Transactions Rumors

Minor Moves: Bernadina, Diaz, Balester

Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • Outfielder Roger Bernadina has elected free agency, thereby freeing a 40-man roster spot for the Dodgers, the team announced last night (Twitter link). Bernadina picked up 80 plate appearances between the Reds and Dodgers this season, slashing a combined .167/.304/.258 with a homer and a pair of steals. The longtime Nationals outfielder is a lifetime .236/.307/.354 hitter in 1480 big league plate appearances.
  • The Blue Jays announced that they have re-signed infielder Jonathan Diaz to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training next year (hat tip: Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith on Twitter). The 29-year-old Diaz received 45 PA with Toronto this season, hitting .158/.256/.184. The majority of his work came at shortstop, though he did see 16 innings at second base and play at least one inning at all three outfield spots.
  • Right-hander Collin Balester, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, has re-signed with the Pirates on a minor league deal, Chris Iott of MLive.com reports (via Twitter). The 28-year-old hasn’t pitched in the Majors since posting a 6.50 ERA in 18 innings with the Tigers back in 2012, but he spent part of the four prior seasons in the Nationals’ bullpen. Balester has a 5.30 ERA in 185 innings between the Nats and Tigers.

Rangers Inform Rios That Club Will Decline Option

The Rangers have informed outfielder Alex Rios that the club will decline its $13.5MM option for next year, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Rios will instead receive a $2MM buyout.

That news is hardly a surprise, as Texas was said to be leaning strongly in that direction. Rios ended his first full season with the club on somewhat of a down note, ending the year on the DL with a thumb issue after a tough season. He slashed .280/.311/.398 over 521 plate appearances on the year, hitting four home runs and swiping 17 bags a year after he was good for 18 long balls and 42 steals. With his value on the bases down and defensive metrics generally viewing Rios as a below-average right fielder, he ultimately landed just above replacement level.

Rios should still garner plenty of interest on the free agent market. He will be entering his age-34 season, so a lengthy pact would be surprising, but Rios is not far removed from some very good seasons. Over 2012-13, he slashed .291/.329/.473 in 1,302 plate appearances with 43 home runs and 65 steals.

The news that the Rangers will decline the option brings to an end one of the more interesting contracts in recent memory. Fresh off of two big seasons, Rios inked a seven-year, $69.835MM extension with the Blue Jays back in April of 2008. Things turned sharply down in the 2009 season, but Toronto was famously bailed out of the deal when the White Sox claimed Rios off waivers.

Though Rios struggled mightily at times in Chicago, the club was rewarded at the end with the aforementioned seasons, and ultimately was able to trade Rios to the Rangers last August in exchange for Leury Garcia. Heading into the year, Rios’s option actually seemed likely to be picked up, which was quite a turnaround for that much-maligned extension. All said, over the life of the deal, Rios was worth just north of 15 wins above replacement (by the reckoning of both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference).


Outrighted: Stephen Fife, Doug Bernier, Yohan Pino

Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league…

  • Righty Stephen Fife was reinstated from the 60-day DL and outrighted to Triple-A by the Dodgers, the club announced on Twitter. Fife, a depth starter for Los Angeles who just turned 28, underwent Tommy John surgery late in the season and will likely miss most or all of 2015. He owns a 3.66 ERA in 91 career big league innings over the last three years, with 6.9 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9.
  • The Twins have outrighted journeyman shortstop Doug Bernier and right-hander Yohan Pino to Triple-A Rochester, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Bernier has already elected free agency, Berardino reports, and Pino is expected to do the same. The 34-year-old Bernier has batted .233/.352/.283 in 73 PA with the Twins over the past two seasons. He was outrighted last year at season’s end as well but returned on a minor league deal and saw another brief callup late in the year. Pino, 30, made his big league debut with Minnesota this season and posted a 5.07 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 11 starts (60 1/3 innings). He was much better in 73 Triple-A innings, registering a 2.47 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.


Diamondbacks Hire Chip Hale As Manager

5:57pm: Hale’s contract also contains a club option for a third season, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link).

9:04am: The Diamondbacks have announced the hiring of Athletics bench coach Chip Hale as their new manager.  Contract terms weren’t announced, though CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported (via Twitter) that Hale signed a two-year deal to manage the clubThe D’Backs were rumored to be deciding on their new skipper today, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale was the first to report that Hale has been hired.

Chip Hale

It is something of a homecoming for the 49-year-old Hale, who played college ball at the University of Arizona and began his coaching career in the D’Backs organization, working both as a minor league manager and as a Major League third base coach.  He has also worked as the Mets’ third base coach and has spent the last three years in Oakland under Bob Melvin.

Hale has been a contender for several open managerial positions over the last few offseasons, and was reportedly a finalist for the Mets (before they hired Terry Collins) and Mariners (before they hired Lloyd McClendon).  Most recently, the Twins sought to interview him during their manager search, though Hale reportedly canceled that interview in order “to see through this chance” at the D’Backs job, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

Hale is the first hire for D’Backs GM Dave Stewart and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa as they look to turn around the last-place Snakes and move on from the Kirk Gibson/Kevin Towers era.  The club interviewed at least nine men for the manager’s job and had narrowed the field to Hale, former Rockies manager Jim Tracy, Indians first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and two internal choices in assistant hitting coach Turner Ward and triple-A manager Phil Nevin.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Minor Moves: Reimold, Wilson, Cedeno, Bianchi, Pagnozzi

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:


Minor Moves: Jordany Valdespin, Tony Gwynn Jr.

Here are the day’s outrights and minor moves:

  • The Marlins have outrighted utilityman Jordany Valdespin, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Valdespin, 26, slashed .214/.280/.347 last year after joining Miami on a minor league pact. He had been non-tendered by the Mets before reaching arbitration eligibility. Over parts of three seasons in the big leagues, Valdespin has spent time all over the outfield as well as at second base, in addition to a handful of appearances at short.
  • The Phillies announced that outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. has elected free agency after refusing an outright assignment. The 32-year-old slashed a meager .152/.264/.190 over 127 plate appearances on the year. He has seen big league action in parts of eight seasons, and at his best added value through stellar defensive ratings in the outfield.

Rangers Claim Ed Lucas

The Rangers have claimed infielder Ed Lucas off waivers from the Marlins, according to Rangers executive VP of communications John Blake (on Twitter). Lucas, 32, will be controllable at league minimum next year.

It took some time for Lucas to reach the big leagues, but he’s seen a good bit of action over the past two years. In total, he has a .255/.302/.323 slash and five home runs over 573 plate appearances. Those numbers looked better after 2013, but a .580 OPS campaign saw Lucas land under replacement value last year.

Clearly, Lucas’s value lies in his defensive flexibility. Over that limited stretch of time, he has seen significant time at third, second, first, and even short. Lucas has also played some innings in the corner outfield.


Yankees Sign Brian Cashman To Three-Year Extension

The Yankees have announced a three-year contract extension for general manager Brian Cashman. The new contract runs through the 2017 season.

Brian Cashman

Cashman, 47, will return to a post which he has held since 1998 in spite of the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time in his tenure in 2013-14. That two-year absence also marks the first time in which the Yankees have failed to reach the postseason in consecutive seasons since 1992-93. However, in spite of that fact, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported in late September that the two sides were working on a new contract.

While it’s perfectly fair to question the team’s decision to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in aging players, the Yankees can point to the fact that the signings of CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett (now with the Phillies) led to a 2009 World Series championship. Of course, investments since that time have failed to pay off. The lauded Brian McCann signing of last offseason was a disappointment, and the additions of low-cost veterans Brian Roberts, Brendan Ryan, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson and Matt Thornton did not round out the roster as hoped. Jacoby Ellsbury made good on the first year of his seven-year, $153MM pact, and Masahiro Tanaka looked to be worth every penny of the $175MM total investment the Yankees made in order to secure his services prior to suffering a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Midseason additions of Chase Headley, Martin Prado and, in particular, Brandon McCarthy each proved to be wise maneuvers that bolstered the team’s roster, even if the ultimate result did not pan out. Prado, who hit .316/.336/.541 for the Yankees, remains under team control for two more seasons, while McCarthy and Headley are free agents.

Cashman now faces the daunting task of trying to bring the Yankees back to the postseason in the near future despite having more than $168MM in payroll already committed to both the 2015 and 2016 rosters. That number does not include arbitration raises to players such as Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Shawn Kelley, Francisco Cervelli and David Phelps — each of which will further add to payroll and complicate the team’s short-term outlook.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Orioles Extend J.J. Hardy

OCT. 10: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun has the breakdown of Hardy’s contract (Twitter links). Hardy will earn $11.5MM in 2015, $12.5MM in 2016 and $14MM in 2017, per Connolly. He adds that the vesting option is valued at $14MM as well and comes with a $2MM buyout. The option will vest based on a certain number of plate appearances but will also automatically vest if Hardy is traded. Hardy can also earn up to $700K per season in performance incentives, according to Connolly, who also tweets that the deal does contain some deferred money.

OCT. 9: Shaking up the free agent market before it opens, and boldly looking to the future even as they prepare to open play in the ALCS, the Orioles have officially announced a three-year extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles

Hardy will receive $40MM over a guaranteed three year term, representing a $13.3MM average annual value, though that must be discounted somewhat to reflect the deal’s inclusion of $6.5MM in deferred money. Hardy also gets a fourth-year vesting option, based upon plate appearances.

With the new deal, Baltimore will keep its key cog up the middle under team control through at least 2017, his age-34 season. And the free agent market has now lost one of its most appealing everyday position players.

Looking first at Hardy, who just celebrated his 32nd birthday, one finds a player whose profile has changed, but who nevertheless remains consistently productive. Manager Buck Showalter is said to have had a hand in encouraging an early reunion of Hardy and the O’s, reflecting the veteran’s respected standing in the organization.

Since coming to Baltimore in a lopsided trade with the Twins, Hardy has been a steady three-to-four win player, whether one prefers fWAR or rWAR. But how he’s reached those overall levels of production have changed dramatically.

In his first (and best) year in Baltimore, Hardy racked up 30 home runs and a .491 slugging percentage. Over the next two seasons, he steadily contributed twenty or more long balls, but saw his overall power numbers drop. His glove remained sharp, however, and a declining strikeout percentage offered promise. But things swung in 2014, when Hardy suddenly suffered a power outage (he recovered to hit 9 bombs by season’s end, but ended with a career-low .104 ISO) and saw his strikeout rate leap to a career high of 18.3%.

Obviously, those offensive numbers have swung rather widely, with Hardy posting anything from a 78 to a 113 wRC+. But what has not changed much has been his glove. Indeed, in his two down years at the plate (2012 and 2014), Hardy’s even upped his game in the field — at least according to UZR and Defensive Runs Saved. This year, Hardy rated a close second to Andrelton Simmons in overall defensive value among shortstops.

For Baltimore, then, Hardy’s work up the middle sets the floor while his power bat provides the upside in his new extension. While it had been expected, and perhaps hoped, that Manny Machado would slide over from third after this season, that option waned after Machado suffered a second-straight season-ending knee injury. If he can return to health, however, he’ll join Hardy to form the game’s best left-side infield defense.

The deal is not without its risks for the O’s, but few are. And limiting the terms to three years, with the fourth coming via a vesting provision, does reduce the magnitude of the risk somewhat.

More importantly, perhaps, it may have been more challenging to retain Hardy — or find an able replacement — had the team not struck during a brief lull in the postseason action. After all, while, the upcoming free agent market includes several shortstops who have at times been every bit as good as Hardy, none — excepting Hanley Ramirez, who may not stay at the position — has been as consistent. Those that remain, including Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew, should benefit from Hardy’s absence, if only because they would have had to wait to sign until he found a home. But the Orioles were likely to find a veteran shortstop one way or another, so the real impact may be on clubs that were hoping to make a run at Hardy.

Ultimately, while Baltimore does not look to have achieved any huge bargain, the club probably saved money against what Hardy might have cost to take back from the open market. Though he would have had to deal with qualifying offer-related draft compensation, Hardy no doubt would have looked to land a new contract somewhere in the realm of Jhonny Peralta‘s four-year, $53MM pact from last year.

Jeremy Conn of 105.7 The Fan was first to report that an extension was close (Twitter link), while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the deal’s parameters on Twitter. Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com was first to tweet the final financial terms. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (also via Twitter) reported that the deal was done. 


Outrighted: Tabata, Buck, Boesch

After being designated for assignment last week, Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata has been outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis and accepted the assignment, reports MLB.com’s Tom Singer. The move is not a surprise, as had Tabata rejected the assignment he would have forfeited the remaining $8.5MM on his contract.

Here are some more outright-related moves from around the league…

  • Both John Buck and Brennan Boesch have rejected outright assignments from the Angels in lieu of free agency, Angels director of communications Eric Kay announced (on Twitter). Buck, 34, picked up five plate appearances with the Halos this season after spending much of the season with the Mariners. The veteran batted .225/.289/.281 in 97 plate appearances overall on the year. Boesch, 29, hit .187/.203/.293 with a pair of home runs in 79 PA for the Angels. The duo was designated for assignment earlier this week when the Angels claimed Alfredo Marte and Roger Kieschnick on waivers.