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Here are the highlights of Pirates GM Neal Huntington’s Sunday chat with the media, via Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- The Pirates acquired versatile infielders Jung-Ho Kang and Sean Rodriguez to give Clint Hurdle more tactical options and to allow the team to be more “proactive” about resting starters, Huntington says. Both players have, perhaps, been more useful than the Pirates anticipated — Kang is hitting .304/.369/.435 and has lately worked his way into regular duty, and Rodriguez has seen plenty of time at first base as well as the outfield corners.
- Third baseman Josh Harrison struggled early in the season after signing an extension in Spring Training, but he’s hit well recently, batting .488/.511/.714 in his last two weeks before today’s game against the Mets. “It looks like a guy that’s having fun playing the game again,” says Huntington. “Just showing up with energy every day and trying to do everything in his power to help a club win versus trying to justify.”
- Prospect Nick Kingham has yet to get a second opinion for his elbow injury, two weeks after it was reported he was going to seek one. “Nick chose a very busy doctor. Our hope is to get him in this week, and we’ll have an update after that,” Huntington says. Kingham has not pitched since May 6, but the severity of his injury is still unclear. He was set to provide the Pirates with rotation depth this season. MLB.com ranks him the sixth-best prospect in a strong Bucs system.
With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
- The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
- Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
- Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
- The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
- ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
- Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
- Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
- Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
- Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
- Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
- Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.
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4:21pm: Pittsburgh has also settled with outfielder Travis Snider for $2.1MM, as Mike Perchick of WAPT was first to report (Twitter link). That is just $100K short of the MLBTR/Matt Swartz projection.
Pittsburgh has also reached agreement with reliever Tony Watson for $1.75MM, tweets Perchick. That figure falls a quarter-million shy of Watson’s $2MM projection. And Perchick also reports that Sean Rodriguez and the Pirates have avoided arb with a $1.9MM deal for 2015 — $100K shy of his projection.
2:52pm: The Pirates have agreed to a $5.4MM salary with closer Mark Melancon, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link). Additionally, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Josh Harrison will receive $2.8MM on the heels of a breakout 2014 campaign.
While Melancon falls shy of his $7.6MM projection, Swartz explained in an Arbitration Breakdown post that Melancon’s unique statistical profile “broke” his projection algorithm in a way similar to Craig Kimbrel last offseason (when Swartz first wrote about “The Kimbrel Rule“). As Swartz explained in that post, he personally considered Melancon to be a Kimbrel-esque exception to his model and expected a salary in the $5.6MM to $6.1MM range.
The 29-year-old Melancon was dominant for a second straight season in 2014, registering a 1.90 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 33 saves and 14 holds in 71 innings. That rare combination of ERA, saves and holds led the projection model to overshoot Melancon’s salary despite the fact that there’s no historical precedent for a raise of that magnitude for a relief pitcher (hence Swartz’s followup post and personalized expectations for Melancon).
As for Harrison, the 27-year-old broke out with a surprisingly excellent season that landed him ninth in NL MVP voting. Harrison batted .315/.347/.490 with 13 homers and 18 stolen bases, playing strong defense all over the diamond — second, short, third, corner outfield — before settling in at third base and displacing incumbent Pedro Alvarez. Harrison figures to man the hot corner on an everyday basis in 2015. He topped his $2.2MM projection by a hefty $600K.
The 22-year-old Borden was Pittsburgh’s seventh-round pick out of UNLV in 2013 and spent this past season in the Class-A South Atlantic League. There, he pitched to a 3.16 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 128 innings (26 starts, 27 appearances total). At the time of the draft, Baseball America (subscription required) praised his durable, athletic build and a 90-92 mph fastball that could touch 95. However, BA also noted that his secondary pitches were below average, which could point to relief work in the long-term.
DEC. 1: The Pirates announced that they have acquired infielder Sean Rodriguez from the Rays in exchange for a player to be named later and cash considerations. First baseman Gaby Sanchez has been designated for assignment to clear roster space.
Rodriguez was designated for assignment by the Rays last week. The 29-year-old, projected to earn $2MM via arbitration by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, posted a career-high 12 home runs in 2014 with a career-best .232 isolated power mark, but the rest of his stats took a tumble. Rodriguez batted .211/.258/.443 on the whole, walking at a career-low 3.9 percent clip while striking out in nearly 26 percent of his plate appearances.
Rodriguez is able to play all four infield positions as well the outfield corners, and he generally has posted plus defensive marks as an infielder. The Pirates are set to enter the season with Josh Harrison at third base, Jordy Mercer at shortstop, Neil Walker at second and Pedro Alvarez at first, and Rodriguez can back up all four of those positions at a reasonable price.
Sanchez, who turned 31 in September, struggled through one of the worst seasons of his career at the plate this past year, batting just .229/.293/.385 with seven homers. The right-handed hitting Sanchez is best served as a platoon bat, as evidenced by the 170-point differential between his career OPS marks versus lefties and righties. He did hit a respectable .256/.318/.429 against southpaws in 2014, so he’d make a good platoon partner for someone like Adam Lind in Milwaukee. However, with a projected arb salary of $2.7MM, interested teams may first hope that he can be claimed off waivers or even clears waivers rather than giving up a minor prospect in a trade.
The Marlins are known to be looking for first base help and Allen Craig is the latest name to be added to their list of potential trade targets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link). Dealing Craig would help the Red Sox clear out some of their outfield surplus, while giving Miami a right-handed bat to platoon with Garrett Jones at first base. The Marlins are dangling young pitchers in trades, though I’m not sure this would necessarily appeal to Boston — the Sox already have plenty of young arms and if they did move an outfielder, they’d likely prefer a proven starter who can immediately be slotted into their 2015 rotation.
Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Andrew Miller is in serious negotiations with between eight and 10 teams, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. The Orioles aren’t one of the suitors, as Miller’s four-year asking price is higher than they would like to give to a setup man. Miller has already received multiple three-year offers and reportedly received interest from 22 of the league’s 30 teams.
- The Yankees have discussed signing Jason Grilli, WFAN’s Sweeny Murti reports. Grilli could be pursued by the team if David Robertson leaves in free agency.
- The Blue Jays are in need of relief pitching but would GM Alex Anthopoulos break from his usual modest bullpen spending and pursue a big-ticket reliever like Miller or Robertson? Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith looks at the pros and cons of signing relievers to big contracts.
- In a reader mailbag piece, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm figures the Blue Jays have at least $20MM “and possibly even upward of $30MM” in remaining payroll space, provided that Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston were correct in saying that the club’s payroll would grow past its $137MM mark from 2014. Some of the space could be created if J.A. Happ or Dioner Navarro are traded.
- Also from Chisholm’s mailbag, he cites some reasons some players are reluctant to come to Toronto, such as the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface or a lack of desire to move to Canada. Cole Hamels, Howie Kendrick, Justin Upton and Jay Bruce are just a few of the notable players who reportedly have the Jays on their no-trade lists, though Chisholm notes that several players with trade protection include AL East teams for financial leverage purposes.
- Sean Rodriguez was “definitely surprised” to be designated for assignment by the Rays, the utilityman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “This (stinks) right now, but I feel like it may be an opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “What I bring to the table (in terms of versatility) is something a lot of teams like and want to have more of.”
The Rays announced that they have signed right-hander Ernesto Frieri to a one-year, Major League contract. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Frieri, a client of agent Matt Colleran, will earn an $800K base salary and can take home a total of $3.15MM if he meets all of his contract’s performance incentives. To clear roster space, The Rays announced that they have designated infielder Sean Rodriguez for assignment.
Frieri, formerly the Angels’ closer, had a down year in 2014 after posting a 2.76 ERA from 2009-13 between the Padres and Halos. He’s always missed a large number of bats and did so again in 2014, averaging 10.4 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings. However, Frieri’s ERA spiked to 7.31 due to a bloated 19.3 percent homer-to-flyball ratio that is likely to dip back down toward his career rate of roughly 10 percent next season. He also saw his typically excellent strand rate plummet to 60.9 percent. The Angels flipped him to the Pirates in a one-for-one swap that netted Jason Grilli and ultimately got the better end of the deal, as Frieri would be designated for assignment by Pittsburgh after struggling there as well.
Frieri seems to be a classic buy-low candidate for a Rays team that has successfully turned around the careers of many struggling veterans in the past. He averaged a solid 94 mph on his fastball in 2014, and metrics such as xFIP (3.67) and SIERA (2.96) feel that he is an excellent candidate to return to form this season. There’s upside beyond the 2015 campaign for the Rays as well, as Frieri can be controlled through 2016 if he rebounds.
Rodriguez, also 29, batted just .211 with a .258 on-base percentage but a career-best .443 slugging percentage. The utility infielder did hit a career-high 12 homers, but the Rays apparently weren’t comfortable paying him something in the $2MM range projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the ten players most likely to be traded this offseason and the Braves’ Justin Upton tops the list. Castrovince feels the Braves could obtain a similar, if not better, return than they received for Jason Heyward because Upton’s powerful bat has tremendous value.
Here are the latest notes from around baseball:
- Miguel Montero placed tenth on Castrovince’s list and Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the hiring of Henry Blanco will create traction for the Cubs‘ interest in the Diamondbacks’ catcher, who was a Blanco pupil in 2014. The D’Backs have reportedly spoken with the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox about Montero.
- With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan, either via trade or signing. They’d like a catcher with more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- More from Topkin who reports, in addition to an expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders and relievers. He identifies Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez as infield trade possibilities and Brandon Gomes as a bullpen arm who could be moved.
- It may not be “sexy,” but the Red Sox‘s pursuit of Pablo Sandoval makes perfect sense, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox appear to be one of the finalists for Sandoval, alongside the Padres and incumbent Giants.
- Torii Hunter told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press he favors the Twins among the teams with which he is considering signing. “(Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan and I have talked several times, and there’s definitely a common interest there, for sure,” the veteran said. Ten teams reportedly have interest in Hunter.
- The Pirates could re-allocate the resources set aside for Russell Martin to pursue rotation and bullpen help, a first baseman, and/or sign some of their young core to extensions, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
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Jared S. Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) chronicles the travails Jose Abreu underwent in leaving his native Cuba for America. Full details of Abreu’s journey remain a secret (Abreu and his agents have declined to discuss his defection and an interview with Abreu’s mother, to which to she had agreed, was cancelled by one of the slugger’s associates), but Hopkins was able to piece together how Abreu and his brother-in-law took a boat from Cuba to Haiti in August 2013 leaving behind his young son and family, reaching out to the Orioles’ Henry Urrutia for help after leaving Cuba, and living in the Dominican Republic for three months before landing his $68MM contract with the White Sox. The article also delves into the role smugglers and their networks play in ferreting players out of Cuba for promises upward of 30% of the players’ first contract. Abreu is expected to be named the AL Rookie of the Year tomorrow.
In other news about Abreu’s White Sox and the American League:
- Earlier today, we learned the White Sox will meet this week with Pablo Sandoval‘s representatives during the GM Meetings in Phoenix. However, if the right third base upgrade cannot be found, the White Sox are comfortable with a platoon of Conor Gillaspie and Marcus Semien, reports CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes. The White Sox also have Matt Davidson on their 40-man roster, but Hayes notes the 23-year-old struggled in a homer-friendly park at Triple-A Charlotte (.199/.283/.362 in 539 plate appearances).
- The free agent expenditures by the Red Sox this offseason could be shaped by who will be available in free agency next winter, writes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. With a solid free agent class of starting pitchers and a dearth of third baseman next offseason, MacPherson opines the Red Sox may stretch the budget this year for Sandoval, Chase Headley, or Hanley Ramirez.
- Rays players are rallying around Dave Martinez to replace Joe Maddon as manager, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin.
- Within the same article, Topkin speculates the trade of left-hander Cesar Ramos was the first of what could be several moves by the Rays to create roster spots by dealing players who may be too expensive or no longer fit and receive something in return. Sean Rodriguez (projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz to earn $2MM through arbitration) could be one of those moves, according to Topkin.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
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Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison is drawing serious interest from clubs around baseball and a source tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter) that roughly ten teams have checked in. Miami is reportedly willing to listen and the Red Sox and Braves are among the clubs that have called. Here's more out of the NL East..
- The Marlins are fans of Rays third baseman Sean Rodriguez and have discussed him internally, a league source tells Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Frisaro wonders aloud if Morrison for Rodriguez and a pitcher could be enough to get a deal done. Miami may be looking for a stop gap solution at third base until Colin Moran, the sixth overall pick in last year's draft, is ready, which could be in 2015.
- Braves GM Frank Wren says he has had plenty of talks with agents and teams so far this winter, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "[We're] putting ourselves in position to add pieces we feel like would help us best," the GM said.
- Wren added that he's targeting starting pitching, bullpen help, and some bench upgrades, but wont' look past anything that can help the team, O'Brien tweets.
- The Braves might be willing to trade some prospects in right deal, but not their premium prospects such as Lucas Sims and Jason Hursh, O'Brien tweets.
- Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News wonders if there's a realistic chance of the Phillies trading Jonathan Papelbon.
Frisaro runs down multiple reasons why the Marlins are likely to trade Morrison.