- A.J. Burnett Expected To Miss Four Weeks With Flexor Strain
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- Dodgers, Braves, Marlins Complete 13-Player Trade
- Blue Jays Designate Danny Valencia, Ezequiel Carerra
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Travis Wood Rumors
Today’s biggest transactional news came out of Chicago, as the White Sox continued to set the stage for the future by extending outfielder Adam Eaton. The 26-year-old expressed plenty of excitement for the new deal, though it sounds as if he did not quite enjoy the process that it took to reach agreement, as Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com tweets. “I didn’t sleep much,” said Eaton. “Very stressful. I don’t know how the other side felt. It was long.”
Let’s have a look at a few more notes from the central divisions:
- Former Brewers closer Jim Henderson was reassigned to minor league camp today as he continues to show slow progress in his return from shoulder surgery, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Henderson has been throwing his fastball at about five to ten miles per hour below his peak mid-to-upper-90s offering from recent seasons.
- Fellow righty Corey Knebel has also been shipped to the minor league side of camp by the Brewers, writes McCalvy, leaving Chris Perez, Tyler Thornburg, and Rob Wooten to battle over the final pen role. Perez is in camp on a minor league deal and has Article XX(B) protection, meaning that the team will either need to put him on the active roster, pay him a $100K bonus in the minors (and give him a June 1 opt-out date), or release him. The other two players still have options.
- Cubs skipper Joe Maddon says he is talking with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about a creative means to fit both Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood on the 25-man roster, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets. Jackson is in the midst of a substantial free agent contract, while Wood is out of options. A transaction would be necessary should either player not make the club out of camp.
Francisco Rodriguez still has to pass a physical with the Brewers before he can have his deal officially announced, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. However, Rodriguez is still getting his visa sorted out and is therefore experiencing a delay in the process. The Brewers, of course, re-signed Rodriguez to a two-year, $13MM deal to serve as their closer once again.
Here’s more from the National League Central…
- Luis Jimenez, who is out of options, is competing with Luis Sardinas and Hector Gomez for a utility infield role with the Brewers, writes Haudricourt. Jimenez and Gomez may have the upper hand, but if Sardinas hits and proves himself to be capable at third base, Jimenez could be squeezed out of a roster spot. The Brewers have two bench spots to be filled by these three players, writes Haudricourt, but going with Sardinas would of course lead to the risk of losing Jimenez on waivers at the end of Spring Training.
- Reds reliever Burke Badenhop tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that he found the free agent process “nerve-racking” despite being pleased with the results. “I continued to fall back on the point that we knew what was out there,” said Badenhop, “kind of where I fit in the market. It’s kind of a funky spot, not really crystal clear. Nobody that was ahead of me was getting worse deals than I thought I should have got and nobody behind me was getting better deals.”
- The role of Cubs‘ fifth starter is “for all practical purposes” Travis Wood‘s to lose, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers wrote yesterday. The Cubs have Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks in the front four slots, with Wood, Edwin Jackson and Tsuyoshi Wada competing for the fifth slot. Rogers does note that Jackson or Wada could force their way into the role, but it seems likely that at least one of the three candidates for the final spot will be traded this spring, in Rogers’ estimation. I have a difficult time seeing any club agreeing to take on Jackson’s remaining $22MM; a release may be the more likely outcome, though that’s a large chunk of money for any team to swallow. For those wondering, Wood will earn just under $5.7MM in 2015 and is controllable through the 2016 season via arbitration, while Wada is earning $4MM this season on a one-year deal.
Ryan Madson, who’s in Royals camp and who faced live batters for the first time in a year and a half on Sunday, encountered plenty of obstacles as he battled back from Tommy John surgery, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star writes. Madson, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2011, ultimately spent the 2014 season out of baseball. But he got the urge to come back after Royals special assistant Jim Fregosi, Jr. enlisted him to help instruct a Southern California high school pitcher. Madson does not have any limitations in camp this spring, although it’s unclear whether he’ll be available to join the Royals’ bullpen once the season starts. Here’s more from the Central divisions.
- Cubs pitcher Travis Wood hasn’t been given a heads-up from the team on the likelihood of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times tweets. “If I get traded, I get traded. It’s part of the business,” Wood said. At present, Wood figures to battle for the fifth spot in the rotation alongside Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks, of course, make up the Cubs’ front four.
- The Cubs trading Welington Castillo is not a foregone conclusion, as President Theo Epstein says the team is considering keeping three catchers, tweets Bruce Levine of 670theScore.com.
- Yadier Molina has lost 15-20 pounds this offseason after injuries limited the Cardinals catcher to 110 games and forced him to miss the final three games of the NLCS, reports Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Molina has three years and an option remaining on his contract and expects to play beyond its length. “Oh, my God. I’m 32 years old. I’ll play as long as my body lets me. Who knows? Maybe I’ll catch 10 more years. You don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows.“
- In a separate article, Hummel details how Cardinals reliever Randy Choate has expressed his frustration to manager Mike Matheny about being used for complete innings (and being exposed to right-handed hitters) rather than in his specialty of lefty-on-lefty situations. Matheny says the confines of a 25-man roster prevents using a player in such a limited way. “You can’t completely cater to one guy if it’s going to beat up two other guys where they can’t do their job. How does that work?“
- Cardinals infielder Pete Kozma, who is fighting for a roster spot and is out of options, is increasing his versatility by donning the tools of ignorance with hopes of serving as the team’s emergency catcher, according to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch.
Diamondbacks right-hander Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has hired Rick Thurman and Nate Heisler of the Beverly Hills Sports Council as his new agents, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). The 18-year-old struggled greatly in his pro debut last year but still ranked as the D-Backs’ No. 5 prospect, per Baseball America and Fangraphs, and No. 98 overall in the game, per MLB.com. Toussaint’s change has been reflected in the MLBTR Agency Database, which contains agent information for more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. Agents, if you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some more notes from around the Senior Circuit…
- David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com expects the Cubs to move Welington Castillo and possibly Travis Wood before the team heads to Arizona for Spring Training (Twitter link). The Phillies are one of multiple teams that have shown interest, according to Kaplan. Castillo has been displaced as a starter with the addition of Miguel Montero, and the team has also added David Ross as a backup option as well. Wood figures to battle for the team’s fifth starter spot, as Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks are the likely front four in the rotation. The Cubs also have Tsuyoshi Wada and Felix Doubront as options for the fifth spot.
- Mike Minor and the Braves have an arbitration hearing set for Feb. 19, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That’s just one day before pitchers and catchers are slated to report to Spring Training. Minor filed for a $5.6MM salary, while the team countered at $5.1MM, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.
- Kyle Kendrick tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that he had interest from multiple teams before signing with the Rockies. Though it’s clearly not a favorable environment for a pitcher, Kendrick praised the Rockies’ offense and defense as reasons to sign with the team.
With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
- The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
- Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
- Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
- The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
- ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
- Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
- Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
- Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
- Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
- Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
- Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.
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While we wait to learn about the finalization of the deal sending Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers, let’s check in on the latest out of Philadelphia:
- The Phillies have asked the Cubs about lefty Travis Wood, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports in a broader piece about the Cubs. Philadelphia could be a match for displaced starting backstop Welington Castillo, Wittenmyer also mentions. It seems to me that Philadelphia would probably look to move Carlos Ruiz if it added a player such as Castillo, though that is pure speculation on my part and may not be a necessity.
- Connecting the dots on the Phillies and second baseman Chase Utley, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer wonders whether the veteran might okay a trade now that the club has begun to follow up on its public declaration of a pushed-back contention timeline. Gelb recalls that Utley — who has full no-trade protection — said at last year’s All-Star game that he was “told we were going to continue to try to contend” before he inked his extension. Ultimately, Gelb calls a deal unlikely but possible, explaining several barriers including the Phillies’ disinclination to undergo a full teardown.
- The Phillies seem inclined to give Miguel Gonzalez a chance to build up as a starter next spring, Gelb also reports. Though he is far from a sure thing to join the rotation, it will be interesting to see to what extent the team’s offseason plans are impacted at all by the possibility. As things stand, it would seem that the Phils will need to add at least one starter to the books for 2015, all the more so if Cole Hamels is traded.
James Shields and his representatives met with the Rangers during the Winter Meetings, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports. Jon Daniels confirmed the meeting with reporters (including T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com) but said that it was largely a case of due diligence and because Shields lived in San Diego. “We wanted to be prepared if anything changes drastically. We enjoyed it, we like the guy a lot. In other circumstances we would like to have him. It was a function of him living out here so we took advantage of it,” Daniels said. “We’re not going to be in the top level of free agents. It would take something substantial to change to get involved with those free agents.”
Here’s some more from the Rangers camp…
- The Rangers are close to an agreement with a free agent reliever, Daniels told reporters (including Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). The pitcher is a “veteran, right-handed, one-inning reliever” who didn’t pitch for Texas last season, and Daniels hopes to have the signing completed by next week.
- Starting pitching is still the Rangers’ top priority, Daniels said, and while they likely won’t make a splash for someone like Shields, the club is keeping its payroll options open for future moves. “One of the reasons we haven’t acted on other stuff is that we want to make sure we have resources to act on pitching. We’ve elected to not spend dollars elsewhere,” Daniels said.
- In addition to their previously-reported interest in Wade Miley, Jeff Wilson reports that the Rangers have also considered a trade for Cubs lefty Travis Wood.
- The Rangers are getting a lot of interest in their No. 3 overall pick in tomorrow’s Rule 5 Draft, Wilson tweets. If Texas does decide to trade the pick, it will be for a player and not for money, Wilson said.
Tomorrow night (11pm CT) is the deadline for teams to tender or non-tender contracts to their arbitration eligible players. MLBTR has previously identified a list of non-tender candidates as well as provided projected salaries for each arbitration eligible player of the offseason (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz). In addition to those resources, you can follow along and keep track of players using our 2015 Non-Tender Tracker. We’ll cover some more of the specifics on non-tendering and arbitration tomorrow (though those who are new to the concept can check out last year’s post on explaining non-tenders), but for the time being, here are some news and notes from a few borderline cases around the league…
- The Cubs are expected to tender a contract to lefty Travis Wood despite the fact that is coming off a down season, reports ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. Wood, projected to earn $5.5MM in 2015, posted a 5.03 ERA in 173 2/3 innings. His command regressed (3.9 BB/9) but he did also see an uptick in strikeouts (7.6 K/9). Rogers notes that Wood could still be traded, as the Cubs did bring back a lefty to slot into the rotation in the form of Tsuyoshi Wada. Chicago is expected to pursue multiple starters on the free agent and trade markets this winter, so if they add enough in the way of upgrades, a team may be interested in taking on Wood at a reasonable price.
- The Angels will tender David Freese and pay him something in the range of his $6.3MM projection but are expected to non-tender Gordon Beckham, Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times writes. However, the Halos will have interest in bringing Beckham back in a utility role on a smaller deal than the $5MM he is projected to earn. Of course, Beckham will be a free agent and can field offers from other clubs, and it’s perfectly possible that in a market that’s light on infielders, another club would offer either a larger guarantee or a starting role.
- Ruben Tejada ($1.7MM projection) is expected to be tendered a contract by the Mets, but Eric Young Jr. could be cut loose, reports ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin. The Mets feel they can replicate Young’s production at a lower rate than his projected $2.3MM salary, but replacing Tejada may cost more than his modest projection. Rubin notes that the Mets feel Kirk Nieuewnhuis can be a serviceable fifth outfielder at a fraction of Young’s price. As for a fourth outfielder, they’ll look for a righty bat like Jonny Gomes or Ryan Ludwick. Presumably, either of them could handle left field versus lefty starters, with Michael Cuddyer shifting to first base to shield Lucas Duda from lefties.
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?
Actually, 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.
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.