- Brady Aiken Undergoes Tommy John Surgery
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- Trade Candidate: Juan Uribe
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The Marlins could win a playoff spot this season, writes ESPN’s Jayson Stark. They have a terrific young outfield, they made a variety of moves this offseason to upgrade their infield (adding Mike Morse, Dee Gordon and Martin Prado) and rotation (adding Mat Latos and Dan Haren), and they have an extremely high-upside unknown in Jose Fernandez, who’s returning from Tommy John surgery. The Marlins will, clearly, be swimming upstream as they chase a superstar-laden Nationals team, but perhaps a Wild Card isn’t unrealistic. Here’s more from the National League.
- The Diamondbacks could make a move to clear payroll by the end of Spring Training, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Aaron Hill and Cody Ross are candidates to be dealt, writes Rosenthal. It’s hard to imagine the D-backs would be able to unload much of the $9.5MM left on Ross’ contract, however, and Hill’s $24MM through 2016 might be only somewhat less tricky. Rosenthal suggests the team might be more likely to trade Mark Trumbo in July.
- The Cardinals have been impressed with Jaime Garcia‘s work this spring, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Garcia is competing with Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales for the Cards’ fifth starter job. “Had you and I had this conversation eight weeks ago I don’t think we’d be talking about it in the same way we are right now,” says GM John Mozeliak. “I didn’t know what to expect from him frankly, and everything we’ve seen has been very surprising. And very positive.” Garcia has, of course, had a long string of arm problems, but his strong work in Spring Training puts him in decent shape to make the rotation anyway, since the Cardinals can easily just put Martinez in the bullpen and Gonzales in the rotation at Triple-A Memphis. Having Garcia in the rotation allows them to retain their depth, and Mozeliak says the Cardinals are not interested in trading him.
Since arriving from the Athletics organization in a seemingly minor trade following the 2012 season, starting pitcher Tyson Ross has blossomed in San Diego. He followed a strong 2013 with a terrific 2014 campaign in which he posted a 2.81 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, with his only obvious blemish coming when he missed his last start due to a slight forearm strain. Ross looks like a starting pitcher the Padres can build around, and at least for now, the Padres seem to agree, declining to trade Ross and Andrew Cashner even though new GM A.J. Preller used the trade market to transform much of the rest of the team this winter.
Ross posted a 1.88 ERA in the pitcher’s haven of PETCO Park and a 3.79 ERA elsewhere in 2014, but he seems like the sort of pitcher who should be able to succeed in any home ballpark. His strikeout and walk totals are strong, and his 56.2 ground ball percentage over the past two seasons is outstanding, ranking third among pitchers who have thrown at least 300 innings in that time. He also has a mid-90s fastball, although he’s relied on that less in recent years, turning instead to a sinker and a ridiculous slider that help generate all those ground balls. If anything, his exceptional ground ball abilities are somewhat wasted in the dead air of PETCO Park.
The Padres control Ross’ rights through the 2017 season, and already the Wasserman Media Group client has established a fairly high salary baseline as a Super Two player. Ross and the Padres settled for $5.25MM this winter for 2015, his second year of arbitration eligibility. That could put him on pace to make about $25MM from 2015 through 2017, depending on how he performs in the next two seasons.
There haven’t been many recent extensions for pitchers with arbitration situations similar to Ross’. Perhaps the one that comes closest is that of Gio Gonzalez, who signed a five-year, $42MM deal with a team option and a player/vesting option three years ago. At the time of that deal, Gonzalez, also a Super Two player, was heading into his first season of arbitration eligibility, with MLBTR projecting a $4.2MM salary for that year. Ross is one year closer to free agency than Gonzalez was, and salaries have escalated throughout the game since then, so the Padres would likely have to pay more heavily than the Nationals. But a deal for Ross in the $55MM-$60MM range with a structure similar to the Gonzalez contract would seem fair. The end result might look something like Matt Harrison‘s current five-year, $55MM deal with the Rangers, which includes one club option.
If Ross has interest in a long-term contract, the circumstances would seem favorable for the Padres to sign him. San Diego has a lucrative new TV deal, and the Padres’ new ownership and seems intent on spending. And while the team has a fairly strong rotation now, they might not have one forever. Ian Kennedy is eligible for free agency after the season, and Cashner after 2016. Even with young or relatively young arms like Odrisamer Despaigne, Robbie Erlin, Matt Wisler and Casey Kelly in the system, signing at least one of Kennedy, Cashner or Ross would seem prudent — the pitcher who remains with the Padres long-term could join James Shields as a veteran rotation anchor.
Of course, with Preller, one never knows. It wasn’t he who traded for Ross, and he hasn’t yet shown strong attachments to players he didn’t acquire. (And he already traded Tyson’s brother Joe to the Nationals in the Wil Myers deal.) Preller could have his mind on something else entirely, particularly given the strong group of starting pitchers available on the free-agent market next winter. There are reasons to be somewhat cautious of Ross, too — he pitched about 60 more innings in 2014 than he did the previous year, and he has unusual mechanics and relies heavily on his slider. All those factors could make him an injury risk. But there’s little else to dislike about him, and if the Padres are comfortable with his health, perhaps the two sides can strike a deal at some point.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
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The contest goes live on April 6th — the first full day of the regular season — at 1:05pm eastern time. It’s a salary cap-style format: you get $50K to select ten players for the following slots: 2 P, 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF. Here’s a look at my lineup:
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The MLB collective bargaining agreement contains a provision that allows certain free agents who are signed to minor league contracts to receive a $100K retention bonus if they do not receive a binding promise to be added to the team’s 25-man roster (or the Major League disabled list) five days prior to the season. If the team decides to pay the retention bonus, the player also receives a June 1st opt-out clause. Contracts can permissibly include terms that are more favorable to the player, such as greater retention bonuses and/or earlier opt-out clauses.
Decisions must be made by noon EST on the fifth day prior to Opening Day. If a team does not release an Article XX(B) free agent prior to that point in time, then they must either put the player on the active roster (or DL) to start the year, or be on the hook for the benefits noted above. Last year, numerous XX(B) free agents were either added to the roster or paid the bonus by teams hoping to maintain control over the player.
There are many different ways to become a free agent, but only those players who reach free agency through Article XX(B) and certain international free agents are eligible for this added protection. There are two types of players who can qualify in this manner at the end of a season. (In either case, of course, the player must not already be a free agent; i.e., he must be on a club’s 40-man roster upon the conclusion of the World Series. Thus, John Axford — already added to the 40-man by the Rockies — did not qualify after his late-season outright.) First are those players who have accrued at least six years of Major League service time and are not under contract for the following season. Second are those players with expiring contracts who signed with an MLB club after turning 23 and after playing five seasons in one of the major international leagues. (In the below list, Kawasaki is an example.) In either case, the XX(B) free agenty must sign his minor league deal ten or more days prior to Opening Day to qualify for the added contractual protections.
Here is a list of this year’s crop of Article XX(B) free agents who have signed minor league deals and thus come within the ambit of the rule, as of today. (Several other players likely to land minor league deals could also qualify — including names like Scott Hairston and Ryan Doumit — if they sign in time.)
Angels: Matt Lindstrom
Brewers: Chris Perez
Cardinals: Carlos Villanueva
Cubs: Phil Coke
Diamondbacks: Gerald Laird
Dodgers: Mike Adams
Indians: Scott Downs
Nationals: Rich Hill
Padres: Wil Nieves
Rays: Alexi Casilla
Royals: Franklin Morales
Tigers: Joel Hanrahan
The NFL’s free agent period will officially begin in less than 24 hours, and a number of big names have already come off the board. Patriots safety Devin McCourty, Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb, and Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes all re-signed with their respective teams, while the crown jewel of 2015’s free agent class, Ndamukong Suh, appears to be headed to South Beach to join the Dolphins. Plenty of this year’s top 50 free agents are still available, and star cornerback Darrelle Revis is poised to join that group, so check in on Pro Football Rumors this week for all the latest updates!
Octagon Baseball has added a trio of veteran MLB agents with extensive experience in the Dominican Republic, the agency announced. Jay Alou Jr., Brian Mejia, and Ulises Cabrera will join a group led by Alan Nero.
The already-impressive Octagon client list will now feature some notable additional names. Between them, the newly-added agents will bring clients such as Jose Bautista, Ervin Santana, Carlos Martinez, and Yasmany Tomas into the fold. Those players will bolster an international presence that is fronted by Felix Hernandez and also includes Jose Altuve, Victor Martinez, and (most recently) Jung-ho Kang.
The NFL’s franchise tag deadline has passed, and while stars like Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, and Justin Houston received tags from their respective teams, a number of standout players are poised to hit the open market a week from today. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, safety Devin McCourty, and wideouts Jeremy Maclin and Randall Cobb are among the players who will be free to negotiate with other teams as of Saturday and to sign with new clubs next Tuesday. To prepare for the free agent madness, be sure to check out our breakdown of the market by position, and keep an eye on ProFootballRumors.com for all the latest updates.
While the 2014-15 arbitration process is complete — final results can be found here — you may have noticed that agreements between non-free agent players and teams are still being reported and announced. These deals are being arrived at with players who own 40-man spots but remain shy of the service requirements to reach arbitration eligibility. (I.e., they have less than three years of service and did not qualify as Super Two players.)
Generally, MLBTR does not cover these deals. Not only are there are dozens per team, but they have minimal bearing on the broader market. The reason is simple: the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams may simply renew pre-arb players at the league minimum (or any other desired level) if agreement on a price cannot be reached, leaving no obligation for teams to pay more and affording scarcely any leverage to the player. In other words, there is not much to see or think about.
But, as with most things, there are exceptions. Last February, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported that the Rockies had drawn the ire of some agents for only spending a few thousand dollars above the minimum. MLBTR’s Zach Links proceeded to undertake a deep dive on the subject, explaining how different teams use varying types of formulas to arrive at pre-arb salaries — many of which are informed by some combination of service time, playing time, and performance.
Sometimes teams choose to go well above the required levels of pay. The two most notable examples — Ryan Howard‘s final pre-arb salary of $900K and Mike Trout‘s $1MM pact last year — were followed by extensions. It is difficult to know whether those shows of good faith helped pave the way to longer-term deals, but the teams involved (the Phillies and Angels, respectively) obviously were motivated to go above and beyond for players who were coming off of MVP or MVP-type seasons.
In some cases, players and teams are unable to agree upon a deal, leading the team to simply renew the player at its desired value. This is in large part a symbolic matter, though as Zach and fellow MLBTR writer Steve Adams learned last year, the Astros have taken a $5K deduction (as against the team’s offer) when renewing pre-arb players who declined to reach agreement at the team’s price.
Inability to agree upon a price is but one aspect of a team’s relationship with a player, of course, but tension in the pre-arb process is certainly one possible outcome. Interestingly, Trout had his contract renewed without agreement in the season before his huge pre-arb payday, with his agent blasting the team at the time. The sides were ultimately able to come together on a nine-figure deal, with the prior years’ salaries constituting an element of the jockeying in the lead-up to that contract.
It remains to be seen whether this year will feature any particularly interesting cases. But it is worth noting that several of 2014’s top performers — Corey Kluber of the Indians, Anthony Rendon of the Nationals, and Sonny Gray of the Athletics come to mind — remain shy of arbitration eligibility.
Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said that he could envision an MLB franchise based in Mexico one day. For his part, MLBPA president Clark sounds open-minded to the concept, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes. “Anytime the industry considers growing, it lends itself to how well the industry is doing,” Clark said. “As such, players are interested in having those conversations, interested as to what it might look like. I would say players would be engaged and interested on any of those considerations.” Here’s more from around the majors..
- Cuban infielder Hector Olivera has taken physicals for a number of teams in recent weeks, including the Dodgers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). MLB has yet to declare Olivera a free agent, but teams want to be prepared for when that moment occurs (link).
- Former Twins reliever Matt Guerrier, who elected free agency in July, is still hoping to pitch in 2015, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (on Twitter). Meanwhile, the Twins have not shown interest in a reunion with the 36-year-old. The veteran righty produced a solid 3.86 ERA in 28 innings last season but struck out just 3.9 batters per nine. For his career, Guerrier owns a 3.52 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.
- Yoan Moncada‘s contract with the Red Sox reveals flaws in baseball’s system, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. The deal reveals the true market value for high-end young players and at this point, it would be difficult for MLB to spin an international draft as anything but an attempt to suppress costs for foreign amateurs.
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com wonders if the Moncada signing will push MLB even closer to an international draft.
MLBPA president Tony Clark is open to seeing Cuba host spring training games, writes Tom Withers of the Denver Post. Details could not be arranged in time for this season. Cuba was once the home of the Reds‘ Triple-A affiliate, the Havana Sugar Kings. Clark says the players understand the role baseball could play in the healing process between the United States and Cuba.
- The Diamondbacks will have Yasmany Tomas split time between third base and the outfield this spring, writes Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The club is still expressing optimism about his ability to handle third base, although manager Chip Hale acknowledged it’s a work in progress. Instead, the move is designed to maximize Tomas’ time against competitive pitching. Said Hale, “we’ve told Tomas that if there’s a day when he is not going to play third, we’re going to put him in the outfield just to get at-bats.“
- The Pirates should consider another contract extension for Andrew McCutchen, but it’s not a slam dunk, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. McCutchen is under contract for another four seasons through age 31. Sawchik compares McCutchen to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. He was also four years from free agency when he signed a nine-figure extension to remain with the Rays through the 2022 season. A similar extension for McCutchen is liable to run about $22MM to $25MM per season. As a small market club, it’s reasonable to wonder if the Pirates should pay premium dollars for post-prime seasons.