Stephen Drew Rumors

AL East Notes: Ichiro, Tigers, Cervelli, Blue Jays

A year ago, Jon Lester was coming off a poor season and his long-term future in Boston looked in doubt.  Now, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, Lester has rebuilt his career following a rebound season and another World Series ring, and it seems he's in position for a nine-figure contract from either the Red Sox or another club as a free agent next winter.  Lester and the Sox have discussed an extension, and Lauber notes that the Sox (for all their promising young arms on the farm) have nobody who can replace Lester's 200 innings in 2015, so the club needs their star southpaw back.

Here's the latest from around the AL East…

  • Yankees officials tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Tigers haven't asked about Ichiro Suzuki in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Sherman that his team is "not actively seeking a big move," though they haven't decided if they'll use an internal or external player to platoon with Rajai Davis in left.
  • Ichiro, for his part, had "nothing to say about" the subject of whether or not he would want to play for another team that could offer him more regular playing time.  “But as far as being part of [trade rumors], when I first came to New York, I knew it was something that happens here," Suzuki said.  "You have to be emotionally ready and prepare yourself for it."
  • Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli seems somewhat torn between his desire for more playing time and his desire to remain with the Yankees.  "I’ve been here forever. I don’t have that answer right now because this is, I feel like, my house," Cervelli told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.  "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again."  Cervelli has drawn interest from several teams (including the White Sox and Diamondbacks) as one of Yankees' backup catchers could be traded to bring infield help to the Bronx.
  • The Blue Jays' lack of success in obtaining starting pitching this offseason leads Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi to re-evaluate the team's decisions to not tender a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and to pass on a potential trade for Brett Anderson due to medical concerns.
  • According to some Red Sox players, Stephen Drew regrets not accepting Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports.  Drew has lingered on the free agent market in his search for a multiyear deal, and while the possibility of returning to the Sox as a veteran alternative for Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks seemed to have potential earlier this winter, the club seems to have moved on.  Red Sox veterans, Abraham writes, no longer feel the team needs to re-sign Drew after seeing how Middlebrooks has conducted himself during Spring Training.
  • No matter how well the Rays perform on the field or how much they spend on payroll, Cork Gaines of Rays Index notes that the team can't seem to top an average of 23,000 fans per game at Tropicana Field. Gaines speculates that even a World Series title could only bump the Rays over that 23K attendance threshold for a season or two, at most.

Latest On The Mets’ Shortstop Search

Ruben Tejada is penciled in as the Mets' Opening Day shortstop, yet rumors continue to persist that the Mets are looking to upgrade the position.  The latest…

  • The Mets are keeping an eye on the Diamondbacks' shortstop competition and a source tells John Harper of the New York Daily News that the Mets "could jump in" to obtain Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings before Opening Day.  When last we heard of the Mets/D'Backs shortstop talks, New York catching prospect Kevin Plawecki wasn't considered enough for either Gregorius or Owings, and Harper believes the Mets would have to move Plawecki and a minor league pitcher to make a deal work.
  • Also from Harper, the Mets are still scouting Nick Franklin, and trying to decide if he can handle the shortstop job on a regular basis.  Ninety of Franklin's 92 starts for the Mariners last season came as a second baseman, and while Franklin played more short than second in the minors, Seattle considered Brad Miller to be a better option than Franklin at shortstop.
  • Stephen Drew, of course, remains available as a free agent, though GM Sandy Alderson again told reporters (including ESPN New York's Adam Rubin) that Drew's continued availability and the Braves' signing of Ervin Santana hasn't changed his club's stance.  “I’m not interpreting it in terms of ‘our situation,’” Alderson said. “I don’t know that we have a situation here.”  Alderson doesn't think Drew will hold out until June to escape the draft pick compensation hanging over his head, though the Mets GM believes Drew could wait to sign after Opening Day to ensure he wouldn't receive another qualifying offer next winter. 
  • Though Tejada hasn't gotten off to a good start in Grapefruit League action, Alderson said  “it won’t be a judgment based on one game or two games or three games.  We’ve got a lot of spring training left. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at our other options.”

MLB Unlikely To Change Qualifying Offer Before 2016

Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler, a member of the players' association's executive subcommittee, says that Major League Baseball and the players' union are unlikely to address the qualifying offer issue before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports. "The CBA won't be reopened," says Ziegler. "There's no way it's a big enough deal to do that right now. I haven't heard any rumblings that's even realistic."

Nelson Cruz, Ervin Santana, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew have all struggled to find markets after declining qualifying offers this offseason. Cruz signed a one-year deal with Baltimore that guarantees just $8MM, and Santana appears set to sign a one-year deal in the $14MM range with either Toronto or Baltimore. Morales and Drew remain unsigned well into spring training, and there's little indication that either of them will sign soon. 

MLBPA head Tony Clark has also expressed concern about the qualifying offer, but like Ziegler, he suggested that the CBA would not be reopened. "There's certain criteria that's going to have to be met for a CBA to be opened up (before then) and I'm not sure that's happened," Clark told the Associated Press in February.



NL Notes: Baez, Diaz, Mets

Cubs senior vice president of player development and scouting Jason McLeod was once an assistant GM for the Padres, and he tells FanGraphs' David Laurila that the Friars would not have taken Javier Baez if he had fallen one pick to them in the 2011 draft. "The Cubs beat a lot of teams on Javy. They certainly beat the Padres," McLeod says. "I have to admit we weren’t set up to take him with our pick. Thankfully, the Cubs were smart and I don’t have to wear that one too bad." Baez, of course, is now among the best prospects in baseball, while the player the Padres took instead, second baseman Cory Spangenberg, struggled somewhat last year in Double-A — he hit .289, but struck out three times as often as he walked and hit for very little power. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • The market for Cuban free agent infielder Aledmys Diaz will likely be set by the Dodgers' signings of Alexander Guerrero (four years, $28MM) and Erisbel Arruebarrena (five years, $25MM), Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel writes. The market for Cuban players is different from the markets for other player types, McDaniel argues, so it makes sense to compare Diaz to other Cuban players to determine his value. Diaz should hit well for average, and should be a decent defender at second base. Teams believe Diaz will likely receive a contract worth about $5MM-$7MM per season for five or six seasons, although the contracts of Cuban free agents can be difficult to predict.
  • The Mets appear set to head into the season with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They don't appear likely to add Stephen Drew, and they haven't had serious trade talks recently with the Mariners (who have Nick Franklin and Brad Miller) or Diamondbacks (who have Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings). The Mariners and Diamondbacks are asking for a lot in return, Sherman says, since it's tough to find a good shortstop, and all four players have options.

New York Notes: Cashman, Drew, Niese, Tulo, Franklin

Earlier today, it was reported that the Yankees will be monitoring the market for infielders in Spring Training but aren't looking to spend any significant cash in order to upgrade their infield. Here are some more items pertaining to New York's teams…

  • Despite the Yankees' 85-77 record, GM Brian Cashman approached the winter as if his club had only achieved its Pythagorean record of 79-83.  “Our team over-performed last year,” Cashman told reporters, including Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. “It’s a credit to everybody involved in that process. But the record didn’t reflect the talent. And so when you take a sledgehammer to the roster like we did this winter and spend the money we did, it’s more reflective of recognizing. Of not being fooled.” 
    the Bombers’ best insurance policy
    the Bombers’ best insurance policy
  • Stephen Drew is "the Bombers' best insurance policy" given the Yankees' thin infield situation, The Record's Bob Klapsich writes.  While the Yankees are concerned about Drew's medicals and seemingly have no payroll space left, Klapisch notes that the club is already putting a lot of hope in an infield with major injury risks (i.e. Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Mark Teixeira).  "Basically, we have to keep everyone from breaking down," a Yankees official tells Klapisch.
  • According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Mets GM Sandy Alderson acknowledged that his team appears to be a logical landing spot for Drew, but the team has made its own cost-benefit evaluation and acted accordingly to this point. Alderson opined the Drew and agent Scott Boras "are reviewing the situation and perhaps looking at a strategy that prolongs this situation into the regular season or even into June."
  • Mets lefty Jon Niese was shut down due to a dead arm and is heading back to New York for an MRI, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo (on Twitter). Manager Terry Collins told reporters, including the Daily News' Kristie Ackert, that the MRI is a precaution at this time.
  • In a video blog at ESPN.com, Jim Bowden addresses rumors surrounding Troy Tulowitzki and the Yankees, noting that the Rockies star won't be traded to New York to replace Jeter no matter how much talk of the possibility surfaces.  Bowden says that Rockies president Dan O'Dowd has told him repeatedly that Tulo won't be traded.
  • The Mets will scout Nick Franklin throughout Spring Training and pay special attention to his defense, a team source tells John Harper of the Daily News (Twitter link). The club likes Franklin's pop but isn't sure about his glove at short, the source said. Reports earlier this week connected the Mets to Franklin.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post


Red Sox Not Actively Engaged In Talks With Drew

The Red Sox have not had meaningful tallks with free agent shortstop Stephen Drew since the start of camp, reports Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Boston appears set to move forward with its present roster construction, without adding Drew.

That does not mean that the team is saying that a reunion is an impossibility, explains Speier. Rather, the Red Sox now views Drew like any other valuable free agent: they might become involved if the bottom falls out of his market, or if a need arose due to an injury. In other words, Boston would only rejoin the chase for Drew if opportunism or exigency intercedes.


AL East Notes: Orioles, Cruz, Arroyo, Jays, Sox

The Orioles introduced new outfielder Nelson Cruz today, and MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli has a transcript of the press conference. Cruz, of course, settled for a one-year, $8MM deal with Baltimore after previously declining a $14.1MM qualifying offer from the Rangers. "It was a frustrating process," said Cruz, "but I'm happy for the decisions that I made. I'm really excited for the opportunity." Here are more notes from the O's and the rest of the AL East:

  • We learned previously that the Orioles had made a competitive offer for free agent starter Bronson Arroyo before he signed with the Diamondbacks, and now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has the details. Baltimore ultimately offered Arroyo a $21.5MM guarantee over two years, including a third-year option that could have brought the total value to $33MM. The pitcher instead signed with Arizona for a $23.5MM guarantee, but his deal can only max out at $30MM if his option is exercised.
  • Though agent Scott Boras softened his strong words towards the Blue Jays in comments today, he continued to implore the team to open its pocketbooks by saying that Toronto has a "rare opportunity" to add impact free agents because of its protected first-round draft picks, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (interview via Jeff Blair of Sportsnet 590 The FAN). In addition to its advantageous draft situation, Boras argued that the Jays have the "flexibility in the long term" to backload contracts.
  • Boras said that client Stephen Drew could significantly upgrade the team's second base position, and that Drew would be willing to shift to the other side of the bag "if the club came and made the position a long-term one for him." Meanwhile, Boras argued that the switch-hitting Kendrys Morales would offer a better option against lefties than incumbent DH Adam Lind, who Boras said could be dealt for pitching. Toronto could recoup a future draft choice via qualifying offer when those players' deals end, the agent added.
  • In spite of (or, perhaps in part, because of) their success last year, the Red Sox are sticking with their strategy of "caution and strict sensibility," writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince"We recognize that our goal is to be as good as we possibly can be in 2014 but also 2015 and 2016 and beyond," explains GM Ben Cherington. "To do what we want to do, year in and year out, there has to be integration of young players. We're not going to force that unless we're reasonably confident those guys can contribute right away." 

The Draft Pick Each Team Would Have To Forfeit

The calendar will turn to March soon, but our #6, #14, and #28-ranked free agents remain unsigned.  The primary factor in the delay for Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales is that signing any one of them requires the new team to forfeit its highest unprotected draft pick and its associated bonus pool money, because these players were among 13 to turn down a one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offer in November.  Earlier draft picks are more valuable, of course, so let's take a look at the pick each team would have to forfeit to sign one of these three free agents.  The 2013 slot value for each pick is also provided; those numbers will increase for 2014.  2014 draft order information comes courtesy of River Ave. Blues.

Draftpick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many have pointed out, the current system provides a major incentive for teams to sign multiple compensation free agents.  Now that the Orioles have surrendered their #17 pick for Ubaldo Jimenez and their #52 pick for Nelson Cruz, they could sign Santana, Drew, or Morales with the smallest draft pick cost of any team.  In theory, teams at the bottom of this chart should be willing to offer at least several million more than a team near the top, assuming a desire and need for one of the three free agents.  It's why Drew makes so much sense for the Mets.

These three free agents have a good reason not to sign a one-year deal right now, with the season less than a month away, even though Cruz did so recently.  As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently pointed out, a player must be with his team for the entire season to receive a qualifying offer.  Santana could sign a one-year worth $15MM or so and make it official on March 22nd, and not have to worry about being saddled with another qualifying offer after 2014.  On the other hand, losing the ability to make a qualifying offer lowers his value to the signing team, to some degree.

If any of the three compensation free agents is willing to wait until June 5th to sign, the draft pick compensation issue goes away and the players can be signed without forfeiture of a pick.  The old teams, the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners, would not gain a supplemental round pick in that scenario.  If those teams perceive that threat to be real, it provides an incentive for them to explore deals to bring back Santana, Drew, and Morales, respectively.


Quick Hits: Santana, Billingsley, Tejada, Drew, Hanrahan, Diaz

MLBPA chief Tony Clark addressed today the situation of Ben Wetzler, the Phillies' draft choice who was recently suspended by the NCAA for having an agent present while he negotiated with the club, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports"What we're doing in the short-term is trying to make sure we understand exactly what happened and what led to what happened with that young man in college," said Clark. "Rest assured it's a concern, it's something that we're paying attention to, but outside what's been bantered about through the media, we don't know much else at this point." For their part, the Phillies have yet to offer any comment other than acknowledging that they "did participate in the NCAA investigation." One agent tells Nicholson-Smith that, if the team did report Wetzler's use of an agent, "it was extremely short-sighted and impulsive on the part of the team."

Here are a few more links to round out the evening:

  • The Rockies have recently made contact with free agent starter Ervin Santana, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. The team's interest may be dependent upon the status of Jhoulys Chacin, whose shoulder issues are still being assessed. A Rockies official denied interest in Santana, however, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding.
  • Though the Dodgers needed a roster spot to make room for new signee Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club elected to designate Justin Sellers for assignment rather than putting Chad Billingsley on the 60-day DL, writes Chris Gabel for MLB.com. That constitutes something of a vote of confidence in Billingsley's ability to return from Tommy John rehab in a relatively short time frame. The 29-year-old is entering the final year of a three-year, $35MM pact, with the club holding a $14MM option ($3MM buyout) on his 2015 season.
  • While Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has reportedly shed some pounds, the club is nevertheless reportedly less than happy with his athletic form, reports Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. If that translates to an underwhelming start to camp, Kernan implies, there could be increasing impetus to sign Stephen Drew. "I would not be surprised if we signed Drew," an official said, "but at the same time, I don't expect it to happen." 
  • Across town, the Yankees are keeping tabs on reliever Joel Hanrahan after inking another rehabbing former closer in Andrew Bailey, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As Martino explains, interest in arms like Bailey and Hanrahan shows that the club has some concern with its pen depth.
  • The Twins are a very unlikely landing spot for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Diaz is looking to land a deal like the five-year, $25MM contract given Arruebarrena, says Wolfson, but Minnesota does not believe he is as good as his countrymate.

Rosenthal On Compensation Free Agents

The three remaining free agents tied to draft-pick compensation — Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales — would all considering waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal's piece builds upon a prior report from MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, who noted that those players could be considering the strategy, which would prevent their former clubs — the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners — from picking up an extra draft choice.

Here's how it works: If a sufficient offer is not forthcoming, these free agents could change their market situation by waiting until after the draft to sign. At that point, a new signing club would no longer need to sacrifice a pick, and their prior club would not stand to earn one.

Interestingly, Rosenthal also suggested a twist on that strategy, noting that a player could avoid a future qualifying offer just by waiting until after Opening Day to sign. If any of the three remaining draft-pick bound players was forced to settle for a one-year deal (like Cruz), he could use that approach to ensure that his new club would not once again saddle him with compensation, while also ensuring a full year's payday (one of the problems with waiting until June to sign). Of course, there is a countervailing consideration: a signing club would lose the possibility of retaining the player through a qualifying offer or instead getting a compensation pick in return, which reduces the player's value to his new club.

In the aggregate, these options constitute a set of increasingly high-stakes maneuvers, each carrying leverage trade-offs between the player and prospective clubs. For instance, as Dierkes has noted, the threat of a former team not gaining a compensation pick could make a re-signing more likely.

I would add that these two possible approaches each make more sense for different situations. A player who is planning to settle for a one-year pillow contract would take significant risk by waiting until June, because any increase in their annual salary would potentially be offset or eclipsed by the fact that they cannot earn all of it (not to mention risks of changes in how the market sees the player and in market demand). But that player would also potentially gain quite a bit by waiting for Opening Day to sign, because he would get to enter the following year's market without compensation attached. The considerations go the other way for a player who still figures to land a multi-year deal, who would have relatively less to lose by skipping a few months of salary and, potentially, more to gain by shedding the burden of draft compensation. But if three years were already on the table, a free agent would gain nothing by waiting until after the start of the season to sign unless they were truly willing to sit all the way through the June draft.

The agents for the trio made clear to Rosenthal that they have thought through the rules, and are leaving all options on the table. Bean Stringfellow, Santana's agent, said that waiting until after the draft is "certainly something we've talked about," and made clear that his client would not follow Nelson Cruz in signing a one-year deal for substantially less than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. "Once you get past the draft," said Stringfellow, "a lot of teams will be in play with the expanded playoffs. You wouldn't have a draft pick attached. … Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such. Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that."

Scott Boras, who represents Drew and Morales, noted that other clubs also have incentives to wait until after the draft since they do not need to give up a pick to sign the player. He also notes that a signing would mean that those clubs would also potentially avoid the need to sign a future compensation player, and could potentially reap a future pick of their own when the player's deal expires. "A road map for this strategy has been figured out," said Boras. "There is a significant advantage under this system for teams to develop a plan to sign premium free-agent players — the top 6 to 12 percent — where they can gain draft currency and also improve their team in the current and long-term."