Ryan Vogelsong Rumors
Closer is "the most overvalued position in baseball," Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes, an opinion shared by no less an authority than Hall-of-Famer closer Dennis Eckersley. Kepner notes that teams often err in signing closers to expensive contracts and then end up using replacement closers that were already on their rosters in the first place. “I don’t want to take away anything from what I did, but it’s not as tough as you think," Eckersley said. “You could groom somebody to do it who’s on the staff, if you manage it the right way."
While the agents of this year's free agent stoppers compose their counter-arguments, here are some more news items from around baseball...
- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts isn't planning any major payroll increases in the near future, telling Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that, "You can’t just throw money at the problem. We have to build the organization from the ground up. And that’s what we’re doing right now."
- Chris Perez will be shopped by the Indians this offseason, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicts, and Pluto thinks Perez will be pitching elsewhere in 2014. Perez will earn a raise from his current $7.3MM salary in the arbitration process and Pluto feels the Tribe will want to move him rather than pay the closer that much. Perez's solid season could help his trade value, as Pluto notes that the Indians found only an "iffy" market for Perez when they attempted to deal him last winter.
- "In a strict, WAR sense, [Kendrys Morales] may not compute to be worth $14 million or more per season. But the real cost the Mariners will have to weigh is what it would be like without him," The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker writes. While Morales has slumped lately, Baker argues that the M's are still short of big bats and thus need to at least extend Morales a qualifying offer.
- Paul Konerko answered a simple "No" to questions about any decisions on his playing future, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. We heard yesterday that Konerko was telling friends he wanted to keep playing in 2014, but the White Sox captain reiterated his stance that he would wait until a later date to make a decision.
- Fangraphs' Dave Cameron looks at which free agent hitters should or shouldn't receive qualifying offers from their current teams this winter.
- Neal Huntington would win a fictitious "MLB Comeback Executive of the Year" award, MLB.com's Tom Singer writes. The criticism faced by the Pirates GM has turned to praise as his recent moves have the Bucs on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 1992.
- Despite Ryan Vogelsong's tough season, Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (via Twitter) thinks the Giants will pick up his $6.5MM team option for 2014 if the righty remains healthy. Vogelsong has a 5.49 ERA in 14 starts, but entering tonight's action, Vogelsong had posted a 2.93 ERA over five starts since returning from the disabled list.
No MLB team finalized more extensions this offseason than the Giants, who locked up five of their top players. General manager Brian Sabean committed more than $200MM in future salaries in the four-month period from the beginning of January to the beginning of April. The extensions promised to solidify the team’s rotation long-term and cap the future earnings of a pair of arbitration eligible All-Stars.
For the most part, the extensions have worked for the team. Tim Lincecum's disappointing season is the largest blemish on an otherwise encouraging set of contracts for San Francisco.
Lincecum, whose early-career accomplishments assured him of a substantial raise, signed a two-year, $40.5MM contract extension to cover his final two arbitration years. Though he has pitched better lately, his ERA sits at 5.30 in what has been the most disappointing season of his MLB career. It’d be understandable if the Giants are relieved Lincecum didn’t accept their $100MM extension offer before the season. In that context, $40.5MM isn’t so expensive. Still, if the team had gone year to year with Lincecum, he wouldn’t have been locked in for a $22MM salary in 2013; a non-tender would have been possible.
Three other Giants starters have exceeded expectations since signing multiyear deals. Vogelsong, who signed a two-year, $8.3MM contract in January, is repeating last year's success. He has a 2.85 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on his way toward a career high in innings pitched. Vogelsong would have been a free agent after the 2012 season if the Giants hadn't locked him up. They'll surely be glad to have him back for just $5MM in 2013 (the extension also includes a 2014 club option).
Like Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner has replicated his 2011 success. The 23-year-old left-hander has inserted himself into the NL Cy Young Award race by posting a 2.83 ERA with five times as many strikeouts as walks in 171 2/3 innings this year. He obtained a record deal for pitchers with one-plus years of MLB service (five-years, $35MM), so it’s not as though Bumgarner obtained anything less than full value back in April. But this deal could hardly be going better for the Giants.
Matt Cain also obtained a record-setting contract this spring. He obtained a five-year, $112.5MM contract that established a record for right-handed pitchers. He's earning Cy Young Award consideration again after pitching a perfect game and posting a 2.83 ERA in 174 2/3 innings. If Cain had reached the free agent market this offseason, he would be the most sought-after pitcher available. The Giants could have re-signed him, of course, but not without spending considerably more than they did in April.
Lastly, Pablo Sandoval's play has justified his new three-year, $17.15MM contract -- at least when he's been on the field. Although he spent time on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and a fractured hamate bone, he does have an .821 OPS in 294 plate appearances. This extension had limited upside for the Giants in the first place, since it didn’t buy out any free agent years or include any club options.
For now the Giants are presumably focused on maintaining their division lead over the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. A few months from now, once the most chaotic part of the offseason has ended, Sabean and the rest of the San Francisco front office will encounter a familiar challenge: it'll be time to consider extensions for a new set of players led by All-Star catcher Buster Posey.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
THURSDAY: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has the breakdown (on Twitter). Vogelsong will earn $3MM in 2012, $5MM in 2013, and then a $6.5MM club option with a $300K buyout for 2014 comes into play. The total guarantee is $8.3MM.
WEDNESDAY: The Giants and Ryan Vogelsong have agreed to a two-year contract with an option for 2014, reports Mychael Urban of 95.7 FM The Game (via Twitter). The deal is worth a total of $8MM, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The Associated Press reports that the deal is worth $8.3MM (via ESPN). The team announced the agreement in a press release, noting that the club holds the third-year option.
Vogelsong, 34, was entering his final season of arbitration eligibility, so the contract will delay free agency by at least a year. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected a $2.5MM salary for the right-hander for 2012, though we heard during the Winter Meetings that the Giants intended to work out a multiyear deal.
Vogelsong pitched in the bigs last season for the first time in five years, enjoying a remarkable comeback. His 2.71 ERA in 30 appearances (28 starts) earned him an All-Star berth and even a Cy Young vote. The righty was originally drafted by the Giants, and was traded to the Pirates in 2001 in a deadline deal that sent Jason Schmidt to San Francisco. Over the next decade, Vogelsong underwent Tommy John surgery, pitched in Japan, and signed multiple minor league deals before finding success last year with the Giants.
12:37pm: It'd be a fairly easy call for the Giants to non-tender Keppinger, reports Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Baggarly also notes that the Giants intend to work out a multiyear deal with starter Ryan Vogelsong, who would be eligible for free agency after 2012. For more on the Giants' huge arbitration class, read up here.
11:34am: The Giants are trying to trade infielder Jeff Keppinger, outfielder Andres Torres, and reliever Ramon Ramirez, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. They're planning to keep lefty Jeremy Affeldt. ESPN's Buster Olney says there's a strong feeling by other teams Torres will be non-tendered. If so, the Giants may not be able to get much for him. Torres was the second-most valuable center fielder in baseball in 2010, based on FanGraphs' wins above replacement.
Keppinger, Torres, and Ramirez are all arbitration eligible, and MLBTR projects salaries in the $2.3-2.7MM range for each.
One year ago today, the Dodgers released Ronnie Belliard after he hit just .216/.295/.327 with two homers in 185 plate appearances. Mini-Manny spent some time in the minor leagues this year, but he called it a career in June. Here's the latest from Chavez Ravine...
- Jim McDowell, agent for Casey Blake, told MLBTR that his client had a post-surgery follow-up appointment this morning, and that everything checked out fine. Blake had surgery to repair a neck issue. He'll be able to begin his offseason workouts after six weeks of downtime, by which point the Dodgers will have already declined his $6MM option.
- John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Dodgers offered Ryan Vogelsong a contract this past offseason, but the he declined (Twitter links). "I couldn't see myself being a Dodger," said the right-hander, who has a 2.62 ERA in 154 1/3 innings with the Giants.
- Steve Sugarman, spokesman for Frank McCourt, told Steve Dilbeck of The Los Angeles Times that Bill Burke's $1.2 billion offer to buy the Dodgers was "unsolicited and a surprise." The team has not yet publicly responded to the offer, and Sugarman made it clear that Burke is not an acquaintance of McCourt's.
Links for Tuesday night, after a second consecutive win for the National League All-Stars...
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty told Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s talking to clubs about possible trades, though discussions are still in their early stages. "We have not had specific or significant trade talks with anyone at this point," Jocketty said. "All discussion with other teams has been more general info gathering.” The Reds are monitoring Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies.
- Lance Berkman told Troy Renck of the Denver Post that he would have signed in Colorado if the Rockies had made him a "decent" offer last offseason (Twitter link). "They had other fish to fry," Berkman said. "And they fried them."
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law hears that top Blue Jays pick Tyler Beede didn’t report to the summer classes he had signed up for at Vanderbilt (Twitter link). It could be an indication that he's going to sign instead of going to college.
- As Patrick Newman points out at FanGraphs, Colby Lewis, Ryan Vogelsong, Chris Resop and Scott Atchison are among the MLB pitchers who pitched overseas before succeeding for their current MLB teams.
- Mike Lopresti of USA Today explains how Vogelsong went from Triple-A discard to National League All-Star.
- Stephen Goff of the Houston Astros Examiner points out that Brett Myers' trade value could diminish if other right-handed starters become available this month.
Bartolo Colon didn’t pitch an inning in the Major Leagues last year. Neither did Erik Bedard, or Brandon McCarthy, or Ryan Vogelsong. Halfway through the 2011 season, each one of them has already made a difference at the highest level. The quartet of reclamation projects has combined for 309 2/3 innings of 2.88 ERA baseball this year with three times as many strikeouts (257) as walks (77).
A year after splitting his time between two Triple-A teams, Vogelsong (pictured) is a key contributor on one of baseball’s most effective pitching staffs. His 2.09 ERA leads a San Francisco rotation that includes the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
Yet there’s no denying that the same issue that kept the others off of MLB mounds in 2010 - health - persists. Colon could return from the disabled list this weekend; the Mariners placed Bedard on the DL today; McCarthy has been on Oakland’s disabled list for more than a month.
But before their respective teams placed them on the disabled list, their contributions surpassed all expectations. It’s been six weeks since McCarthy toed the rubber, yet A’s fans probably haven’t forgotten the 3.39 ERA and 37K/10BB ratio he posted through 63 2/3 innings.
The Yankees will be hoping for more of the same from Colon when he returns from the DL. The former Cy Young Award winner has tremendous numbers in 2011: a 3.10 ERA with a 72K/18BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Two years after Colon won his Cy Young, Bedard posted a 3.16 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 en route to a top-five finish for the award. If the lefty’s 2011 numbers look familiar, it’s probably because Bedard was pitching as well as ever before hitting the DL. He has a 3.00 ERA with an 85K/26BB ratio 90 innings into the season.
Don’t forget that the Mariners signed Bedard for just $1MM. McCarthy signed with Oakland for the same amount and the Yankees’ deal with Colon is worth just $900K in base salary. Like Colon, Vogelsong signed a minor league contract in January.
The pursuit of high-risk, high-reward arms does not guarantee success by any means. Brandon Webb ($3MM) and Rich Harden ($1.5MM) signed for more than any of the pitchers above and neither has thrown a pitch in the majors this year.
Naturally, that won’t stop teams looking to gamble on seemingly injury-prone pitchers this offseason. Someone - Ben Sheets, Jeremy Bonderman or 48-year-old Jamie Moyer perhaps? - will return from the discard pile after a year-long absence and make an impact, whether it's for a handful of starts or an entire season season. It’s just a question of who will resurface and which team will sign him.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
It's been almost exactly 13 years since Ryan Vogelsong signed his first contract. A fifth round selection by the Giants in 1998, Vogelsong signed on June 7 that year and began his professional career. After posting strong strikeout numbers throughout his first three minor league seasons, Vogelsong was included in a package that sent Jason Schmidt from Pittsburgh to San Francisco in 2001.
After making two appearances with the Pirates that season, Vogelsong required Tommy John surgery at age 24. Things went downhill from there, to say the least. He returned in 2003 and posted passable numbers in the minors, but struggled in the Majors that season and through his next three with the Pirates, posting a 5.87 ERA over 274 1/3 innings of work.
Following the 2006 season, Vogelsong, then 29, headed to Japan and spent three years there, pitching for the Hanshin Tigers and Orix Buffaloes with solid but unspectacular results. After coming back to the United States, he was released by both the Phillies and Angels last year after signing a pair of minor league deals.
Vogelsong didn't get his own post on MLBTR when he signed a minor league deal with the Giants this offseason. In fact, he didn't even have his own tag prior to this one. But what Vogelsong has done this year is a prime example of the value of minor league deals.
Over his last 39 1/3 innings of work, Vogelsong has allowed three earned runs, striking out 29 and walking only seven. In total, he's pitched 53 2/3 innings of 1.68 ERA ball. His 2.83 FIP and 3.64 xFIP entering play today suggest that while he hasn't been quite that good, he's still been very, very good. His fastball may not be overpowering (averaging 91.1mph), but he's mixed his pitches well enough to have struck out seven hitters per nine innings. The 42 strikeouts he's totaled are three times that of the 14 walks he's allowed.
Earlier today Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News wrote that manager Bruce Bochy said Vogelsong's rotation spot is secure, even when Barry Zito, for whom he's been filling in, returns. And, as Baggarly points out, it's not unreasonable to consider an All-Star bid for the journeyman.
Whether or not Vogelsong continues what's been a remarkable run at age 33, he should still serve as a reminder to all fans who cringe at seeing a perhaps washed-up name sign with their favorite team. Minor league deals and non-roster invites carry very little risk, but the potential for reward is sky-high. Just ask Ryan Vogelsong.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.