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The Mariners are "back in business, showing strong interest" in Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney again, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in his latest column. The Mariners, who are said to have some financial leeway by new team president Kevin Mather, is also looking at the trade market for starting pitchers, though they're not currently focused on David Price or Jeff Samardzija. Rosenthal also notes that the Indians aren't having any conversations on Justin Masterson, nor are the Reds inclined to move any of their starters, further limiting the list of trade targets. More highlights below…
- Cruz could be a fallback option for the Rangers, but probably only if he's willing to sign a one-year deal. Bringing Cruz back would allow the Rangers to deal Mitch Moreland.
- Rosenthal wonders if the Reds should be thinking about dealing a starter. While they're trying to extend Homer Bailey, that seems to be a tall order as he's just one year from free agency. Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto are all only controlled through 2015, and as Rosenthal notes, not all can be long-term pieces.
- The Athletics aren't considering making a run at Stephen Drew and shifting Jed Lowrie from short to second base. The A's are comfortable platooning Eric Sogard and Nick Punto.
- A rival executive wondered to Rosenthal if the Braves would match up with the Mariners on a Dustin Ackley trade, but Rosenthal hears that the Braves aren't looking for a second baseman. They currently have Dan Uggla, who is owed $26MM through 2015, and three fallback options in Ramiro Pena, Tommy La Stella and Tyler Pastornicky.
- Braves GM Frank Wren said he doesn't hold any ill will toward players who go to arbitration hearings — such as the ones he could face with Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman: "We don’t look at it as an antagonistic process. We look at it as a solution to a disagreement on a player’s salary."
JAN. 27: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets some more specifics on the breakdown of Balfour's contract. Balfour's $5MM in 2014 will come in the form of a $1MM signing bonus and a $4MM salary. He will receive an additional $500K if traded, and $2MM is deferred in each year of his contract.
JAN. 23, 6:00pm: Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Balfour will earn $5MM in 2014 and $7MM in 2015 (Twitter link).
3:19pm: The Rays have officially signed reliever Grant Balfour to a two-year, $12MM deal. Balfour returns to the organization with which he had both his best (2008, 1.54 ERA) and worst (2009, 4.81 ERA) seasons as a big leaguer.
Of course, the ACES client had an earlier agreement in place with the Orioles for two years and $15MM, which was blown up when Baltimore found issues with the reliever's physical. The Aussie will nevertheless throw in the AL East after agreeing to terms with Tampa. (It is worth noting that the Rays' team doctor was one of those who said there were no issues with Balfour's right shoulder, though the Orioles apparently had different reasons for concern with the medicals.)
As MLBTR's Steve Adams wrote in profiling Balfour earlier in the offseason, the righty struck out batters at an impressive rate of 10.8 K/9 in 2013. Though the 36-year-old's fastball velocity has dipped since he worked around the 95 mph mark in his excellent 2008 season with Tampa, he still brings his heater at above 93 mph on average.
Ultimately, since a tough 2009, Balfour has been outstanding at keeping opposing runners from crossing the plate. Over the 2010-13 seasons, Balfour has maintained a 2.47 ERA in 254 2/3 innings, with an average of 9.2 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. He has been a model of consistency over that time frame as well, as his ERA has not strayed above the 2.59 mark.
Balfour faced a tough market situation even before his ill-fated pact with Baltimore. With several other big-name, late-inning relievers on the market, it was clear early on that some good arms would be left unable to max out their earnings. As the list of free agent closers shows (via MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker), Balfour slots in between the two-year deals of Joaquin Benoit ($15.5MM from the Padres) and Edward Mujica ($9.5MM from the Red Sox). Interestingly, he falls well shy of the $19MM guarantee handed by the Dodgers to Brian Wilson, who only threw 19 2/3 innings last year (including the post-season) after missing almost all of 2012-13 due to Tommy John surgery.
Andrew Rickli of SportsReel Boston first reported the deal (via Twitter). Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first tweeted the final contract terms, while Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first tweeted that the deal was expected to land in the two-year, $12MM range.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Dave Wallace was away from the majors for years but he's now back with the Orioles to lend pitchers a helping hand, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Wallace, 66, wa the minor league pitching coordinator for the Braves before he was hired as the O's pitching coach. "It was real difficult," Wallace said of deciding whether to return to a big league coaching staff. "I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't. … I'm not the youngest guy in the world, but I'm in pretty good shape physically now. Actually, I did some praying. I have a strong faith, and if the good Lord thought I was healthy enough to do it again, then I would love to have an opportunity." Here's today's look at the AL East..
- Masahiro Tanaka is ready to make the transition from Japan to New York, writes Christian Red of the New York Daily News. Red spoke with baseball executives and people familiar with the history of players coming over from Japan about what it will take for the star pitcher to make things work wth the Yankees.
- The Yankees have to be careful and protect their investment in Tanaka, writes Barry Federovitch of the Star-Ledger. Tanaka was overworked in Japan, so it would make sense for the Bombers to have him skip the occasional start to preserve his arm.
- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg acknowledges that he's making a play for a championship in 2014, but he doesn't like people saying that Tampa Bay is "all in," writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. "I don't believe in the phrase, 'all in,' " Sternberg said. "I've heard it, and I don't care for it. We are feeding the beast. That usually comes with very successful teams who have to keep throwing money into an incinerator to keep things going."
The signing of Grant Balfour could indicate that the Rays will keep David Price in 2014, writes MLB.com's Bill Chastain. With the Rays committing to spend $5MM on Balfour in 2014, the reasoning goes, they might as well spend $14MM on Price. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- 21st Century Fox will raise its stake in the YES Network to 80 percent, the Associated Press reports. As Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm indicates (via Twitter), that means more money for the Yankees, perhaps over $150MM per year. An agreement last year dictates how much the Yankees would receive as FOX increased its ownership stake.
- The Phillies have 17 players signed for $158.8MM next season, Ryan Lawrence of Philadelphia Daily News writes in a breakdown of the team's payroll. Unless the Phillies continue making moves, the rest of the 25-man roster will be filled by pre-arbitration players or minor-league signees.
- Mets third baseman David Wright appreciates the team's additions of Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon this offseason, Mark Herrmann of Newsday reports. Colon, Wright says, is "aggressive and he's going to come at you. He pitches with a confidence that you don't see much."
Via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern of MLB Network Radio that his team has about a 50/50 shot of adding a significant free agent pitcher. Nicholson-Smith writes that the Jays know the asking prices of pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana but aren't prepared to overpay a free agent. Here's more out of the AL East…
- The Yankees are weighing a run at Stephen Drew now that they've blown past the luxury tax threshold, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. A person familiar with the team's thinking told Heyman that a pursuit of Drew would still depend on the price, however. ESPN's Buster Olney reported the other day that the Yankees weren't likely to make any major additions following the Tanaka signing.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com that despite signing Grady Sizemore to a Major League deal, there are no guarantees that the former Indians star will make the Opening Day roster. Cherington didn't rule out a minor league assignment for Sizemore.
- Also from Mastrodonato (on Twitter), Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters at tonight's BBWAA dinner, "We're going to have Jackie Bradley in center field." Mastrodonato adds that Cherington said, "We believe in Jackie Bradley."
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier examines the Red Sox' wealth of pitching depth. Speier writes that while it would seem logical for the Sox to deal from their perceived surplus, the majority of top pitching prospects simply don't pan out. Speier points to a study from Camden Depot's Matt Perez that looks at the history of Baseball America's top prospects, revealing that even in the most successful stretch for those prospects, just over one of four became solid Major Leaguers.
- Asked about his potential grievance with the Orioles at today's press conference, new Rays closer Grant Balfour told reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times: "I'm not going to comment on it. We'll see what happens. I'm here to stay. I have a contract with the Rays, and anything else that's going to happen on that part will be taken care of, and we'll move forward. That's not going to affect anything I've got going here. I'm moving on. I'm glad to be here, really happy to be here."
The Rays have designated southpaw Pedro Figueroa for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for the recently signed Grant Balfour, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).
Tampa claimed the 28-year-old Figueroa off release waivers from the A's earlier this month, designating Jerry Sands for assignment to clear space on the roster for the Dominican hurler. Figueroa allowed four runs in just three innings for Oakland in 2013 and pitched to a 4.10 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 59 1/3 innings for their Triple-A affiliate. Figueroa held opposing left-handers to a .671 OPS in 2013 between the Majors and Minors, but he struggled against opposite-handed batters, yielding a .929 OPS.
Now that Masahiro Tanaka is off the market, teams that missed out on Japanese righty could try to acquire another ace-level pitcher in the form of David Price. The Price trade rumors had died down as the offseason progressed and there was a growing expectation that Price would be a Ray in 2014, though one Major League executive expects the Rays to reach out to the Dodgers and other teams about Price's availability. "I have no doubt they will revisit that, starting today," the executive tells Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
- Jayson Nix's minor league deal with the Rays allows him to look for a Major League job elsewhere if he isn't on Tampa Bay's opening day roster, MLBTR's Zach Links reports (Twitter links). Nix's deal also allows him to opt out of his contract on June 1 even if he is on the Rays' Major League roster.
- The Rays and Padres completed a seven-player trade earlier today and Tampa Bay executive VP Andrew Friedman discussed the deal in a conference call with reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (two links). Friedman broke down the five players the Rays received from San Diego and noted that Logan Forsythe "is a guy that we had tried to get previously and a guy that was very high on our target list."
- While Friedman appreciated the work that Alex Torres had done in Tampa Bay, the Rays felt they had enough left-handed relief depth to use a southpaw as trade bait.
Logan Forsythe's name has been on the trading block in the past week or so, and it didn't take the Rays long to make a deal happen. The Rays and Padres have both announced a seven-player deal that sends lefty reliever Alex Torres and right-hander Jesse Hahn to the Padres in exchange for Forsythe, right-hander Brad Boxberger, minor league right-handers Matt Andriese and Matt Lollis, and minor league second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum.
We heard yesterday that San Diego was receiving interest in the 27-year-old. With several other utility options, led by Alexi Amarista, the Padres presumably felt Forsythe was expendable. The versatile defender had a nice 2012 campaign (107 OPS+), but struggled last year with a .214/.281/.332 triple-slash in 243 plate appearances last year. Swinging from the right side, Forsythe has had much better success against southpaws over his career than against same-handed hurlers (.793 vs .594 OPS).
The Rays will control Forsythe for four seasons, though only the coming year will be at the league minimum. Having spent time at second, short, third, and the corner outfield, Forsythe certainly fits Tampa's liking for flexible players. He will battle for a roster spot and playing time with players like Sean Rodriguez, Vince Belnome, and Jayson Nix. With prospects Hak-Ju Lee and (more recently) Tim Beckham suffering significant knee injuries, the Rays have seen their middle infield depth tested.
As I noted yesterday, a left-handed reliever would make sense in a deal for Forsythe, and it appears that could be just what the Padres will receive. Torres, 26, emerged last year for Tampa after converting to relief. He tossed 58 innings of 1.71 ERA ball, posting 9.6 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 and a miniscule 0.897 WHIP. Torres did, however, benefit from a low BABIP (.221), high strand rate (80.2% LOB), and low home run tally (.16 HR/9), making him a candidate for regression. Torres will not be eligible for free agency until 2020. Though the Rays got an extra option year to use on Torres, it appears they used it last year, leaving him without options.
Hahn, 24, entered the 2013 season ranked as the Rays' No. 14 prospect (per Baseball America) and enjoyed a strong year, though he split the season between Class-A Advanced and Rookie Ball — two levels at which he's older than the league average. Still, he posted a 2.09 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 69 innings of work across the two levels. BA notes that at one point heading into the 2010 draft, Hahn looked to be a first-round talent, but an arm injury caused him to fall to the sixth round and ultimately resulted in Tommy John surgery. Though all 20 of his appearances in 2013 were starts, he never pitched more than five innings, and he only hit that total one time. He did not rank among the Rays' Top 10 prospects heading into 2014, per BA.
Boxberger, 25, has a career 2.72 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 5.6 BB/9 and a 41.2 percent ground-ball rate in 49 2/3 innings with the Padres from 2012-13. The former supplemental-round draft pick was one of four players received by the Padres in the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Reds. Boxberger is a power arm that as a prospect was said to have closer upside but needs to limit his walks more effectively to reach that potential. He's averaged just 3.7 BB/9 in his Triple-A career, so there's reason to believe he can improve. He's controllable for six years but projects as a likely Super Two player due to the fact that he has 129 days of service time already under his belt.
The 24-year-old Andriese reached Triple-A for the first time in 2013 and enjoyed a strong season overall, compiling a 3.27 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 134 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. MLB.com ranked him 19th among Padres prospects following the season, noting that he could profile as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. BA ranked him 20th heading into 2013 and agreed with the mid-rotation upside, praising his power curveball and noting that if he didn't make it as a starter, his arm should translate to the bullpen.
Lollis, 23, transitioned to the bullpen full-time in 2013 and posted a 4.62 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 across three levels, including Triple-A. However, most of his success came at Class-A Advanced (2.32 ERA), as he posted ERAs north of 6.00 in Double-A and Triple-A. Lollis once ranked among the Padres' Top 5 prospects (per BA) but has seen his stock fall dramatically over the past three years.
Tissenbaum, 22, was an 11th-round pick by the Padres in 2012. In his first full season of pro ball, the lefty swinger that shares an alma mater with Joe Nathan (Stony Brook University) batted .277/.365/.359 with a pair of homers and four stolen bases in 490 plate appearances for Class-A Fort Wayne.
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first reported that Forsythe was headed to the Rays and Torres was likely on his way to Tampa. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times confirmed Torres' involvement (via Twitter), and ESPN's Keith Law reported that Hahn, Andriese, Lollis and Boxberger were changing hands (All Twitter links). Topkin then reported that a fifth player could be headed to Tampa as well (via Twitter), which was confirmed when the Padres announced the deal.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Billy Beane of the Athletics have the most job security of any GMs in baseball, Scout.com's Kiley McDaniel writes. At the other end of the spectrum are Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners and Jerry Dipoto of the Angels. McDaniel writes that Zduriencik could hang on in Seattle with a playoff run in 2014, but that doesn't seem likely. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- The Rays should not trade David Price, Dayn Perry of CBS Sports writes. Price figures to be the Rays' best starter in what should be a contending season. Also, Price will likely out-produce the $14MM he'll make in 2014. If the Rays struggle this year, Keri says, they can reconsider dealing Price when the trade deadline rolls around.
- The Mariners recently designated outfielder Carlos Peguero for assignment when they added John Buck. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs points out that Peguero is out of options, and is unlikely to make it in the big leagues despite "big-time raw upside" — he strikes out too much and walks too little to take advantage of his power. Sullivan looks at players who have had seasons with strikeout and walk numbers comparable to those of Peguero's 2011 debut, and finds only a few who had meaningful careers, including Tony Armas, Don Demeter, Dick Stuart, and former Mariners star Bret Boone.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
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