Travis Wood Rumors

Non-Tender Candidate: Travis Wood

In 2013, Travis Wood was a bright spot on a miserable Cubs team, posting a 3.11 ERA over 200 innings. That led to a $3.9MM payout in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2014. A year later, he’s coming off a 5.03 ERA season, and he could be a non-tender candidate. So what changed?

USATSI_8048115_154513410_lowresActually, not much. Or, at least, not much Wood could have controlled. In 2013, Wood’s xFIP was 4.50. In 2014, it was 4.51. By far the most important cause of his two-run jump in ERA was a 72-point increase in his batting average on balls in play, from .248 to .320. Wood walked batters at a significantly higher rate (4.0 BB/9 vs. 3.0) in 2014, but he struck out more of them, too, and slightly increased his ground ball percentage, although he remained a fly ball pitcher. His command was worse, but not so much so that it represented a fundamental change. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two seasons was Wood’s cut fastball, which was lost a mile an hour in velocity and was far less effective in 2014. In general, though, the best way to explain the difference between the two seasons is that Wood wasn’t nearly as good as his 2013 ERA, nor as bad as his ERA last year.

Wood’s team has changed as well. Even if Wood hadn’t had a strong-looking 2013 season, he would have had utility on the 2014 Cubs, which looked poised to unload veteran starters like Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and (if he had pitched well) Edwin Jackson. Having an innings eater like Wood makes sense when facing that kind of upheaval, and if Wood had somehow repeated his 2013 performance, he would have had trade value himself.

2015 is different. Jake Arrieta emerged during the 2014 season as a top young starter, and Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada had unexpectedly strong seasons as well. The Cubs are likely to continue to give chances to Jacob Turner, and Jackson is also still under contract. There’s also Eric Jokisch, Felix Doubront and Dan Straily as potential rotation candidates. And then, of course, the Cubs are expected to be major players for free agent pitching and could perhaps add two hurlers this offseason. Despite the wide variance in Wood’s ERAs, he’s essentially a back-end lefty who can soak up innings. That makes him useful, but perhaps not for the 2015 Cubs, who will have plenty of options who are either better or who have more upside.

Then, of course, there’s Wood’s salary. The Frontline client’s strong 2013 numbers set a relatively high baseline for his salaries during his arbitration years, and he’s projected to make $5.5MM in 2015. Many teams would likely see $5.5MM as more than Wood is worth, so it’s doubtful he has much trade value. Teams like the Braves, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Rangers, Twins or White Sox could have interest in Wood, but perhaps not so much that they’re willing to give up $5.5MM and trade talent to get him, particularly not so early in the offseason.

One factor working against Wood is that the free agent market for pitching is rather strong, particularly in comparison with the rest of the market. The non-tender deadline is December 2, and plenty of higher-upside arms will surely remain on the free agent market then. The most likely outcome, therefore, might be that the Cubs non-tender Wood, and he signs elsewhere later in the offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Quick Hits: Wood, Gattis, Cubs, ChiSox

The Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have been working on “clarification” of the rule preventing collisions at home plate, sources tell ESPN’s Jayson Stark.  The two sides hope any uncertainty concerning how catchers can block the plate can be cleared up before any pennant races or postseason games are impacted, though rulings in several games earlier this year have already left many managers and players confused.

Here’s some more from around baseball as we kick off the week…

  • The Royals will place right-hander Blake Wood on waivers tomorrow, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter link).  Wood was designated for assignment last week.
  • Evan Gattis has been a big part of the Braves‘ lineup, but the catcher’s defensive limitations could see the club trade him to an AL team, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (AJC subscription required).  Gattis could be better served by a regular DH role, while the Braves could trade him for a long-term outfield solution given that Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are both only signed through 2015.  Gattis played some left field himself in 2013, though he was a defensive liability there as well.
  • It doesn’t seem likely that the 2015 Cubs rotation will feature both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers writes.  The Cubs may be stuck with Jackson due to his contract, though Wood is only on a one-year, $3.9MM deal (with two years of arbitration eligibility left).  Wood has a 5.15 ERA in 162 2/3 IP this season and could be a non-tender candidate, though he still has some value as an innings-eater.
  • The White Sox have some holes to fill in the rotation, bullpen and lineup, yet Grantland’s Jonah Keri sees them as a possible sleeper team for 2015.  The Sox have lots of payroll space to address those issues and build around their core of Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton.
  • A veteran player suggests to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that players who fail two PED tests should be limited to one-year contracts for the remainder of their career.  This would be a deterrent against players with one suspension on their record potentially using PEDs again in the hopes of scoring a big multiyear deal.  As the veteran put it, “If I was someone who had been suspended before, why wouldn’t I use again?  If you’ve robbed a bank before and you see that you could again and still walk away with millions, why wouldn’t you?
  • Also from Olney, he feels the Rockies have “an easy decision” to decline Brett Anderson‘s $12MM option for 2015, as the team can’t afford to commit that much payroll space to a pitcher with Anderson’s injury history.  This would likely end Anderson’s tenure in Colorado, as Olney notes he wouldn’t accept a cheaper one-year deal from the Rockies when he could rebuild his value elsewhere in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.
  • Several key members of the Giants and Tigers hail from Venezuela, and FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi looks at how both teams approach scouting and development in the country.

Extension Notes: Lester, Masterson, Wood

Extension season is unquestionably upon us, with several notable deals going down in recent days. What else might be forthcoming? Last year, between February 17th and April 4th, major league clubs committed a cool $641.4MM to extend nine players over a total of 45 years.

We just took a look at the latest on Chase Headley and the Padres, who seem at a standstill as the third baseman approaches his walk year. Yesterday, we heard that the Reds and Homer Bailey could be approaching a lengthy new deal. Here are some more notes on potential extension situations around the game:

  • The Red Sox have yet to initiate extension talks with Jon Lester, the lefty said today. As Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports, however, Lester remains unconcerned. The 30-year-old indicated that he was willing to talk through the season. "If it's something we do get done in Spring Training, great," said Lester. "If it's not, I think you have to take everything as it comes. If that involves going through the season still talking or getting it done early, you have to play it by ear." He also made clear that he stands by earlier statements that he hopes to reach a deal to stay in Boston, but did not promise a breezy negotiation. "I'm not going to go back on what I said," Lester explained. "I said what I said from the heart and I mean it. We'll see where it goes from there. We've still got a long way to go. It's going to be a tough process."
  • Justin Masterson and the Indians are making final preparations for their arbitration hearing on Thursday, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But Masterson — who will become a free agent in 2014 if he does not reach a new deal — indicated that he was still hoping to talk out of the adversarial process. Though apparently aimed at his 2014 salary, rather than long-term possibilities, Masterson's comments were interesting. "We're seeing if it's possible if we can make something happen before we leave [for the arbitration hearing]," said Masterson. "We're trying to see if we're being too stubborn or not. We're trying to be smart and reasonable. We're definitely moving a little bit here and there to see what can happen."
  • After posting a breakout year just in time for his first season of arbitration eligiblity, Cubs hurler Travis Wood says that he has had little dialogue about an extension, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (subscription link). After landing a $3.9MM contract to avoid arbitration, it does not sound as if Wood is expecting further discussions before the start of the season. "We'll see what happens," said Wood. "I would love to stay here, but right now we've got to get focused on spring and get ready for the season." 


Cubs, Travis Wood Avoid Arbitration

The Cubs have avoided arbitration with lefty Travis Wood, according to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com (on Twitter). The Frontline client receives a one-year, $3.9MM contract that is slightly north of the $3.875MM midpoint between the figures submitted by the two sides.

Wood, who turns 27 in two weeks, enjoyed a breakout season for the Cubs in 2013 when he posted a 3.11 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in an even 200 innings. That performance netted him his first All-Star nod, though his so-so K/BB ratio and extreme fly-ball tendencies — Wood's 44.5 percent fly-ball rate was third among qualified starters — lead ERA estimators such as xFIP and SIERA to peg him for a 4.50 ERA going forward.

As shown in MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, Wood filed for a $4.25MM salary, and the Cubs countered at $3.5MM. Wood, who has three years, four days of service time will be eligible for arbitration twice more before hitting free agency following the 2016 campaign. Mooney adds in a separate tweet that he hears Wood's preference is to go year-to-year with the Cubs rather than discuss a long-term deal.

With Wood's case resolved, the Cubs will turn their focus to settling with second baseman Darwin Barney, outfielder Justin Ruggiano and righty Jeff Samardzija, each of whom exchanged figures with the Cubs last week as well.


Travis Wood Hopes For Extension From Cubs

Left-hander Travis Wood has been with the Cubs for just over 18 months after being acquired in a rare intra-division trade that saw the Reds send Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes to Chicago in exchange for setup ace Sean Marshall. However, as Wood explained to Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com, he'd like to be wearing a Cubs uniform significantly longer. Wood told Hayes that he hopes to be considered a core component and receive an extension similar to the ones signed by Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro in the past year:

“Theo and Jed and them are moving in the right direction,” Wood said. “We’ve got a great group of guys there, and everybody plays hard and as of late we’ve played solid ball. … I’d love to be a part of the core group and stay around Chicago for a while, but that’s out of my hands.”

The 26-year-old Wood has enjoyed a breakout campaign with the Cubs thus far in 2013, pitching to a 2.79 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 33.7 percent ground-ball rate. Advanced metrics like FIP (3.59), xFIP (4.40) and SIERA (4.45) all suggest that Wood's ERA should be higher than its current mark. He will be arbitration-eligible for the first time following this season and is under team control through the 2016 season.

Wood's former teammate Joey Votto offered high praise for Wood within Hayes' piece, stating that he always thought highly of the left-hander and that he feels it's unfortunate Wood didn't enjoy this level of success in Cincinnati.


Central Notes: Reds, Cubs, Morneau

Here are a few notes from around baseball's Central divisions:

  • With the Reds welcoming the division-rival Cubs for a three-game set on the same day that Cincinnati reliever Sean Marshall made another DL trip, Hal McCoy of the Dayton Times looked back on the December 2011 deal between these clubs that put Marshall in the Reds' pen. Travis Wood, the primary piece going to Chicago in that trade, is off to a sparkling start to the year with a 2.24 ERA over 60 1/3 innings. While he has posted a pedestrian 5.8 K/9 to go with 2.8 BB/9, Wood has managed a stellar .928 WHIP this season, good for seventh best among starters, tied with Shelby Miller. (Of course, that mark owes to the lefty's exceedingly low .193 BABIP-against. He sports a career mark of .262; league average currently sits at .292.) Marshall, meanwhile, continues to be effective when he is healthy: he sports an ERA of just over 2.50 over his two seasons in Cincinnati. It is worth noting, as well, that the Reds' rotation is in fine shape thus far without Wood: Cinci starters own the second-best collective ERA in baseball, after the Cardinals.
  • Even if the Cubs have played better than their record, the team is looking up in the standings at a host of strong ballclubs. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club is already feeling the mid-summer trade deadline, though it remains a ways away. Manager Dale Sveum acknowledged that, while the team is still "trying to put things together where you pull off some streaks … to give yourself a chance to give yourself hope," the team "all know[s] that if we don't, there can be changes." Wittenmyer says that a number of players could be on the trading block, including starters Scott Feldman and Matt Garza, relivers Kevin Gregg and James Russell, and outfielder David DeJesus
  • The Cubs' major offseason acquisition, pitcher Edwin Jackson, has been a disappointment among an otherwise solid rotation. Nevertheless, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan reports, Jackson is in no danger of losing his starting role. Sveum said that the team is "going to stick with him," in part due to Jackson's four-year, $52MM deal. Said Sveum: "You've got a commitment there and you've got to stick with the commitment."
  • Twins first bagger Justin Morneau, a soon-to-be free agent, has not engaged in any extension talks with his team, a source tells Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com. As Morneau finishes off his six-year, $80MM deal with Minnesota, he has failed to restore the power that landed him that contract. Morneau slashed .345/.437/.628 over an injury-shortened 2010 season, but registered a .267/.333/.440 line last year and currently sits at .312/.353/.416 over 190 plate appearances this season. 

NL Notes: Shortstops, Cardinals, Bourn, Cubs, Padres

Baseball is seeing the emergence of numerous quality young shortstops at the same time, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required). Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Andrelton Simmons, Brandon Crawford, and Starlin Castro are among the young shortstops already making an impact in the big leagues. All play on National League clubs. One of these players (Castro) has already been locked up long-term, while another (Segura) is an early extension target for his club. It will be interesting to see whether and when the rest of this deep group of middle infielders are approached about extensions. Elsewhere in the National League …

  • The Cardinals, one of baseball's most storied franchises, are perhaps its best-run present organization, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Prioritizing continuity and foregoing excuses, the Cards are respected in the front office, field staff, and active roster. Sherman explains that the Cardinals' success in acquiring and developing players has been accompanied by a consistent philosophy of professionalism. This has allowed the team to weather significant injuries without missing a beat. As former manager Tony LaRussa describes it: "The Cardinals are winning because they have done things right for years to be in a position to be successful. Don't get me wrong, the Cardinals' talent level is really good, but their team chemistry is off the charts."
  • Former Phillies' prospect Michael Bourn fully bloomed after leaving the club, but thought he might return as a free agent this past offseason. As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki writes, when Bourn's asking price looked too steep, the Phils went after another center fielder in Ben Revere. By the time Bourn's price had dropped, then, the position was filled, and Bourn signed with the Indians. From his perspective, Bourn says: "I think I might have been on their hit list. I don't know how high or what their target was, or if they were worried about what Scott [Boras] was going to do. There are a lot of teams that say they want you to be part of their organization, but you don't know if they really do. … Yeah, I guess the Phillies were interested a little bit. But that's not how it went down."
  • With long-term deals locking up cornerstone infielders Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs could turn their attention to spending on pitching, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Of course, the club intends to fill two rotation spots with Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson for the foreseeable future. While Wittenmyer says that extension talks have not been planned with starter Matt Garza, the soon-to-be free agent says he would be amenable. Garza, of course, has yet to appear this season. Likewise, rotation member Travis Wood says he would love to make his career in Chicago. Though he says "that's out of my hands," Wood has done everything he can this year to lock down a spot going forward. If nothing else, he is setting himself up nicely for his first season of arbitration eligibility. As manager Dale Sveum noted, and Wittenmyer documented, Wood has posted a 3.50 ERA and logged 192 2/3 innings over his last 31 starts (extending into last year).
  • The Padres have several players in their minor league system whose contracts contain out clauses that are approaching, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Pitcher Tim Stauffer can elect free agency on June 1, while fellow righty Sean O'Sullivan's date is June 15. It was previously believed that both pitchers had opt-out dates around June 1. Other players with June 15 opt-out dates are catcher Rene Rivera and outfielder Travis Buck. Each has made a reasonable case in Triple-A that they can contribute. Stauffer has pitched to a 3.16 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. O'Sullivan's ERA is 4.19 across 43 innings, but he has put up 8.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. Meanwhile, Rivera has a .375/.430/.477 line in 101 plate appearances, and Buck has hit .275/.321/.480 in 112 appearances. 

Anthony Rizzo Extension Reactions

The Cubs made their seven-year, $41MM extension of Anthony Rizzo official earlier today and will hold a press conference to announce the move at 3pm. Rizzo and the Cubs are the talk of the blogosphere right now, so here are some media reactions from around the web…

  • The Cubs are preparing to market Rizzo as the new face of the franchise, writes Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The contract also shows Rizzo's desire to be a Cub for life, as Rizzo would surely have made more going year to year. Sullivan adds that Jeff Samardzija is now likely the next extension target for the Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, and Travis Wood may not be far behind.
  • Both sides have received security in this deal, writes Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, who adds that Rizzo may not have to wait until this deal's completion to sign a new contract. Rogers points to Evan Longoria, who signed a new $100MM extension midway through his last conract and says that Rizzo can likely expect that kind of treatment from Hoyer and Epstein if he remains productive.
  • Rizzo's new contract "looks fantastic" for the Cubs in the mind of SB Nation's Rob Neyer. Neyer goes on to point out that the Cubs control Rizzo's age 23-31 seasons for roughly $7.5MM per year, and that those are typically the best seasons of any player's career.
  • Part of the reason the Cubs thought it prudent to extend Rizzo was that he stood to make a considerable amount of money as a Super Two player, says Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Sherman points to the case of fellow Super Two player Hunter Pence, whose four arbitration years cost $34.6MM. The Cubs were able to secure control of three free agent years by guaranteeing just $7MM more than that.
  • Yet again, it looks like Hoyer will come out as the victor in a deal involving Rizzo, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. Hoyer was an Assistant GM with the Red Sox when Rizzo was drafted, the Padres GM when they acquired Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, and the GM of the Cubs when they acquired him from the Padres for Andrew Cashner last year.
Zach Links contributed to this post.

Cubs Notes: Epstein Deal, Garza, Jackson, Wood

The Cubs made some cuts today, sending Jason Jaramillo to minor league camp and optioning Alberto Cabrera, Jeff Beliveau, John Gaub, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake and Matt Szczur to the minors. Here are some Cubs-related news items as the countdown to Opening Day continues…

  • Right-hander Aaron Kurcz has been told that he is going to the Red Sox as part of the Theo Epstein compensation package, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).  Kurcz, an 11th round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, posted a 3.28 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 rate in 32 games for Class A Daytona last season.  After months of negotiation, the Cubs and Sox agreed to righty Chris Carpenter and a player to be named later (Kurcz) as the price for the year remaining on Epstein's Boston contract.  The Red Sox still need to send a player to the Cubs to complete the deal.
  • The Cubs will take the time to get to know Matt Garza before determining whether to sign him long-term or trade him, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets. The right-hander's on track to hit free agency following the 2013 season.
  • There's no everyday job for Cubs outfield prospect Brett Jackson, but he has impressed his new manager nonetheless, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. "It’s been pretty impressive, every part of his game," manager Dale Sveum said. Jackson figures to open the season in the minors and work on his approach at the plate.
  • Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune wonders what the Cubs will do with left-hander Travis Wood if he doesn't make the rotation. The Cubs could put Wood in the bullpen or send him to the minor leagues. 
  • Sveum added that Rule 5 selection Lendy Castillo has been "throwing great," Sullivan writes.

Reds Acquire Sean Marshall For Travis Wood, Others

The Reds have already improved their starting rotation with the addition of Mat Latos this offseason, and now they've bolstered the bullpen. In a rare intra-division trade, Cincinnati has acquired lefty reliever Sean Marshall from the Cubs for Travis WoodDave Sappelt, and Ronald Torreyes. Both teams have announced the trade.

Icon_12006098Marshall, 29, has established himself as one of the game's top left-handed relievers. He posted a 2.26 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 57.5% ground ball rate in 2011. He'll earn $3.1MM during the 2012 season, after which he's eligible for free agency. The Reds have been looking for a closer, but it's not clear how they'll use Marshall and how his presence will affect Cincinnati's interest in relievers such as Francisco Cordero.

Wood is a 24-year-old left-hander who's under team control through 2016. He posted a 4.84 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 with a 32.1% ground ball rate in 106 innings for the Reds this past season. Though he added value in '11, he didn't match his 2010 numbers: a 3.51 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 102 2/3 innings.

Sappelt, a 24-year-old outfielder, hit .243/.289/.318 in 118 plate appearances for Cincinnati last year, his big league debut. He produced a .313/.377/.458 batting line in 336 plate appearances for their Triple-A affiliate in 2011. Torreyes, a 19-year-old infielder, posted a .356/.398/.457 batting line in 306 plate appearances at the Low Class-A level this past season. Baseball America ranked Sappelt and Torreyes as the Reds'20th and 22nd best prospects in last year's Prospect Handbook, respectively.

Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago broke the news of the trade agreement while ESPN's Keith Law later added details (on Twitter). Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.