Texas Rangers Rumors
- Troy Renck of The Denver Post tweets that the Rockies were "very aggressive" in angling for McCann but weren't prepared to offer $100MM to a player that will probably be DHing by the contract's end.
- While the Rangers lost out on McCann, there are still players available that would boost the team's offense, Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes. Texas continues to seriously consider Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran for their left field job, while Jacoby Ellsbury and re-signing Nelson Cruz are also possibilities.
- With McCann off the board, the Rangers could also target a catcher who bats from the left side on a short-term deal, then platoon him with Geovany Soto, Grant writes. As a switch hitter, Dioner Navarro would appear to fit that bill.
- The Red Sox were interested in McCann, but their offer wasn't close to what he ended up getting, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe tweets.
- In a post for ESPN Insiders (sub. req'd.), Keith Law writes that the signing addresses the Yankees' most pressing need and projects that the deal will ultimately be "one of the most sensible" agreements of the offseason. While Law admits that five years is a lot to commit to a catcher, McCann should be able to take advantage of Yankee Stadium's short right porch to boost his power numbers. His article also suggests that McCann's strong framing skills add value in a way that isn't reflected in current defensive metrics.
- The Braves remained in discussions with McCann's agent, B.B. Abbott, as recently as Friday, David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says (Twitter link). However, they weren't invovled in the multi-year bidding for the catcher. The Braves will receive a draft pick after the first round becuase of the signing, O'Brien notes.
We'll keep tabs on the day's minor moves here:
- The Royals announced a series of minor league signings, including for third baseman Brandon Laird, outfielder Paulo Orlando and right-hander Wilking Rodriguez. Laird, 26, is the younger brother of Gerald Laird and joins the Royals from the Astros, where he received major league playing time in 2013. Orlando, 28, is re-upping with the Royals after six seasons in the organization. The 23-year-old Rodriguez will transition to the Royals after seven seasons in the Rays' farm system. He has a career 3.90 ERA, mostly as a starter, but has never reached Double-A.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America has updates on a number of clubs' minor league signings. Among those with MLB experience (with links to Twitter): The Rockies will return Bobby Cassevah and Matt McBride, and have added righty Greg Burke. Headed to the Tigers is righty Jhan Marinez, while Gorkys Hernandez and Edinson Rincon will stick with the Royals organization. The Phillies have brought back shortstop Andres Blanco. And the Dodgers inked utility infielder Brendan Harris. Other clubs with new signings include the Orioles, Reds, Marlins, White Sox, and Athletics.
- The Cubs have signed outfielder Casper Wells, according to a tweet from Eddy. The team also added righties Paolo Espino and Carlos Pimentel, along with shortstop Jeudy Valdez. Wells got 102 plate appearances with three different clubs last year, posting a meager .126/.186/.147 line that is perhaps understandable given his constant movement and scant playing time. In 2012, over 316 plate appearances with the Mariners, Wells was good for a .228/.302/.396 slash.
- In addition to bringing back righty Benino Pruneda and catcher Jose Yepez on minor league deals, the Braves have added former Phillies backstop Steven Lerud, tweets Eddy. Lerud appeared in nine games for the Phils between 2012-13. At Triple-A last year, he had an interesting .217/.353/.311 line over 219 plate appearances, as he drew nearly as many walks (35) as he had hits (39).
- Cutting ties with a major international acquisition, the Nationals have released righty Yunesky Maya, Eddy tweets. Washington saw little return on its $6MM investment in Maya, who had been outrighted off of the club's major league roster early in the 2013 season. After struggling in two brief call-ups in 2011-12, Maya's last stint with the Nats was even more regrettable. In his only MLB appearance of the 2013 season, Maya retired one batter in the bottom of the tenth before surrendering a walk-off home run to Pablo Sandoval.
- The Cubs have released outfielder Dave Sappelt, tweets Eddy. As Eddy notes, Sappelt was one of the pieces -- along with lefty Travis Wood and second baseman Ronald Torreyes -- picked up by Chicago in the deal that sent Sean Marshall to Cincinnati. The 26-year-old Sappelt has a .251/.301/.343 slash line in 274 plate appearances spread over the 2011-13 seasons. He has spent most of his time in Triple-A over that time frame, and posted a sub-.700 OPS in each of his two years at Iowa.
Lewis had been a nice MLB comeback story before missing 2013 to have hip surgery. Now 34, Lewis posted a cumulative 3.93 ERA in eighty starts over 2010-12, including 8.1 K/9 against just 2.4 BB/9.
His new deal calls for him to make $2MM if he ends up in the bigs, and contains up to $4MM in additional incentives, according to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com (via Twitter).
As I just noted, today's acquisition of Peter Bourjos may make the Cardinals an even greater longshot to bring back star right fielder Carlos Beltran. Here are the latest rumblings on one of the game's all-time great post-season performers, who will turn 37 early next season:
- Officials from two teams say that Beltran's representatives at MVP Sports Group have not asked for four years in early talks with prospective new employers, tweets Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. In his profile of Beltran, MLBTR's Steve Adams pegged his value at $30MM on a two-year deal.
- Many clubs are interested in Beltran, according to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and the Royals could be a realistic landing spot. Beltran made his name in Kansas City, and Heyman suggests that the club could have added motivation given Beltran's history with the club. Indeed, he even raises the point that a Hall of Fame push at career's end could land Beltran in Cooperstown donning a KC cap. Having given four years to Jason Vargas, Heyman wonders whether the club would be willing to go past two seasons for its old star.
- One major obstacle to that possibility could be payroll, as the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton questions whether GM Dayton Moore has already burned through the club's 2014 payroll allocation after promising Vargas $32MM. As Dutton explains, the decision to designate catcher George Kottaras for assignment could be an indication that money is tight. Kottaras seemed to be the club's best backup option, says Dutton. When he asked why he was chosen to be set loose, a "top club official responded by rubbing his thumb over the tips of his first two fingers," indicating that money was the issue. Kottaras is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a modest $1.2MM in his second go at arbitration, and Dutton notes that Moore has pegged current payroll projections at $87MM despite previously saying that the club would not go much past its 2013 tab of $85MM.
- While Dutton tweets that the Royals are indeed interested in Beltran, he says that the slugger would need to spend some time at designated hitter for it to make sense. That, presumably in combination with his likely-sizeable salary, would mean that current DH Billy Butler would probably be put on the market in such a scenario.
- Turning back to Heyman's report, he does not include St. Louis among the likely suitors at present. The Mariners and Rangers are in the mix, says Heyman, and the Indians may be as well. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox definitely have interest but seem unwilling to go past two years.
- Yet another team that could make sense as a landing spot for Beltran is the Tigers, who Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press says is the best target for a Detroit outfield upgrade. Certainly, a play by GM Dave Dombrowski for Beltran's services would be a boon to the outfielder's free agent prospects.
Mitch Moreland has "no idea" where he might end up or what his role will be now that the Rangers have acquired Prince Fielder and cash in exchange for Ian Kinsler, the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant writes. "I’m just a player," Moreland says. "To be honest, I haven’t thought about my situation much. Come spring, I will be ready to play, whether it is here in Texas or somewhere else." Even with Fielder in the fold, the Rangers could find plenty of at-bats for Moreland, both at DH and in the outfield. A trade might also be a possibility. Here are more notes on the deal.
- After the Fielder deal, it's unlikely the Rangers will trade either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to the Cardinals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz profiles the Cards' other options for acquiring a shortstop, which include free agents (Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta, Rafael Furcal) and numerous trade candidates. The best option, Miklasz argues, is J.J. Hardy, who has one year left on his deal with the Orioles.
- The Rangers were a suitor for Fielder when he was a free agent two years ago, notes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The Tigers ended up signing him, obviously. But the interactions the Rangers had with Fielder then helped convince him to approve a deal to Texas. "It definitely didn't hurt," says Fielder. "Everybody was real nice. I liked those guys."
There's been an overwhelming amount written on last night's blockbuster trade that sent Prince Fielder and $30MM to the Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler and the remaining $62MM on his contract, and we'll round up reactions and ripple effects from the trade here with one more post on the mega-deal...
- The Rangers are still willing to include Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in the right trade, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal speculates on a trade that could send Andrus or Profar to St. Louis or a Profar package to entice the Rays to part with David Price.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders if shedding Kinsler puts the Rangers in the market for Robinson Cano. Texas could trade Andrus or Profar and make a run at the lifetime Yankee. Sherman also points out that the move at least opens a window for Jhonny Peralta to return to the Tigers as a third baseman -- a situation that wasn't possible 48 hours ago.
- If the Tigers' new windfall allows them to lock up Max Scherzer to a multiyear contract, it'd be bad news for the Red Sox, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. That scenario decrease Jon Lester's competition on next year's free agent market, making him that much more difficult to re-sign. Bradford opines that the Sox should try to beat the Tigers to the punch and work out a new deal with Lester sooner rather than later.
- ESPN's Buster Olney looks at the winners and losers of the trade in an Insider-only piece, noting that there are many of each. The Tigers top Olney's list of nine winners, while the 2014 Rangers come in at No. 8 on that list. Olney lists the 2016-20 Rangers as losers in the deal, noting that they'll be paying a premium for Fielder's decline. Olney spoke with three evaluators from uninvolved teams, and all three like the deal for Detroit. While the consensus is that the Tigers came out ahead, none of the three condemned the deal for Texas.
- Olney's colleague, Keith Law, writes that in a baseball sense, he'd rather roll the dice on Fielder than Kinsler, who has shown real signs of decline (Insider subscription required). Law writes that both teams win in the sense that they can clear an everyday spot for their top prospect. While Fielder is a good bet to rebound in 2014, in Law's opinion, he's also more likely to become an overpaid player that isn't worth a roster spot than Kinsler.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs loves the trade for Detroit, as they escape the burden of Fielder's contract and replace him with a player Cameron feels will post a similar WAR total in 2014. Plus, he adds, the $76MM savings would be enough to potentiall add Curtis Granderson and Joe Nathan to the fold. "Kinsler, Granderson, and Nathan, or Prince Fielder? These aren’t even close," writes Cameron.
- Cameron also analyzed the deal from the Rangers' point of view, and while he's not as quick to heap praise on Texas, he understands the thinking and doesn't consider it a loss for the team. GM Jon Daniels found a good way to move Kinsler and add a first baseman, and opened up a hole for someone who is expected to become a very good player, says Cameron, "...But it was an expensive trade to make, and no team has unlimited resources."
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet examines what the trade means for the Tigers, the Rangers, the free agent market and Scott Boras. Nicholson-Smith says that while it's easy to see why Fielder appealed to the Rangers and he makes their team better, the move is a "clear win" for Dombrowski.
- The trade affords both team a fresh start and the ability to move on from a pair of misplaced players, writes Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus (subscription required). While second basemen tend to age poorly and Fielder's average fly-ball distance is dropping, both can still be productive players in their new environments, says Miller.
- Kinsler's agent, Jay Franklin, told Rosenthal that news of the trade was like "getting smoked on the left side of the head" but in a good way. Kinsler is excited for the move and says winning is the most important thing to him. While he didn't want to be traded, he could see the writing on the wall that he may not be in the team's long-term plans, writes Rosenthal.
- MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at the trade earlier today and examined the multiple needs addressed for each team in the deal. He also wonders if there was a cheaper way for the Tigers to get out from Fielder's contract, such as re-signing Omar Infante and trading Fielder plus $42MM for a cheaper, more controllable player.
- Our own Jeff Todd also weighed in on how the deal impacts the long-term payroll outlook for each team and how it impacts other aspects of the trade and free agent markets. The front-loaded nature of the Rangers' existing contract structure made the Rangers an ideal candidate to take on Fielder's deal, in Jeff's opinion.
In case you missed it -- or, perhaps, thought the headlines were fantasy baseball musings rather than a real thing -- the Tigers and Rangers consummated a rather substantial trade last night. The clubs swapped the big contracts owed Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler, with $30MM also heading to Texas. In sum, then, the Rangers have added $76MM in salary, and each team has plugged a hole that it might otherwise have addressed in free agency.
While the ultimate impact on the fortunes of the two ballclubs involved will not be known for some time, the broader effects on the free agent and trade market will be sizeable and immediate. Here are some initial thoughts on what that might look like:
The Rangers and Tigers shook up their lineups and payrolls Wednesday night, as the Tigers sent slugger Prince Fielder and $30MM to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Here's my take from each team's point of view.
Kinsler, 32 in June, slipped offensively to .266/.334/.418 over the last two seasons. Is he still above average defensively at second base? A stat like UZR says no, while The Fielding Bible's defensive runs saved says yes. In fact, The Fielding Bible's panel of ten experts considers Kinsler the sixth-best defensive second baseman in the game, with half of the panel ranking him fourth or better. Out of the five players who topped Kinsler defensively, he outhit all except Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist in 2013. Kinsler might not be the player he was in his mid-20s, which is normal, but he's still close to a top ten second baseman.
Kinsler also has four years and $62MM remaining on his contract, and in a sabermetric sense, he has a decent chance of returning that much value. Wins above replacement puts a large premium on playing a position like second base decently, as it should, but I don't think the market of 29 other MLB teams viewed Kinsler as a $15.5MM player for each of the next four years. When the market undervalues your asset, the best move is to keep it, but the Rangers have Jurickson Profar. 21 in February, Profar is MLB-ready and highly regarded around the game, and the Rangers intend to slot him in as their regular second baseman. The upside is huge, but there's no guarantee he'll be as good as Kinsler over the next couple of years. He will, however, play at the league minimum.
In Kinsler, the Tigers get a second baseman to replace Omar Infante, who is currently a free agent. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated last night that Infante was as good as gone regardless of this trade, which is surprising. Even a three-year, $30MM contract for Infante would have been acceptable value, and the Tigers had that option available to them. It seems likely the Tigers' motivation in last night's trade was more about getting out from Fielder's contract than acquiring Kinsler. Fielder is signed through 2020, and with a seven-year, $168MM commitment, the fact that the Tigers had to send $30MM to the Rangers to trade him for a neutral-value asset suggests Fielder had significantly negative trade value.
If the deal was mostly about payroll flexibility, did the Tigers have better options to achieve it? Could they have signed Infante for $30MM and included $42MM to send Fielder packing for a different, cheaper player such as a quality late-inning reliever? Such a move could have afforded the Tigers over $90MM in new payroll flexibility, rather than the $76MM they added. They still would have seen the benefit of moving Miguel Cabrera across the diamond. However, trading Fielder for a reliever or something similar would have been a tough sell to fans, and even at Jayson Werth money for Fielder it's not as if the Tigers would have found a dozen suitors.
Fielder will play next year at age 30, and had a seven-year, $168MM commitment remaining. With a disappointing platform year and a draft pick cost attached, could agent Scott Boras have gotten him that contract this offseason? Add in the fact that Fielder seems much closer to a permanent DH role than he did two years ago, and I think Boras would have fallen short. It's more plausible that Fielder could have gotten $138MM over seven years, though, and the Rangers didn't have to give up a draft pick. Plus, even if they overvalue power, the free agent and trade markets didn't offer a first baseman like Fielder this offseason. Fielder's off-year was about as good as Mike Napoli's 2013 season, which might be Napoli's peak. Fielder was an elite hitter as recently as 2012, and the Rangers expect him to bounce back closer to that level in 2014.
Fielder serves as a big offensive upgrade for the Rangers at first base, though it's likely they lose offense at second base if they go with Profar. They've still got flexibility at an outfielder corner, catcher, and designated hitter to add more offense. I wonder if Brian McCann becomes less viable for them, as the oft-cited general plan to move McCann to DH around the fourth year of his contract may be hampered by the Rangers' need to put Fielder there.
I'm sure Boras will have plenty to say about this deal. He probably would suggest the Rangers righted a wrong in acquiring Fielder, since they were not able to finish a free agent deal with him two years ago (perhaps due to objections from Nolan Ryan). While the move creates more opportunity for the Tigers to do a historic pitching contract with another Boras client, Max Scherzer, I think that matters to the agent only in that he can count the Tigers as a more viable suitor once Scherzer reaches free agency after the 2014 season.
If the Rangers' trade for Prince Fielder seemed to come completely out of left field for fans, that's because it did. In a conference call with reporters tonight, Rangers GM Jon Daniels said that talks didn't get into gear until Tuesday when Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski called with an ambitious idea. I asked Daniels if he envisioned a deal for Fielder or a player of his caliber coming together all along this offseason.
"We have gone through a variety of scenarios, some more realistic than others. This is something that we had touched on. We hadn't delved deeply into it until yesterday and it picked up speed from there," Daniels said.
Daniels noted that it wouldn't be possible to trade a player of Ian Kinsler's caliber for someone at another position without tremendous organizational depth, something he attributes to Texas' strong scouting department. As it stands today, Kinsler's departure will give way to Jurickson Profar as the team's full-time second baseman.
Fielder unquestionably gives the Rangers a monster bat, but some have pointed to his performance in 2013 as cause for concern. After posting a .287/.393/.538 batting line across his previous eight seasons, Fielder took a step back in 2013, posting a .279/.362/.457 slash line. Daniels took that regression into consideration, but he didn't sound terribly concerned about it.
"We looked at it quite a bit. If he was coming off the best year of his career then [he wouldn't] be available. I think that's kind of the whole idea of this deal. If anyone feels like that's a sign of things to come, that he's slipping, you may not like the deal, we don't feel that way...based on what we got from our scouts, and some of the analysis we did, we think there's a lot more to come," the GM said, while also noting that he got a fair amount of his homework done two years ago when Fielder was a free agent and a Rangers target.
When asked about what the acquisition of Fielder might mean for the future of Mitch Moreland, Daniels insisted that he is still very much a part of the club's plans. While Moreland would have value to other teams after belting a career-high 23 homers in 2013, Daniels said that he values his bat just as much. First base is no longer open for Moreland, but he can still find playing time in the outfield or at DH. "We're not giving up on the guy," Daniels said.
Daniels says that finding another bat at another position is still very much "a part of the plan" even after tonight's blockbuster. Texas showed tonight that they're willing to shake things up in order to improve and it would be a surprise if this were the last significant move that they make this winter.
9:41pm: Texas has announced the completion of the trade.
8:23pm: Detroit will be sending $30MM to Texas, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. With that cash, Texas will effectively be paying Fielder $138MM over seven years. From the Tigers' side of things, they'll have a total savings of $76MM.
7:21pm: The Tigers have agreed to trade Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. There's no word yet of another player being involved in the swap, but the Rangers will get cash back in the deal, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas News (on Twitter). The deal's lone remaining hurdle would appear to be approval from the commissioner's office.
The Rangers were in the mix for Fielder when he was on the open market a couple years ago before the Tigers signed him to a nine-year, $214MM deal. Fielder took a step back in 2013, posting a .279/.362/.457 slash line as opposed to the .287/.393/.538 batting line he posted in his previous eight campaigns. For all of the concern over his conditioning, Fielder sure has been durable - the slugger has missed just one regular season game in the last five seasons.
Aside from giving Texas a five-time All-Star with a big bat, the deal would have the added benefit of opening up second base for Jurickson Profar. Kinsler's name has been on MLBTR quite a bit in recent months thanks to the Rangers' middle infield logjam and lack of quality second base options available on the open market outside of kingpin Robinson Cano. The veteran has spent his entire career with Texas, hitting .273/.349/.454 across eight big league seasons. While not on the level of Fielder's deal, the 31-year-old has a pretty decent-sized contract himself as he is guaranteed $62MM through 2017.
FIelder has a limited no-trade clause as a part of his contract and it turns out that Texas was on his no-trade list, but he apparently waived it to help facilitate the deal. Moving Fielder's deal, or at least a sizable chunk of it, could help free up the cash necessary to work out a new contract with star pitcher Max Scherzer. There has been talk in recent weeks of the Tigers shopping the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner (or fellow pitcher Rick Porcello), but it's conceivable that Detroit can now come to the table with enough breathing room to satisfy agent Scott Boras. There's also the possibility of locking up Miguel Cabrera, whose eight-year, $152MM+ deal expired after 2015.
The trade figures to have a pretty serious domino effect on the free agent market. The Tigers won't be bringing Omar Infante back to Detroit now that they've addressed their second base need with Kinsler. The Rangers, meanwhile, have first base taken care of and their pursuit of a reunion with Mike Napoli is likely through. If Texas is really ready to shake things up, they could theoretically move Jurickson Profar to make way for top free agent Robinson Cano.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.