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Ryan Webb Rumors
After the weekly quick hits, Jeff welcomes fellow MLBTR writers Steve Adams and Charlie Wilmoth to the show. Jeff and Steve break down the blockbuster trade between the Braves and Padres that brought Craig Kimbrel to San Diego. Jeff and Charlie then explore the unique set of recent transactions involving Ryan Webb, as well as a discussion of Charlie’s post from earlier this week about qualifying offer-worthy impending free agents who could be trade candidates this summer.
This week’s episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast, which runs weekly on Thursday afternoons, is brought to you by DraftKings. Use the promo code “MLBTR” to gain free entry into a daily fantasy sports contest!
The Indians have reached a minor league deal with righty Ryan Webb, the club announced. Webb has been assigned to the club’s Triple-A affiliate.
Webb started the year with the Orioles, still playing under the free agent contract he signed before the 2014 season. Before appearing in a game, he went through an interesting series of transactions that left him outrighted — and later released — by the Dodgers. As MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth explains, the net result was that Los Angeles paid down Webb’s 2015 salary in exchange for the rights to the 74th overall pick in this year’s amateur draft.
Of course, those maneuvers may sell Webb short to an extent. He has been at least an average reliever, with peripherals to match, over 325 1/3 innings across the last six seasons. He posted career bests in both strikeouts (6.8 per nine) and walks (2.2 per nine) last year. While his groundball rate fell only a few ticks above league average in 2014, he owns a strong 56.1% mark for his career.
All in all, he seems to be a nice player to have waiting at Triple-A — especially with another club picking up the tab. Cleveland obviously feels that way after moving quickly to add him to its depth chart.
The Dodgers announced that they have released recently acquired right-hander Ryan Webb. With this move, it becomes relatively clear that L.A.’s incentive in making the swap was simply to acquire the Competitive Balance draft pick that Baltimore included in order to get the Dodgers to assume all of Webb’s $2.75MM salary — a strategy that was examined in depth last night by MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth.
The 29-year-old Webb will now be free to sign anywhere he chooses, and as a player with five-plus years of service time, he is entitled to reject his outright assignment and force the club to trade or release him (with pay). As such, interested parties will only be on the hook for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum on a big league deal, with the Dodgers owing the remainder of his salary. That’s not necessarily a bad outcome for Webb, who is still guaranteed his money and is now free to choose a club that presents him the clearest path to a role to his liking.
As Charlie noted in last night’s analysis, that Webb’s $2.75MM salary is apparently viewed as exorbitant is a bit puzzling in its own right. While he’s not a shutdown reliever, Webb’s never posted an ERA+ lower than 99 and has been better than that in recent years. He’s served as a reasonably effective reliever with the Padres, Marlins and Orioles to this point, working to a 3.38 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 56.1 percent ground-ball rate in his career. While it’s true that he doesn’t fit the mold of the hard-throwing power relievers that are proliferating today’s game — his 92 mph fastball is notably tamer than the 95 he averaged in his first two seasons — Webb has still shown the ability to retire big league hitters.
As I noted at the time of the trade, the Dodgers will add not only the No. 74 pick in the draft, but also the money that comes along with it. That pick comes with a slot value of $827K, which will be subtracted from Baltimore’s draft pool and added to that of the Dodgers. The Orioles’ draft pool will drop from $7,677,400 to $6,850,400, while the Dodgers’ pool will rise from $6,954,700 to $7,781,700. And it should, of course, be noted that the Dodgers do come away with Minor League catcher Brian Ward. While he’s not an elite prospect, Ward ranked as the Orioles’ best defensive Minor League catcher (per Baseball America) prior to the 2013 season, so the Dodgers will at the very least add some depth and a strong defender to their ranks, even if Ward has never hit much.
Following the promotion of former first-round pick Mikie Mahtook to the Majors, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times looks back at what the Rays hoped would be a franchise-altering 2011 draft. Tampa had 10 of the first 60 picks in that year’s draft, but as Topkin points out, a significant number of the picks haven’t panned out. Infielder Brandon Martin and outfielder James Harris have both been released, while surgeries have slowed the careers of several others. Pitchers Taylor Guerrieri and Grayson Garvin have both undergone Tommy John surgery, right-hander Jeff Ames‘ 2014 season was cut short by thoracic surgery, and infielder Jake Hager will miss 2015 following a knee operation.
Here’s more from the AL East…
- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos is hopeful that outfielder Michael Saunders will be healthy enough to join the roster on the team’s upcoming 10-game homestand, writes Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. However, Anthopoulos stressed that the team isn’t going to “force a timeline” on Saunders’ return. The GM said that the team needs to be convinced that Saunders is able to play nine innings at a time five days in a row, though he won’t necessarily be required to do that on his rehab assignment before activation. Saunders played five innings in the outfield on Saturday and took just one at-bat as a DH on Sunday before being pulled with a tight hamstring, though that decision was a precautionary move, Davidi writes.
- Anthopoulos also briefly addressed Dioner Navarro‘s trade situation, David notes. “If we have any trade discussions on anybody, that’s not something we’re going to advertise,” said Anthopoulos. “But like I said, if there’s an opportunity to get him an everyday job we’ll look to do that, same thing we said in spring training.” It’s pure speculation on my behalf, but I do wonder if the Indians would have interest in Navarro with Yan Gomes out for up to two months. Navarro would eventually be reduced to a reserve role, but he’d likely accumulate more at-bats over the next six to eight weeks in Cleveland than in Toronto.
- Orioles executive VP/general manager Dan Duquette joined MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski on 105.7 The Fan yesterday, and the two discussed the Ryan Webb trade as well as Chris Tillman‘s contract status. Melewski asked if it’s more difficult to trade player that has already been designated for assignment, as was the case with Webb, but Duquette revealed that trade talks with the Dodgers were already fairly advanced when Webb was designated. “In other situations, I wouldn’t designate the player and then continue down the track with a trade,” said Duquette. “I had a good sense that we could make a deal with the Dodgers and get back a couple of players that we liked.” Duquette also acknowledged that there won’t be any continuation of extension talks for Tillman during the season but said that the team had several good talks with Tillman’s representatives about his 2015 contract. He didn’t specify how much, if any, progress was made on a longer-term deal. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth took an in-depth look at the unique nature of the Webb trade last night.
- Kyle Davies‘ return to a Major League mound as a member of the Yankees marks the culmination of three years spent recovering from shoulder surgery, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Coincidentally, last night’s appearance forced Davies to face the final hitter he faced in his last Major League appearance in 2011 — David Ortiz (Ortiz grounded out each time). After the outing, Davies spoke with Hoch about the feeling of returning to the Majors. “This is why you come to work and you still do it,” said Davies. “This is why you did all that stuff and rode the buses in [Class A] and Double-A two years ago. It’s pretty cool.”
The Dodgers outrighted Ryan Webb today, continuing a string of strange transactions for the veteran reliever. First, he cleared outright waivers. Then the Orioles designated him for assignment. Then Baltimore shipped him to the Dodgers with catcher Brian Ward and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick for pitcher Ben Rowen and catcher Chris O’Brien. Then, the Dodgers outrighted him today.
The guiding factor behind this string of moves was, it seems, Webb’s $2.75MM salary in 2015, the second season of a two-year, $4.5MM deal he signed with the Orioles. The Orioles didn’t want to pay it, and judging from the fact that they were able to outright Webb in the first place, other teams didn’t either. That, in itself, was perhaps a bit strange — Webb has never been an outstanding reliever, but he’s been relatively durable and effective in all of the past five seasons. Perhaps the lesson of the outright is that when selecting right-handed relievers, teams increasingly prefer pitchers who light up radar guns, of which there are many. Righties like Webb, who once sat in the mid-90s but whose velocity has slipped a bit in the last few years, get overlooked.
But the trade of Webb to the Dodgers was even stranger. The Dodgers were the ones receiving the big-league player, but they clearly had little interest in him and they also received what might have been the most valuable property in the trade — the draft pick. Other than Webb, the players in the deal appear to be mostly window dressing. Ward is 29 and has never been on a 40-man roster. Rowen pitched briefly for the Rangers last season, but Texas designated him for assignment and then released him in December after no one claimed him. The Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal a month later. O’Brien will be 26 in July and has never played above Double-A.
As one might expect, the Orioles say they like the players they received. They were reportedly interested in Rowen this offseason, and it’s possible his ability to generate ground balls could one day make him a contributor, especially given the Orioles’ strong infield defense. (Webb also has ground-ball tendencies, although, of course, he had to be on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, whereas Rowen does not.) Some experts, meanwhile, believe O’Brien has a chance to stick as a backup catcher. The Orioles’ return appears, however, to be marginal, and from the Dodgers’ perspective, they didn’t give up much more than a bit of minor-league depth they didn’t really need.
Since the Dodgers have already outrighted Webb, then, the deal could quickly boil down to this: The Dodgers purchased a draft pick from the Orioles. They agreed to pay the salary of a player they didn’t need, and the Orioles gave them a pick in return. As the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin tweeted, “Moneyball with big money: Dodgers buy draft pick for $2.75MM.”
This is new. Teams have only been able to trade Competitive Balance picks for a few years, and never has there been a trade that amounted to a dollars-for-draft-pick swap the way this one seems to. Here are all the draft pick trades that have taken place since teams have been allowed to deal them.
- The Pirates sent a 2013 pick to the Marlins in a deal for Gaby Sanchez, who played for them for two and a half seasons.
- The Marlins and Tigers also swapped 2013 competitive balance picks to even the scales in the Anibal Sanchez trade.
- The Astros got a 2014 pick from the Orioles in the Bud Norris deal.
- The Pirates received a 2014 pick from the Marlins when they traded Bryan Morris.
- The Diamondbacks got a 2014 pick when they sent Ian Kennedy to San Diego.
- The Braves will receive a 2015 pick from the Padres as part of their recent trade of Craig Kimbrel. They’ll get another from the Diamondbacks for prospect Victor Reyes.
- The Astros received a 2015 pick when they traded Jarred Cosart to the Marlins.
- The Red Sox got a 2015 pick from the Athletics (which they’ve since forfeited) in the Jon Lester deal.
In all draft pick trades before the Webb deal, there are convincing cases that the teams trading picks parted with those picks in large part because they got talent they liked, and not primarily to shed salary. In the Webb trade, in contrast, Webb’s salary was clearly a key component of the deal.
So does the trade make sense for the Dodgers? The pick they will receive in this year’s draft is No. 74. A 2013 study found that the net value of a pick in the No. 61-100 range was $2.58MM, very close to the prorated portion of Webb’s $2.75MM salary the Dodgers are taking on. Add in that No. 74 is closer to the top of that range and add a bit of salary inflation since then, and the value of the pick is likely high enough for the trade to make financial sense for the Dodgers, even if we assume it’s possible that Rowen and O’Brien will provide a bit of value (and if we assume the Dodgers need to think about their budget the way other teams do). The Dodgers also receive a bit of draft pool flexibility with the acquisition of the pick, which could help them lure tougher-to-sign players.
Whether MLB would want deep-pocketed teams like the Dodgers essentially buying draft picks is a different question, although for now, the effects of them doing so are fairly minimal. Teams are currently only allowed to trade Competitive Balance picks, so a draft pick can only make a small impact on a trade, since Competitive Balance picks occur after most marquee talents are off the board. If teams were allowed to trade all draft picks and a big-market team were allowed to take on a larger amount of salary for, say, a top-ten pick, there would probably be controversy.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Dodgers have outrighted righty reliever Ryan Webb to Triple-A Oklahoma City, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The team acquired Webb from the Orioles late last week after Baltimore designated him for assignment. He had not yet reported to the team. Since Webb has over five years of MLB service, he can refuse an outright assignment, although it’s not yet clear whether he’s done that.
Webb had already cleared outright waivers with the Orioles. He is set to make $2.75MM this season. It appears, then, that the trade between the Dodgers and Orioles was almost entirely about the Dodgers taking on Webb’s salary, which is likely why the Orioles were willing to give up a Competitive Balance Round B pick in the deal even though they were also the team giving up a big-league player.
Webb, 29, posted a 3.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 49 1/3 innings with the Orioles last season. In his six-year big-league career, he has also pitched with the Padres and Marlins.
- It’s “difficult to imagine” Josh Hamilton will play for the Angels again given the team’s current dispute with him, Rosenthal says.
- Mike Napoli of the Red Sox had an insurance policy that would have paid him a tax-free $10MM if he had failed to meet certain salary thresholds. Because he collected $8MM in incentives on his contract with the Red Sox in 2013, however, he did not need to file a claim.
- With the addition of a Competitive Balance pick in their trade for Ryan Webb, the Dodgers now hold four of the first 74 picks of the draft in June, including one they got as compensation for losing Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers will pick at No. 24, No. 35, No. 67 and No. 74.
- The Rangers could be trade-deadline sellers, but they don’t have much to deal besides Yovani Gallardo, Rosenthal says. They don’t have enough middle-infield depth to trade Elvis Andrus unless they get another shortstop back.
The Orioles and Dodgers announced that Baltimore has traded right-hander Ryan Webb, Minor League catcher Brian Ward and a Competitive Balance (Round B) draft pick to Los Angeles in exchange for right-hander Ben Rowen and Minor League catcher Chris O’Brien.
Webb, 29, was removed from the Orioles’ 40-man roster this week and is slated to earn $2.75MM in the second season of a two-year, $4.5MM contract this year. The former Marlin was solid, if unspectacular in his lone year with Baltimore, working to a 3.83 ERA (101 ERA+) with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate. The ground-ball rate is above the league average but checks in well below Webb’s career mark of 56.1 percent.
The Dodgers will hope for a return to form not only in terms of ground-ball rate, but also in ERA. The durable Webb notched a 2.91 mark in 2013 but struggled to repeat that mark in 2014. Webb gives the Dodgers another relief arm to step into an injury-plagued bullpen that has seen both Kenley Jansen and Brandon League sidelined by early-season injuries. Webb’s ground-ball skill set would seem highly similar to that of League, who rebounded from a dreadful 2013 season to serve as a very useful reliever in L.A. last year during the regular season.
The Dodgers will also take on Webb’s entire salary, which was likely a condition required in order to coerce the Orioles to part with the Competitive Balance pick. Baltimore will send the No. 74 pick in the 2015 draft to the Dodgers to help facilitate the deal. That pick comes with a slot value of $827K, which the Orioles will lose from their pool and the Dodgers will add to their pool. The Orioles’ draft pool will drop from $7,677,400 to $6,850,400, while the Dodgers’ pool will rise from $6,954,700 to $7,781,700.
Ward, also 29, has never cracked the Major Leagues. Signed as a 23-year-old undrafted free agent in 2009, he’s worked his way to Triple-A and batted .227/.330/.286 at that level in parts of the past two seasons. While he clearly doesn’t offer much in the way of upside with the bat, Baseball America did rank Ward as the best defensive catcher in Baltimore’s Minor League system heading into the 2013 season.
The 26-year-old Rowen is an extreme side-arm pitcher that generates a huge amount of ground-balls and has been tough to hit for opposing batters throughout his Minor League career. Rowen has held opponents to just 6.9 hits per nine innings in the Minors and worked to a 3.45 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 47 Triple-A innings last year. In 2013, Rowen posted a ridiculous 0.69 ERA in 65 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, averaging 7.9 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings.
O’Brien, 25, ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 26 prospect and profiles as a backup catcher, per Baseball America’s Ben Badler (on Twitter). The former 18th-round draft pick (2011) spent the 2014 season with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, slashing .266/.341/.438 in 407 plate appearances.
Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reported that Webb and Ward were headed to the Dodgers (Twitter links). FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Rowen and O’Brien were on their way to the Orioles, and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweeted that the Comp Pick was going to the Dodgers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Both names have been mentioned as candidates to land with another team for some time now, with Matusz at one point being connected to the Mets midway through Spring Training (New York, of course, opted instead to acquire Alex Torres and Jerry Blevins). Though that door may be shut, Matusz likely holds appeal to clubs in need of left-handed relief. The Rangers currently don’t have a lefty in their bullpen, for example, while teams like the Cubs (Phil Coke) and Rays (Jeff Beliveau) have just one southpaw in the bullpen. I can envision the Tigers as a fit also, given Ian Krol‘s struggles in 2014.
Part of the reason that Matusz is considered expendable for the Orioles is his $3.2MM salary for the 2015 season, so moving him would require an acquiring club to expand its payroll, although Baltimore could theoretically be willing to include some cash to help facilitate the deal. Over the past two seasons, Matusz has been exceptional against 224 same-handed hitters, holding them to a .192/.251/.314 batting line.
As for Webb, the 29-year-old has reportedly already cleared outright waivers and, as a player with five-plus years of Major League service, can reject an outright assignment and force the team to either trade or release him (while still paying his salary). Webb’s $2.75MM salary undoubtedly played a role in his clearing waivers, though a team may be interested in bringing him on board if Baltimore is willing to pick up a portion of his contract. Of course, interested teams may be reluctant to give up much for a player that they know could soon be a free agent. Webb worked to a respectable 3.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate last year in Baltimore.
Webb, 29, had already been passed through outright waivers, so the move was more a formality than anything. He is owed $2.75MM this year under the two-year deal he signed last offseason. Baltimore will remain on the hook for that, less whatever league minimum salary Webb is able to collect if and when he hits an active roster. In 49 1/3 innings last year, the reliever threw to a 3.83 ERA with 6.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a 48.7 percent ground-ball rate.
As for Lavarnway, the move had likewise been expected. He lost his 40-man status earlier in the offseason but nevertheless proved worthy of an Opening Day roster spot. The former Red Sox prospect may or may not figure in the club’s plans for the course of the year depending upon his performance, that of Caleb Joseph, and the timeline for Matt Wieters to return.