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- Blue Jays Acquire Josh Donaldson From Athletics For Brett Lawrie, Three Others
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While Andrew Miller is said to have multiple three-year offers in hand already, the other top reliever on this year’s market, David Robertson, just may end up finding someone to meet his reported asking price of “Jonathan Papelbon money.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com spoke with four executives, each of whom believed that Robertson would receive his desired four years and at least come close to Papelbon’s average annual salary. An NL exec said he thought Robertson would meet his goal, while an AL exec said that though his first instinct was “no,” after seeing how the market has played out early on, he’s changed his thinking. A second NL exec and an AL scout said they could see at least four years and $40MM, with the scout saying it could go higher, because it only takes one team to push up that value.
Here’s more on some of the top free agents of the offseason…
- Jon Lester will meet with at least two more teams next week, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Lester met with the Red Sox, Cubs and Braves this week. The Sox reportedly made a six-year offer in the $110-120MM range and are willing to negotiate further. The Braves reportedly have yet to extend a formal offer.
- The Twins have a “real shot” to sign Torii Hunter, tweets La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN hears the same (Twitter link), adding that the pitch to Hunter from manager Paul Molitor is that Hunter can come back to Minnesota and provide the same type of mentoring to their young players that Molitor and the late Kirby Puckett provided Hunter when he was a minor leaguer. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press tweets that Hunter would be taking a significant paycut to return to Minnesota, however.
- Elsewhere in the Hunter market, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Orioles and Giants are keeping Hunter as a back-burner option in case their initial free agent pursuits don’t play out as they hope (Twitter links). In addition to those two teams, the Twins and the Royals, Crasnick hears that the Mariners have kicked the tires on Hunter.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski appeared on MLB Network Radio with Jim Bowden today and said that while he couldn’t rule out the return of ace Max Scherzer, he feels the chances were better last spring (Twitter link). The Tigers, of course, made Scherzer a six-year, $144MM extension offer, which he rejected.
Following the trade of Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, there’s been plenty of speculation that the Braves could also consider dealing Justin Upton, with the Mariners being named as a potential fit. Joel Sherman of the New York Post now hears that the Braves are “very much shopping” Upton, but the asking price is said to be steeper than their price for Heyward, which was rather significant itself.
For Heyward, Atlanta received four years of right-hander Shelby Miller and a solid pitching prospect in Tyrell Jenkins. To be seeking more than that is ambitious, especially considering the fact that Heyward’s $8.3MM salary is markedly lower than Upton’s $14.5MM commitment. There’s also a widespread perception that Heyward, despite his inferior power numbers, is more valuable than Upton due to his elite defense in right field.
Of course, not all teams may see things that way. While WAR strongly favors Heyward, it’s certainly not unthinkable that a team would value Upton’s power more than Heyward’s glove, especially considering the scarcity of power in today’s game. As Sherman notes, Giancarlo Stanton is the only right-handed hitter in the NL who hit more homers than Upton’s 29 last season. Those 29 homers tied Upton for 12th in all of Major League Baseball. Overall, he batted .270/.342/.491 with the Braves in 2014.
Interest in Upton is said to be “significant” by those to whom Sherman spoke, as is the likelihood that Upton will be dealt. One executive from another club plainly told Sherman, “Justin Upton will be moved.” Sherman said the Mariners do indeed have interest, and they also have the type of pitching prospects that the Braves covet. (Last night, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien reported that Taijuan Walker doesn’t appear to be off limits, but the Mariners would likely want more than one year of Upton to part with him.) Upton also removed Seattle from his no-trade list this offseason.
If the Braves are to move Upton, their connection to Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas makes more sense. Dealing Upton for pitching prospects and replacing him with Tomas could afford the Braves comparable right-handed power that they will control for a much longer term. Tomas would, in theory, pair with Evan Gattis on the outfield corners to give the Braves a pair of powerful right-handed bats with which they could surround Freddie Freeman in the long term. As of this morning, Atlanta is said to be one of the front-runners for Tomas.
Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland has changed agencies and is now represented by Bob Garber of RMG Baseball, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports (on Twitter). Additionally, Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders has joined Meister Sports Management, according to a tweet from agent Brandon Meister.
Moreland, 29, is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he batted .246/.297/.347 with a pair of homers in 184 plate appearances. Moreland underwent season-ending ankle surgery in June, adding his name to a long list of Rangers players that sustained a season-ending injury this year. Formerly represented by BBI Sports Group, he’s a career .252/.316/.430 hitter that has fared considerably better against righties (.777 OPS) than righties (.636 OPS) in his career. Moreland earned $2.65MM last offseason in his first bout with arbitration and will be eligible twice more before he can become a free agent.
Saunders, who turned 28 on Wednesday, has seen his name pop up in trade rumors recently, in part due to some comments made by Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon. Former agent Michael McCann expressed displeasure on his client’s behalf, feeling that the comments called into question Saunders’ work ethic and offseason preparation. Though the Mariners have tried to smooth things over, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that he was likely to be shopped at the GM Meetings last week. Saunders has battled injuries but posted a nice .248/.320/.423 while playing in the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field over the past three seasons. He, too, is arbitration eligible twice more before reaching free agency.
Moreland will join the agency of former Astros ace Roy Oswalt, who has since signed on to work alongside Garber at RMG (as Buster Olney reported at the time of Oswalt’s official retirement). RMG also represents C.J. Wilson, J.D. Martinez and Tyler Chatwood, among others. Saunders, meanwhile, will join an agency that represents big leaguers Sergio Romo, Pat Neshek, Ben Revere and Casey McGehee, among others.
Both changes are reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains info on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you notice any errors or omissions within the database, please let us know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Midnight EST is the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com lists the notable prospects who are newly Rule 5 eligible. Of course, the decision whether or not to protect a player has as much to do with roster flexibility and his expected ability to stick on a big league roster for a full season as it does the player’s overall prospect value.
We’ll keep tabs on the day’s 40-man additions here, and you can also check Baseball America’s running updates, which includes breakdowns of the players added.
- The Rays have yet to announce their full list of roster moves, but Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that second baseman Ryan Brett will be added to the 40-man.
- Following their trade with the Dodgers, the Rays announced that they have added Brett (as Cooper tweeted), right-hander Matt Andriese, left-hander Grayson Garvin, outfielder Mikie Mahtook and catcher Justin O’Conner to the 40-man roster.
- The Dodgers announced that lefty Adam Liberatore, acquired in the trade with the Rays, has been added to the 40-man roster.
- The Astros have made one final 40-man roster move, announcing the addition of right-hander Michael Feliz. Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper was among those to express surprise that Feliz had not previously been added to the roster, with some executives telling him they’d be shocked if Feliz wasn’t the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 Draft (Twitter link).
- The Rangers announced that they’ve added righties Luke Jackson and Jerad Eickhoff, infielder Hanser Alberto and catcher Jorge Alfaro to the 40-man roster.
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Here are the day’s minor signings from around the league:
- The Mariners have acquired minor league right-hander Sam Gaviglio from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielder Ty Kelly, the teams announced. Gaviglio, 24, had a 4.28 ERA with 8.3 K/0 and 3.0 BB/9 in 136 2/3 innings at Double-A this season. He made 25 appearances, with 24 being starts. Kelly, 26, hit .263/.381/.412 with 15 homers and 11 steals at Triple-A. The former Orioles draftee has a lifetime .280/.402/.409 batting line in 841 PA at that level.
- Left-hander Omar Duran has agreed to a minor league deal with the Tigers that includes a Spring Training invitation, MLBTR has learned. Duran, 24, had spent his entire career in the Athletics organization, never moving above the Double-A level. But he was consistently productive last year after matching his double-digit strikeout marks with manageable walk totals.
- The Royals announced that they have acquired outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Padres in exchange for left-hander Kyle Bartsch (Twitter link). Fuentes, 23, was one of the four players San Diego received from the Red Sox in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. The 23-year-old former first-rounder batted .294/.363/.416 with five homers and went 25-for-28 in stolen base attempts between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. Bartsch, also 23, spent this season at Class-A Advanced Wilmington where he notched a 2.29 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 55 innings of relief, showing effectiveness against both lefties and righties.
- The Rangers have added catcher Chris Gimenez and righty David Martinez to minor league deals with invitations to camp, the club announced. Gimenez, 31, bounced around quite a bit last year and ultimately managed a .241/.313/.328 line over 128 plate appearances at the big league level — the sixth year in a row that he spent at least some time on an active roster. Martinez, 27, has just 18 1/3 big league frames to his credit and had spent his whole career with the Astros. He has worked in a swingman capacity in the upper minors in recent seasons.
It’s already been a fairly active winter on the trade front, as we’ve seen the Brewers acquire Adam Lind, the D’Backs acquire Jeremy Hellickson, the Tigers acquire Anthony Gose and of course the Cardinals/Braves Jason Heyward blockbuster. All of this has come before the Winter Meetings, so action on the trade front only figures to increase over the next month. Here are some of the latest rumblings from around the league…
- ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that in addition to Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and the Reds’ quartet of starters that are rumored to be available (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon), Rick Porcello is believed to be attainable in trades. Rival evaluators feel that many players that are set to be free agents a year from now could be had for the right offer. The Tigers, of course, are aiming to contend in 2015, but Porcello is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12.2MM in arbitration and could fetch a nice piece while freeing up some cash for GM Dave Dombrowski to address other areas of need.
- Olney also hears (Twitter link) that the White Sox‘ asking price on Alexei Ramirez is “steep to the degree that you’d want to be buying in for two to three years.” Ramirez is guaranteed $10MM next season and has a $10MM club option for the 2016 season with a $1MM buyout.
- The Mariners will surely make a run at either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis, if they haven’t already, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). O’Brien gets the sense that top prospect Taijuan Walker is not completely off the table in trade talks with Seattle, but it would probably take more than one year of Upton to acquire him.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times that he’s had trade discussions regarding Howie Kendrick, but he’s in no way eager to move his second baseman. The Halos entered the offseason thinking they might be able to move Kendrick for a controllable, young rotation option but somewhat surprisingly did so by acquiring Nick Tropeano in the Hank Conger trade. “The only way we would move him is if we become a better club,” Dipoto tells DiGiovanna. “And it would take a heck of a deal for us to feel like we’re a better club by moving Howie.”
- Though much has been made of the possibility that the Padres could trade Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner to bolster the club’s offense, the team is now strongly considering hanging onto both pitchers, sources tell MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Interestingly, Brock’s report mentions reported trade interest in Ian Kennedy but does not state that the Friars are similarly likely to hold onto the 29-year-old. Kennedy will be a free agent next winter.
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Olmos had a promising 2013, at least in terms of outcomes, that led to his first cup of coffee at the MLB level. But he saw his ERA rise to 4.06 in the upper minors last year, and Olmos did not earn a call-up. On the other hand, he did post a 3.5 BB/9 walk rate that was by far the best of his young career.
Other clubs that could make sense for Cabrera, says Heyman, include the Mariners and Orioles. The Royals have been mentioned elsewhere as an outside possibility. And, of course, the Blue Jays still have interest in bringing him back.
We have not heard much in the way of rumors regarding Cabrera, a 30-year-old switch-hitter coming off of a strong .301/.351/.458 campaign. Though he certainly comes with his downsides, Cabrera is a valuable asset and one of the best position players available this year, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in detail in his recent profile. Adams predicts a five-year, $66.25MM pact.
It is worth bearing in mind, of course, that a team signing Cabrera will be required to sacrifice a draft pick as compensation. Holding a protected first-round choice, that would be much easier to stomach for Chicago.
With the Blue Jays set to introduce new catcher Russell Martin and his five-year, $82MM deal tomorrow, let’s take a look at some of the reactions and reporting from around the game:
- Regarding other teams that were in the mix for Martin, the Cubs were “close” runners-up, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Chicago was pushing past the four-year, $65MM mark and was willing to go to five years under some scenarios, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago tweets. The Pirates, meanwhile, were willing to go to four years, as Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, and were involved deep into the process. And we noted earlier today that the Mariners also made a run, per MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
- The Blue Jays have drawn interest in backstop Dioner Navarro, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. But the club does not feel obligated to move him, as he can still function as a backup and part-time DH. Navarro is owed $5MM this season in the second and final year of his contract.
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law is among the fans of the deal, via Insider link, writing that Martin is probably good enough by traditional measures to justify the deal, but also shines in areas like pitch framing, staff handling, and leadership. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca likewise highlighted Martin’s multi-faceted value. Navarro is likely more useful to Toronto as a trade piece than a part-timer, Law suggests.
- Adding Martin likely takes the Jays out of the running for Melky Cabrera, tweets ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. It does bear noting that Martin’s backloaded deal structure still seems to leave the team space to add payroll this year, and Toronto still has plenty of open spending capacity after 2015.
The Mariners were in the mix for free agent catcher Russell Martin, reports MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. It is not clear exactly what Seattle’s plans would have been with young backstop Mike Zunino, had they managed to land Martin, but it seems fair to assume that the club was only looking at the catching market for that specific player. Going forward, though, this report supports the idea that the M’s are indeed prepared to spend on the open market.
Here’s more from out west:
- Gustavo Vasquez, the agent for third baseman Pablo Sandoval, plans to speak with the Giants by phone this evening after wrapping up a lengthy visit to Boston yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. His client could be on the horn as well, says Rosenthal. It is not yet known whether Sandoval came away from his visit with the Red Sox with a firm offer in hand.
- Veteran Giants righty Tim Hudson says he is likely to retire after 2015, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). “I have one more year left on my contract, so I’m pretty sure that’s going to be it after this season,” Hudson said. “I just started my workouts yesterday, which is kind of crazy to me.”
- The Astros are readying for another, “fresh look” at the possibility of working out extensions, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Last year, of course, the club pursued several long-term deals with younger players, ultimately locking up Jon Singleton. Renewed exploration of a deal with catcher Jason Castro remains possible, said Luhnow, though Drellich reports that no talks are taking place at present. The catcher has consistently said he would be interested in a new deal to stay in Houston for the long run, though his name has come up as a possible trade candidate.
- Discussions went pretty far down the line last year, with Drellich reporting that the club made Castro an offer after his stellar 2013 season. Per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, that offer would have promised the now-27-year-old around $10MM for 2015-16 while conveying two option years (covering Castro’s first two seasons of free agent eligibility) to the team. Had they been exercised, the deal’s total value could have reached about $25MM. It is not hard to see why he declined that proposal, as Castro is projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM this year even after a rough 2014 campaign.
- MLB.com’s Corey Brock takes a closer look at Ed Lewis, the Diamondbacks‘ newly-minted director of baseball analytics and research. Needless to say, Lewis’s background — he is a veterinarian by training — is an unusual one for a MLB executive. But chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says that Lewis has a track record of working with baseball numbers. “Ed gave me my first introduction to advanced analytics when he worked with our offensive preparation in St. Louis and I’ve always been impressed with his intelligence and integrity,” said La Russa (via press release). “It was clear that [GM Dave Stewart] and [president/CEO Derrick Hall] were also very impressed by his wealth of knowledge. He is a scientist who is mathematically inclined and he knows the game. Most importantly, he understands our approach to it.”