Steve Pearce Rumors

AL East Notes: Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays

Through the Joe Maddon era, the Rays were known for employing different lineups and looks every day. Expect more stability in the day-to-day lineup under new manager Kevin Cash, writes Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon averaged 137 lineups per season over his five year tenure. Cash hopes to set a couple basic lineups based on opposing pitcher handedness. His key players should have an idea of where they’ll hit, which Cash believes is better for the players. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • The Orioles have 11 players who could be eligible for free agency next fall, reports Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore. Dubroff examines the likelihood of each player returning beyond 2015. Steve Pearce may be the best fit on a short-term extension. Others like Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Chris Davis may play their way out of town. In the case of Davis, another rough season could open a buy low opportunity. He’s set to earn $12MM next season.
  • The Blue Jays upgraded the roster without addressing their deficiencies, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith for USA Today. Despite notable additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, the bullpen, second base, and center field remain as potential problems. The outfield is probably the best off, with prospect Dalton Pompey expected to fill the void. The bullpen could be addressed internally, but there are also several decent relievers on the free agent market. Second base looks dicey. Devon Travis may eventually fit, but Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins will have to hold the fort in the meantime.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

Here is today’s list of minor arbitration settlements, with all projections coming via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • The Orioles and Steve Pearce have agreed to a one-year deal that will pay the first baseman/outfielder a sizable $3.7MM sum, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Pearce had an unexpected breakout season with the O’s in 2014, batting a whopping .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers after spending the first seven season of his career in relative obscurity. The 31-year-old entered the 2014 campaign with a pedestrian .238/.318/.377 batting line over the life of 847 big league appearances. The unique nature of Pearce’s breakout led him to vastly surpass the $2.2MM estimate of Swartz’s projection model. His $3.7MM settling point was the exact midpoint of the $5.4MM at which he filed and the $2MM figure submitted by the Orioles (which is one of the more notable gaps you’ll see in arb filing numbers). With his case settled, the Orioles have only Zach Britton, Alejandro De Aza and Miguel Gonzalez remaining.

Remember, all arbitration situations can be monitored using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.


Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won’t go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox (per the most recent updates) are known for their “file and trial” policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $5MM or more. Projections can be found here. Now for the details …

  • The Reds countered the $5.7MM filing of Todd Frazier with a $3.9MM figure, according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman David Freese filed at $7.6MM and the Angels countered at $5.25MM, WAPT’s Mike Perchick tweets. Halos outfielder Matt Joyce has filed for $5.2MM against a $4.2MM counter, according to Perchick (on Twitter).
  • Astros center fielder Dexter Fowler filed for $10.8MM while the club countered at $8.5MM, Perchick tweeets.
  • Pirates second baseman Neil Walker filed at $9MM while the club landed at $8MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Just-acquired reliever Tyler Clippard has filed for $8.85MM against the Athletics, who countered at $7.775MM, Perchick tweets.
  • Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay filed at $5MM while the team countered at $4.1MM, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets.
  • Pedro Alvarez has requested a $5.75MM salary for the coming season while the Pirates are at $5.25MM, per a tweet from Perchick.
  • Righty Mat Latos filed at $10.4MM and the Marlins countered with a $9.4MM figure, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Third baseman Casey McGehee filed at $5.4MM, with the Giants countering at $4MM, Heyman tweets.
  • The Braves countered Mike Minor‘s $5.6MM filing number with a $5.1MM team figure, Heyman reports on Twitter.
  • Mark Trumbo has filed for $6.9MM against a $5.3MM counter from the Diamondbacks, Heyman tweets. Closer Addison Reed, meanwhile, filed at $5.6MM with the team countering at $4.7MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles went with a $7.5MM price point for righty Bud Norris, who filed at $10.25MM, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). In both relative and absolute terms, there is an even bigger gap between the O’s ($2MM) and breakout slugger Steve Pearce ($5.4MM), who is looking to cash in on a big season in his final year of eligibility. That news also comes via Connolly, on Twitter.
  • Entering his final year of arbitration, infielder Daniel Murphy has filed for $8.6MM while the Mets have submitted a $7.4MM figure, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets.
  • Reds 9th inning man Aroldis Chapman filed for $8.7MM while the team countered at $6.65MM, per Heyman (via Twitter).
  • The Orioles and outfielder Alejandro De Aza will negotiate between filing figures of $5MM and $5.65MM, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer filed at $6.7MM and the team countered at $4.6MM, Heyman tweets. The club will also have some ground to make up with closer Greg Holland, who filed at $9MM versus a team filing of $6.65MM, per another Heyman tweet.
  • Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson has filed at $5.75MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $4.3MM, Heyman tweets.

AL East Notes: Yankees, Cespedes, Tazawa, Pearce

The Yankees have promoted pro scout and former hitting coach/player development executive Gary Denbo to senior vice president of baseball operations, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted yesterday. In a full article, Feinsand and colleague Bill Madden write that Denbo will take over for the retired Mark Newman as head of the team’s farm system. Pat Roessler, who has served as the team’s director of player development since 1995, will not return to the club, Feinsand adds.  Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner has recently expressed displeasure with the lack of position players developed by the Yankees’ farm system.

Some other Yankees and AL East notes from around the league…

  • In his latest Yankees Inbox piece for MLB.com, Bryan Hoch discusses a number of offseason topics, including the club’s search for starting pitching and a shortstop, as well as its likely inactivity on the market for Cuban players. Hoch won’t be surprised to see the Yankees pursue one of the big three starters (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields), and all indications are that the team will look externally for a shortstop. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Asdrubal Cabrera, noting that he could be a fit for the Bombers at short.
  • Yoenis Cespedes‘ recent agency change does little to change the possibility of the Red Sox signing him to an extension, writes WEEI.com’s Alex Speier. Cespedes is still expected to hit the open market on the heels of past comments with the A’s about looking forward to testing the open market. While he did take a bit more ambiguous stance when asked by Boston reporters late in the year — “€œI’€™m still not sure if I want to sign an extension or if I want to be a free agent. It’s too soon.” – Speier feels that a new contract for the Roc Nation Sports client is unlikely.
  • David Laurila of Fangraphs spoke with Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa at the end of the season about his role with the team and his level of satisfaction with his 2014 results. Tazawa explained, through an interpreter, that he feels he proved his endurance out of the bullpen and is happy to fill whatever role Boston asks of him, especially after they stuck with him through his previous Tommy John surgery. However, Laurila cites a Japanese source in reporting that Tazawa’s preference would be to pitch as a starter. Tazawa wouldn’t comment on any preference when asked directly about the role change, though he did note that he feels he could build up that level of endurance again. The 28-year-old made four starts for the Sox in 2009 and made 28 more in the minor leagues before settling into the big league bullpen.
  • Steve Pearce‘s role on the 2015 Orioles is a bit nebulous at this point, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, as it’s somewhat contingent on how the rest of the roster shapes up. The O’s will potentially lose Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency, and it’s not a given that they’ll tender Alejandro De Aza a contract. Pearce himself is due a large raise in arbitration after his outstanding 2014 season, but Baltimore will happily pay him whatever he is ultimately owed, writes Kubatko. He looks back at the series of events which saw Pearce released and claimed by the Blue Jays. Pearce, of course, was able to refuse the claim due to the nature of release waivers, and he did so knowing that the O’s would soon try to bring him back. The soon-to-be 32-year-old has one year of team control remaining before free agency and earned just $700K in each of the past two seasons.

Quick Hits: Pearce, Choo, Gibbons

United States authorities are interviewing Cuban ballplayers as part of an investigation into smuggling rings, reports ESPN The Magazine’s Scott Eden. Driven by dramatic stories as well as high-profile success on the field, attention has increasingly focused on the issue of human trafficking of players hoping to reach Major League Baseball.

Here are some more notes to round out the evening:

  • The Orioles‘ run to take the AL East has a lot of plausible explanations, but one of them is as straightforward as it is surprising, writes Mike Petriello of Fangraphs. Steve Pearce has had perhaps the most unexpected four-plus win season in history, largely making up for the downturn of Chris Davis. Even better, he cost the team virtually nothing to acquire. It remains to be seen whether he’ll carry much value into next year, but Baltimore will surely pay him a much-deserved raise through arbitration to find out. Pearce entered the year with over four years of service time, meaning that he has just one year of team control remaining. His 17 home runs and .907 OPS will set him up nicely for an arb payday, though he has logged under 400 plate appearances (still easily a career high) and does not have a large base point to work from.
  • Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo will undergo surgery on his troublesome left ankle, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on Twitter. It will be up to two months before he can begin to run, but that should still give him plenty of time to prepare for the spring. Of course, Texas will hope that a healthy ankle will go some way to allowing Choo to return to form next year. He is owed $116MM on his contract through 2020.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos declined to tip his hand regarding the status of manager John Gibbons for 2015, but MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm senses a change of tone from the GM. Anthopoulos emphasized that Gibbons is under contract, saying that he would treat the skipper like any other team employee: “you support them until you don’t support them.” Though Anthopoulos said that nothing should be read into his comments, Chisolm notes that the GM’s comments last year at this time revealed less reserved support for Gibbons.

Blue Jays Notes: Stroman, Pearce, Buehrle

The bullpen was one of the Blue Jays’ few strengths in 2013 and yet the relief corps has gotten off to a terrible start this year, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi writes.  Last night’s blowup against the Royals was only the latest in a series of late-game meltdowns for the bullpen, which has a cumulative 5.08 ERA that ranks as the third-worst in the majors.  Here’s some more news from Toronto…

  • Cubs scout Dave Littlefield was in Buffalo last night to watch Marcus Stroman‘s six no-hit innings for the Triple-A Bisons, Davidi reports.  Chicago reportedly asked for both Stroman and Aaron Sanchez as part of a trade package for Jeff Samardzija in the offseason, a deal that the Jays rejected out of hand.  Littlefield’s presence could indicate a continued interest on the Cubs’ behalf or, as Davidi notes, simple due diligence.
  • Steve Pearce turned down the Jays’ waiver claim on his services in order to return to the Orioles because he could receive everyday playing time in Baltimore, according to Davidi.  Pearce will likely receive regular work at first base for the O’s while Chris Davis is out with an oblique injury.  The Blue Jays were looking at Pearce to start against left-handers as part of a DH platoon with Adam Lind.
  • If the Jays aren’t in contention by midseason, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star notes that Mark Buehrle would likely have the most trade value of any Blue Jays starting pitcher.  The veteran southpaw has been the Jays’ best starter in 2014 and, as Griffin notes, Buehrle’s consistent track record means that a trade partner knows exactly what they’re getting.  Moving Buehrle would also free up payroll space for the Jays — he is owed approximately $15MM over the rest of 2014 and is owed $19MM in 2015.
  • Also from Griffin’s piece, he interviews Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava about several prospects at all levels of Toronto’s minor league system.

Orioles Re-Sign Steve Pearce

The Orioles have re-signed IF/OF Steve Pearce, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The Orioles have announced that it’s a big-league deal. The O’s had previously designated Pearce for assignment. The Blue Jays claimed Pearce on release waivers, but he elected to become a free agent rather than accepting the claim.

Connolly explains the processes that led the Orioles to re-sign Pearce. The Orioles did not replace Chris Davis on their active roster after Davis went on the disabled list last weekend, which meant they were not restricted by a league rule that would have prevented them from adding Pearce to the active roster so soon after releasing him. With Davis out, having Pearce back allows the Orioles to have an extra first baseman.

Pearce, 31, hit .261/.362/.420 in 138 plate appearances for the Orioles last season, playing mostly DH and left field. He has also played for the Pirates, Astros and Yankees.


Orioles Release Steve Pearce

TUESDAY: The Orioles have announced that Pearce was claimed on release waivers (although it’s unclear which team claimed him), but that Pearce elected to become a free agent rather than accepting the claim. MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko tweets that the Orioles are interested in re-signing Pearce.

SUNDAY: The Orioles announced that they have released infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce. Baltimore designated the 31-year-old for assignment on Tuesday afternoon.

Pearce agreed with the O’s on a $850K deal to avoid arbitration this winter. The veteran made only seven plate appearances in the early portion of the 2014 season but he slashed .261/.362/.420 in 138 trips to the dish at the major league level in 2013.  Because the O’s have previously outrighted Pearce, he reserved the right to reject a minor league assignment.  However, it hasn’t come to that and the Orioles have instead cut him loose.

Over parts of eight big league seasons with the Pirates, Astros, Yankees, and Orioles, Pearce owns a career .237/.316/.376 slash line.  Across six Triple-A seasons, Pearce has slashed .287/.364/.497.


AL East Notes: Goins, Jays, Rays, Pearce, Bogaerts

The Blue Jays announced last night that they have optioned the struggling Ryan Goins to Triple-A, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports that Chris Getz will get the call to take his place. However, as Getz isn’t on the 40-man roster, a corresponding move will have to be made prior to today’s game. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star wonders if Moises Sierra will lose his spot on the 40-man.

More out of the AL East…

  • Rays manager Joe Maddon isn’t sweating his team’s rough start and is in good spirits despite losing Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson to injuries, writes MLB.com’s Phil Rogers. Maddon said his experience as a minor league manager prepared him by giving him the right attitude in these situations: A lot of times, when you work in the Minor Leagues, manage in the Minor Leagues, there are times you don’t have the best team out there on a nightly basis, but you still believe you’re going to win somehow.”
  • The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly expands on the technicality he reported yesterday that could allow the Orioles to re-sign Steve Pearce (whom they released on Sunday) and immediately add him to the 25-man roster. While clubs that re-sign a released player normally have to wait 30 days to add him to the active roster, that can be avoided if the club has had less than the full complement of active players at all times from the date of the waiver request to the date [the] player is re-signed.”
  • The Red Sox aren’t concerned with the defensive struggles of Xander Bogaerts, writes Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Edes spoke with Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen, who said the team anticipated that there would be “challenges,” and that they could look glaring when compared to the excellent play Boston received at shortstop last year from Stephen Drew. Edes also spoke to a Major League scout who shook his head at any who disparage Bogaerts based on his glove. That scout told Edes that any of his peers that scouted Boston’s system in 2013 said Bogaerts was the best player they saw in Minor League Baseball.