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- Padres To Hire New Manager To Replace Pat Murphy
- Giants, Eddy Julio Martinez Agree To $2.5MM Deal
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- Jeremy Affeldt To Retire At Season’s End
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MLBTR has learned the full details of the incentives clause negotiated last winter between the Cardinals and righty John Lackey. (Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has already reported major elements of the clause.) The provision calls for $400K payouts to Lackey for reaching each of five innings tallies. His first milestone was 100 innings, with successive markers every 25 innings thereafter. When Lackey reached 200 frames last night, he maxed out the bonus at a total of $2MM (on top of the league minimum salary that was already called for in his deal).
Here are some more notes from the National League:
- The Diamondbacks face several contract questions regarding pitchers even before considering outside additions, as Zach Buchanan of AZCentral Sports writes. Whether to tender Jeremy Hellickson and Jhoulys Chacin, exercise a club option over Josh Collmenter, and pursue a reunion with free agent-to-be David Hernandez are among the matters that Arizona will need to address. Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa discussed all four pitchers with Buchanan. Most interestingly, perhaps, is the situation regarding Chacin. La Russa says that he has “seen enough from Chacin” to know that he’d be “in the competition” for the club next year. The 27-year-old looked good at Triple-A this year and has put together three nice outings for Arizona. Because of his limited MLB time this year, he is arb-eligible. Chacin had agreed to a $5.5MM deal with the Rockies before he was released in the spring before signing successive minor league deals with the Indians and D’Backs. My guess would be that the club will look to work something out with him before the tender deadline.
- Padres closer Craig Kimbrel says it’s been a frustrating first season in San Diego, as Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Kimbrel says that he expects the club to improve next year, citing the assembly of new faces as one factor that may have slowed down the Pads this year. Of course, as Lin writes, it’s certainly plausible to imagine a scenario where Kimbrel is dealt elsewhere to address other areas of needs or re-build the farm system.
- Former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who now works with the organization as an adviser, is “right in the middle of everything, but nowhere near anything,” Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes. But as Plaschke points out, Colletti — who says it’s been “a different kind of year” — was responsible for bringing in many of the team’s key pieces. That includes not only players like Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke, but youngsters such as Joc Pederson and Corey Seager. All said, the piece suggests, Colletti’s nine-year tenure as the head of the organization’s baseball operations department was probably more successful than many have acknowledged.
For all of the talk about the top names on the 2015-16 free agent market — and there are quite a few, with David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann and many others seeing their contracts expire — John Lackey‘s strong season has flown largely under the radar.
Perhaps due to his age — Lackey will pitch next season at age 37 — Lackey hasn’t generated the amount of fanfare that his younger peers have enjoyed, but the veteran right-hander has turned in a stellar platform campaign which can serve as the basis for perhaps one final, sizable multi-year contract.
Lackey’s contractual status for 2015 has been well-publicized; the Tommy John surgery he underwent now more than three years ago triggered a clause in his five-year, $82.5MM contract that tacked on a club option at the league minimum. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported recently that Lackey and the Cardinals agreed to add some incentives to the deal, so Lackey will take home a little more than $2MM in 2015 based on innings pitched. It’s an upgrade from his league-minimum base salary, but it’s hardly a payday that is commensurate with the outstanding results turned in by Lackey in his first full season in the National League.
Lackey has, at present, thrown an even 200 innings this season and worked to a 2.79 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a characteristically solid, if unspectacular 45.3 percent ground-ball rate. Sabermetric indicators such as FIP (3.57), xFIP (3.90) and SIERA (4.02) all feel that Lackey has benefited from some good fortune — more specifically his atypical 81.7 percent strand rate. Lackey’s stranded runners at about a 73 percent clip in his career, and abnormal strand rates — whether on the high or low side — have a tendency to regress toward a pitcher’s career rate.
Even if Lackey’s true talent is more of a mid- to upper-3.00 ERA pitcher, however, there’s unquestionably a market for durable, playoff-tested starters that can be penciled in for 30+ starts each season. Lackey looks every bit that part, even with some ERA regression. Over the past three seasons, Lackey’s averaged 30 starts/196 innings per season (those numbers, of course, will go up, as he has a few remaining turns in 2015) and worked to a cumulative 3.37 ERA with 7.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate of roughly 45 percent. Those peripheral stats are near-mirror images of his 2015 performance, and his average fastball velocity has remained consistent as well, sitting at 91.7 mph or 91.6 mph in each of those seasons.
Lackey may not be a true ace like Price or Zack Greinke, and he may not have the ceiling of some of his second-tier peers such as Scott Kazmir or possess the pure stuff of a Jeff Samardzija. But, what he does bring to the table is a recent history of consistently above-average innings, and that ability has proven to be lucrative in recent years, even for aging pitchers.
Bronson Arroyo landed a two-year, $23.5MM contract from the D-Backs based largely on his ability to rack up league-average innings year after year. Lackey doesn’t have the string of 200+ inning seasons that Arroyo did, but he’s also turned in far better recent results and has historically been a superior pitcher. Tim Hudson landed the same type of contract heading into his age-38 season. Lackey will be a year younger and coming off a brilliant 200-inning season, whereas Hudson didn’t pitch in the final two months of the 2013 campaign due to a fractured ankle. Beyond that, the overall strength of the free agent market has grown a bit since those deals were signed.
Lackey should be able to find, at minimum, a two-year contract with a stronger average annual value than Arroyo and Hudson, but a three-year deal wouldn’t be shocking. His agents at Octagon could very well aim for the sky and seek a deal similar to Derek Lowe‘s precedent-setting four-year pact at the age of 37, but that outcome seems unlikely. Barring an injury or complete meltdown in his final few starts and/or the postseason, Lackey is poised for a significant payday — perhaps one that’s larger than many would’ve expected based on his age.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The final inning thrown by John Lackey in his last outing brought him to 200 on the season, and that number has more meaning than just serving as a nice, round milestone, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. As Goold reports, the Cardinals and Lackey reworked his 2015 contract so that he would earn a $400K bonus upon reaching 200 innings. Of course, Lackey’s 2015 salary will still be peanuts compared to his career earnings and the previous, $16.5MM annual salary on his five-year deal. That contract contained a clause that added a club option at the league minimum in the event that Lackey suffered a serious elbow injury, which he did midway through the deal when he required Tommy John surgery. Goold previously reported that Lackey would’ve earned $1.2MM in bonuses at 150 innings, so this next bonus figures to push him slightly over $400K when factoring in his $507K base. Even at ~$2.1MM, Lackey would be among the game’s best bargains. The 36-year-old has turned in a 2.79 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in his 200 innings this season.
Elsewhere in the NL Central…
- Eugenio Suarez has done a brilliant job filling in for injured Reds shortstop Zack Cozart since being recalled midway through the year, but there won’t be many at-bats for him at shortstop in 2016 when Cozart is back up to speed. The 24-year-old Suarez, though, is more than willing to switch positions to remain in the lineup, he tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. “If they need me at another position, I would try to play there,” said Suarez. “For me, the important thing is to play in the big leagues.” Manager Bryan Price said that he thinks both Cozart and Suarez can be regulars for the Reds in the future. Suarez, who was acquired in the lopsided trade that sent Alfredo Simon to Detroit, has batted .284/.321/.458 with 11 homers in 81 games with the Reds this season. In my recent Three Needs piece on the Reds, I suggested that Cincinnati look to move Brandon Phillips to open playing time for Suarez at second base. Failing that, the Reds could try him in left field.
- The Brewers and right-hander Jimmy Nelson received excellent news on Thursday after Nelson was struck in the head by a 108-mph line drive, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. A CT scan somewhat incredibly revealed only a bruise, leaving the 26-year-old otherwise unscathed. Manager Craig Counsell wouldn’t commit to a plan of action for Nelson following the scare. Nelson has been one of Milwaukee’s most consistent starters in 2015, working to a 4.11 ERA (4.12 FIP, 4.07 xFIP) across 177 1/3 innings.
The Reds did indeed scout top Cuban outfield prospect Eddy Julio Martinez, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, but they’re not likely to sign the 20-year-old, he adds. The Reds aren’t interested in incurring maximum penalties for exceeding their international bonus pool, which they’d almost certainly need to do in order to sign Martinez. The team that signs Martinez will likely have to pay a 100 percent luxury tax for every dollar spent over their allotted pool, and they’ll also be restricted from signing future international prospects for more than $300K in each of the next two signing periods. That, of course, hasn’t deterred some clubs from spending big, but it perhaps makes it more likely that we’ll see Martinez land with a team that has already exceeded its bonus pool by a substantial margin. Interestingly, though, Fay hears that the price tag may have dropped below the previous $10MM+ expectations (Twitter link).
Here’s more from the NL Central…
- Prior to being traded to the Giants, Marlon Byrd had somewhat of a “spat” with Reds bench coach Jay Bell, writes Fay in a separate column. Per Fay, Byrd became upset after Bell asked him to pinch-hit in the bottom of the eighth inning the day before he was traded, but he then sent Brayan Pena into the on-deck circle instead. Byrd ultimately wound up pinch-hitting, but only after a discussion with manager Bryan Price. “I didn’t get in a spat with Jay Bell,” said Byrd. “I had a conversation with the manager about Jay Bell. We had conversations all year about him. If you want to know more about that, you’d have to talk to him.” Byrd was traded to the Giants the next day, though he said he left on good terms with the his teammates and had generally positive things to say about the Reds in the conversation with Fay and other reporters.
- Bernie Miklasz of 101 ESPN breaks down Jason Heyward‘s free agent stock, adding that he expects the Cardinals to make a push to retain their right fielder. Though the outfield looks crowded in the short-term, Matt Holliday‘s contract is up after 2016, as is Jon Jay‘s. As such, the team could boast a future outfield of Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Heyward. While traditional numbers — homers, RBIs, batting average — don’t tell the full tale of Heyward’s value, Miklasz notes that more analytically inclined teams will be willing to make a big play for the 26-year-old. The Cardinals, Miklasz writes, prefer a higher annual value on a shorter-term deal than the risk of a nine- or 10-year pact, and they may even be open to including an opt-out clause, though that final point appears to be speculative in nature.
- Though they’re division rivals, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had no issues giving Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy some advice on how to handle the concussion symptoms with which he is currently dealing, writes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Todd Rosiak. Matheny, whose playing career ended due to a long history of concussions, recommended a specialist for Lucroy to see and urged him to take his time, noting points in his career where he believes he may have suffered a concussion then returned to the field the very next day, only to take another foul ball to the mask. “[Matheny] said it was not worth a repeat hit when you’re not healed up, because that’s when things get really, really bad in terms of not being able to drive, not being able to look at lights, throwing up and nausea and stuff like that,” said Lucroy. “He really stressed, ‘Take your time.'” Dr. Micky Collins has told Lucroy that he can make a full recovery from what has been diagnosed as a vestibular concussion — or one that impacts his coordination and movement.
Thanks for all of your questions this week. Remember that you can ask about whatever is on your mind in our Tuesday afternoon chats (~2pm central) or through the Mailbag email address (email@example.com). On to this week’s questions…
The two sides haven’t had any serious talks about an extension yet, though there’s also some mutual interest in Heyward staying beyond 2015. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked the outfielder as having the second-most earning potential of any 2015-16 free agent, so it would take easily the largest contract in Cardinals franchise history to bring Heyward back into the fold. If Heyward did leave, the 2016 St. Louis starting outfield projects as Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, with Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos as backups, which could leave room for another veteran outfielder to be brought in at a lower price than Heyward will command. Does a year of excellent play from Heyward, a month of Jordan Walden and a compensatory first-round draft pick (due to the qualifying offer) equal four years of control over Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins? That’s a question that might take a few more years to answer, though the Cards would instantly chalk it up as a win if Heyward helps them win a championship. I’d guess that St. Louis will make a strong play to re-sign Heyward this offseason, though if the bidding gets really high (into the $180MM-$200MM range), that might be too expensive for the Cards’ liking.
Care to handicap the odds that Sandy Alderson extends a QO to Daniel Murphy? If offered is there any chance that Murph becomes the first player to ever accept? I’d imagine his agent will make lots of noise that he would “love to stay in NY on a 1 year deal to finish the job” in an attempt to bluff the Mets out of hurting his market value. — Cliff P
The upcoming class of free agent second and third basemen isn’t very deep, so I’d expect Murphy would indeed reject a qualifying offer in search of a healthy multi-year deal elsewhere. He should be able to find such a deal despite the draft pick compensation attached to his services, though Cliff is probably right in thinking that Murphy’s market will take a hit from the QO. If Murphy did break precedent and accept, it wouldn’t be the worst outcome for the Mets; a one-year/$16MM deal for an everyday second baseman who can also be something of a poor man’s Ben Zobrist in his ability to fill in at multiple other positions.
I’m leaning towards no. Anibal Sanchez is the only notable starting pitcher Dave Dombrowski has ever acquired in free agency, and even then Sanchez was re-signed after originally coming to the Tigers in a midseason deal. Dombrowski’s past history with starting pitcher contracts (hat tip to the MLBTR Transaction Tracker) indicates that he is more likely to obtain an ace via trade. Dombrowski could change tactics given his new surroundings and input from whomever is hired as the new Red Sox GM, though my guess is that if the Sox do land a top-tier arm this winter, it will be by dealing from their deep farm system.
What is Bronson Arroyo‘s current standing with the Dodgers? Will he ever be able to pitch in the majors again, this year or next? — Jack S
Arroyo underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2014. He said in June that he was hoping to return to action by mid-August, there has been no recent word on his status now that August has come and gone. As such, he’s almost certainly not going to pitch this season. The Dodgers have a $13MM club option on Arroyo for 2016 that is sure to be bought out for $4.5MM (paid by the Braves, as per a condition of the elaborate trade that brought Arroyo to Los Angeles). If Arroyo is healthy, I’d expect he will find a a minor league deal from some team this winter. Arroyo hasn’t hinted at retirement in the wake of his injury, though since he’ll turn 39 in February, you have to wonder if he’ll consider hanging up his spikes if his recovery process is taking longer than expected.
Here’s the latest from around the NL Central…
- The Brewers may not add any free agent arms this winter, let alone big-name pitchers, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Recent signings Randy Wolf, Jeff Suppan, Kyle Lohse were all unable to pitch effectively throughout the entirety of their multi-year deals with the Crew, and Matt Garza may be the latest signing to not make a full return on his contract given his rough 2015 numbers. The Brewers could rely on internal pitching options for next year’s rotation and since contending in 2016 will be a tall order, signing a top free agent starter (such as Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann) isn’t happening.
- Also from Haudricourt’s piece, he notes that next year’s Brewers payroll will be “down significantly” from its $102MM figure this season. “Principal owner Mark Attanasio has shown he is willing to go the extra mile financially when his team is in contending mode but otherwise has said many times he won’t spend just to spend,” Haudricourt writes, and thus a payroll cut seems imminent with the club entering a rebuild phase.
- J.A. Happ was a fairly unheralded trade deadline pickup but he’s pitched like an ace since joining the Pirates, to the point of outshining almost all the big-name pitchers who changed teams in July. Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan looks at why Happ has blossomed since coming to Pittsburgh to the tune of a 1.79 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 6.00 K/BB rate over 40 1/3 innings.
- Speaking of unheralded Pirates acquisitions, Francisco Cervelli has been more than just a suitable replacement for Russell Martin, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Cervelli’s 3.5 fWAR is the second-highest of any catcher in baseball, behind only Buster Posey (5.6) and well ahead of Martin (3.0). Cervelli has stayed healthy and contributed at the plate, while Sawchik also looks at how Cervelli has developed and adjusted his elite pitch-framing skills.
- Cody Stanley‘s 80-game PED suspension could threaten his future with the Cardinals, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. GM John Mozeliak said he and the organization will “look at our options” before deciding whether or not to keep the young catcher. “He clearly was having a nice year and we thought enough of him to bring him up. To everybody involved, it’s disappointing,” Mozeliak said. Stanley, a fourth-rounder from the 2010 draft, was ranked by Baseball America as the 22nd-best prospect in the Cards’ organization prior to the season, though given the depth of St. Louis’ system and the two PED suspensions now on Stanley’s record, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the club cut ties with him.
Tigers players are unfazed by recent rumors surrounding manager Brad Ausmus, MLive.com’s Chris Iott writes. Recent reports have indicated that the Tigers plan to fire Ausmus once the season is over, although new GM Al Avila has said the team hasn’t yet made up its mind. Second baseman Ian Kinsler, however, was completely unaware of the rumors and had to have them explained to him before he could comment. “It’s not significant right now,” said Kinsler. “When a move’s made, whether he stays as manager or we find a new manager, then I think it will be significant. … But right now it’s really nothing.” Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Cardinals catcher Cody Stanley has been suspended 80 games for use of a performance-enhancing substance, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. The Cardinals promoted Stanley when rosters expanded so he could serve as their third catcher, behind Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz. They added another catcher, Ed Easley, yesterday. Stanley, the Cards’ fourth-round pick in 2010, hit .241/.304/.359 this season for Triple-A Memphis. He also received a 50-game suspension as a minor leaguer in 2012.
- The Indians could try to acquire a late-inning reliever this offseason, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer writes. Cleveland’s bullpen has fared well overall — its 3.18 ERA ranks seventh in the Majors, and Indians relievers also boast strong peripherals, with 8.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 this season. But with Marc Rzepczynski gone via a trade to the Padres, the Indians are a bit thin on lefty relief, and although they’ve gotten good performances from pitchers like Zach McAllister and Jeff Manship, they could grab another pitcher to help Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw in the late innings.
- The Pirates lost Russell Martin last winter, but after acquiring Francisco Cervelli in an offseason trade with the Yankees, they’ve maintained a very high level of production at the catcher position, Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Pirates catchers (almost entirely Cervelli and Chris Stewart) have hit a remarkable .302/.370/.396 this season, and Pirates catchers rank first in the Majors in batting average and on-base percentage. Also, Cervelli ranks as the top pitch-framer in the game, and Stewart is above average there as well. The Bucs are also paying the duo a total of about $2.2MM this season.
The Cardinals have announced the activation of first baseman Matt Adams, who has missed a lengthy stretch with a quadriceps injury. To clear 40-man space, the club designated left-hander Nick Greenwood for assignment.
Adams, 27, last saw action on May 26th. He was hitting just .243/.281/.375 on the season at that point, a disappointing drop-off from the well-above-average batting lines he had put up over the prior two seasons. Adams will look to get back on track late in the year, both to reestablish himself in the team’s regular mix and to bolster his upcoming, first-time arbitration case.
In his absence, the Cardinals added fellow left-handed power hitter Brandon Moss, who has hit well since coming to St. Louis. The club also promoted top prospect Stephen Piscotty, a righty, who has seen some action at first. Both Moss and, in particular, Piscotty are also capable of playing the corner outfield. All told, the club has some flexibility both to bring Adams back slowly and to play matchups in the post-season.
Greenwood, 27, has thrown 36 big league innings for the Cards, including just one appearance this year in which he did not record an out. The southpaw has worked both as a starter and a reliever in the minors. After a solid campaign throwing mostly from the pen last season, he has scuffled to a 5.79 ERA in 129 Triple-A frames on the year in 2015, with 4.2 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9.
Cardinals setup man Jordan Walden won’t return to the team this season or in the playoffs, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The 27-year-old Walden, acquired alongside Jason Heyward this offseason, landed on the DL on April 30 due to a biceps injury that initially came with a six- to 10-week recovery timetable. However, as Goold writes, damage to the rotator cuff in Walden’s right shoulder has kept him on the disabled list and will end his season. He’s hopeful to avoid surgery, but the ultimate outcome of the injury isn’t known.
“There’s not an easy answer,” GM John Mozeliak told Goold. “If his decision is to not have surgery then he’s going to have to have a very rigorous offseason with therapy and it’s going to be a tough go. And if he’s successful with that then I think next year has a possibility. Right now, it’s not looking great.” Mozeliak made a troubling comparison to Mark Mulder, noting that surgery offers no guarantee of fixing the issue and adding that some players have had the surgery Walden is facing and simply never come back.
Walden inked a two-year, $6.6MM contract with the Cardinals after coming over in the trade from the Braves this winter. Mozeliak said that a physical conducted at the time of the deal made the Cardinals aware of some potential risks pertaining to Walden’s shoulder, though clearly the team was comfortable enough to make a commitment of multiple seasons.
Walden pitched in 10 1/3 innings for the Cardinals this year, yielding just one run on seven hits and four walks with a dozen strikeouts. In 222 innings at the big league level, Walden has totaled an even 3.00 ERA with 266 strikeouts against 96 walks (86 unintentional) in 222 innings.
John Lackey intends to pitch “for a couple of more years” after getting clearance from his family, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets. Though Lackey turns 37 in October, he’ll still be in line for a multi-year deal in free agency this winter given how well he’s pitched over the last three seasons. Lackey has expressed an interest in remaining in the NL and ideally continuing to pitch for the Cardinals, who could be interested on a short-term deal.
- Jake Arrieta is represented by Scott Boras but that doesn’t mean the righty is destined to leave the Cubs when he hits free agency, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers writes. Boras himself notes in the piece that he has had several high-profile clients who signed extensions with teams, while Arrieta said he has enjoyed his time in Chicago. “I came over to this organization and was embraced by everybody and they made me feel extremely welcome and the comfort level was there from the get-go. It was like a seamless transition,” Arrieta said.
- It seems like A.J. Burnett will return to the Pirates rotation perhaps as early as Wednesday against the Reds. GM Neal Huntington didn’t confirm any timeline with reporters (including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review), though “we do have (a plan); we just need to have some conversations with those who are impacted by it. Those will take place over the next day or so.” Burnett has been sidelined for over a month recovering from a flexor strain in his throwing elbow but threw a simulated game on Friday and a bullpen session Sunday.
- Marc DelPiano is leaving his position as a special assistant to Pirates GM Neal Huntington to take a senior vice-president role with the Marlins, ESPN’s Keith Law reports (Twitter link). DelPiano has been with Pittsburgh since 2008, the latest stop in a 25-year career as a scout, coach and front office member with several different teams. DelPiano previously worked with the Marlins in various capacities from 2000-05, including serving as their director of player development during the Marlins’ 2003 World Series season.