St. Louis Cardinals Rumors
While the Yankees have already netted several of the offseason's top players, inking Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Hiroki Kuroda for a combined $299MM, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal notes that the Bombers will again field a roster with age and injury concerns. Beltran, for example, will be paid $45MM for his age 37-39 seasons despite missing significant time in the past with knee problems. "They will just repeat the cycle,” one rival executive speaking with Rosenthal commented. “No young players ready, need to win now, blow everyone out of the water (financially) and hope in three years they have young talent.” Let's take a look at the rest of Rosenthal's excellent column:
- Though the Red Sox have responded to the Yankees' spending spree with smaller deals for players such as Edward Mujica and Mike Napoli, Rosenthal writes that Boston holds a major advantage over the Yanks in scouting and player development, as the Ellsbury signing shows. While the Sox are unlikely to target Shin-Soo Choo, GM Ben Cherington may also have a surprise in the works, as Boston has considered trading for Matt Kemp and could also deal one of its starters.
- Choo may receive a deal that's nearly as large as Ellsbury’s $153MM pact, some executives believe. The Rangers, Mariners, Tigers and Reds appear to be likely landing spots, though some officials tell Rosenthal that the Giants and Astros could also get involved.
- Clubs that fail to land Choo will shift their attention to Nelson Cruz, who could also draw interest from the Orioles and Royals.
- The Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Mariners appear to be best-positioned among clubs looking to acquire David Price from the Rays. The Mariners in particular are expected to try and surround new acquisition Robinson Cano with impact talent in the early phase of his 10-year deal, when he'll be the most productive. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are indicating they're shifting their focus to player development, and are unlikely to offer up elite prospects like Corey Seager. While the Cardinals have the prospects to get Price, they've yet to indicate major interest in doing so.
- To trade Kemp now would be selling low on the outfielder, who missed significant time in 2013 with injuries. However, if the Dodgers are willing to absorb some salary, Kemp will look attractive in comparison with 2015's weak class of free agent outfielders.
- Some baseball sources tell Rosenthal that they think Rakuten Golden Eagles President Yozo Tachibana might follow through on a threat to not post Masahiro Tanaka. Tachibana is considered "something of a maverick" by MLB execs, and Tanaka's value is set to plummet for Rakuten under a posting system in which the maximum fee is $20MM, Rosenthal says.
Axford was strong down the stretch after coming over from the Brewers following the revocable waiver trade deadline. Milwaukee added reliever Michael Blazek in the deal. The earlier portion of his 2013 season was less stellar, however, as he threw to a cumulative 4.02 ERA in 65 innings. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected Axford to earn $5.7MM in arbitration, making him an expensive piece for a Cards' pen that features numerous solid young arms.
The deadline to tender contracts for arbitration-eligible players is tomorrow night at 10:59 CT. Most non-tenders will be afterthoughts on this offseason's free-agent market, but one potential non-tender who could make some noise is reliever John Axford.
The Cardinals acquired Axford from the Brewers at last August's waiver trade deadline for fellow pitcher Michael Blazek. Axford pitched very well down the stretch and through the Cards' World Series run, striking out 20 batters and walking seven in 16 innings for the Cardinals between the regular season and the postseason.
Still, the Cardinals are expected to non-tender him. One problem, of course, is his performance in 2012 and 2013 in Milwaukee, where he frequently struggled to throw strikes and ultimately lost his closer job to Francisco Rodriguez. The other is his arbitration situation. Axford rode his excellent 2010 and 2011 performances and his closer status to a $5MM salary in 2013, his first year of arbitration eligibility. If he were to be tendered, he would receive a raise on that salary (with the possibility of two more raises to come in 2015 and 2016, since Axford is a Super Two player). Anything over $5MM is a figure the Cardinals likely won't want to pay, given Axford's erratic history and their collection of young arms.
A non-tender, however, should create a terrific opportunity for Axford, who is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council. Axford is still just 30 (he'll be 31 in April), and while his control has at times deserted him, his mid-90s heat hasn't. That means Axford could be a sought-after free agent, even in an offseason featuring a long list of closer types that includes Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson and Edward Mujica, among others. While Axford likely wouldn't be a top candidate for a closer job, he might make a good setup man. If the Cardinals do let Axford go, he might well wind up with a two-year deal, a rarity among non-tendered players.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Dodgers have a thrown a wrench into the free agent outfield market by listening to trade offers for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio in an Insider post (subscription required). Scott Boras is also a complicating factor, according to Bowden, because he represents the two top free agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (#2 and #3, respectively, on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). Bowden theorizes the other top-tier free agent outfielders may wait to sign in order to see how Boras sets the market for Ellsbury and Choo. In today's news and notes from the National League:
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort provided Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post with a detailed line-by-line budget for his franchise. Monfort explains how revenue from the new national TV contract is absorbed by payments on the club's MLB credit line, player raises, and projected revenue losses for not having home dates with the Yankees and Red Sox. Monfort estimates being able to reinvest only $4-5MM of the new TV money into the on-the-field product.
- Renck, via Sulia, agrees with the assessment of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes that the Ricky Nolasco contract resembles Edwin Jackson's. Renck believes the Rockies would have been paralyzed under their self-imposed budget constraints had they signed Nolasco, so their best option for a rotation upgrade is through a trade.
- The Mets will have interest in catcher Tyler Flowers, if he is non-tendered by the White Sox, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma. Mets executives have liked Flowers in the past and see him as a potential backup to Travis d'Arnaud. Flowers, however, told Scott Merkin of MLB.com "(t)here have been a couple of conversations" with the White Sox about reaching an agreement to avoid arbitration. "I put it at 51-49 in favor of staying because of the contractual conversation we've had before," Flowers said. "They've reached out to me to try to see where each other is at. If they didn't care at all, they would have done nothing and non-tendered me."
- It would be a surprise if the Diamondbacks non-tender left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher because free agent bullpen arms aren't cheap, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Thatcher struggled after Arizona acquired him from San Diego in the Ian Kennedy trade to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, and 11.6 H/9 in 9 1/3 innings (22 appearances).
- The Cubs will likely tender second baseman Darwin Barney, despite a career-worst season at the plate (.208/.266/.303 in 501 plate appearances), because the only realistic in-house replacement is Luis Valbuena, reasons MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.1MM arbitration salary for Barney and $1.5MM for Valbuena, who is playing second base in the Venezuelan Winter League.
- The Cardinals made the right move in signing Jhonny Peralta because they were able to upgrade a position of need while retaining their prized young arms, opines MLB.com's Richard Justice.
The market for starting pitchers has actually started off at reasonable prices, argues Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com. Running the numbers on the price of a projected win for the starters who have signed to date, he says that a preliminary look shows that early-moving teams look to have achieved solid value. Here's more on the pitching market around the league:
- Even if the Dodgers are willing to spend the huge amount of cash that Masahiro Tanaka's posting and signing is expected to require, says Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com, it is far from clear how the club would sort its rotation out to accomodate him. GM Ned Colletti has said that he is "not going to close the door on any more starters" even after adding Dan Haren on a one-year deal with a vesting option. Saxon notes, however, that it would be more difficult to push aside Josh Beckett and/or Chad Billingsley than it was for the club to do last year with Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. Of course, Tanaka may be good enough that, if the price is right, that problem is one you just deal with as best you can.
- The Giants, on the other hand, seem less likely than their rivals to the south to consider the addition of another starter, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting that the club's rotation is set after re-signing Ryan Vogelsong. As Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News noted earlier today, the rotation seemed complete upon the return of Vogelsong, given GM Brian Sabean's earlier comments that he would not make the veteran compete for his slot in the spring. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Tim Hudson round out the club's starting five.
- Meanwhile, it could well be that San Francisco could look to add pen pieces given their decision to add veteran arms to the back of its rotation, reasons Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Sulia). It is easier and cheaper to add relief arms, he notes, and the club could look to ease the burden on its starters by following the Dodgers and Cardinals in trotting out multiple arms that can throw quality innings.
- Free agent reliever Edward Mujica of the Cardinals is drawing interest from a variety of teams, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The Angels are probably out after inking Joe Smith, Cotillo notes. But the Orioles, Indians, and Cubs have at least kicked the tires on Mujica, joining the Phillies in pursuit of the 29-year-old.
- Right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, who produced solid results last year at age 35 for the Orioles and Braves, is also in search of a multi-year deal, Cotillo reports. He has not yet seen an offer, but has received interest from the Red Sox and Rays as well as the Dodgers, Giants, O's, and Phils. Meanwhile, the Royals have seemingly stepped away from Ayala after showing initial interest.
- One other arm that could enter the market is Angels righty Jerome Williams. Soon to turn 32, Williams' agent Larry O'Brien tells Cotillo (Twitter link) that he is rooting against a tender from the Halos since "there are many teams he could effectively start for." That statement seems to imply what has long been suspected about Williams, which is that Los Angeles does not intend to use him as a starter. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes wrote in reporting Matt Swartz's $3.9MM projection for Williams, a non-tender is a very real possibility for the swingman. Of course, as MLBTR's Zach Links has explained, there are few teams with as many projected rotation holes as the Angels.
We've all seen the range of responses to the four-year, $53MM deal that Jhonny Peralta inked with the Cardinals right on the heels of serving a fifty game suspension for violating the performance enhancing substances prohibitions contained in the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (JDA). Rather than rehash them here, or take a moral stand in one way or another, I'd like to look at things from a practical perspective.
By guaranteeing four years at over $13MM per, the contract went well beyond the biggest multi-year deals given to other players recently hit with a suspension just before hitting free agency. That doesn't change the moral calculus, but it does highlight that -- as MLBTR's Steve Adams has explained -- teams may not be substantially reducing their valuation of a player based on his past usage of PEDs. Though clubs may factor in some negative PR value, discount past performance during periods of use, or add in a bit of an additional risk adjustment, the net just isn't that great.
Peralta may well have landed his deal because of his steady production and defense at a position in great demand on the present market, rather than his PED use. But he just as surely did not lose his deal because of the banned substances that he took.
This matters most, it seems to me, because of what it says about incentives. Teams' market-driven decision-making is apparently not going to provide a significant disincentive on its own. And the fact is, as Cards' GM John Mozeliak correctly points out, "at this point in the game, there's nothing that says [Peralta] can't go play or isn't free to go sign with another club."
And, arguably, neither is the JDA itself doing enough to shift the PED equation. Like all punitive systems, the JDA sets up upon negatives incentives to outweigh positive incentives to engage in the behavior it wishes to prohibit. As Diamondbacks reliever and union rep Brad Ziegler said on Twitter: "We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it's not."
This may be somewhat overstated: the shaming effect (especially given the shift in player sentiment) and suspension process seem to be having at least some effect, as most observers acknowledge that PED usage is not nearly as rampant as it once was. On the other hand, Ziegler is definitely on to something. At least for some players, in some situations, the benefits to using PEDs outweigh the drawbacks -- even, perhaps, if they are caught. The meager weight of the current suspension system, I think, is the most worrying lesson from the Peralta deal.
Viewed in its worst light, the suspension system creates a mental process much like the kitchen table scene in Office Space. Playing the devil on the shoulder of his would-be co-conspirators, Peter Gibbons seals their agreement to skim cash from their hated employer by dismissing the downside: "This isn't Riyadh. ... The worst they would ever do is they would put you for a couple of months into a white-collar, minimum-security resort!"
But is it really the case that the use of banned substances could, in some cases, present only de minimus downside for a player? Is Ziegler right that Peralta shows that "it pays to cheat"?
In some ways, that certainly could be the case. Players who get caught with their hand in the cookie jar often claim they used PEDs to help recover from injury, not to artificially boost performance. Now that we're past the era of cartoonishly outsized sluggers, that may even be the most common and impactful use of PEDs. You know, just getting back to a player's regular level of production and giving him a chance to demonstrate his value at an opportune time. Sure, he may pay for it later by giving up fifty games worth of salary. But the chance to, say, highlight performance before hitting free agency, or jump at an early-career MLB opportunity, can often be invaluable to a ballplayer.
So, assuming that a blanket ban on the list of disallowed PEDs is in fact the goal -- putting aside, in other words, the debate on their use in injury rehab -- it seems to me that a more thoughtful disincentive system is plainly needed. As a baseline, it is important to recognize that PED prohibition is an agreed-upon rule of the game, and its enforcement is as much about fairness to clean players (and to fans) as it is about keeping dirty players from using to their own long-term health detriment.
Click below to see my conceptual proposal for some methods that might be employed, individually or in concert, to arrive at a more effective system of PED disincentives. These include: eliminating suspensions altogether; varying punishment based upon service time and/or contract status; and utilizing financial disincentives while minimizing impact on competition and the market.
Eliminating Suspensions and New Team Disincentives
The fifty game suspension has proven relatively weak, at least in some circumstances. The salary hit can be substantial, but it is hardly earth-shattering and could be imposed without the loss of playing time. And the Peralta deal seems to show that, at least if you aren't otherwise viewed as a problem child, clubs are not discounting heavily what they're willing to pay PED users.
But, suspension does at least hold the promise of providing disincentives to teams as well as players. And after all, shouldn't clubs bear some responsibility for ensuring a clean slate of players, or at least for not willingly supporting PED use? Of course, at least to some extent. But the current system hardly makes sense.
As any parent knows, timing and context are critical in how you dole out punishments to your kids. Ryan Braun recently admitted that he took PEDs in late 2011, potentially boosting an MVP season that fueled the Brewers' division title. On the other hand, he served his suspension at the back end of a lost season for a bottom-dwelling club, and did not even see much of a financial hit since his nine-figure extension has yet to kick in.
Indeed, the suspension/loss of pay system can easily have an ambiguous impact on the team. For instance: Alex Rodriguez is the Yankees' highest-paid player. At one point, at least, that reflected that the team thought he was its best player. So, suspension is bad for the team, right? But, of course, we all now know, subjectively, that A-Rod is but a shell of his former self, and the suspension will save the Yanks a lot of dough. On the other hand, perhaps with mixed motivations, GM Brian Cashman says he'd rather pay Rodriguez and have him on the field.
And ultimately, it may not be appropriate to punish teams if there is no tie between their actions and that of the player. No public information has suggested that the Tigers were in any way involved in Peralta's violation, yet they lost him down the stretch while pursuing a division title. In many cases, players will reach the point of suspension with a team other than that for which they played when they actually used the banned substance.
In designing those elements of a new system targeted at teams, there are any number of mechanisms to create major disincentives that are not specifically tied to an individual player's contract or game availability. Loss of draft picks (along with pool allocation), sacrifice of international spending money, even caps on free agent spending are but a few ideas that come to mind. All make more sense as team deterrents than a suspension. In the alternative -- or, in addition -- teams could be stripped of titles or face substantial fines if found to have encouraged PED use for competitive benefit.
That still leaves the unresolved question of when teams should face punishment. Some have suggested an automatic punishment for clubs whose players are caught, which I find problematic at first glance. That would make teams the de facto PED guardians, and may not adequately reflect the extent to which players act entirely outside of their organization in obtaining substances. Surely, if the league can obtain evidence of a player's use, it can dig up information showing whether a team played any role in it, punishing any specific team employees as well as the team itself.
Of course, per se team penalties are arguably necessary to overcome systemic hesitation to pursue the entities that together make up the league and employ its leadership. But if players are as serious about getting PEDs out of the game as they say, then perhaps anonymous or otherwise incentivized information reporting could overcome fears of reprisal.
Service Time and Contract Status
Turning to suggestions for a replacement system, it seems to me that one major problem with the current setup is its single set of punishments. While perfectly tailored disincentives are an impossibility -- after all, every player is a different person with different wants and needs -- it seems possible to make some adjustments that reflect the very different roster and contract situations that players are in.
As an initial matter, it would be necessary to decide whether to slot punishment based upon a player's status at the time that they are deemed to have violated the agreement or at the time that the punishment is levied. While the former is appealing, it carries the added difficulty of pinpointing violation timetables and may provide a weaker deterrent, since players generally reach greater earning capacity as they accrue service time.
Further, as already hinted at, it is preferable to limit as much as possible the number of scenarios that carry separate punishments, which will aid implementation and help keep things clear. My preliminary suggestion, based upon my proposed punitive system, would be to separate out classes of players based upon service time accrued as of the date of punishment.
Separation based upon service time would at least allow a rough generalization of the incentives at play for players at that stage of their career, which in turns makes it easier to craft disincentives to shift the equation against PED use. (Remember, we are only talking here about players that have achieved 40-man roster status and are therefore subject to the JDA.) And it allows more flexibility for tailoring disincentives without getting overly complicated.
So, what disincentives should be employed?
Effective Financial Disincentives That Do Not Skew Competition Or The Market
As Ziegler hinted, the key may be to hit offending players' pocketbooks in a way that makes getting caught a significant threat, not just a cost of doing business. Non-financial possibilities exist as well, such as adding minor league options, delaying free agency, or limiting the length or size of a deal that a free agent can sign. But each of those options would have a real effect on baseball's player market: the first two, for instance, would clearly benefit the player's team, and the latter would drastically skew the open market signing process.
Instead, I believe that it makes the most to target player earnings directly. There are three key elements that, I think, combine to best align the competing considerations here:
- By keeping such "taxed" amounts on teams' payrolls, but out of players' pockets, the market-distorting effects can be minimized.
- By employing an incremental tax rate system to player earnings, it would be possible to hit higher-salary players hard enough to create a real deterrent.
- Providing a longer term over which the "tax" applies for players with less service time would give the system bite for younger players who might otherwise not see sufficient downside.
Starting with the first point, my suggestion is that players receiving PED punishment would nevertheless continue to accrue service time and negotiate salaries exactly as before. Artificial limitations on earnings would have a massive and hard-to-predict impact in all sorts of situations. If, say, an arb-eligible player lost his eligibility for a year when he'd be a possible non-tender, his current team could enjoy an advantage in retaining him at league minimum. Or, if a free agent was only allowed to sign a predetermined, one-year contract, an attractive suitor might be able to take him away from other clubs who would be willing to spend more.
Instead, my tax concept would allow the player and team(s) to negotiate as before, with the caveat that the player would lose a certain percentage of his actual take-home pay. By taking a percentage (at an escalating rate based on pay level), the player would still have the same incentives to maximize dollars, whether through arbitration, extension, or free agency. By prescribing a specific term of years over which the tax would apply and phase out (even if it extended over multiple contracts), the player would still have the same incentives to maximize years.
As for what happens with the "taxed" sums, it seems that many appropriate options might exist. From the fund of lost PED earnings, the league could set up educational initiatives, provide benefits to retired players, support charities, develop league-wide initiatives, or employ some mix of the above.
Turning to the incremental rate, my proposal would work like much like the tax code, with a greater chunk of salary being taken as the annual value goes up. To illustrate with some wholly arbitrary numbers, the league-minimum level might get a 30% rake while a $10MM salary might be hit at 70%. If a player's annual salary were to rise during the time period during which they are subject to the tax, their rate would rise with it.
At the same time, a phase-out process would reduce the tax over the prescribed term. So, for example, if a certain player faced a 50% tax based on his salary, but was in a 25% phase-out year, the player would sacrifice three-eighths of his salary for that season. In situations where the salary structure of multi-year deals (whether preexisting, as with Braun, or prospective) could benefit the player, it would be relatively easy to average out the value for purposes of assessing the tax. (Indeed, the CBA already provides such calculations for luxury tax and related purposes.)
While my system would require a good deal of reassessment as players enter new deals, and would make for a specific loss of salary that is far from determined at the point at which the punishment is fixed, it should be possible to craft the details in a workable manner. Players are advised by sophisticated agents who can well explain the significance of these measures. And the overall lesson will be clear: getting caught at an opportune time will not lessen the blow. In many ways this system would function by trying to take away much of the upside of PED use.
But is greater salary loss for better-paid players the right approach? In many ways, the incentives are greater for PED use by younger, more marginal players. But given the greater educational, public relations, and exemplary harm caused by violations by more prominent players, there is ample justification for hitting them hardest. And as supposed by the competitive fairness principle I espoused above, the key is on finding appropriate deterrents for players of different contract classes, not whether they are necessarily equal as between those classes.
The last point, then, relates to the length of time that the tax would have effect. By hitting players with less service time with a longer-running term, the prospect of a serious hit to future earnings would enhance the deterrent effect while avoiding a potentially unfair (or, in other cases, ineffective) hit to early-career, lower-level earnings. On the other hand, players that have already reached free agency are in most cases already at or past their peak earning capacity, and would instead receive a steeper, more immediate blow to their income that would phase out in a relatively shorter time period.
While I won't get into specifics here, it might make sense for, say, a pre-arb player to receive a six-year tax period with phase-out reductions dependent upon their service class each year. Meanwhile, a six-plus-year veteran might get a three-year ramp-down period.
Additional Measures and Repeat Offenders
In addition to docking salary, a new system could also consider conditioning continued pursuit of a baseball playing career on participation in relatively demanding treatment, education, and/or public service programs. Much like the terms of probation, failure to meet certain requirements could result in a reversion to more severe punishment. Rather than allowing players caught with PED use simply to utilize a self-prescribed PR campaign to return to the game's good graces, this would require actual, concrete steps to restore their status.
One other way to ensure continuing impact is by addressing the issue of repeat offenders. For instance, the CBA and JDA could contemplate a stock contract clause that applies to players who have been found to have previously violated the JDA, which would be added to current contracts and/or included in future contracts on either a mandatory or a negotiated basis. In addition to enhancing/extending the financial penalties discussed above, inclusion of such a clause could convert guaranteed years to club option years if the player is caught a second time.
As Max Scherzer has argued with respect to Braun: "He still has his contract and he's still financially gaining from this. You gotta start cutting out contracts. I'm for that." This would build off of that idea. Of course, it would also re-introduce the problem of having competitive and market impact.
Perhaps more importantly, it would largely work by enhancing financial disincentives that failed to work the first time around. There are diminishing returns, at some point, to going after pocketbooks. Depending upon the tax rates applied, offending players might not have much left to go after. And it is at least worth asking whether, if financial disincentives failed once, other kinds of disincentives are necessary.
For that reason, I think that a better repeat offender provision would be essentially different in kind: a second time violating the JDA would result in a lifetime ban. Matt Holliday is among the players to have advocated this result. The current iteration of the JDA already provides a ban on a called third strike, so the players and league are already prepared for it. Perhaps it is time to make the threat of a lost career a realistic threat for those players who have proven unable or unwilling to abide by a baseline rule of the game.
Longtime Cardinals scout Mike "Lefty" Roberts' distinguished career and recent battle with cancer is detailed by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Mike Roberts has more than three decades as a scout, five decades of knowledge," Cards GM John Mozeliak said as part of the profile. "As our scouting department evolved and we became more diverse — a playing background is less critical now than it was 20 years ago — we had to get our scouts up to speed. Mike bridged that gap.”
With another Thanksgiving in the books, let's check out from news from around baseball...
- Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball will continue negotiations about a new posting agreement next week, according to a Kyodo News report (passed on by Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times via Twitter).
- The Tigers' blockbuster trade of Prince Fielder wasn't a factor in the team's decision to let Jhonny Peralta leave in free agency, MLB.com's Jason Beck reports. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski says the team saw Peralta as a shortstop, and the club couldn't decide on Peralta as a third base option since the Tigers still aren't sure what they'll do at third with Miguel Cabrera possibly moving back to first and Nick Castellanos possibly taking over the hot corner.
- Also from Beck, he notes that with Fielder gone, the Tigers will be looking for a left-handed bat to add balance to the lineup.
- Peralta was somewhat of a risky signing for the Cardinals but Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch feels it was one the Cards could afford to make given the overall strength of their organization and their modest future payroll commitments.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looks at some realistic depth options the Phillies could add to their bench for 2014.
- Jacoby Ellsbury makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, ESPN.com's David Schoenfield opines.
The Cardinals' four-year, $53MM deal with Jhonny Peralta has an interesting twist: it's frontloaded. The shortstop will earn $15.5MM in 2014, $15MM in '15, $12.5MM in '16, and $10MM in '17, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Here's tonight's look around the majors..
- Peralta's deal raises the uncomfortable issue of PED usage paying off, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Diamondbacks relief pitcher and team union representative Brad Ziegler took his dissatisfaction with the deal to Twitter, but he's far from the only player who has an issue with players linked to PEDs getting major paydays.
- Heyman looks at the market for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and wonders if the Blue Jays, Twins, or Rockies could steal him away from the Red Sox. The Rangers look like another possibility to some, but one person connected with the club says a return for Salty isn't too likely at the moment. Texas has looked at free agent catchers, but they've also suggested that Geovany Soto will be their fulltime backstop.
- The Rays' are still waiting on results of Jose Molina's physical and therefore won't have an announcement on his signing until early next week, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Molina is expected to ink a two-year, $4.5MM pact to stay with Tampa Bay.
- The opportunity to win attracted Skip Schumaker to the Reds, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Schumaker said his decision came down to the Reds and one other unspecified playoff-caliber team.
- In today's inbox, MLB.com's Corey Brock touches on the possibility of star third baseman Chase Headley being moved and other matters surrounding the Padres.
The Athletics have reached a new lease agreement with O.Co Coliseum that runs through December of 2015, according to an Associated Press report (via ESPN). The A's will pay $1.75MM in each year of the lease. Here are some more links pertaining to baseball's western divisions...
- The Mariners are pursuing both Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN. He wonders -- as many do -- whether or not Seattle will appeal to major free agents, as they've had difficulty luring top hitters there in previous years.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports definitively writes that the Mariners are interested in Mike Napoli (he'd received conflicting information earlier in the month). Rosenthal also notes the difficulty that the Mariners have had in luring top free agents such as Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder but notes that Seattle could simply overpay to land their free agent targets. Two separate sources called the Mariners "desperate," and as Rosenthal notes: "Desperate teams spend money. Desperate teams are capable of just about anything." Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury are also on the team's wish list, says Rosenthal.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Angels learned that Peter Bourjos didn't have enough value to land them the controllable young starting pitcher they coveted on the trade market, and so they elected to use him to fill another hole -- third base. While many in the media have pegged the deal as a win for the Cardinals, Rosenthal writes that the common perception of Bourjos' value may not line up with the actual perception among teams.
- Lastly from Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks know what it would take to land Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs, but their fear is that if they pounce too soon on a deal, they could miss out on a bigger value later in the offseason. The Angels aren't a fit for Samardzija, Rosenthal adds, because the Cubs want young pitching in exchange for Samardzija.
- The Dodgers' biggest risk in weighing Matt Kemp trades isn't deciding to hang onto him and finding out he's no longer an MVP-caliber player, opines Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Rather, the biggest risk facing the Dodgers is learning that Kemp indeed still is that player, but finding out by seeing him prove it in a Mariners, Red Sox or Rangers uniform. Brown feels it's in the Dodgers' best interest to hang onto Kemp.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that the Angels' acquisition of Fernando Salas and Joe Smith could make Kevin Jepsen a non-tender candidate.
For the latest on negotiations between MLB and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball on the posting fee arrangement -- which has major implications, in particular, for highly-regarded starter Masahiro Tanaka -- check out this update from Ben Badler of Baseball America. We'll round out the evening with a variety of links from around the National League:
- Alexander Guerrero is dealing with a hamstring injury in his Dominican Winter League stint, tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, and GM Ned Colletti indicated that the missed time could postpone the Dodgers' decision as to whether he'll play short or second next year. That decision -- or, potentially, the inability to make it -- could seemingly have an impact on Los Angeles' off-season shopping list.
- The Diamondbacks are down on the free agent market, reports MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. "I've spoken a little to our own free agents," said GM Kevin Towers. "But from the looks of where this free agent market is right now and where it's headed, it's not a place where I want to do a lot of business." Gilbert notes that the club has made an offer to infielder Eric Chavez, but that he is still mulling interest from other landing spots.
- The Rockies are implementing a new player development structure, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. In lieu of roving instructors, the standard in baseball, Colorado will employ "developmental directors" who will each be responsible for a given team and look to prioritize skill development rather than minor league game outcomes.
- Discussing the club's recent signing of Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak explained that a thin shortstop market left Peralta as the best fit for the club. While he said the club considered his PED suspension, he opined that "I don't think it's the Cardinals' responsibility necessarily to be the morality police on potentially future employment." As Peralta admitted his violation of the league's policy and paid his penance, said Mozeliak, "at this point in the game, there's nothing that says he can't go play or isn't free to go sign with another club."
- Mozeliak also said that the club looked around at possible trades, but found the cost prohibitive, tweets Stan McNeal of FOX Sports Midwest.
- In a well-argued set of responses to fan questions, Adam Kilgore and James Wagner of the Washington Post took stock of a wide range of issues facing the Nationals. Among the thoughts offered relate to the second base position. The Nats are well-situated to add Robinson Cano, says Kilgore, and the move makes some sense. But Kilgore explains that such a scenario remains largely unlikely. Meanwhile, fallen keystoner Danny Espinosa has relatively minimal trade value, Wagner offers. His value to the organization, in terms of upside and as a competitor/backup option to Anthony Rendon, probably outweighs what he'd return.
- The Marlins are mulling over a minor league offer to infielder Scott Sizemore, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel. Certainly, Miami would figure to have the inside track on players looking for a legitimate chance to see big league time at second or third.
- Miami has not only lured "superscout" Jeff McAvoy away from the Rays, but sources tell Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that the club will add Mike Berger from the Diamondbacks in a vice president role (Twitter links). This makes for a quiet but outstanding off-season, opines Passan, who notes that the organization could look quite different if owner Jeffrey Loria gives new GM Dan Jennings more authority than was afforded predecessor Larry Beinfest.