Scott Feldman Rumors
Josh Willingham's three-year, $21MM contract is the largest free agent contract the Twins have ever issued, but agent Matt Sosnick told Parker Hageman of Twins Daily that Willingham actually turned down a more lucrative offer from a team that was farther west than the Twins are from his Alabama home. More from Hageman's piece and some other Twins-related items below...
- Sosnick also told Hageman he "loves the Twins" and that there's no GM in the game he respects more than Terry Ryan. His respect for the Twins' honesty and player development led him to turn down more money for German outfield prospect Max Kepler back in 2009 to sign with Minnesota. Kepler still signed for $800K, which was, at the time, the largest bonus ever signed by a European prospect.
- Within his piece, Hageman notes that he also spoke with Ryan about the upcoming offseason. Ryan "flinched" when talking about signing pitchers on the wrong side of 30 to multiyear deals, as they're more likely to break down.
- The Twins are one of several teams to reach out to Johan Santana's agent and request his medicals, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Santana's agent, Ed Greenberg, told Neal that his client "still loves Minnesota" and enjoyed working with pitching coach Rick Anderson, who is still serving the same role on the Twins' coaching staff.
- Neal also reports that the Twins have checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco (who is represented by Sosnick), Dan Haren and Scott Feldman, though their specific level of interest in each is unknown. Ryan told Neal that he thinks the quick turnarounds of the Indians and Red Sox will be good for non-contending teams' chances at signing free agents, as they served as examples that a team's fortunes can change quickly. The Twins won just 66 games in 2013 -- just two and three games fewer than the Indians and Red Sox won in 2012, respectively.
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier in the week Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are done for their respective seasons in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League. Buxton has been battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder strain, and Sano has been diagnosed with a strained UCL in his throwing elbow. Sano's injury sounds more serious, but he's been examined by Dr. James Andrews, who agreed with the team's medical staff that no surgery is necessary. Paul Molitor, the newest member of the Twins' coaching staff, told Berardino that Sano's elbow troubles aren't related to his throwing mechanics.
The Red Sox recipe for a championship has been discussed extensively, ever since it became clear that the team was going to be a real contender. But how does it work as a model for other teams? The New York Post's Joel Sherman, for one, thinks it was a one-time stroke. (He compares the lasting power of GM Ben Cherington's mid-tier free agent binge unfavorably to that of the Macarena.) As Sherman well explains, the circumstances for Boston's worst-to-first turnaround are fairly unique, including the Sox' preexisting talent base and nigh-unbelievable success rate in its free agent signings. While teams are likely to have taken account of the lessons that Cherington taught in occupying the market's midsection, says Sherman, no single one can replicate it. And teams will find their dollars won't go quite as far as did Boston's last time around. More from the American League East:
- Boston had an offer on the table from the Royals that would have sent Jon Lester to KC in exchange for Wil Myers, reports the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber. When the Sox asked for time to think, Kansas City instead used Myers to bring back James Shields from the Rays. Lauber says that the Red Sox are lucky not to have acted on that tempting trade offer, arguing that Lester has turned into an "undisputed ace." While there is no question that Lester played a critical role in the team's World Series run, that characterization might be subject to some debate -- Lester was tied with Jhoulys Chacin for 16th in fWAR among qualified starters this year, but ranked 52nd in ERA and 41st in FIP.
- On the other hand, Lester is eighth among starters in cumulative fWAR since 2008, making clear that he has been both excellent and durable. Lauber goes on to weight a possible new contract for the sturdy lefty. He points to two possible comparables: the five-year, $85MM deal signed by Jered Weaver of the Angels, and the six-year, $144MM pact handed Cole Hamels. According to Lauber, the Sox should be interested in an extension -- in spite of their prospect depth -- if they can get Lester for something more like the lesser of those two deals.
- The Yankees have yet to decide whether to issue outfielder Curtis Granderson a qualifying offer, reports Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. Perhaps hoping to deter just that possibility, Granderson's agent Matt Brown said that "there's definitely a possibility" that his client would accept an offer. Of course, he also emphasized that Granderson remains "a pretty elite guy" who will be sought after on the free agent market. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts that the market will value him in the three-year, $45MM range. A qualifying offer, and subsequent rejection of same, still seems the likeliest scenario.
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette may have a lot of free agents clearing the books, but that doesn't mean he'll be rushing to act on most of them, says the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly. Mid-season starter acquisition Scott Feldman is the top target among them for a Baltimore club that does not figure to flash too much cash on the market, Connolly explains, but the O's aren't likely to go past two years for him.
Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com feels that while there is a growing sentiment among some Orioles fans that Matt Wieters should be traded due to his declining offensive numbers, the backstop is part of the team's core and should instead be offered an extension. Melewski points out that Adam Jones was extended with two years of team control remaining -- the same amount of team control the Orioles currently hold over Wieters. He adds that Wieters is a durable clubhouse leader that is entering his prime years, all of which should factor into the team's desire to retain him. The x-factor that isn't discussed by Melewski is Wieters' agent, Scott Boras. Few Boras clients sign extensions prior to free agency, though notable recent exceptions include Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez. More on the O's...
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Manny Machado's surgery to repair the medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee will take place today. The projected four-to-six-week timeframe for his recovery will have him ready sometime between the beginning of Spring Training and the early portion of April.
- From within that same piece, Connolly writes that Jason Hammel is behind Scott Feldman, Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts on the Orioles' "priority to re-sign" list. Connolly's assumption is that Hammel will hook on with another team. I could envision him signing a similar contract to that of Feldman last offseason -- one year at $5-6MM with additional incentives based on innings pitched and/or games started.
- Lastly from Connolly, the out-of-options Danny Valencia figures to make the team in 2014 and could see more time in the field early on, depending on Machado's recovery. Connolly adds that despite Valencia's large numbers against left-handed pitching, a consistent DH who can get on base regularly will be an offseason priority for the Orioles.
For tonight's Free Agent Faceoff entry, we'll take a look at Scott Feldman and Paul Maholm. As two soft-tossers with below-average strikeout rates, they're likely to draw interest from NL clubs who're looking for an extra piece to fill out a rotation.
The Cubs likely targeted Feldman last winter as a pitcher whose strikeout and walk rates were on the upswing in recent years despite inconsistent results. In 2012, he struck out nearly seven batters per nine innings and walked just 2.3 per nine while being shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen. SIERA suggested his ERA should have been somewhere in the range of 3.95, but he ended the season with a mark of 5.09. Dropped into the Cubs' rotation in 2013, Feldman rewarded the team with 91 quality innings before being flipped to Baltimore in July, and he remained relatively effective in the AL East despite seeing his strikeouts tick down and his walk rate rise. It added up to a 181 2/3-inning, 3.86 ERA campaign for Feldman that likely ranks as his best major league season thus far. While his strikeout rate remained below average for a starter, Feldman continued to avoid excessive walks this season, and also saw his groundball rate shoot up to 49.6 percent, easily the highest rate of his career among years in which he's worked mostly out of the rotation.
Maholm also doesn't rely on the strikeout, but he's much more ground-ball oriented than Feldman. Only once has his ground ball rate fallen below 50 percent in a season, and he's averaged 52.1 percent for his career. Those grounders are his meat and potatoes, as he's averaging just a 6.4 per nine strikeout rate over the last two seasons and a solid, but not excellent, walk rate of 2.6 per nine. He also relies heavily on neutralizing lefties, who've managed just a .220/.287/.318 line against him for his career, while righties have fared much better at .286/.353/.447. That's generally been a recipe for success for Maholm, whose ERA climbed to 4.41 in 2013 but was 3.66 over the 2011 to 2012 seasons. His 2013 innings total, 153, was his lowest since his first full season in 2006, with a wrist sprain and elbow inflammation causing him to miss time. However, he's generally been a durable pitcher, as he's never failed to complete 150 innings in a season and has reached the 180-inning plateau three times in the last five years.
In Feldman and Maholm, we have two pitchers who have achieved some success despite living below the 90 MPH mark with their fastballs. Feldman will turn 31 in February, and averaged 89.9 MPH with his heater last season. Maholm will turn 32 during the 2014 season and is a bit behind Feldman on fastball velocity, averaging 87.5 MPH in 2013, but he's also been much more effective at generating ground balls over his career. Who would you rather have?
The Pirates might now be better than any other organization at fixing pitchers, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes. That begins with Francisco Liriano, who started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals tonight, but it also includes Charlie Morton, who will start Game 4, along with Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, and Jeanmar Gomez. Liriano originally agreed to a two-year deal with the Pirates, but when Liriano broke his non-pitching arm while surprising his kids last Christmas, that contract was adjusted to guarantee just $1MM. Liriano's injury caused him to miss the beginning of the season, but it also allowed the Pirates to take their time adjusting his delivery. "The changes that he made -- we couldn't have done that if he'd been in big league camp," says Jim Benedict, a special assistant to GM Neal Huntington. "But because he spent so much time in extended spring training, he had time to get his delivery right and build his arm up slowly." The adjustments they made turned Liriano into a top-flight starter, and gave the Pirates one of the biggest free agent bargains of the offseason. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- Despite the Dodgers' extremely strong finish to the season, they still haven't picked up manager Don Mattingly's 2014 option, and that's leading to speculation about Mattingly's future, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes. Outwardly, the Dodgers have shown strong support for Mattingly, but one source tells Heyman that the Dodgers might need to beat the Braves in the NLDS for Mattingly to be asked to return.
- As far as GM Dave Dombrowski knows, Jim Leyland "wants to keep going" as the Tigers' manager, Dombrowski tells MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom. The Tigers have retained Leyland on a series of one-year deals, and that will likely continue, but, Dombrowski says, "He knows if he wants to manage, he can just keep managing."
- Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette says his club needs to improve its on-base percentage and pitching, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The team will likely concentrate on retaining and developing its own pitching, however, rather than trying to work the free agent market. They would particularly like to see their pitchers throw more innings. "That would be the goal: to make the most of the players on our current roster and encourage them to train in a way in the offseason to help them accomplish that," says Duquette. The Orioles would also like to re-sign Scott Feldman.
We learned earlier this morning that two recent Orioles players -- Taylor Teagarden and Jairo Asencio -- will hit the open market and could be playing elsewhere in 2014. Of course, neither of those players figured prominently in the club's plans. Here are a few notes of somewhat greater importance to the Baltimore franchise:
- Trade deadline acquisition Francisco Rodriguez never really fit in with the club, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. Dubroff says the O's will not bring back Roriguez, who was the last to show up and first to leave the clubhouse and never found a prominent role in manager Buck Showalter's pen. The O's largely got what they hoped for with Rodriguez: he posted 11.5 K/9 against just 2.0 BB/9 in 22 innings, though his ERA ended up at a middling 4.50. But he was used in just seven games that the team ultimately won, making the price (prospect Nick Delmonico) seem tough to swallow in retrospect.
- One of the Orioles' other big mid-year adds was starter Scott Feldman, who could be re-signed as a free agent. To do so, says MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko, the club may need to be willing to offer a three-year deal. (MLBTR's Steve Adams pegged three years and $25MM as Feldman's ceiling, but opined that he is likelier to end up in the neighborhood of two years and $17MM.) Whether or not Feldman is pitching in Camden Yards next year, Kubatko says that the trade by which he was acquired was a good one. Though Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta have both enhanced their value since going to the Cubs in that deal, says Kubatko, the former couldn't be trusted in the late innings and lacked options, while the latter clearly needed a change of scenery to get his career back on track.
- Another candidate for the 2014 Baltimore rotation could be the under-the-radar T.J. McFarland, says MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski. The O's have now established control over the Rule 5 pick after carrying him on their active roster for all of 2013. McFarland, a 24-year-old lefty, ended the year with a 4.22 ERA in 74 2/3 innings, the vast majority of which came in relief. But the former Indians farmhand spent his entire minor league career in the rotation, and will throw in Venezuela over the winter to add innings in the hopes of competing for a starting gig with Baltimore next season.
The Rays and Rangers will square off in a one-game playoff to determine the second American League Wild Card team tonight and finalize the postseason picture. Should the Rays come up short, it will mark the first time since 2006 in which the AL East has not been represented by two teams in the postseason (the Yankees, Twins, Tigers and A's were playoff teams that year). Here's more on the AL East...
- There has been increasing speculation about whether or not Yankees manager Joe Girardi will return to the team in 2014 given his expiring contract, and ESPN's Buster Olney hears that the Yanks will have to significantly increase Girardi's $3MM salary in order to retain him (Twitter link).
- There's mutual interest between Scott Feldman and the Orioles, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Kubatko thinks the O's will re-sign their midseason acquisition unless another team vastly overpays for him on the free agent market.
- Within that piece, Kubatko also notes that free agent Jason Hammel's tenure with the Orioles is likely finished. He adds that if our own Tim Dierkes' two-year, $10MM projection for Nate McLouth is accurate, then McLouth is as good as gone, too.
- The Blue Jays' payroll won't be moving back in 2014, GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters yesterday, including MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. Anthopoulos stated that the team was more likely to address its holes via trade than free agency, noting that this year's free agent crop is once again looking weak. Chisholm lists second base and starting catcher as areas of focus, and he also notes that Toronto is searching for at least one middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Orioles fans and fans all around the game were disheartened to see what looked to be a severe knee injury for ultra-talented third baseman Manny Machado in yesterday's loss to the Rays. Machado had an MRI today, and manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli, that he's optimistic and confident Machado will be able to play with the team early next season. According to Ghiroli, the radiologist's early opinion of the MRI is that the injury wasn't as severe as it initially looked. Injuries were the story of the game for the O's, who also saw Alexi Casilla suffer a likely concussion after an outfield collision. Casilla, a soon-to-be free agent, is likely done for the season, according to Ghiroli. Here's more on the AL East...
- Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) looks at the pending free agents who have boosted their value the most with strong 2013 seasons. Law feels that Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox is the most likely candidate to sign an extension that will "shocK everybody" this offseason due to the scarcity of quality catching options. Law also lists Orioles' hurler Scott Feldman, noting he has a much-improved curveball and could sign a contract in the range of three years and $20-25MM. Last week, I predicted Feldman would sign for two years and $17MM, with Jeremy Guthrie's three-year, $25MM deal being his ceiling.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looks at the left field position for the Blue Jays, which could be a position of need this winter if they decline the option on Adam Lind or trade him, putting Melky Cabrera in the DH spot. After breaking down the internal options, BN-S looks at external options which include re-signing Rajai Davis and making a play for the likes of David DeJesus or Corey Hart.
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun shares the story of Orioles reliever Darren O'Day and his unorthodox background. O'Day, 31 in October, has a 2.19 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 67 relief appearances this season.
- Brian Roberts knows that his time with the Orioles may be coming to an end, and he's trying to embrace the remaining time he has with the team, writes Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. Roberts adds that he hopes 2013 isn't the end of his tenure in Baltimore but admits that he has o idea if he's in the team's future plans.
The Orioles' playoff hopes are hanging by a thread after taking a four-game sweep in Tampa Bay but the greater concern to the team is the status of Manny Machado. In the seventh inning of Monday's 5-4 loss, Machado was running to first on an infield hit and suffered an ugly-looking left knee injury that caused him to be stretchered off the field. Machado will undergo an MRI in Baltimore tomorrow to determine the extent of the damage. If that wasn't enough bad news for the O's, Alexi Casilla is being examined for concussion symptoms after colliding with Nick Markakis on a fly ball.
Here are some items out of Baltimore and Washington...
- The Orioles should make a point to re-sign Scott Feldman this offseason, CSNBaltimore.com's Rich Dubroff opines. Feldman has pitched well since joining the O's and at a price of around two years/$17MM (originally cited by MLBTR's Steve Adams in his Free Agent Profile of Feldman), it's a good value for a team that has a lot of question marks in the rotation heading into 2014.
- Dan Haren doesn't figure he'll return to the Nationals next season and he's considered retirement, but the veteran righty tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he wants to keep pitching in 2014. "Retirement has crossed my mind a few times this year, but with the way the year has gone -- and the ups and downs -- I feel I have something left that could help a team win. I want to give it at least another year and go from there," Haren said. Haren has a 4.87 ERA over 30 games (29 starts) with Washington this season but he has a 3.57 ERA over his last 15 outings since returning from a DL stint. He said he'd prefer to pitch for a west coast team to be closer to his family.
- Randy Knorr, the Nationals' bench coach and top internal candidate to replace Davey Johnson as manager next season, is profiled by Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
Scott Feldman didn't exactly take a conventional path to his first free agent contract. As a 23-year-old in 2006, he enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in the Rangers' bullpen only to struggle through his sophomore campaign in the same role. Texas responded by giving him 25 starts in 2008, which produced an ERA over 5.00, but Feldman posted a 4.08 ERA in 189 2/3 innings in 2009. His ERA spiked back over 5.00 in 2010, and microfracture surgery on his knee caused him to miss most of the 2011 season. When he returned, the rotation was stacked, and Feldman went back to relief work. Well, for a half-season anyhow. After a 3.94 ERA as a reliever in 2011, he made another 21 starts in 2012 but saw his ERA creep north of 5.00 again.
Unfazed by his inconsistency and likely noting his more promising peripheral stats, the Cubs picked Feldman up on a low-risk, one-year deal worth $6MM (plus incentives) this past offseason.
Through all of Feldman's ups and downs, two things have remained constant: he has good command and he generates ground balls. Feldman's highest single-season BB/9 mark dating back to 2008 is 3.3, and he's posted a mark of 2.9 overall since that time (in 811 innings). He's never posted a ground-ball rate below 42 percent. His career mark of 47.3 is above the league average, and he's been even better in 2013, generating grounders at a 50.7 percent clip.
Feldman's career ERA of 4.56 is a near mirror image of his 4.45 FIP, 4.41 xFIP and 4.50 SIERA. An ERA in the mid-4.00s is a very reasonable expectation for Feldman, and his past three seasons of work have produced a 3.91 FIP, 3.91 xFIP and 3.95 SIERA, so there's plenty of room for optimism. The similarities between his FIP and xFIP are easily explainable -- Feldman allows homers at roughly a league-average rate (10.4 percent career HR/FB). All of his work has come for teams in hitter-friendly home parks (the Rangers, Cubs and Orioles), demonstrating that he can succeed in difficult settings.
Feldman will be 31 years old in February, making him one of the younger starters available on the market. He won't be tied to draft pick compensation, as he's ineligible to receive a qualifying offer after being traded midseason.
Feldman had Tommy John surgery as a minor leaguer back in 2003 but hasn't had any arm-related health issues since. It can be argued that he has little mileage on his arm compared to similarly aged free agents; he's thrown 900 2/3 Major League innings to date.
Feldman has never been a flamethrower, but his 90 mph average on his four-seamer and 88 mph average on his cutter this season are both career-lows. As a ground-ball pitcher, he doesn't miss many bats -- his swinging-strike will rate sit between six and eight percent in any given season -- nor does he generate many strikeouts. His K/9 rate of 6.5 this season is actually an improvement over his 5.6 career mark but still lower than the league average for starting pitchers (7.2).
The inconsistent track record that I alluded to before also makes his durability a relative question mark. Feldman has never tossed more than 189 2/3 innings in a season, and he's only topped 30 starts in a season on one occasion. As it stands, he's on pace to make exactly 30 starts this season, but he won't set a new career-high for innings pitched without hurling a pair of complete games in his final two starts.
Feldman, whose father is a retired FBI agent, is an avid supporter of the Wounded Warrior project. He and his wife have also hosted charity softball events in Dallas to raise money for wounded military members and participated in fundraisers and blanket drives for anti-domestic violence organizations. Highly competitive by nature, Feldman has a fairly quiet personality and is very popular among teammates. He embodies the "every fifth day" mentality, as he always wants to take the ball, even in the face of soreness and injury.
Feldman isn't going to be one of the very top starters on the free agent market, and as such he may wait until after some of the bigger names have signed to ink a deal of his own. That waiting game is a delicate balance, however, as pitchers like Joe Saunders and Brett Myers can attest to. Each waited until after the New Year to sign and settled for a one-year deal last offseason while comparable arms like Brandon McCarthy, Kevin Correia and Joe Blanton signed in December and received two guaranteed years.
Feldman's ground-ball tendencies won't scare off teams in small parks, and unlike the Matt Garzas and Masahiro Tanakas of the world, Feldman probably won't be priced out of any team's range. He could be appealing to a large number of teams looking for a quality arm to slot into the middle or back of their rotations.
It's tough to foresee Feldman earning himself three guaranteed years on the open market given his inconsistent innings totals, but his 2013 can't be ignored. He's posted a 3.49 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 50.7 percent ground-ball rate to this point, which should be enough to land a two-year deal at a slightly higher rate than the $7MM he'll bring home this year after hitting his incentives. Perhaps his agent, Matt Brown of Pro Prospects Inc., could compromise by pushing for an easily attainable vesting option for a third year based on innings pitched.
Ultimately, Jeremy Guthrie's three-year, $25MM contract from last year could be his ceiling, but I predict that Feldman will sign a two-year, $17MM contract with a vesting option for a third season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.