Tampa Bay Rays Rumors
The Rays officially announced that they have re-signed righty Juan Carlos Oviedo to a one-year, Major League deal. The contract reportedly guarantees the Wasserman Media Group client a base salary of $1.5MM and contains another $1.4MM worth of incentives. Tampa recently declined its $2MM club option for the 31-year-old, who spent all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Once the Marlins closer, Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) signed on with the Rays last year as he continued his TJ rehab. He never made it back to throw in 2013, but presumably will be ready for Spring Training next year. Before his suspension for assuming the identity of his best friend Nunez, Oviedo had registered 357 big league innings with a 4.34 career ERA.
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish first reported that Oviedo would receive a one-year, Major League deal (on Twitter). Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the $1.5MM value and incentives (Twitter links).
The Mariners, Dodgers, Angels, Pirates, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays all have interest in David Price and believe they could put together a strong enough package to convince the Rays to deal him, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. The Mariners would be especially interested in Price if they also acquire Robinson Cano, and they might be willing to include Taijuan Walker to make a deal happen, Passan reports. Earlier today, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told the Tacoma News Tribune's Bob Dutton, "[A]lways have felt there would be a time where we have to augment this club. I think we’re at that time" (Twitter link).
Price has two years remaining before free agency, and MLBTR projects he'll make $13.1MM in the arbitration process this winter. The Rays aren't in a position where they must trade him, Passan points out, so they won't be desperate in negotiations. They could target a big-league-ready pitcher to step into Price's place in their rotation, Passan reports, and one would think that Walker, one of baseball's top young starters, would fit the bill. Walker, 21, posted a 2.93 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013 before making three starts at the big-league level.
Whenever there's a trade that fans perceive as being one-sided, fans will often wonder why their team didn't get involved in negotiations. The beginning of a recent SportsNet.ca interview with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos shows why that might not be as easy as it sounds. Anthopoulos says Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told him that the Jays simply didn't have the players he wanted in a trade for Doug Fister. Detroit eventually sent Fister to the Nationals for Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi and Robbie Ray. That Dombrowski apparently didn't think the Blue Jays could beat that package might seem surprising, but it appears the Tigers simply had a very clear idea what they wanted, and it wasn't possible for the Jays to enter a higher bid. Here are more notes on the AL.
- The Orioles didn't have an easy time dealing Jim Johnson, a source tells Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Other teams weren't eager to trade for a closer making a hefty salary, so the offers the O's received were underwhelming.
- The Orioles would give up their first-round draft pick -- No. 17 overall -- if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. That means that, if they're willing to open their wallets, they could be contenders for players like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz, both of whom rejected qualifying offers.
- The Rays are hopeful that they can fix newly-acquired reliever Heath Bell, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. "His stuff is virtually as good as when he was a dominant closer with the Padres (2009-11)," says executive vice president Andrew Friedman. "He missed a lot of bats last year. He commanded the ball better than he had in previous years. He's just got a lot of things in place that give him a chance to be really good, and it's about trying to sync them all up."
3:30pm: The Diamondbacks may also be looking to the trade market for power bats, according to a recent series of tweets from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal reports that the D-Backs and A's recently discussed a trade that would send Yoenis Cespedes to Arizona in exchange for Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pollock and others. Both sides have cooled on the idea and backed off the trade at this time, however, and the A's would only trade Cespedes for a "monster" return, according to Rosenthal. Still, as he points out, it serves as an example that the Diamondbacks will be aggressive and creative in their search for a power bat in the outfield.
1:54pm: The Diamondbacks are motivated to swing a trade for an ace-caliber pitcher, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. Crasnick spoke with Arizona GM Kevin Towers, president/CEO Derrick Hall and owner Ken Kendrick in an excellent, in-depth breakdown of the situation. While Towers was quick to say that no player is untouchable, he sounded loath to part with prized pitching prospect Archie Bradley, a consensus Top 10 MLB prospect. Asked about the possiblity of trading Bradley, he replied:
"I don't see that happening. Not that anybody is untouchable, but we're hoping he's our David Price, and we can control him [for several years]. He's gonna get every opportunity to crack our rotation this spring ... He's not looking to make our rotation as the fifth guy -- he's looking to make it as the ace."
Hall pointed to the Diamondbacks' success in 2011 when Ian Kennedy finished fourth in the Cy Young race, noting how impactful having a "No. 1 type starter" was to that year's team. Hall expects activity to pick up: "We're getting a lot of calls and making a lot of calls, and we can see the interest is there. We're probably a good fit for a lot of clubs."
In addition to enviable pitching depth, the Diamondbacks also have several intriguing shortstops in the form of Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed. Martin Prado's presence means that Arizona could also be inclined to include Matt Davidson in potential trades, and the presence of both A.J. Pollock could mean that Adam Eaton is attainable as well, notes Crasnick.
Crasnick lists familiar trade targets Price and Jeff Samardzija for the Diamondbacks, though Price has had multiple ace-caliber seasons while Samardzija has more so flashed ace potential. Crasnick adds that Tyler Skaggs and Randall Delgado, each of whom is still younger than 24, may be more likely to be included in potential trades.
The Diamondbacks are also looking to add an impact bat to the outfield, though that addition may be more likely to come via free agency, reports Crasnick. Big-name items like Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson may not fit into Arizona's payroll, which could lead to pursuits of names like Corey Hart and Michael Morse, though there are many who don't consider either one to be capable of handling the outfield at this point.
12:29pm: Loney is also a top target for the Rays, if they can afford him, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin relays some quotes from team president Matthew Silverman's interview on WDAE-620 AM radio this morning: "The good thing for us is he liked it here. We liked him, he fit in well. And we're a known quantity ... I'm hopeful that he can be here."
11:42am: The Pirates have contacted the Blue Jays about Adam Lind and the Rangers about Mitch Moreland, reports ESPN's Jayson Stark (on Twitter), but clubs who have spoken to the Buccos get the sense that James Loney has emerged as their top choice at the position.
At 29 years of age, Loney is a young free agent (he'll turn 30 next May). The lefty swinger enjoyed a nice rebound campaign with the Rays in 2013, hitting .299/.348/.430 with 13 homers and his typical brand of strong defense at first base. The Pirates had a hole at first base all season that they tried to fill by acquiring Justin Morneau from the Twins. While Morneau provided a solid OBP, he didn't homer in Pittsburgh and ultimately did little to improve the collective .243/.324/.402 batting line posted by Pittsburgh first basemen.
There was talk of re-signing Morneau, but that option disappeared last night when he agreed to a two-year, $13MM contract with the Rockies. That contract is likely good news for Loney and his new representatives at the Legacy Agency. Loney is three years younger than Morneau and coming off a much better season, so he should be able to top that guarantee. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted a two-year, $16MM contract for Loney back in early November, and it's possible at this point that he could top that figure.
As for the other two targets mentioned by Stark, both Moreland and Lind make some degree of sense for the Pirates. Each has a strong track record against right-handed pitching but is overmatched by lefties. Pittsburgh has a solid in-house platoon option at first base in the form of Gaby Sanchez. Both Moreland and Lind can be controlled through the 2016 season.
The Royals, Rays and Dodgers are all interested in second baseman Mark Ellis, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Rosenthal goes on to opine that at the moment, Ellis isn't a great fit for the Rays -- a point with which I agree. Ben Zobrist figures to play second base regularly in 2014 given the outfield of Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, David DeJesus and Matt Joyce as well as the presence of Yunel Escobar at shortstop.
The Dodgers turned down a $5.75MM club option on Ellis earlier in the offseason, but he could make sense for them as an insurance policy in the event that Cuban signee Alexander Guerrero isn't ready to take the reins as the team's everyday second baseman right out of Spring Training. The 36-year-old Ellis slashed .270/.323/.351 for the Dodgers in 2013 and played strong defense at second base, as he's done throughout his career.
Ellis' slash line isn't particularly strong (it translated to a wRC+ and an OPS+ of 92), but even repeating those somewhat pedestrian numbers would be a marked improvement for the Royals. Kansas City's second basemen combined to bat just .240/.296/.306 as a collective unit in 2013. Emilio Bonifacio projects as their current starter, and while he was solid for Kansas City after coming over from Toronto, he's been an inconsistent performer throughout his career.
Earlier today, the Diamondbacks completed a three-team deal with the Rays and Reds which saw Tampa Bay acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds and Heath Bell from Arizona. The D'Backs didn't get big time talent back in the trade, but they unloaded $5.5MM of the $6MM they owed to Bell in 2014. I asked Arizona GM Kevin Towers what he might do with his newfound financial flexibility.
"We still got some bench pieces that we need to put together, we still have interest in bringing back Eric Chavez as a guy who was a key bench player on the club last year. We also want to add depth to our starting pitching, a No. 1 or a No. 2 [type], that would probably come via trade. We have some free agents [that we like], but we'll probably be more aggressive on the trade front. Also, with Cody Ross coming back from the hip injury, we'll also look into a corner outfield bat," Towers said on this afternoon's conference call.
Without giving exact figures, Towers said that the payroll in 2014 will be "well above where it was last season." Arizona's opening day payroll was roughly $86.3MM, putting them right around the middle of the pack.
It's safe to say that Bell's tenure in Arizona didn't work out exactly as Towers & Co. had hoped. Despite that, the GM says that he's still hopeful that the 36-year-old can be a contributor for the Rays.
"Bell's velocity is still very good, his average velocity was very comparable to what we saw in San Diego and what it was in Florida...For Heath its all about location," Towers explained. "He's able to hit his spots..but the thing I saw, he didn't land his curveball as effectively as he did in San Diego. He had a 12-6 curveball to set up his fastball...I still think he has a lot left in the tank, one thing I've always liked about him is that he has a very resilient arm."
Towers admitted that he was sorry to see left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg go, but he said that he wouldn't have been able to secure the same kind of return without his inclusion. That return, of course, includes more than minor league righty Justin Choate - it means the millions in financial relief and a player to be named later. That PTBNL from Tampa Bay, Towers said, will probably be the key player in the trade from his side. Towers added that the player cannot be disclosed now because of "administrative reasons," indicating that the player has already been agreed upon.
Even after moving Bell, who finished 32 games for the club last season, Towers said that he "won't be real active" in finding bullpen help. Whatever needs he has, he'll look to find solutions internally. The GM acknowledged that Randall Delgado could go to bullpen if he lands a rotation upgrade. KT will also seek out "another multi-inning guy" besides Josh Collmenter. As for the closer role, Towers declined to name a favorite at this stage of the offseason.
In addition to the trade talk, Towers also fielded questions on the club's decision to non-tender Daniel Hudson. Even though the D'Backs have now lost their exclusivity with the pitcher, Towers sounds hopeful that the two sides will still hammer out a deal.
"I think we kind of ran out of time...I'd like to say we were at the five yard line or inside of that, so my hope is that we will come to a resolution and he will be a Diamondback in the very near future. We just weren't able to finalize anything by 10 o'clock the other night," Towers said, adding that he could see an agreement happening in the next couple weeks. "I think both sides still want this to happen."
The Rays, Reds and Diamondbacks successfully completed a three-team trade today, the teams have announced. Tampa Bay acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan (and promptly extended him) from the Reds and Heath Bell (pictured) from the Diamondbacks. The Reds will receive left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg from the Diamondbacks. Arizona, meanwhile, was able to shed Bell's salary and will receive minor league righty Justin Choate as well as a player to be named later or cash from the Rays.
It was expected that Cincinnati would move Hanigan since they agreed to a two-year deal with Brayan Pena. The 33-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2013, batting just .198/.306/.261 and tying a career-low with two home runs.
Hanigan will give the Rays three catchers with Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina already in the fold if Lobaton is not one of the outgoing players. Molina is staying in Tampa Bay after agreeing to come back on a two-year, $4.5MM deal last month.
Hanigan has long been known as a patient hitter that is tough to strike out, as evidenced by a career 12 percent walk rate and 10.1 percent strikeout rate. He also has a reputation as a solid defensive backstop, having led the league in caught-stealing percentage in 2013 (45 percent) and 2012 (48 percent). He is also regarded as one of the best in the game at pitch-framing, a skill that he has in common with new teammate Molina.
Bell, 36, is owed $9MM this year in the final season of an ill-fated three-year pact he inked with the Marlins prior to the 2012 campaign. However, Miami is on the hook for $3.5MM of that figure, so the Rays have him for $5.5MM in 2014 while Arizona has him off the books. Bell rebounded from a dreadful 2012 campaign, to an extent, this past season. The veteran closer posted a 4.11 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Bell saw improvements in his strikeout rate, walk rate and swinging-strike rate, giving the Rays hope that his so-so results were the product of unnatural BABIP and HR/FB marks.
Holmberg, 22, has spent most of the last two seasons at Double-A Mobile, where turned in a 2.75 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 26 starts this past season. The lefty, who made his lone big league appearance on Aug. 27 vs. the Padres, was ranked as the No. 6 prospect in Arizona's system by Baseball America after the 2012 season. Baseball America thinks highly of Holmberg's control and likes his chances of reaching his ceiling of becoming a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Choate, 22, posted a 2.88 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 40 2/3 in short-season Class-A this past year. It was the Stephen F. Austin State University product's first year of professional ball, as he signed with the Rays on a minor league deal out of independent baseball.
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports first reported that Hanigan was going to the Reds in a three-team deal (Twitter link). John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer later tweeted that the Diamondbacks were the third team involved. The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro was the first to report the involvement of Bell and Holmberg (Twitter links). Rosenthal added that Holmberg would go to Cincinnati. Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona reported that the Rays were the ones acquiring Bell (Twitter link). MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reported that Choate and a PTBNL or cash were headed to Arizona (on Twitter). Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweeted the financial details. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted that the PTBNL is not on Tampa's 40-man roster.
Steve Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
2:06pm: Hanigan will get $2.75MM in 2014, $3.5MM in 2015, $3.7MM in 2016, and a club option worth $3.75MM in '17 with a $800K buyout, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter).
1:37pm: USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that Hanigan's contract is worth $10.75MM and contains a fourth-year club option that could push the deal to $13.7MM in total value.
1:34pm: The Rays have agreed to a three-year extension with newly acquired catcher Ryan Hanigan, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). The Tom O'Connell client will be guaranteed $11MM over the life of the deal, per Olney.
Hanigan, 33, came to the Rays in a three-team deal involving the Reds and White Sox. The veteran is coming off of the worst offensive year in his career as he slashed just .198/.306/.261 with a career-low tying two homers. Hanigan offers Tampa Bay quality defensive play behind the plate as well as a disciplined approach at the plate, characteristics that Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and GM Andrew Friedman certainly appreciates.
Hanigan led the league in caught-stealing percentage in 2013 (45 percent) and 2012 (48 percent). His 40 percent career mark is about 12 percentage points higher than the league average, which tends to be around 28 percent. For his career, Hanigan owns a .262/.359/.343 over seven seasons, all of which were spent with the Reds.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
DECEMBER 2, 10:14pm: The Rays have officially announced the deal, tweets Topkin.
NOVEMBER 24, 4:29pm: Topkin tweets the contract details: $1.75MM in 2014 and $2.75MM in 2015. Topkin adds Molina is set to take a physical either Monday and Tuesday and, once that is complete, the deal is expected to become official.
Molina is expected to be Jose Lobaton's backup after starting a career-high 87 games behind the plate in 2013, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin adds the middle Molina brother had received interest from other clubs, but liked the Rays' competitive situation, playing for manager Joe Maddon, and living in the Tampa Bay area, not far from his Puerto Rico home. The Rays had been linked as a possible trade partner for the Reds' Ryan Hanigan.
Molina batted .233./.290/.304 in a career-best 313 plate appearance (99 games) for the Rays last season, his lowest offensive output in the past four years. However, the 38-year-old is regarded as one of the game's best defensive catchers (although his lack of mobility resulted in 33 wild pitches and eight passed balls in 2013) and is an expert in the art of pitch-framing. Molina has also thrown out 38% of opposing base-stealers throughout his career.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.