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Troy Tulowitzki Rumors
Dee Gordon is running out of both time and positions to play in his quest to prove that he belongs at the Major League level, writes Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times. The Dodgers moved Gordon from shortstop to second base this season, and while reviews said he wasn't as much of a liability at second base, they're now working him out in center field as well. The Dodgers aren't willing to give up on Gordon yet, says Dilbeck, but his best shot at sticking in L.A. looks to be in a utility capacity. Here's more from the NL West…
- In a separate piece, Dilbeck opines that the Dodgers need to have a contingency plan in place at second base, as it's too risky to assume that recently signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero is ready to immediately dive into the Majors. He notes that Gordon could start there, but that plan would also have a great deal of uncertainty.
- Rockies senior vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett made an appearance with Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio this morning. Asked by Bowden how he would react if the Cardinals came knocking with an "overwhelming" offer for superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Geivett said he'd have to listen but added, "we're not doing anything with Tulo." Geivett went on to add that his top three priorities this offseason are starting pitching, a late-inning impact reliever and a corner bat (Twitter links).
- MLB.com's Chris Haft spoke with Ryan Vogelsong's agent, Dave Meier, who said that his client's preference is to remain with the Giants. According to Haft, the Giants will shop for a starting pitcher this offseason, but adding two starters will be difficult. The Giants have until tomorrow to decide whether or not to exercise a $6.5MM option on Vogelsong or pay him a $300K buyout.
The World Series continues tonight in St. Louis with the Cardinals holding a 2-1 lead over the Red Sox after Game 3's controversial ending. Even though their season is still in progress, many are already anticipating the Cardinals' offseason needs and shortstop sits atop that list. Earlier today, Troy Tulowitzki's name was mentioned as a possible target. Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post writes Tulo would fit perfectly in St. Louis with the Rockies' haul starting with first baseman Matt Adams and some mix of outfielder Stephen Piscotty, second baseman Kolten Wong and reliever Carlos Martinez. Renck, however, doesn't expect such a mega-deal because Rockies owner Dick Monfort has stated Tulowitzki will not be traded. Elsewhere from MLB's Central Divisions:
- The Cubs will interview Torey Lovullo shortly after the conclusion of the World Series, reports the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer. The Cubs have yet to request permission to speak with the Red Sox's bench coach, sources from both organizations tell Wittenmyer.
- Within the same article, multiple industry sources say Padres bench coach Rick Renteria appears to be the favorite to land the Cubs' job.
- The Tigers face the same challenge the Cardinals did two years ago when Tony LaRussa retired, opines John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. If Dave Dombrowski follows the blueprint of John Mozeliak, Lowe reasons Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon will likely replace Jim Leyland as manager.
- Earlier today, I posted some Indians notes on Chris Perez, Jake Westbrook, and Corey Hart.
The Dodgers announced this week that Matt Kemp underwent surgery to repair the A-C joint in his left shoulder. Kemp, who was ruled out for the postseason due to an ankle injury, is expected to be ready for Spring Training, at which point the Dodgers will possess an interesting outfield logjam due to the presence of Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Here's more out of the NL West…
- On yesterday's Baseball Tonight Podcast, ESPN's Buster Olney told colleague Tim Kurkjian that the Dodgers are expected to be the most aggressive team in pursuing a trade for David Price this offseason. A Price acquisition would give the Dodgers an unthinkably dominant front four of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Price and Hyun-jin Ryu. Olney also names the Mariners and Rangers as possibilities, though he questions whether or not Price would want to sign an extension in Seattle.
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort says Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are staying put, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post. "The plan is to keep them. Next year, yes. And my plan is to always keep them," Monfort said. "Is that the smartest thing in the world to do? I don't know. But for our fans I think it's the best thing to do."
- Monfort also noted to Renck that the Rockies' payroll is expected to rise from this year's mark of $83.7MM to the $90-95MM range in 2014. He would like the team to add a starting pitcher and another big bat this offseason. MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at the club's needs in the Colorado installment of the offseason outlook series.
- MLB.com's Jim Callis called Rockies 2013 first-rounder Jonathan Gray "the class of the 2013 draft," saying that he has a higher ceiling than that of fellow Top 3 picks Mark Appel (Astros) and Kris Bryant (Cubs). Callis notes that the Rockies have had trouble developing pitching, but opines that Gray has clear ace potential and could reach the Majors in a hurry.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Kevin Gregg blasted the Cubs after misunderstanding comments from manager Dale Sveum and president Theo Epstein said it was possible that he would release the veteran. However, the Cubs decided over the weekend to accept Gregg's apology for the incident and will hang on to him, writes Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune. Here's more from around baseball..
- The Rockies are not shopping all-stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, sources with direct knowledge of the club's plans told Troy Renck of the Denver Post. There's still a very small possibility that one will be dealt to address multiple needs, but there is zero likelihood that both will be moved. Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that Rockies ownership doesn't have much interest in moving either player.
- Also from Renck, he expects the Cardinals to pursue a trade for Tulowitzki this offseason.
- After being shut down for the season, Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick is now shifting his focus towards 2014 and thinking about where he could be pitching next season, writes Kevin Roberts for MLB.com. Kendrick, who made $4.5MM this season, will be eligible for salary arbitration this offseason.
- Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review puts the spotlight on Dan Fox, the man who built the Pirates' analytical department.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new video up outlining potential hot stove moves this offseason. Let's take a look:
- The Rockies' ownership doesn't have much interest in trading Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki, though Gonzalez would be more likely to be traded if the club does decide to make a move. The Rangers, with their stocks of young pitching and middle infielders, could be a partner. If on offer in such a deal, Jurickson Profar could handle second base for the Rockies, and could shift to shortstop if the team eventually moves Tulo off of the position. We heard last week that the Mets have interest in CarGo.
- The Dodgers are expected to trade one of their "big four" – Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier or Yasiel Puig – according to rival executives speaking with Rosenthal. Puig is, of course, the least likely to be moved.
- The Rays are expected to consider trading David Price over the winter, with Rosenthal again suggesting the Rangers as a team to keep an eye on, noting that Texas had two scouts on hand to watch a recent Price start in Minnesota. The Cubs could also be interested, though their farm system is stronger in position players than it is in pitchers.
- One major league exec suggests that the pressures of impending free agency and closing for a contender have affected the Cardinals' Edward Mujica. A longtime setup man, Mujica was suddenly positioned on the verge of a "major payday" after taking on the Cards' closer role, Rosenthal says.
Todd Helton recently announced that he will retire after the 2013 season, providing an opportunity to reflect on his excellent career. Helton will spend his entire big-league tenure with one team, a rarity in this era, and that's due at least in part to the gigantic $142MM extension he signed in 2001.
Helton has had a textbook career path. He reached the Majors at age 23, improved through his first three seasons, and peaked from ages 26 through 30, then began a long, gradual decline phase, playing less and less effectively as his power, and then his ability to hit for average, deserted him. His career has also been typical in that he was dramatically underpaid for many of his best years and overpaid for many of his worst ones. Helton produced 8.3 wins above replacement as a 26-year-old in 2000, when he made $1.3MM. He produced between 5.5 and 7.1 WAR in all of the next four seasons, then never topped 4.4 WAR again.
Helton's massive contract did not kick in until 2003, which means that the Rockies paid $142MM and only got two seasons above 4.4 WAR. For the life of the contract, the Rockies received 30 WAR over nine years. That's not a terrible total, but it's not a good one either, given that a win on the free-agent market in, say, 2005 was worth much less than the $5-6MM it's worth now. Fangraphs' dollar values suggest that Helton was worth $105MM over the life of the contract, about $37MM less than he was paid. (Helton would have been arbitration-eligible in 2003, also, which means he also might have made a hair less in that season, one of his best in the entire contract, than the $10.6MM the extension paid him.)
The deal also made Helton one of MLB's highest-paid players even though the Rockies have never really been a high-payroll team, and there were several years in which Helton's contract made up about a quarter of the Rockies' Opening Day payroll. The Rockies made the playoffs twice and had three winning seasons over the life of the contract.
None of that is Helton's fault. He was an outstanding player in his prime and a pretty good one in his 30s, and the Rockies just happened to pay too heavily for him. It was a little surprising, then, that as they watched Helton's decline years unfold, they signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to another bank-busting contract.
Tulowitzki's contract was, in a way, even more remarkable than Helton's, in that the Rockies committed to it in late 2010 even though they already had Tulowitzki under control through 2014, after which he would be 30 years old. The Rockies effectively committed $119MM in new money to cover the 2015 through 2020 seasons, ending right around Tulowitzki's 36th birthday. From 2015 through 2019, Tulowitzki will make $20MM per year. For much of that time, they'll also have Carlos Gonzalez's backloaded $80MM contract to contend with. Gonzalez agreed to his deal, which essentially bought out four pre-free-agency seasons at $27MM and three free-agent years for $53MM, five weeks after Tulowitzki got his.
Tulowitzki's performance since he signed the contract has revealed both its potential upside and its potential downside. If he continues to play as he has in 2013, when he has produced 5.5 WAR, the contract will be a bargain. But as he ages, it will be difficult to sustain that level of performance, particularly if he suffers more injuries like the groin strain that caused him to miss much of the 2012 season.
So why did the Rockies sign Tulowitzki to such an enormous extension? "It was the right thing to do," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said at the time. "We believe in character, team and integrity."
The extension reportedly grew out of a broader conversation between Tulowitzki and O'Dowd. "The maturity of understanding the continuity and stability of things and what he's trying to become as a man led me to say to our owner, 'I think maybe we should explore this right now,'" O'Dowd said. The Rockies evidently believe that character, maturity and other intangibles are very valuable. Many teams talk about the importance of character, but there's ample reason to believe it when the Rockies are doing the talking.
Of course, keeping a star player in a market surely has financial value in merchandise sales and fan loyalty. That kind of value is difficult to measure for us outsiders, but the Rockies surely have some idea what kind of loyalty value the Helton extension has provided, and how keeping Tulowitzki around for several more years might benefit them beyond just his performance on the field. Regardless, it's difficult to imagine how those sorts of tough-to-measure benefits might compensate for the $37MM the Rockies appear to have overpaid Helton for his performance from 2003 through 2011, and the Rockies' performance as a team over that period hasn't helped answer those questions.
Tulowitzki is a different player, obviously, and his extension may turn out well. In fact, it's less risky than Helton's was. The $20MM annual salaries for 2015 through 2019 are high, but they aren't that high when one accounts for salary inflation. If a win is worth $5-6MM now, it could easily be worth $6-7MM in, say, 2018, which means that Tulowitzki would only need to provide about 3 WAR annually to make the deal a decent one for the Rockies. (It's hard to say for sure how new TV deals will continue to affect the salary landscape, but the Rockies' expires in 2014.) There's also the fact that Tulowitzki plays good defense, or at least he does now — his ability to field at a premium position should prevent the contract from being a complete debacle.
Of course, that assumes he stays healthy. Tulowitzki missed significant chunks of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 seasons with injuries, and players tend not to get healthier as they get older. Sports Illustrated's Joe Lemire points out the parallels between Tulowitzki and Nomar Garciaparra, who suffered from a number of injuries and never put up a star-caliber season after age 29. As Lemire also points out, though, Derek Jeter also had an enormous contract that carried him through his mid-30s, and he played very well until almost the very end of it.
Unless the Rockies substantially raise their payroll in the coming years, the Tulowitzki extension does represent a risk. Tulowitzki's injuries could continue to be a problem as he enters his 30s, a decade that is generally unkind to ballplayers anyway. Unlike Helton's contract, though, Tulowitzki's deal won't make him one of the sport's highest-paid players, and Tulowitzki won't have to perform at quite as high a level as Helton would have to justify the contract.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman may be forced to play the bad guy role again as the club considers how they'll address Derek Jeter given the captain's age and durability issues, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Three scouts and three executives polled by Harper each said they believe Cashman will acquire an everyday shortstop this offseason, as they don't believe Jeter will be able to handle the position and the Yankees don't have acceptable alternatives. "He’ll be a 40-year old shortstop who already had limited range," one executive said, noting Jeter's injured ankle. "If you’re the GM, it’s your responsibility to make the tough decision for the good of the ballclub.” Here's more notes from around the majors' eastern divisions…
- The majority of the six baseball people who Harper spoke with suggested shortstop Stephen Drew as a potential free agent acquisition for the Yankees. While Drew has posted a solid .249/.331/.436 line this season and would be a good fit for Yankee Stadium, signing with the Yanks would place him in a delicate situation. "Would Drew — or anyone else — want to sign on as the guy pushing an unwilling Jeter into a role where he would DH mostly and play short only occasionally?" Harper asks.
- The Mets covet the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, and one executive familiar with the Rockies' thinking tells Harper they're likely to listen to offers for the star outfielder. However, a trade appears unlikely, as the Rockies want young position players and aren't interested in what the Mets can offer in that regard. Colorado may also consider offers for Troy Tulowitzki, Harper says.
- CC Sabathia's 4.90 ERA would be the second-worst mark in Yankees history by a pitcher to surpass the 200 inning threshold, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. “I have always been bend-but-don’t-break, and I have broken a lot this year,” Sabathia commented. Sherman says Sabathia has adjusted his delivery in order to better stay on top of the ball so that his fastball does not cut toward the middle of the plate.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson is on track to become the first GM in club history to post increasing loss totals in each of his first three seasons from the team he inherited, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. The team clinched its fifth consecutive losing season in dropping today's game with the Marlins.
- The Phillies have no plans for recent Cuban acquisition Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to pitch competitively this season, Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer says. The team sees Gonzalez sliding into the third slot of their 2014 rotation behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. "We just want to see where he's at," assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. "We want to get him assimilated into our organization and be ready to go for spring training."
- The Red Sox have yet to broach the subject of Jon Lester's next contract, GM Ben Cherington revealed in an interview with WEEI.com. "We just feel like those issues are better left for after we’re done playing, which hopefully is several weeks from now," Cherington said. We recently heard that the Sox are "all but certain" to pick up their $13MM option on Lester for next year.
Expect to hear a lot of rumors about the Cardinals' shortstop vacancy until Opening Day and beyond, as earlier today GM John Mozeliak left the door open for the team to pursue outside help if the Cards' internal options aren't up to the task. Here are the latest items about the 11-time World Series champions…
- The Cardinals haven't called the Rockies about Troy Tulowitzki, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets, though such a call would've probably been moot since Colorado has no interest in trading its star shortstop. If St. Louis does acquire a new shortstop, I'd suspect it would be a player who comes at a much lower price than Tulowitzki, who is owed $144MM through the 2020 season.
- Mozeliak suggested to reporters (including Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that both the Cards and right-hander Adam Wainwright would like to resolve discussions regarding a possible contract extension by Opening Day. Talks are ongoing, according to Mozeliak, who said yesterday that he’s optimistic about reaching a deal.
- Losing both Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal for the season could turn 2013 into a transition year for the Cardinals, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. The Redbirds' biggest asset is its young pitching, but with the team still figuring out the best roles for its young arms, Gordon thinks the Cardinals might prefer to keep those pitchers for the short term rather than trade them for a shortstop any time soon.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post
Four years ago today, the Rockies avoided arbitration with third baseman Garrett Atkins by agreeing to a one-year, $7.05MM contract making him the second-highest paid player on the team behind only Todd Helton. The Rockies, however, didn't get their money's worth. After averaging a slash line of .301/.363/.480 the previous four seasons, Atkins' 2009 numbers dropped to .226/.308/.342 and was non-tendered that winter. He played just 44 games with the Orioles in 2010 before being released midseason and hasn't seen any MLB action since. Let's take a look at the news and notes coming out of the Mile High City today:
- Coming off an injury-plagued 2012, Troy Tulowitzki was the subject of several trade rumors this offseason. "It was a weird thing – the first time I had ever had any trade rumors," Tulowitzki told MLB.com's Thomas Harding. "Any normal person is going to start to think, 'What if this? What if that?' But I can't control those things. Whatever happens, happens, but I definitely want to stay."
- Jason Giambi has received calls from a few teams and is working out five days a week, as he is determined to continue his playing career, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
- Better health of the pitching staff and improved defense are two reasons why fans should have hope for the Rockies, Renck writes within the same article. Renck cites Jhoulys Chacin as a prime candidate for a bounceback year because of his strong finish last season, his new two-year, $6.5MM contract, and a repaired relationship with the front office.
- Renck feels right-hander Chris Volstad will receive a long look in Spring Training, especially with his former Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley now working for the Rockies as their new pitching coordinator (via Sulia).
- Several teams asked the Rockies about Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, reports ESPN.com's Jayson Stark (Twitter link). The Rockies told clubs that both Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki weren't available, having not changed their stance from last month about trading their top two stars.
- The Dodgers' negotiations with Ryu Hyun-Jin will go right down to Sunday's deadline, a team source tells ESPN.com's Jim Bowden (Twitter link). Los Angeles will lose negotiating rights with the Korean left-hander if a deal can't be worked out by Sunday. The two sides were thought to be far apart on Tuesday, though the Dodgers and agent Scott Boras had exchanged offers and were continuing talks.
- The Padres are using their bullpen depth, infield depth and Jesus Guzman as trade bait, says Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of his most recent chat with readers.
- Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan told reporters (including Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News) that they looking for, respectively, a fourth guaranteed year and the most expensive possible contract, and were both happy that the Giants met their desires. “I know my age,” Scutaro said. “I was looking for the best contract. This might be my last one. When (the Giants) made the best offer, it was very exciting.”