- A source on one of the teams interested in right-hander Chris Archer tells Topkin that the Rays are asking for five or six players in return. Obviously that specific ask could be related to that specific team, but with a price tag generally thought to be quite high, Topkin is doubtful Archer will be dealt.
- Tampa is getting a lot of attention about its rotation in general, including the Pirates showing interest in Jake Odorizzi. Pittsburgh initially had interest in Odorizzi at the July trade deadline, and it would be fascinating to see what kind of deal (if any) the Rays and Bucs could work out, as fellow small-market teams.
- Welington Castillo is generating enough interest that he is expected to get a multi-year deal, so the Rays could be priced out of his market. One source “wouldn’t expect” the Rays to wind up with Castillo, who has also drawn interest from teams like the Braves and Orioles since he was surprisingly non-tendered by the Diamondbacks this week.
- Steve Pearce was targeted by the Rays before he signed a two-year, $12.5MM deal with the Blue Jays earlier today. Topkin tweets that the Jays got the edge over the Rays by offering the second guaranteed year and more money.
- The Rays have interest in Rangers lefty Dario Alvarez, who posted a 5.06 ERA, 13.8 K/9 and 5.86 K/BB rate over 26 2/3 innings with Texas and Atlanta last season. His ERA was inflated by continuing problems with the long ball, as Alvarez has given up nine homers over his 31 2/3 career innings in the majors. The Rangers are one of the teams known to be looking into the Rays’ pitching, so Alvarez could potentially be included as part of a trade package.
- There are so many hitters in the outfield/first base/DH mold available that Topkin believes the Rays could be able to land a good bat at a relative discount price simply by waiting until later in the offseason to make a signing. Perhaps even a higher-tier hitter like Jose Bautista would be willing to take a one-year, incentive-filled contract to play near his home in the Tampa Bay area and test the market again next winter (though Topkin admits that Bautista is rather a longshot).
The Blue Jays have announced a two-year, $12.5MM contract with first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce. ESPN’s Buster Olney had reported earlier this morning that talks between the two side were gaining some traction.
The 33-year-old Pearce will bring to Toronto a strong right-handed bat that can either share time with Justin Smoak at first base (though Smoak is a switch-hitter, he hits right-handed pitching better than lefties). Pearce’s lefty-mashing ways will complement Smoak’s skill set nicely, and he also has plenty of experience in the corner outfield, where the Jays are lacking options with both Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista hitting the open market. What the signing means for Edwin Encarnacion remains to be seen. Certainly, Toronto could view Pearce and Smoak as a serviceable combination at first base and shift focus to the corner outfield. As was the case with the addition of Kendrys Morales, this signing doesn’t seem to preclude a reunion, but it does appear to further diminish the likelihood of a deal.
Dating back to 2013, Pearce has slashed a robust .266/.348/.485 with an average of 27 homers per 162 games played. He’s been especially productive against southpaws in that time, batting .272/.359/.523 in 418 plate appearances. From a defensive standpoint, Pearce has more than 650 innings at both corner outfield spots and first base, and he’s also 242 innings at second base over the past two seasons with the Rays and Orioles. While Pearce may not contend for a Gold Glove anytime soon, his defense in both outfield corners and at first has graded out as average to slightly above average over the course of his career (per Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating).
Pearce underwent forearm surgery back in September, but that procedure was said to come with a four- to six-month recovery timeline, suggesting that he should on track for Spring Training. That the Jays felt confident enough to offer two years would indicate that his rehab is progressing as planned. It’s a notable departure from last winter, when Pearce languished on the free agent market into late January before he took a one-year deal with the Rays.
Olney was the first to report the agreement and the terms of the deal (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Talks between the Blue Jays and free agent first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce have begun to gain traction, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). The two sides are progressing toward a deal, Olney adds.
Pearce, 33, underwent forearm surgery in September that was said to come with a four to six month recovery timeline, but he’s been quite productive for the bulk of the past four seasons when healthy. Dating back to 2013, Pearce has slashed a robust .266/.348/.485 with an average of 27 homers per 162 games played. He’s been especially productive against southpaws in that time, batting .272/.359/.523 in 418 plate appearances.
Of course, the greater question for Jays fans would be whether the addition of Pearce would close the door on a reunion with longtime cornerstone Edwin Encarnacion. Toronto has already inked Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33MM deal this winter, and with Pearce potentially joining Justin Smoak in the mix at first base, it could further limit the urgency to extend a lucrative offer for Encarnacion. Then again, Pearce does have extensive experience on the outfield grass, and the Jays do have a need in the corners, so it’s not impossible to see a scenario in which both right-handed sluggers suit up with the Jays in 2017.
In need of a right-handed hitter after trading Richie Shaffer to the Mariners on Friday, the Rays have “serious interest” in reuniting with free agent utilityman Steve Pearce, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays are one of at least three teams in pursuit of Pearce, who has also drawn the attention of the Blue Jays and Mets.
Pearce, who will turn 34 in April, spent the first few months of last season with Tampa Bay after it signed him to a one-year, $4.75MM contract in January. The Florida native was excellent as a Ray, slashing .309/.388/.520 with 10 home runs in 232 plate appearances, but they fell out of contention and dealt him to AL East rival Baltimore at the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. He wasn’t nearly as successful with the Orioles, hitting .217/.329/.400 in with three homers in 70 PAs during his third stint with the team, and is now on the mend from September forearm surgery.
Despite both his less-than-stellar end to the season and current health issues, odds are Pearce will outdo his previous deal in terms of guaranteed value (MLBTR projects $10MM over two years). Pearce was coming off an underwhelming 2015 at the time, but even factoring in the .218/.289/.422 line he put up in 422 PAs that season, the journeyman has batted .266/.348/.485 in 1,148 trips to the plate since his breakout 2013 showing. Pearce’s combined wRC+ of 129 in the past four seasons ties him with the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, albeit across 1,415 fewer PAs, and he has shown versatility by playing all over the diamond.
Pearce spent time at first, second, third and designated hitter last season for the Rays, who could use a platoon partner for lefty-swinging first baseman Brad Miller and a DH. Miller has struggled versus southpaws throughout his career, including in 2016, while Pearce has recorded an outstanding .270/.353/.500 line against them in 689 PAs.
There’s an expectation among rival executives that the Rays will trade one of either Drew Smyly or Chris Archer this winter, writes ESPN’s Buster Olney in his latest blog (Insider subscription required and recommended). Other teams are also expecting that Tampa Bay will trade closer Alex Colome, who moved into the ninth inning following an injury to Brad Boxberger and delivered a brilliant breakout season in the Rays’ bullpen, though we haven’t really heard any specific clubs tied to him. Smyly is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $6.9MM this winter in his latest trip through the arbitration process, while Colome is not yet eligible for arbitration (though he’s building a nice case for himself when he does reach that point). Because Colome hasn’t reached arbitration and comes with an additional four years of club control, the Rays should be able to ask for a sizable haul. Of course, those same factors also mean that Tampa Bay doesn’t need to feel an urgency to move Colome, as he’d earn scarcely over the league minimum in 2017. The 27-year-old posted a pristine 1.91 ERA and averaged 11.3 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 to go along with a 47.1 percent ground-ball rate in 56 2/3 innings.
A bit more on some other possible trade and free agent scenarios around the league…
- The Athletics are “actively listening to offers” for right-hander Sonny Gray, per Olney. Gray’s name has been a mainstay in trade rumors over the past year and a half, but with a $3.7MM salary projection for next season and Oakland looks more likely to move veteran pieces, there’s a better chance this winter that he’s moved than there has been in previous trade seasons. Of course, teams may be wary of Gray’s 5.69 ERA and time on the disabled list this past season, and the A’s aren’t likely to consider selling Gray at a discounted price, so agreeing on price with interested teams certainly presents some hurdles. Gray is still just 27 and is controlled for another three seasons.
- With Brian McCann shipped out today, the Yankees appear to be turning their attention to additions to the roster. Pitching is at the top of the list, with Rich Hill a possible target, Olney tweets. And he adds that slugger Carlos Beltran remains a target. As James Wagner of the New York Times reports (Twitter links), GM Brian Cashman says that the organization is looking to add bats. While it isn’t committed to spending big, he says he expects to continue discussions with top-of-the-market hitter Yoenis Cespedes. “I’m sure we’ll talk again,” said Cashman of his contact with Cespedes’s reps. “Now that we have more flexibility, it gives us more choices.”
- Though the Braves have been connected to several top young starters, their focus is on trying to work a deal with the White Sox for Chris Sale, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It’s still unclear just how hard Atlanta will push to pry him loose, and certainly Chicago isn’t in a position where it needs to move its affordable, excellent, and still-youthful ace. And as O’Brien notes, the Braves have signaled previously that they aren’t interested in emptying their farm to move toward contention — though there may be an added willingness to give up some premium assets in this case, as would certainly be necessary to get something done.
- The Blue Jays are looking into infielder/outfielder Sean Rodriguez, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports. It seems that Toronto would like to add a right-handed-hitting piece with some defensive versatility, with Rodriguez joining Steve Pearce as plausible targets. The idea would be to utilize such a player as a platoon complement to first baseman Justin Smoak (a switch-hitter who struggles against lefties) and in the corner outfield.
At least three other organizations are currently showing interest in wooing outfielder Yoenis Cespedes away from the Mets, per Mike Puma of the New York Post (via Twitter). With four suitors (including New York) presently in the hunt, Cespedes’s representatives believe he could reach a deal by early December.
That would represent a much quicker end to the open-market experience than Cespedes experienced last year, when he did not re-sign with the Mets until late January. But this time around, he’s the consensus top-available free agent with lesser competition and another superstar campaign under his belt. While there aren’t a lot of teams that make for perfect fits, the expectation remains that Cespedes will draw some concerted bidding that drives his price north of $100MM.
The Mets have made no secret of the fact that they are interested in a reunion with a player who had a huge role in generating two consecutive postseason appearances. It remains to be seen whether New York will be willing to go to a length and total value that it prefers not to in order to bring him back, but it’s also possible that the price tag won’t go out of the team’s comfort zone.
In an appearance on 710 WOR (audio link), GM Sandy Alderson suggested that it’s all still very much up in the air how things will turn out with Cespedes. The club is “in one sense in a better position” than it was last winter, he noted, since Cespedes is “much more familiar” with the organization. The 31-year-old has personally indicated his interest in returning to the Mets, said Alderson, and there has been extensive communication with his agent.
Among other topics, Alderson also chatted about the alternatives in the event Cespedes heads elsewhere. He suggested there are other “significant” right-handed hitters who could conceivably be pursued, noting Jose Bautista as one of several free agents and possible trade targets who may be available. There are also “complementary piece[s]” who could be had; Alderson noted Steve Pearce as an example of a player who’d at least hypothetically offer another option. It’s still an open question for the team, said the veteran executive, whether it’s truly necessary to add another right-handed-hitting outfielder given the team’s other lineup options.
The Blue Jays have interest in free agent utilityman Steve Pearce, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Pearce played DH, first base, second base and both outfield spots in 2016, also briefly appearing at third. Rosenthal notes, though, that the Jays could be interested in the right-handed Pearce (a career .269/.353/.499 hitter against lefties) as a platoon partner for Justin Smoak at first base. Pearce could also give the Jays insurance policies at a number of positions, given the potential departures of Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Saunders and Jose Bautista to free agency.
Pearce underwent forearm surgery in September, and his recovery time then was estimated to be four to six months. Any team signing him would surely have interest in how he’s progressing toward a return, since it appears there’s a possibility the injury could delay the start of his season. Even so, Pearce’s versatility and productive bat (he hit .288/.374/.492 in 2016 for the Rays and Orioles) would make him a solid complementary piece for many teams. MLBTR ranked Pearce the 42nd-best free agent available this winter, projecting he would receive two years and $10MM.
The Mariners’ main offseason needs and pending roster decisions are outlined by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune…
- The M’s are expected to revisit trade talks with the Reds about Zack Cozart. The two clubs nearly agreed to a dealing deal that would’ve sent Cozart and a prospect to Seattle in exchange for minor leaguer Luiz Gohara and another prospect, but ran out of time prior to the August 1 deadline, in part because Cincinnati was busy with additional medical paperwork related to the Jay Bruce trade with the Mets. Cozart is only under contract through the 2017 season, so the door is still open for Ketel Marte to be Seattle’s shortstop of the future. Mariners officials think Marte “would benefit next season from taking a step back,” pointing to how James Paxton and Mike Zunino blossomed after taking a reduced role.
- Beyond adding Cozart or another veteran shortstop, Dutton identifies a right-handed hitting first baseman and a hard-throwing lefty reliever as the Mariners’ other big areas of need. Dan Vogelbach will form the left-handed side of the first base platoon, and Dutton speculates that the M’s could re-sign Dae-ho Lee to again serve as the right-handed first base bat. For external options, Dutton believes free agent Steve Pearce is a good fit for the M’s — Pearce mashes southpaws and provides depth at not just first base but potentially several spots around the diamond.
- In regards to the left-handed reliever, Dutton cites the Pirates’ Tony Watson as what the Mariners are looking for in a southpaw who is capable of filling a setup role or just situational work against left-handed hitters. Acquiring Watson himself may not be in the cards, though Dutton notes that the Pirates could look to save some money with Watson getting more expensive through arbitration. Internally, the M’s could use Ariel Miranda for this left-handed bullpen role, though the club prefers him as a starter for now.
- In a separate piece that breaks down every player on Seattle’s 40-man roster, Dutton writes that the Mariners are likely to non-tender Charlie Furbush and let Drew Storen walk in free agency. Tom Wilhelmsen, who is eligible for arbitration, also “could easily get squeezed out” given that he has fallen behind several other arms in the bullpen pecking order.
- The Mariners probably won’t pick up Chris Iannetta’s $4.25MM club option, leaving them looking for a backup catcher. Among internal options, Jesus Sucre is more affordable and has a good relationship with Felix Hernandez.
- “A new deal seems reasonably likely” for longtime outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, who is headed for free agency. The M’s also have an interest in re-signing Nori Aoki, even though his presence creates a bit of a logjam with Gutierrez possibly returning and Seth Smith’s club option almost certainly being exercised. Dutton wonders if this could lead to Smith becoming a trade chip if Aoki is indeed brought back.
Orioles first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce will undergo surgery to repair the flexor mass in his right forearm and will be sidelined anywhere from four to six months as he recovers, manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNMidAtlantic.com (Twitter link). Certainly, as an impending free agent, that timeline is a blow to Pearce’s offseason stock. Assuming that timeline sticks, he won’t be ready until at least late January and could see his recovery linger well into Spring Training.
Viewed through a more immediate lens, Pearce’s injury is a blow to the depth of an Orioles team that is currently in possession of one of the two American League Wild Card spots and still has a chance at the division championship in the American League East (currently three games back from Boston). Pearce was outstanding when healthy this season, hitting .288/.374/.492 with 13 homers and 13 doubles in 302 plate appearances for the Rays and Orioles. Baltimore let Pearce walk this past offseason, electing instead to acquire Mark Trumbo and sign corner bats Pedro Alvarez and Hyun Soo Kim to cost-effective deals. However, the O’s picked Pearce back up in a trade that sent minor league catcher Jonah Heim to the Rays. They’ll ultimately receive just 70 plate appearances and a .217/.329/.400 slash out of their reinvestment in Pearce, though.
Had Pearce finished up the season in healthy fashion, a two-year deal could seemingly have been on the table for him, but it’s difficult now to envision the 33-year-old (34 next April) securing more than a one-year pact — likely one that is laden with incentives — on the open market. If he does make a full recovery, though, Pearce would be a tremendous value on such a deal, as he’s somewhat quietly produced a very strong .266/.348/.485 slash in 1148 plate appearances dating back to the 2013 season.
The Orioles have announced a few roster moves, including placing infielder Steve Pearce on the 60-day disabled list and reinstating reliever Darren O’Day from the 15-day DL. The club has also purchased the contract of first baseman Trey Mancini from Triple-A Norfolk.
Before sending him to the DL and ending his season, the Orioles shut down Pearce indefinitely Wednesday on account of a right flexor mass strain. Manager Buck Showalter said then that Pearce was a possibility to return later this month, but that won’t be the case. This injury could wrap up Pearce’s second tenure with the Orioles, who acquired him from the Rays prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline. The impending free agent hit an outstanding .309/.388/.520 and mashed 10 home runs in 232 plate appearances with Tampa Bay this year, but his numbers dipped in Baltimore as he dealt with an elbow injury.
Pearce batted .217/.329/.400 with three homers in 70 PAs as a member of the Orioles and could end up hitting the open market, where the soon-to-be 34-year-old would try to outdo the $4.75MM deal he signed with the Rays last winter. First, though, Pearce will have to go undergo forearm surgery, which will require a four- to six-month recovery, Rich Dubroff of CSN Mid-Atlantic tweets.
O’Day, meanwhile, hasn’t taken a major league mound since mid-August because of a right shoulder cuff strain. While his return is a welcome one for an Orioles team with a three-game lead on an American League wild-card spot, O’Day hasn’t been as effective this year as he was in previous seasons. Injuries have been a problem, as O’Day was previously on the DL from early June until the end of July thanks to a hamstring strain. When O’Day has pitched, he has issued 4.3 walks per nine innings, more than doubling his 2015 rate and contributing to a jump in his ERA from 1.52 to 3.95. On the positive side, O’Day has posted a posted a terrific 10.87 K/9.
Mancini, whom the Orioles selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft, has done nothing but produce since joining the organization. After hitting .280/.349/.427 with 13 home runs in 536 Triple-A plate appearances this season, he could be in line to make his major league debut. MLBPipeline.com ranks the 24-year-old as the Orioles’ fifth-best prospect and praises his offensive abilities.