- Free agent right-hander Tyson Ross, who has been recovering from thoracic outlet surgery since October, is likely to sign with a team that’s adept at “handling and rehabilitating pitchers,” Rosenthal writes. One such club is the Padres, who non-tendered Ross last week in lieu of paying him an estimated $9.6MM in 2017. San Diego and Ross have mutual interest in a reunion, though, and Rosenthal notes that Ross’ affinity for Friars pitching coach Darren Balsley could help their cause. Other possibilities for Ross include the Cubs – who have tried to acquire Ross in the past – as well as the Indians, Pirates, Mariners and Giants, per Rosenthal.
Virtually every team in baseball is looking for bullpen help, and here’s the latest in relief pitching buzz…
- The Yankees are pursuing Aroldis Chapman and will “compete to a certain extent” for his services, GM Brian Cashman told media, including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter links). The club is also talking to Kenley Jansen and looking at trade opportunities, so the Yankees are clearly flexible in their search for back-end relief help if Chapman’s bidding gets too high.
- The Mets are interested in swinging a deal for Orioles right-hander Brad Brach, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Mets have been rumored to be seeking right-handed help in the ’pen but aren’t pursuing top-tier free agents. Brach would represent an affordable setup option, but with two years of club control and a 2.39 ERA over his past 158 1/3 innings, Brach should come with a high asking price. The Orioles have been linked to Mets outfielders Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson (they’re said to prefer the latter), but neither of those outfielders would be enough to get the O’s to part with Brach.
- The Mets haven’t ruled out Mike Dunn as a possible signing, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports via Twitter, but the club is “not so high” on the veteran left-hander.
- The Cubs are one of the more serious early suitors for Royals closer Wade Davis, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter).
- The Giants are one of the teams who have asked about veteran lefty J.P. Howell, Olney tweets. Howell is reportedly only looking for a one-year contract. San Francisco has an open LOOGY role with Javier Lopez hitting the open market. Howell posted a mediocre 4.09 ERA last year, and though his peripherals were in line with his prior years’ work, Howell was uncharacteristically vulnerable to lefty hitters (.302/.343/.417) in 2016.
- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told reporters (including ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber) that the Sox “haven’t closed any doors” on re-signing Koji Uehara or Brad Ziegler. Both pitchers fit Boston’s desire for a setup man with closing experience.
- The Blue Jays are one of a number of organizations that have had contact with Ziegler, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. Toronto is presumably looking to add to to its setup corps in front of closer Roberto Osuna.
- Ziegler has also drawn some attention from the Nationals, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The Nats are also considering fellow free agent Neftali Feliz as they look to bolster their bullpen. Of course, D.C.’s top priority in the relief ranks is surely in the ninth inning, and it is hard to imagine either of those players being trusted with the closing role.
4:54pm: Melancon will earn $4MM in 2017, $10MM in 2018, and then $14MM in both 2019 and 2020, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). Melancon will receive a $20MM signing bonus, $12MM of which will be paid up front and the other $8MM deferred until after the contract is up. The deal contains a full no-trade clause, as per Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the contract is that Melancon can opt out of the deal after the first two seasons, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports.
2:52pm: The Giants have announced the signing of Melancon, pending a physical, as John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets.
12:48pm: Melancon’s deal is for exactly $62MM over four years, tweets Rosenthal.
11:57am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on Twitter) that it’s a four-year deal in the $62MM range for Melancon. That contract shatters the previous record by $12MM, though it of course isn’t likely to stand all that long given the other names available in free agency this winter.
11:42am: Melancon has agreed to terms with the Giants, and the deal will be finalized once he passes a physical, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (on Twitter).
10:45am: The Giants are close to a deal with free agent closer Mark Melancon, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area tweeted recently that there was a belief in the organization had a strong belief that a deal would get done, and Les Shapiro of Mile High Radio first tweeted that Melancon was wrapping up negotiations with San Francisco. Melancon is represented by ISE Baseball.
[Related: Mark Melancon Free Agent Profile]
San Francisco made a run at Melancon prior to the non-waiver trade deadline this summer but came up short to the Nationals, who acquired him for lefties Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn. Bullpen struggles wound up being a defining characteristic for the Giants down the stretch, as Santiago Casilla in particular struggled late in the year and lost his hold on closer’s duties. Giants general manager Bobby Evans has implied publicly in the past that perhaps he should’ve made a stronger play to get Melancon into the organization, and it appears now that the Giants made the strongest push of any team to land the highly coveted Melancon in free agency. There are no numbers attached to reports on him just yet, but Melancon reportedly has received four-year offers worth more than $60MM, which would eclipse Jonathan Papelbon’s four-year, $50MM mark and set a new record for a relief pitcher.
The 31-year-old Melancon (32 in March) has been an All Star in three of the past four seasons and has worked to a cumulative ERA of 1.80 across 290 innings in that time (plus 10 innings in the postseason). He doesn’t flash the extreme velocity and/or strikeout rates as free agent counterparts Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, but Melancon misses bats at a slightly above-average rate and also boasts tremendous control and ground-ball tendencies. In that four-year run of dominance, he’s averaged 8.3 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 to go along with a 57.4 percent ground-ball rate. Those immaculate ratios have led to 147 saves for Melancon since 2013, including an NL-best 51 in 2015. He also finished a league-high 67 games between the Pirates and Nats last season.
Turnover in the bullpen has long looked possible for the Giants, who saw stalwarts Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez all hit the open market this winter. Melancon, of course, would immediately move to the top of the food chain in the San Francisco bullpen, where he’s likely to be joined by Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, Will Smith, George Kontos and Cory Gearrin. Steven Okert and Josh Osich are both present as left-handed options to fill out the ’pen, while Chris Heston could try to crack the relief corps after a tough go of things in 2016.
There’s plenty of bullpen chatter circulating as the Winter Meetings get underway. Here’s the latest…
- The latest updates on Mark Melancon last night revealed that the three-time All-Star has received multiple four-year offers, potentially in excess of $60MM in some cases. The Nationals have indeed made a four-year offer to closer Mark Melancon, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, but their offer was for less than $60MM guaranteed. That makes a reunion look unlikely for now, barring an increase in the offer from the Nats.
- FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes that Melancon is the Giants’ top target, and Greg Holland could be their primary alternative, as opposed to either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen. Heyman feels it’s unlikely that they’d pursue either Jansen or Chapman if they fall to land Melancon. The Giants and Nationals are pushing the hardest for Melancon, tweets Heyman.
- The Nationals, Marlins, Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees and Giants are all in on Kenley Jansen, per ESPN’s Jim Bowden. Heyman tweets that the Marlins are intent on adding a top closer, and owner Jeffrey Loria is a fan of Chapman in particular. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Loria is at the Winter Meetings and is participating in meetings with the representation for top-tier bullpen arms.
- The Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Indians, Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks are all in the market for a bullpen lefty, putting names like Mike Dunn, Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins in a good position, Heyman tweets. Heyman also tweeted this morning that the D-backs are focused on the bullpen at the moment and have no plans to “shock the world” like they did last offseason.
- Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets that veteran southpaw Joe Beimel is at the Winter Meetings and is seeking a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Beimel, 40 in April, hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2015 but had a nice two-year stretch in Seattle from 2014-15, posting a 3.12 ERA in 92 1/3 innings.
SUNDAY: The Marlins might be the mystery team vying for Melancon, writes FanRag’s Jon Heyman. Despite its payroll limitations, Miami is committed to building an elite bullpen and is also chasing Jansen, as Heyman first reported last month, and Chapman. As of a couple weeks ago, the Marlins were “highly unlikely” to land Chapman, per one of his associates.
SATURDAY, 9:49pm: Melancon has four-year offers worth upward of $60MM from the Giants, Nationals and perhaps one other team, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Giants have likely made the strongest offer, tweets Rosenthal.
2:17pm: The Giants are still on the lookout for a closer, and are more likely to find one via the free agent market rather than a trade, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes (all Twitter links). Giants GM Bobby Evans says the team likes all of the so-called Big Three options, which include Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon.
Crasnick further notes that Melancon might make the most sense of the bunch since they pursued him last summer and since he should cost less than Chapman or Jansen. (Also, unlike Jansen, Melancon would not require the loss of a draft pick.) The Giants met last month with the agents of all three players.
Melancon is coming off a terrific season with the Pirates and Nationals in which he posted a 1.64 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 with a strong 54.2 ground ball percentage. He doesn’t have the dominating strikeout totals of Chapman or Jansen, but his results speak for themselves. The Nationals have also reportedly pursued him this winter, and his market has been surprisingly robust, with guesses about what he might be able to get trending upward to the four-year/$60-million range.
- Infielder Ehire Adrianza gets $600K in the majors and $300K in the minors with the Giants, per another Heyman tweet. He had projected for only the league minimum after receiving action in just forty major league contests.
- Righty Cory Gearrin will be paid $1.05MM by the Giants, Heyman tweets. That’s right in line with his $1.1MM projected arb value.
- While the Nationals are trying to work out arrangements to land McCutchen (or an alternative) and/or Sale, they remain in on closer Mark Melancon, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). Melancon’s market is moving along well, says Crasnick, with expectations that he could land as much as $60MM over a four-year term. While Washington is clearly intrigued at a reunion, Crasnick adds that the Giants remain engaged and may even be better-situated for a strike on Melancon given that the Nats’ attention may lie elsewhere.
- That being said, the Giants are also looking to add a power bat in the outfield, and they have continued to consider Tigers slugger J.D. Martinez, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). That interest has been known for some time, but it seems there’s still life to the possibility. Notably, GM Bobby Evans has signaled that San Francisco does not wish to take on a long-term obligation in the outfield, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The same rationale that makes Martinez appealing — his one year of team control — could also make Mets outfielder Jay Bruce a possibility, Schulman notes.
The Giants, Cardinals and Blue Jays are all believed to be interested in free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, who hears that Fowler’s camp is of the mind that they can land a multi-year deal that will pay the switch-hitter $18MM on an annual basis (Twitter link).
[Related: Dexter Fowler’s Free Agent Profile]
Any of the three listed clubs make perfect sense as a landing spot for Fowler. The Giants saw Angel Pagan hit free agency and have somewhat of a vacancy in left field. Beyond that, they could see a significant amount of money come off the books following the 2017 season. Matt Cain’s ill-fated contract extension will come to a close at the end of next year’s campaign, and if he repeats the form he displayed in 2016, Johnny Cueto figures to opt out of the remaining four years and $88MM on his contract. Infielder Eduardo Nunez, too, will be a free agent at season’s end.
As for the Cardinals, they’ve been linked to Fowler for most of the offseason due to the potential void they face in the outfield. Signing Fowler would allow Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty to flank Fowler in the outfield. While many are quick to point out that Fowler isn’t necessarily a defensive upgrade over Grichuk in center — improved glovework is said to be a priority for GM John Mozeliak — an outfield alignment of Grichuk, Fowler and Piscotty would be superior to last year’s mix of Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, Grichuk and Piscotty.
As for the Blue Jays, they’ve previously been linked to Fowler on more than one occasion but also represent an easy on-paper fit. Toronto’s primary corner outfielders from the 2016 season, Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, are both free agents. Fowler would represent a defensive upgrade while providing the Jays with lineup balance and speed — two elements that GM Ross Atkins has gone on record to call desirable this offseason (when speaking generally and not specifically of Fowler). Signing in Toronto would surely require Fowler to shift to an outfield corner, as Kevin Pillar is arguably the game’s best defensive player, but Fowler’s reported talks with the Orioles last offseason potentially signaled a willingness to do just that. His openness to an outfield corner this winter hasn’t been stated to this point, but he’d certainly widen his market if he were comfortable shifting off of center field.
An $18MM average annual value represents a lofty goal for Fowler, who one year ago languished in free agency for nearly the entire offseason as teams were reluctant to part with a draft pick in order to sign him. Multiple reports indicated that he agreed to a three-year deal with the Orioles in February, but that deal was either never agreed to or never finalized, as Fowler wound up back with the Cubs on a more modest one-year deal worth $13MM. The decision represented a show of faith in Fowler’s talent and somewhat of a gamble from both the player and his agents at Excel Sports, but Fowler’s terrific 2016 season made the decision look wise; in 551 plate appearances with the Cubs, Fowler batted .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers and 13 stolen bases in addition to vastly better defensive and baserunning contributions.
It’s also worth noting that an $18MM annual value can mean a variety of different things, as contract length is often a larger deterrent than AAV for teams when signing players to a long-term pact. An $18MM AAV over five years would represent a massive commitment to Fowler and seems decidedly unlikely, but an $18MM AAV over a four-year term would line Fowler up for the same payday that Alex Gordon scored from the Royals last winter. That outcome seems more plausible, depending on the level of interest in Fowler, but the market for his services does seem to be more robust this year than last.
It’s probably fair to rule out the Cubs as a candidate to make a big splash for Fowler given their signing of Jon Jay and the glut of outfielders up and down the rest of their roster, but plenty of other teams make sense. In addition to the three listed by Heyman, the Mariners, Rangers, Phillies, Dodgers, Nationals, Indians and Orioles (if that bridge isn’t burned) are all logical suitors, though that list is speculative on my behalf.
With the Dodgers in payroll-trimming mode, they’re probably not legitimate threats to sign free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, observes FanRag’s Jon Heyman, who lists the Giants and Nationals as likelier landing spots (Twitter link). The Giants are known to be in the market for an outfielder, having discussed J.D. Martinez with the Tigers, and the Nats tried to sign Cespedes last offseason before he re-upped with the Mets. Executives around the majors expect big moves from Washington this winter, and signing Cespedes – MLBTR’s top-ranked free agent – would clearly qualify as a significant splash.
SATURDAY: Contrary to Drellich’s report, the Giants have not talked about reacquiring Sandoval, according to Chris Haft of MLB.com. General manager Bobby Evans expects Nunez to serve as the team’s primary third baseman next year and is focusing his efforts on finding a closer, writes Haft. While club executives aren’t allowed to publicly discuss acquiring players who are under contract elsewhere, Evans did address the Sandoval situation, telling Haft, “I’m not aware of any consideration of a reunion, but we’ll never forget all that he meant to the Giants organization.”
FRIDAY: The Giants have had internal discussions about trying to strike a deal for Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval, according to Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. It is not known whether the two organizations have talked about the former San Francisco star.
Sandoval, 30, is two years into what has been a disastrous free agent contract with the Red Sox. Entering the 2014-15 offseason, he was widely regarded as a high-quality option at the hot corner, with youth on his side and a resume full of strong contributions with the bat and the glove. The Giants pursued a reunion, but Sandoval ultimately took five years and $95MM to head east.
The productivity came to an end as soon as he reached Boston, however. Sandoval posted a decidedly mediocre .245/.292/.366 batting line in his first season with his new organization, and drew abysmal reviews for his fielding at the hot corner. He lost his starting job in camp heading into 2016, and ultimately underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.
Beyond Sandoval’s age and track record, there’s not much to commend him at this point. He has notably struggled with his weight before, but it has been a greater problem than ever with the Red Sox, and it’s hard to know what to make of the latest reports that he is in better shape. And now, Sandoval has the shoulder issue to work back from, too.
Still, the Giants have drawn good work from Sandoval in the past. While his contract is very clearly under water, he’s hardly owed a monumental sum. Including the buyout on a 2020 option, Sandoval is set to earn $58MM over the next three seasons. While there’s no chance that San Francisco will take that on in full, it’s not impossible to imagine the sides coming to a meeting of the minds.
The Giants do have Eduardo Nunez and Conor Gillaspie on hand to cover third, neither is clearly an everyday option there, and both could be put to use elsewhere. Interestingly, though, the Red Sox probably have the greater need at the position. Travis Shaw and Brock Holt are under team control, and Yoan Moncada could be the long-term solution, but it’s an area in flux at present with Sandoval still a question mark.