Shin-Soo Choo Rumors
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark is out with a Winter Meetings preview, noting that the frenzy of signings and trades this week threatens to overshadow an event that's traditionally one of the hot stove's busiest periods. Twenty teams either swapped a player or agreed to terms with a free agent between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, according to ESPN's count. "I don't ever remember a day like Tuesday ever," an AL official commented. "Not just [during] the week before the Winter Meetings. Ever." Nevertheless, with several top names remaining unsigned and rumors of a David Price trade hanging in the air, Stark notes that there's plenty of hot stove left. Here's a run-through of his Winter Meetings preview, which includes a survey of 17 big league executives (conducted before the Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano signings):
- Some believe Scott Boras will bide his time with Shin-Soo Choo following how quickly a deal for Jacoby Ellsbury came together with the Yankees, but there's another group that believes the superagent wants to show new rival Jay Z that he can be decisive. Around half of execs polled said they think Choo could sign during the Winter Meetings, or immediately afterward. All speculated he'll land with either the Rangers, Mariners or Tigers, though Detroit is indicating they're not involved.
- The market for starting pitching has been slow to develop because of uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka, as well as slow-developing rumors for Price and Jeff Samardzija, leaving Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez still on the board. Officials polled varied widely in their predictions for when the two will sign, though many see Garza heading to the Yankees or the Orioles. Draft pick compensation is an issue with Jimenez, who doesn't have a consistent track record.
- Kendrys Morales isn't expected to sign soon, with many NL clubs passing on the slugger because there's a perception that he'll need to DH. "I think he has all the makings of this year's Kyle Lohse," one exec commented. Draft pick compensation is also an issue. "You should never forget how many teams don't want to give up those draft picks," one exec commented.
- Samardzija was seen as the player most likely to be traded during the Meetings among players who are still on the market, though his three votes only slightly surpassed Mark Trumbo's two. Many believe, however, that Samardzija could remain a Cub until later in the winter, or even until the summer trade deadline in July. One exec said he thinks the Angels were more willing to move Trumbo a month ago than they are currently.
- Carlos Beltran was by far seen as the most likely player to sign during the Meetings, though as that's already happened, the title is now held by Choo.
- While the Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, Braves, Diamondbacks and Padres all appear to be interested in trading for Price, the group of teams that are actually able to consummate a deal could be much smaller. Rays GM Andrew Friedman appears to be taking his time allowing the market to develop. "Andrew is looking to make the Herschel Walker trade," a source tells Stark, referring to the 1989 NFL trade that involved 18 players and draft picks.
SATURDAY, 4:17pm: The Yankees confirmed the signing via press release. The seven-year contract takes the outfielder through 2020 with a club option for 2021.
WEDNESDAY: Ellsbury is guaranteed $148MM over the first seven years of the contract, and there is a $21MM option for an eighth year that comes with a $5MM buyout, according to Yahoo's Tim Brown (on Twitter). Meanwhile, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that an option year has not yet been agreed upon.
TUESDAY, 11:45pm: Ellsbury's deal includes a no-trade clause, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
8:00pm: The deal includes an eighth-year option that could boost the total value to $169MM, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (on Twitter).
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted that Ellsbury would get a seven-year, $150MM deal in his free agent profile earlier this offseason.
7:31pm: The Yankees have agreed to sign Jacoby Ellsbury, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that the two sides were closing in on a seven-year pact. It is believed the deal will top Carl Crawford's $142MM, seven-year deal with one estimate pegging the deal at about $150MM, according to Heyman.
The Yankees have been in simultaneous talks with Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, and many other top free agents, including their own Robinson Cano. Things have stalled somewhat with Cano, however, as the Yanks don't want to go far beyond $170MM over seven years and Cano's team looking for about $260MM. Heyman spoke with sources who didn't rule out the Yankees continuing their purusit of Choo or Beltran, but it would seem unlikely at this point. One source told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter) that a deal with Ellsbury or another top outfielder won't preclude the Yanks from re-signing their star second baseman.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported on Monday that talks were moving faster than expected for the Scott Boras client. Boras is notorious for waiting out the market to find the right deal as he did with Prince Fielder (signed in late January) and Michael Bourn (February).
Ellsbury offers more pop than the typical center fielder, with a career slugging percentage of .439 and isolated power of .141. While his power is more of the doubles and triples variety, which is aided by his speed, he did hit 32 home runs in his stellar 2011 campaign. In that year, Ellsbury led all of baseball with 9.1 wins above replacement, finished second in the AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove, and made the All-Star team. However, the left-handed batter wasn't much of a threat against southpaws this year, posting a .246/.323/.318 line in 237 plate appearances.
The 30-year-old has also consistently posted above average UZR and DRS numbers in center field. While he has come back to earth somewhat since '11, he checked in with 5.8 wins above replacement in 2013, which is second only to Robinson Cano among free agents.
Of course, much of Ellsbury's game is predicated on speed. Now, the Yankees have to hope that Ellsbury can stay fleet-footed for some time and will be able to adjust when his motor eventually wears down.
The Yankees have been vocal about their desire to get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold this winter, but it remains to be seen where they'll stand after the Ellsbury deal and Brian McCann's five-year, $85MM pact. Now more than ever, one has to imagine that the Yankees are rooting for MLB's side in the Alex Rodriguez saga.
The market for Ellsbury has been somewhat cloudy, but the Mariners and Giants were both believed to have interest.
Yankees people envision Ellsbury in center with Brett Gardner moving to left, Heyman writes. The 30-year-old was ranked No. 2 on Tim Dierkes' Top 50 Free Agent Power Rankings. With Ellsbury and McCann in the fold, the Yankees have now forfeited their first and second round picks.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, signing Carlos Beltran and watching Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson sign elsewhere --- even for hot stove perennials like the Yankees, Friday was a particularly noteworthy day. Here are some more items from the Big Apple.
- Omar Infante could be the biggest beneficiary of Cano's departure, Mark Feinsand and Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News report. The Yankees already extended an offer to Infante earlier this winter and, now that Infante is the top second baseman on the free agent market, he seems poised to command a larger offer from the Yankees or any suitor. Given position scarcity and the general rise of contracts this winter, Infante is in good shape to top the three-year, $25MM deal predicted for him by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes in September.
- Also from Feinsand (via Twitter), he doesn't think the Yankees are a contender to trade for David Price. The Yankees lack the prospects that the Rays would demand in return, and even if New York did have the minor league talent, it's unlikely that Tampa Bay would trade Price within the AL East anyway.
- Losing Cano won't slow the Yankees down, as the team plans to pursue several other free agents, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. Besides Infante and the already-signed Beltran, the Yankees will also continues talks with Shin-Soo Choo and Stephen Drew, as well as post a bid on Masahiro Tanaka if he's made available.
- With Beltran already in the fold, it would seem that Choo is no longer be a Yankee target, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman notes.
- For more Yankee-related material, check out this collection of reactions to Cano's signing with the Mariners.
The Orioles have been connected to some of the offseason's major free agent names but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun isn't sure that the O's will be players for Shin-Soo Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez or Nelson Cruz. Choo will be too costly and Jimenez will demand too many years, while Connolly has "not found anyone in the organization that endorses Cruz as a viable option" and lists several reasons why Cruz isn't a fit in Baltimore. Here's some more from Camden Yards...
- Jim Johnson asked the Orioles for a four-year contract worth $45MM-$50MM in extension talks earlier this winter, sources tell MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. An extension would've been one way for the O's to keep Johnson at a lower price rather than pay him a projected $10.8MM in arbitration, though obviously Johnson didn't have a bargain in mind with his demands. The Orioles traded Johnson to the Athletics for Jemile Weeks on Tuesday.
- The Orioles didn't attend Randy Wolf's workout and don't appear to have any interest in the veteran southpaw, Kubatko reports. Wolf pitched in five games for Baltimore at the end of the 2012 season and then underwent Tommy John surgery that October, sidelining him for all of 2013.
- Scott Feldman told Dan Connolly that he was "about 90 percent sure" the Orioles didn't make him a former offer. “It’s really hard to get disappointed with the situation I am in, but I was at least expecting a little bit of interest from them. But it’s not like I’m mad or anything,” Feldman said in the wake of his three-year, $30MM deal with the Astros. That third guaranteed year was likely the breaking point for the Orioles, as they had been rumored to only be interested in giving Feldman two years and an option, at most. MLBTR's Steve Adams has more from Feldman's conference call.
- The Orioles have considered making Bud Norris their closer to replace Johnson, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. This move would only be a "fallback option," Encina notes. While the O's may yet add a starter and need to make room in their rotation, shifting an innings-eater like Norris to the bullpen would be a curious move, in my opinion. Also from Encina's piece, Brian Matusz will be stretched out and given an opportunity to win a rotation job during Spring Training.
- Adam Jones' six-year, $85.5MM extension signed in May 2012 looks like a better bargain in the wake of Jacoby Ellsbury's deal with the Yankees, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com opines.
- In Baltimore news from earlier today, the Orioles signed outfielder Francisco Peguero and right-hander Ryan Webb.
1:01pm: A source tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that any trade for Price would have to include Walker (Twitter link).
11:47am: In the wake of Seattle's historic ten-year agreement with Robinson Cano, one Major League executive told Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times that he is "convinced" the Mariners' next move will be to make a push for David Price (Twitter link). Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Mariners believe they have the prospects to land Price, and indeed, that would seem to be the case.
This is only my speculation, but Seattle could look to build a package around top prospect Taijuan Walker and the recently displaced Nick Franklin, who could be deemed expendable with Cano in the fold for the Mariners. The Rays, of course, will likely be open to moving Price this winter. He projects to earn $13.1MM in arbitration (per MLBTR's Matt Swartz) and is controlled through the 2015 campaign. It would make sense for the Mariners to aggressively pursue short-term upgrades in the early years of Cano's contract in order to maximize their chances while he is still in his prime.
Morosi also notes (on Twitter) that the Mariners are still in pursuit of Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz and other free agents. Morosi also reported earlier that the Mariners are one of the teams that is currently in on Mike Napoli, who reportedly has an offer in-hand from a club other than the Red Sox that Boston has yet to beat. It's not clear if that club is the Mariners, but their talks with Napoli are said to have been recent. An upgrade at first base, DH or in the outfield still seems likely for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, and the addition of Cano could signal to potential free agents that the Mariners are serious about winning.
Free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson wants four years and $64MM, Newsday's Marc Carig reports. The Mets are interested in Granderson, but they don't want to offer a fourth year. Mike Puma of the New York Post, meanwhile, tweets that Granderson and the Mets probably won't be able to work out a deal tonight. Here are more notes from New York.
- The Mets were interested in Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (on Twitter). The Brewers, however, liked pitcher Will Smith more than a player like Mets first baseman Ike Davis, so they shipped Aoki to the Royals instead.
- If Robinson Cano goes to the Mariners or some other team, the Yankees could pursue Shin-Soo Choo instead, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets. The Yankees, of course, already have plenty of outfielders, with Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki in addition to newcomer Jacoby Ellsbury, but after Cano, Choo is the next-best position player on the market.
- Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner says the Yankees are still hoping to keep their luxury-tax figure under $189MM, but they'll also prioritize fielding a strong team, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports. Steinbrenner says that the Yankees' offense was its "Achilles heel" in 2013, and they'll continue to look for hitting, as well as trying to re-sign starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
The Orioles are "active" in discussions for multiple free agent pitchers and hitters, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Among them are outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz as well as starter Ubaldo Jimenez, according to Morosi.
While Baltimore entered the off-season with several needs, MLBTR's Mark Polishuk explained that budget constraints -- especially with Chris Davis and Matt Wieters entering their last year of team control -- left it unclear just how much the club would be able to spend. After clearing the projected $10.8MM salary of closer Jim Johnson, however, executive vice president Dan Duquette may have additional space with which to work.
Discussing the Johnson deal, Duquette indicated that it was in large part driven by "resource allocation." Looking forward, Duquette said the club was "still looking for help in left field" and "would also like to sign some other pitchers."
While any of the above-noted players would fill a need for Baltimore, it would seem to be something of a surprise for one to land there. As Duquette went on to note, "I don't think free agency is the way to build a strong team." And the big dollars expected to be landed by Choo, Cruz, and Jimenez would certainly eat up a big chunk of the present and future payroll for the O's.
After the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, it's hard to see how the Yankees can sign Robinson Cano and still stay under the $189MM luxury-tax threshold, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes. The only clear path to the Yankees being able to sign Cano and stay under the threshold would be if Alex Rodriguez's suspension were upheld. Here are more notes on Ellsbury's deal with the Yankees.
- Paying $20MM per season for Jacoby Ellsbury makes more sense for the Yankees than it does for other teams, including the Red Sox, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Not only do the Yankees have a huge payroll, but they also have a stadium that should be favorable to Ellsbury, and they don't have Jackie Bradley Jr. waiting in the wings, as the Red Sox do.
- With Ellsbury in the fold, the Yankees have no plans to trade Brett Gardner, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York. Instead, they'd like to play both of them at the top of the Yankees' batting order.
- Despite already having a relatively crowded outfield, with Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki along with Ellsbury and Gardner, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger writes that the Yankees could still pursue Shin-Soo Choo, primarily as a backup option if Robinson Cano goes elsewhere. Such a move would make a Gardner trade more likely, McCullough writes.
- Choo has plenty of interest now that Ellsbury is off the board, tweets Yahoo!'s Tim Brown. Brown guesses that the Rangers are favorites to sign Choo.
Tonight's look at the AL West..
- The Mariners have been among the most aggressive suitors for Matt Kemp, sources tell Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, but they are looking at free agents too.
- The Rangers met with free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, but the odds that Texas will land him are still long, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas News. One source says that the Rangers are one of four clubs actively engaged in talks with Choo.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters, including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, that he'll likely have "another deal or two" done with regards to pitching by this time next week.
- Luhnow also said that it would make sense to evaluate Dexter Fowler as a leadoff hitter, but it would be up to Bo Porter and the staff to decide that, tweets Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle.
The Tigers are in heavy pursuit of a left-handed bat and Shin-Soo Choo is their top target, sources tell Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. The TIgers have been said to have interest in Choo, but this is the first time that we're hearing that he is a priority over all other free agent targets.
The Rangers have been heavily linked to Choo and are prefer him over Jacoby Ellsbury, but they're said to be wary of the price tag that could be hitched the Scott Boras clients. The Reds would also like to keep Choo, but at $100MM+, he probably won't fit into their budget.
Choo's .423 on-base percentage ranked fourth in all of baseball this year, and easily topped Robinson Cano for the best among all free agents. The South Korea native is ranked third on Tim Dierkes' Top 50 Free Agent Power Rankings.
Detroit freed up a great deal of money with last week's blockbuster that freed them from $76MM of Prince Fielder's contract.