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With Max Scherzer off the market following a historic seven-year agreement with the Nationals, all eyes will be on top remaining free agent James Shields and agent Page Odle leading up to Spring Training. ESPN’s Jayson Stark has spoken to a number of industry sources for his most recent look at Shields’ market, and he lists various reasons that the industry doesn’t expect Shields to end up with the Marlins, D-Backs, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Astros, Cardinals and Brewers (the Padres, at least, are listed as “possible, but not likely”).
Of particular note from Stark is that the D-Backs are actively trying to trim their payroll, rather than add salary; the Cubs are likely to look for another big-name starter, but not until next offseason; and the chances of the Marlins signing Shields are precisely “zero,” the latter of which meshes with a recent report from Grantland’s Jonah Keri.
Nonetheless, one executive to whom Stark spoke said he sees jumping back into the mix for Shields. However, one of the reasons, per that exec, is that teams believe Shields will have to settle for less than the $110MM that he reportedly was offered earlier this month and are revisiting the situation with the assumption that the price has dropped. Said Stark’s source, “But the problem is, now everyone is bottom-feeding. And when you’re someone like him, that’s the last thing you want, is a lot of teams bottom-feeding on you in late January.”
Regardless of the imperfect fits that litter the market for Shields, most executives tell Stark they can’t see Shields signing for anything less than $80MM over a four-year term, and nearly everyone to whom he spoke thinks that Shields could sign at virtually any time.
One club that won’t be signing Shields is the Giants, it seems, based on comments made by GM Brian Sabean earlier today on KNBR radio. As KNBR scribe Dieter Kurtenbach writes, Sabean plainly stated that while his club has wiggle room to add another piece, “it’s not going to be a high ticket item.” Sabean explained that while the team made a run at a pair of “high ticket” items in the form of Pablo Sandoval and Jon Lester, the team made the decision to spread the money throughout the roster. As such, the club acquired Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki to fill respective holes at third base and in left field, and Jake Peavy was re-signed to add some stability to the rotation. (Of interest to Astros fans may be Sabean’s statement of the fact that he believes Ryan Vogelsong is “going elsewhere as we speak,” as Vogelsong is said to be nearing a deal with Houston.)
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Detroit Tigers | Houston Astros | James Shields | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Dodgers | Miami Marlins | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Yankees | Newsstand | Ryan Vogelsong | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays
Germen, 27, has spent the past two seasons in the Mets’ bullpen, totaling 64 2/3 innings of 4.31 ERA ball to go along with 8.9 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and a 36.8 percent ground-ball rate. Germen throws reasonably hard — he’s averaged 92.9 mph on his fastball in his big league career — but his changeup is his best pitch. As Eno Sarris of Fangraphs noted (on Twitter) shortly after the DFA, Germen posted the best swinging strike rate on his change of any pitcher in baseball last season.
The Yankees originally acquired Germen from the Mets in December in exchange for cash considerations but designated him for assignment last week after acquiring Chris Martin from the Rockies (also for cash considerations).
While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the Brewers, Rangers, Red Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, Rays, Cubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
Here are some more free agent notes:
- Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
- Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
- The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
- Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Barry Zito | Boston Red Sox | Chicago Cubs | Hector Olivera | Johan Santana | Los Angeles Dodgers | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | Ronald Belisario | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Tampa Bay Rays | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals | Yoan Moncada
- The Brewers and Nationals seemed intriguing trade partners after their most recent moves, but Milwaukee did not ship out Yovani Gallardo with intentions of dealing for local product Jordan Zimmermann, according to a report from Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Instead, the club will trust young righty Jimmy Nelson with a rotation spot for the coming year.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers added Gallardo with hopes that he will throw well enough to warrant a longer-term relationship or, at least, a qualifying offer, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. It remains to be seen whether Gallardo will warrant a qualifying offer after the season, but he seems reasonably likely to receive and reject one. After all, the Brewers picked up his option this year at close to the QO rate and he will surely be looking for a long-term deal entering his age-30 season.
- Much of the free agent market has been resolved, but right-handed relief remains an area with several options, including not only several former closers but also sturdy middle relief options such as Burke Badenhop. Among the teams with interest in building out their bullpens are the Red Sox, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals, and Brewers, Rosenthal notes on Twitter.
- Righty Kevin Gregg will put on a showcase today for around half of the league’s teams, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Gregg, 36, had elbow chips removed in August but reportedly feels good and is hoping to sign soon. The 12-year MLB veteran was hit hard in just a dozen outings last year, but managed a 3.48 ERA over 62 frames in 2013 with the Cubs.
The Rangers and Phillies had “in-depth trade talks” regarding lefty Cole Hamels before Texas pulled the trigger to add Yovani Gallardo, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. The sticking point in those discussions was money, tweets Morosi’s colleague Ken Rosenthal.
Here are some more notes on some of the game’s best starters:
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski discussed the signing of Max Scherzer with reporters today, and MLive.com’s James Schmehl has the report. Though agent Scott Boras reached out to the club to indicate Scherzer’s interest in exploring a reunion, Dombrowski said that no negotiations occurred. “We never 100 percent closed the door,” he said, “but we’re very happy with the rotation we have.”
- Perhaps most importantly, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch never fully re-engaged with the idea of keeping Scherzer for the long-haul after the righty famously turned down a $144MM extension offer, Morosi reports. As Morosi rightly notes, neither side can be faulted for pursuing its interests. In the end, Detroit did not go beyond its comfort zone and Scherzer was able to secure a better contract elsewhere.
- As for the notion that the Tigers could be in the market for James Shields, easily the best arm left on the open market, Dombrowski again emphasized that he was happy with the in-house options and was not looking to add. When asked specifically whether he wanted to comment on or debunk the Shields rumors, Dombrowski said: “I just did, didn’t I?”
- Of course, the big question now is whether Scherzer’s move to the Nationals will lead his new club to deal from its impressive rotation. While pending free agents Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister have long been talked about as at least hypothetical candidates to move, the Scherzer signing has led to some suggestions that Stephen Strasburg could be dangled. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs discusses what kind of price tag might accompany the star righty, noting that it would likely be high given not only his immense talent but also his reasonable expected salary over the next two years.
- We have already covered a good bit of Scherzer analysis (see here and here), but ESPN.com’s Buster Olney also weighed in (Insider subscription required). He argues not only that Scherzer does not represent a significant upgrade over the already-deep group of Nats starters, but also notes that dealing away set-up man Tyler Clippard — and, if it occurs, trading other starters or shortstop Ian Desmond — could create significant issues elsewhere on the roster. All said, the long-term obligations in the Scherzer deal are something of an unnecessary risk, Olney suggests.
The Rangers have acquired right-hander Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers. Going in return are a group of young players: infielder Luis Sardinas and righties Corey Knebel and Marcos Diplan. Milwaukee will pick up $4MM of Gallardo’s salary, which will rise from $13MM to $14MM by operation of a clause in his contract.
Gallardo brings plenty of value with him to a Rangers rotation that has several question marks coming off of a rough overall 2014. Though he’ll need to deliver all of it this season, as he qualifies for free agency after the year, Gallardo’s Texas roots could make him an extension candidate. He will not turn 29 until February. And he has had a nice run of gobbling up innings, lodging the sixth-most in the game over the last six years. Reuniting with his former pitching coach, Mike Maddux, probably does not hurt Gallardo’s outlook.
In terms of performance, Gallardo has had his ups and downs but is undoubtedly a quality arm. He registered a career-low 6.8 K/9 last year, though he posted career-bests with a 3.51 ERA and 2.5 BB/9. In terms of advanced statistics, the view was that 2014 was more of an average year for the veteran. His FIP (3.94), xFIP (3.64), and SIERA (3.78) were generally in line with his career norms.
For Milwaukee, the trade brings some much-needed young blood into the system and gave the team an opportunity to cash in on an expiring asset in Gallardo. While the trio of prospects that were acquired all come with questions, they also deliver talent and plenty of years of control, and should begin contributing in the immediate future.
Sardinas, 21, struggled in a 2014 season split between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors (posting a .281 average in the minors, but with a .302 OBP and .364 OBP), but he was young for all three levels and still rates as one of the Rangers’ better young players. The question remains whether Sardinas can hit enough to become a MLB starter, or whether he will instead top out as a utility infielder. But of the three players in the deal, he is the only one to crack Baseball America’s top-ten list, with Knebel (17) and Diplan (22) landing further down the line.
On the other hand, Knebel makes an appearance in the eighth slot on MLB.com’s latest ranking of the pre-trade Texas rotation. Knebel, who came to the Rangers along with Jake Thompson in last summer’s Joakim Soria deal, was taken 39th overall in the 2013 draft an reached the bigs in 2014. The 23-year-old is a pure reliever, but was fairly dominant in the upper minors (2.18 ERA, 12.5 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 4.6 H/9) in 45 1/3 frames last year and showed the ability to miss big league bats with 11 strikeouts in his brief 8 2/3 inning stint.
MLB.com also saw Diplan as one of the Rangers’ twenty best young players, albeit barely. An undersized righty, the 18-year-old nevertheless landed a $1.3MM bonus as a July 2 player. He was effective last year in the Dominican Summer League, but remains a good distance from a major league roster and is far and away the most volatile asset in this deal.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post theorizes a Gallardo trade could make Milwaukee players for James Shields, noting the Brewers are in a strong position to make a big play as they will shed $47MM in salary, including Gallardo’s $13MM, after 2015 (Twitter links). This line of thinking is strengthened by Milwaukee’s dearth of MLB rotation depth as Doug Melvin also traded swingman Marco Estrada in November for Adam Lind. Outside of their current projected rotation (Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta, Matt Garza, Mike Fiers, and Jimmy Nelson), only three other pitchers on the Brewers’ 40-man roster have started a Major League game and two of them, Tyler Thornburg (elbow) and Johnny Hellweg (Tommy John surgery), missed most of 2014 with injuries. A third, Will Smith (17 starts with the Royals from 2012-13) is slated to resume his setup role in the bullpen.
This should make for an interesting week in Milwaukee as the Brewers gear up for their annual fan fest “On Deck” next weekend. It was this time one year ago, the Brewers signed Garza to the largest free agent contract (four years, $50MM) in franchise history. A deal for Shields would shatter that mark. The Brewers, however, could decide to invest the Gallardo cost savings into strengthening their bullpen by re-signing Francisco Rodriguez, who saved 44 games for the club last year. This approach would allow Milwaukee to stretch Smith out during Spring Training creating that much needed rotation depth while preserving some payroll flexibility.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi were first to report that a deal involving Gallardo to Texas was in the works. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the return (via Twitter), while Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram added that money was also changing hands (via Twitter). SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo was first to tweet that the deal was done, and noted on Twitter that the Rangers were rumored to be closing in on adding a pitcher. Morosi reported the trade escalator in Gallardo’s contract, via Twitter.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Nationals now might be the favorites to sign Max Scherzer, and that’s a bit surprising, given the quality of their existing rotation and the fact that they don’t seem likely to push their payroll to Dodgers/Yankees levels, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post writes. By backloading the deal, though, the Nationals could keep their 2015 payroll reasonable, then be able to pay Scherzer higher salaries in later years, when several highly paid current players (Ian Desmond, Doug Fister and Denard Span among them) could be gone. The Nationals could also trade Jordan Zimmermann after acquiring Scherzer, netting them prospect talent and essentially replacing one top starter with another. Here are more notes on pitchers.
- The Rangers are rumored to be close to acquiring Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers, and such a deal would make sense from Texas’ perspective, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes. Gallardo would give the Rangers a needed veteran innings-eater without requiring a long-term commitment.
- Johan Santana already has at least one offer after pitching two innings in the Venezuelan Winter League Tuesday, but it isn’t from the Twins, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The 35-year-old Santana is attempting a comeback after having missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons due to shoulder and Achilles injuries.
The Rangers hope to add another starting pitcher, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. However, the club is out on “big-name free agents” and unlikely to trade for Phillies starter Cole Hamels. The rotation remains unsettled, with Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, and Lisalverto Bonilla currently expected to compete for the fifth starter’s role. Presently, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Ross Detwiler, and Colby Lewis are penciled in for jobs with Matt Harrison an unknown. Here’s more from the pitching marketplace.
- Max Scherzer and James Shields are in uncharted territory, writes Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. Of the nine free agent pitchers who have signed nine-figure contracts, only Masahiro Tanaka agreed to terms after January 1st. Teams like to have a working idea of their roster and payroll at this point in the offseason, which is why these big deals are usually reached before the new year. Earlier tonight, we learned the Blue Jays are interested in Shields, and his price may have dropped below $100MM. Meanwhile, Scherzer and agent Scott Boras are trying to beat the $144MM extension offer Scherzer reportedly declined prior to last season.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is talking up the club’s pitching depth, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. That could mean the club will pass on Scherzer and Shields. The club has been loosely connected to Scherzer, but it seems as though Mozeliak is content to stand pat unless ownership intervenes. It may be worth noting that the Cardinals became Matt Holliday‘s eventual home after a similarly quiet spin through free agency.
- Needless to say, the Cardinals are loathe to trade from their hoard of minor leaguers for Hamels. In my opinion, it makes sense for the club to gauge what they have in Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, and Marco Gonzales before executing a blockbuster trade.
The Rockies are discussing outfielder Charlie Blackmon with more than one team in trade talks and are hoping to get pitching in return, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal write. The Rockies haven’t made a significant pitching signing this offseason, and Morosi and Rosenthal write that the main reason is that they’re having trouble attracting pitching to Coors Field. The Rockies think they can deal Blackmon for a pitcher and then sign an outfielder, given that Denver would be an attractive destination for an outfielder for the same reason it’s a poor one for a pitcher. (The outfield market is rather thin at this late point in the offseason, although Colby Rasmus could be one possibility.)
Blackmon, 28, is coming off a solid 2014 season in which he hit .288/.335/.440 in 648 plate appearances. He also has another year before he becomes eligible for arbitration, so he would undoubtedly be an attractive trade target. Morosi and Rosenthal note that the Rockies have asked the Mets about Dillon Gee, for example, but Blackmon would surely have more trade value than Gee does (and the Mets probably aren’t on the hunt for a starting outfielder anyway). The Rangers, Braves, Orioles and Cubs could all make sense as potential trading partners.
The Phillies might value Cole Hamels too highly, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. An executive from another team tells Rosenthal that GM Ruben Amaro is looking to make the “perfect” trade and wonders if Amaro feels he has to make exactly the right deal in order to avoid being fired. The Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres top the list of teams interested in Hamels, although the Red Sox are not urgently trying to acquire Hamels, trade talks with St. Louis haven’t gone far, and Hamels’ contract could be an issue for Texas and San Diego. Here’s more from the NL East.
- Amaro says first baseman Ryan Howard is likely to be with the Phillies when Spring Training arrives, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Amaro has made no secret of the Phillies’ desire to be rid of Howard, whose salary ($60MM through 2016) and poor recent performance have made his contract an albatross.
- It remains possible that the Mets could acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. Talks between the two sides have not progressed recently, however. The Mets had reportedly discussed a three-team deal involving Desmond and Ben Zobrist with the Nationals and Rays, although Martino writes that the Mets pushed harder to acquire Zobrist rather than Desmond.
- Nationals fans have reason to be wary of the team’s trade of Tyler Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes. Losing Clippard further depletes a Washington bullpen that’s already losing Rafael Soriano and Ross Detwiler, and Escobar is potentially a declining player whose arrival might signal that free-agent-to-be Desmond will soon be playing elsewhere.