Boras told reporters (including Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi) that the Blue Jays were one of the teams who had expressed interest in Japanese middle infielder Takashi Toritani.  This would be a rare case of a Boras client signing with Toronto, a disconnect that the agent attributes to the club’s policy against contracts longer than five years.  “They’re the only team that has said that limitation is five years. When you do that, you are cutting yourself off from a pool of talent that makes it very, very difficult to compete, particularly in the AL East,” Boras said.  (It should be noted that the Jays’ five-year policy probably isn’t applicable in Toritani’s case, as the 33-year-old infielder is very unlikely to receive that long a contract from any team.)

Tigers, Red Sox Swap Porcello For Cespedes

The Tigers and Red Sox have officially agreed to a deal that will send outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit in return for starter Rick Porcello, as C.J. Nitkowski of FOX Sports and MLB Network first reported on Twitter. Righty Alex Wilson and lefty Gabe Speier are also heading to Detroit, as WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reported (Twitter links).

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals

In moving Porcello, who is arb-eligible a final time before reaching free agency (at a projected $12.2MM salary), the Tigers have made yet another stunning move involving the club’s high-powered rotation. He joins Doug Fister and Drew Smyly as former Detroit starters. The latter, of course, was part of the deal that brought David Price to Motown. Needless to say, Cespedes will add to an already-formidable middle of the order, while also filling an uncertain spot in the outfield.

For Boston, meanwhile, this swap closes a loop on last summer’s Jon Lester trade, which brought in Cespedes. The club added several other outfield pieces to a crowded situation, which made another deal of some kind seem inevitable. Bringing back an arm of Porcello’s quality would certainly be a nice consolation prize for missing out on a chance to bring back Lester. Cespedes is owed $10.5MM before he reaches the open market after the year, and will not be capable of receiving a qualifying offer due to a clause in his deal.

Lest anyone think that this trade settles things for these two organizations, preliminary reports, and common sense, suggest that both are angling for more additions to their staffs. For Detroit, the rotation now looks to be one arm shy, with ace Max Scherzer still available but the team insisting it is not maneuvering to add him. And for Boston, the addition of Porcello still leaves the team without the ace that it is said to be seeking.

With generally equivalent contractual situations between the two players — Porcello will cost slightly more, but comes with the possibility of a qualifying offer — this deal is a fairly straightforward talent swap.

Porcello, who is still not quite 26 years of age, had a breakout 2014 after years of promise. His 3.43 ERA was backed by his peripherals, even though his strikeout rate dropped, and ERA estimators have liked his work for some time. Porcello continues to induce grounders at about a 50% clip, and also went over 200 innings for the first time in his career. All said, he is a steady three-win arm that any rotation would be glad to have.

Cespedes, on the other hand, is himself only 29 and features plenty of power in his right-handed bat. Despite playing in Oakland for most of the last three seasons, Cespedes has hit more than twenty long balls in each campaign. But his ability to reach base has not been so consistent, and his overall production levels have fallen off since a huge rookie campaign back in 2011. On the other hand, defensive metrics are now more favorably inclined toward his work in left, leaving him — like Porcello — as an approximately three-win player.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted that the deal was finalized. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported early aspects of the swap (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL Central Notes: Tigers, Santana, Neshek, Viciedo

A reunion between Max Scherzer and the Tigers is “not happening,” a club official tells Peter Gammons (via Twitter).  What Detroit might do, however, is trade right-hander Rick Porcello to the Red Sox for a package of Yoenis Cespedes and Rubby De La Rosa.  Rumors of a Porcello/Cespedes deal arose a few days ago but talks between the two sides were “not hot” according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • The Angels are searching for middle infield help and the TwinsEduardo Escobar is on their list of targets, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets.  Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (also via Twitter) thinks the Halos could offer Minnesota a reliever in return, with Vinnie Pestano being “one name to watch.”
  • Also from Berardino (on Twitter), the Twins haven’t yet talked to free agent starter Ervin Santana.  The right-hander’s representatives are open to hearing from Minnesota, however, with a source telling Berardino that Santana “loves pitching in the cold.”
  • Pat Neshek‘s agent Barry Meister tells Berardino that he had a “social discussion” with Twins GM Terry Ryan but the two sides “haven’t had any substantive discussions at all” about the reliever rejoining the club.  Meister said that there has been “substantial interest from around the league in Neshek and another top reliever client, Sergio Romo.
  • The White Sox are telling teams that Dayan Viciedo is available, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link).  It’s no surprise that Viciedo is being shopped given that the Sox have been rumored to be exploring such outfield replacements as Melky Cabrera.  Viciedo hit .231/.281/.405 with 21 homers in 563 PA last season, providing below-replacement level value with -0.9 rWAR.