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Get in on the action by taking part in an exciting fantasy baseball contest from DraftKings! Join now for a chance to be one of the 4,625 top finishers who will get a piece of the $60K prize pool. Better yet, you can come away with a $4K top prize. It’s only $3 to enter, or you can take part for free if you make your first deposit. Click here to enter!
Putting together a daily lineup is a blast. Challenge yourself to spread $50K in salary cap space over eight position players and two pitchers. (Note that the daytime tilts are not part of the contest.)
The contest goes live tomorrow evening — Friday, April 10th — at 7:05pm EST, so get your selections made right now! After two duds in my last two contests, I’m hoping for a turnaround tomorrow:
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The Nats have enjoyed plenty of success but also plenty of disappointment over the last three years. While the club remains set up to challenge for championships in the future, 2015 is probably the last year it can do so with its current core fully intact.
Major League Signings
- Max Scherzer: seven years, $210MM (subject to complicated bonus/deferral structure; see Cot’s on Contracts for full detail)
- Casey Janssen: one year, $5MM plus club option
- Denard Span: one year, $9MM (exercised club option)
- Total spend: $224MM
Notable Minor League Signings
- Tim Alderson, Heath Bell (since released), Bruce Billings, Emmanuel Burriss, Mike Carp, Manny Delcarmen, Tony Gwynn Jr., Rich Hill, Kila Ka’aihue, Steven Lerud, Mitch Lively, Evan Meek, Mark Minicozzi, Matt Purke, Clint Robinson, Ian Stewart, Dan Uggla
Trades And Claims
- Acquired OF Matt den Dekker from Mets in exchange for RP Jerry Blevins
- Acquired IF Yunel Escobar from Athletics in exchange for RP Tyler Clippard
- Acquired SP Joe Ross, PTBNL (reportedly SS Trea Turner) from Padres in exchange for OF Steven Souza, SP Travis Ott in three-team deal also involving Rays
- Acquired IF Chris Bostick, RP Abel De Los Santos from Rangers in exchange for SP Ross Detwiler
- Acquired C Dan Butler from Red Sox in exchange for SP Daniel Rosenbaum
- Claimed RP Eric Fornataro from Cardinals
- Blevins, Asdrubal Cabrera, Clippard, Kevin Frandsen, Scott Hairston, Reed Johnson, Jeff Kobernus, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Mattheus, Ross Ohlendorf, Nate Schierholtz, Jhonatan Solano, Rafael Soriano
This offseason was obviously dominated by the team’s signing of Max Scherzer, who was installed as the Opening Day starter. But it’s hard to say that the move functioned to fill a need, so we’ll take a closer look at it below in the “Deal of Note” section.
Topping off the MLB rotation is not all the club did to bolster its future pitching ranks this offseason. The organization is loaded with arms for the post-Zimmermann era. After dealing away pitchers like Cole, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Alex Meyer, Robbie Ray, and Nate Karns over the last several offseasons, the Nats did not shed any prized young arms this winter. Instead, after signing high upside Tommy John patient Erick Fedde out of the amateur draft, the Nats added well-regarded righty Joe Ross in the Wil Myers trade.
Then again, if the wisdom of the Rays’ front office is to be trusted, perhaps that trade will ultimately become known as the Wil Myers-Steven Souza swap. Or, if Rizzo has his way, the Joe Ross-Trea Turner deal. That last piece, Turner, was the key to the gambit from the Nats’ perspective, even if he remains an as-yet unnamed part of the transaction. The speedy young shortstop figures to be the long-term replacement for Ian Desmond, though he’ll need to show a lot in 2015 at the Double-A level to enter the big league picture for the start of next season.
To bolster things up the middle in the meantime, the Nats shipped one of the game’s most consistent set-up men, Tyler Clippard — yet another organizational stalwart in his final year of control — in exchange for the mercurial Yunel Escobar. The early relationship with Escobar has already seen some rough patches, with some positional consternation and injuries clouding the picture. But things seem to be going smoothly now, with Escobar voluntarily stepping in at third to open the season, and Washington will hope that he can return to being a quality defender and good-enough hitter to occupy one middle infield spot over the next two seasons.
With Clippard gone, the Nats had an opening in the veteran late-inning department, and added former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen on a deal that reflected his difficulties last year. The Nats will hope there is some gas left in the tank for Janssen, who is currently out with shoulder issues that are hoped to be minor. There are some up-and-coming young arms (Treinen, Aaron Barrett) that could see big innings as well, particularly if Janssen is limited or ineffective.
From the left-handed side, Rizzo continued to tinker. The Nationals will rely upon August claimee Matt Thornton and former minor league signee Xavier Cedeno. Rizzo dealt away Ross Detwiler, who has been a plenty serviceable starter in the past but who did not turn into the dominant reliever the club hoped. And he parted ways with Jerry Blevins after one forgettable year, sending him to the division rival Mets in order to bolster the team’s outfield reserves with Matt den Dekker.
As for den Dekker, he looks to be a useful option with the outfield in need of bolstering early this year and a spot in center clearing after the season. Importantly, he has an option year remaining. While Michael Taylor is the player that the club hopes will become the long-term answer there, den Dekker could represent an affordable backup whose left-handed bat will pair nicely with the right-handed-swinging Taylor. He also looks to be a nice fit with the aging Jayson Werth in left to afford extra rest when matchups or game situations permit.
This is one of the most complete lineups in baseball — when healthy. But the Nationals have some injury concerns to start the year, with Werth, Denard Span, and Anthony Rendon all on the DL (along with reserve Nate McLouth). The club will fill the void with players like Taylor, den Dekker, Tyler Moore, Reed Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Danny Espinosa. That is probably fine for a short stretch, but could lead to some consternation if Werth, Span, or (especially) Rendon take longer than is hoped.
Elsewhere, the team will be taking on some risk by shifting players to new positions. Escobar has mostly played short, which he seems likely to do again next year, but will play third until Rendon returns and he is bumped back to second. And longtime hot corner stalwart Ryan Zimmerman will move across the diamond to first to account for his balky shoulder. He has looked comfortable there this spring, but will need to lock down the position defensively — and provide a bat to match — to deliver a return on his big contract.
It is not hard to foresee a need arising behind the plate, though that is hardly what the club expects. Wilson Ramos has dealt with various injury issues over the years, and neither he nor backup Jose Lobaton hit much last year. Most teams would be pleased with this arrangement, so it isn’t exactly a concern, but could be an area to watch. The organization lost some depth when it was forced to part with the out-of-options Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano this offseason, but did trade for Dan Butler and sign Steven Lerud to bolster the ranks at Triple-A.
The pitching staff has ample depth, particularly in terms of starters, so there is not much to discuss there. Then again, the ninth inning has been an area of some concern in the not-so-distant past, and Drew Storen is now without the safety net that Clippard once provided. Then there is the fact that there may have been at least some financial motivation behind the departures of Clippard and Blevins. While Rizzo and company probably feel just fine with the club’s options, don’t be surprised to see some hand-wringing if injury or short-term performance problems arise at the back of the pen in the season’s early going.
Deal of Note
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo does not seem to act out of sentimentality. And neither, apparently, do longtime key players Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann. The clock has likely run on the possibility of extensions for that pair, whose rise to become highly productive big leaguers played an enormous role in the organization’s turnaround. Last year was probably the time to get a deal done, but neither player bit at the sizable numbers being dangled. It is hard to blame them for doing so, or to blame the team for not going as high as might’ve been necessary, with potential nine-figure free agencies beckoning.
If it wasn’t already, the writing was scrawled on the wall when Max Scherzer signed his monster deal to join a loaded Nationals rotation. While deferrals reduce the total cost to the team, the investment in Scherzer is enormous, and made new contracts for Desmond and (especially) Zimmermann seem quite unlikely.
Bold as the Scherzer contract is in the long run, it is all the more stunning in the short. Effectively, Washington has taken baseball’s best rotation from 2014 — every piece of which returns — and added the best pitcher from the league’s second best rotation of last year. If all goes according to plan, the Nats’ pitching will be dominant.
Indeed, looking ahead, if all the arms remain healthy — or, perhaps, if the team completely falls apart — it is not impossible to imagine the Nats dealing Zimmermann or Doug Fister over the summer to address other needs. Washington could still maintain a powerful group of postseason starters while filling in the fifth slot with Tanner Roark (the game’s most eligible sixth starter), Blake Treinen, Taylor Jordan, or A.J. Cole. More likely, one or more of those pitchers will be installed in the rotation next year as the club waits for younger, even higher-ceiling arms (namely, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Fedde) to develop.
This is a win-now team, but not one that is structured to fall apart with its veterans. Washington has run its payroll up to over $160MM, near the top of the league (non-LA/NYC bracket). But its future commitments remain manageable even after signing Scherzer: $84MM next year and no greater than $59MM in the years that follow. The club’s top arb-eligible players for 2016 and beyond (Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Storen, Ramos, and, potentially, Rendon) have all seen their arbitration earning power suppressed to some extent, leaving additional room.
Likewise, plenty of young talent is filtering up and should soon be ready to plug into the MLB roster or deal away for more established players. By most accounts (including Baseball America) the Nats possess a top-ten farm system, representing a quick replenishing for a system that had lost a ton of well-regarded players to graduation and trade.
While the future still looks bright, it will be a tall order to meet or exceed the organization’s current situation. Not only are the club’s best young players and veterans alike at or near their primes — a difficult nexus to achieve — but the rest of the division seemingly features two still-advancing hopefuls (Mets, Marlins) and a pair of rebuilding outfits (Braves, Phillies). The window will still be open after this year, but probably not as wide.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We have not seen much in the way of free agency-avoiding extensions this spring, through there are a few days left for that to happen (to say nothing of the possibility of mid-season transactions). But there have been a few pre-arb deals already, and it just so happens that young outfielders are the extension targets du jour.
Every extension situation is a little different, but finding comparable contracts plays an important role in both negotiating and evaluating deals. So, with three fairly similar players recently signing on the line for life-changing money, I thought it would be interest to see which of these deals MLBTR readers like best.
Christian Yelich, Marlins (1.069 years service): seven years, $49.57MM + club option. This deal is by far the largest of the three covered here and delivers club control all the way through 2022. Still just 23, Yelich may be expected to continue to progress over the life of the contract. Of course, unlike the other players, Yelich plays the corner outfield (albeit quite well). And though he looks to be a high batting average and OBP type, while contributing double-digit steals, Yelich currently has average power. Is that package worth roughly twice the commitment made to the names below?
Adam Eaton, White Sox (2.030 years service): five years, $23.5MM + two club options. Of the deals covered, this one might have the most contractual upside (bearing in mind that Eaton is one service class ahead of the other two) because it delivers lengthy control and flexibility through two option years. Depending upon how one views the 26-year-old Eaton’s injury risk, defensive capabilities, BABIP sustainability, and baserunning upside, this could be quite a bargain. If not, Chicago should have a solid player at a good price and can move on when the time is right.
Juan Lagares, Mets (1.160 years service): four years, $23MM + one club option***. Lagares, 26, is probably the best defensive center fielder in baseball. While this contract only puts one free agent year in the Mets’ control, it does allow the team to sit back and watch Lagares vacuum up balls that aging veterans Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer can’t reach without worrying about how much he will cost. It’s a nice price if Lagares can maintain his league-average batting line from last year. And if he can tap into some power, which some observers seem to think he looks capable of, then this deal could become a steal.
***Note that the Lagares contract starts in 2016, making for a total current commitment of five years and about $23.5MM.
So, which contract — not necessarily just which player — would you rather have?
Opening Day is less than a week away, so now is the time to enter the new season’s first fantasy baseball contest from Draft Kings! There is a $100K total pool to be distributed, with a $10K top prize and payouts going to the 7,850 highest point scorers. It costs just $3 to enter, but you can take a free shot at this contest if you are making your first deposit. Click here to enter!
The contest goes live on Opening Day: April 6th at 1:05pm EST. You’ll pick your team using a salary cap of $50K for ten players. Allocate your cash over these slots: 2 P, 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF.
I set this lineup earlier in the winter and am sticking with it now as camp breaks:
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A panel of three arbitrators has ruled in favor of agent Dan Lozano, president of MVP Sports Group, against his former partners with the Beverly Hills Sports Council, reports Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal. BHSC had been claiming that Lozano owed the firm $40MM for leaving and taking clients with him, including prominent names such as Joey Votto and Albert Pujols.
As Mullen writes, MLBPA certified agents are prohibited by MLBPA rules to sue one another in federal or state court. Instead, claims filed against one another are brought to a panel of arbitrators, which is overseen by the MLBPA.
Lozano left BHSC after more than 20 years with the firm in 2010, starting up his own agency — MVP Sports. Both Pujols’ 10-year, $240MM contract and Votto’s 10-year, $225MM extension were negotiated by Lozano shortly thereafter, in the 2011-12 offseason.
In addition to Pujols and Votto, MVP Sports represents a number of high-profile MLB players, including Josh Donaldson, Carlos Beltran, Manny Machado, Derek Norris, Nick Swisher, Fernando Rodney and the recently retired Michael Young, among others. A larger list of clients for each agency can be viewed in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains agent info for more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players.
The Brady Aiken saga culminated yesterday with the news that he had undergone Tommy John surgery. Now, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the league and players association are preparing to explore ways in which medical information procedures can be adjusted to foreclose such a scenario in the future.
Aiken, of course, was the first overall pick of the Astros. He reportedly had a deal in place until a physical revealed a thinner-than-normal ulnar collateral ligament, leading the team to reduce its offer. Aiken ultimately did not sign. He will be eligible for the coming year’s draft, but will enter it in the midst of a rehab protocol.
There is still plenty of uncertainty as to where things might be headed in terms of the draft. One possibility, per Passan, is that a panel of medical experts would certify some number of draft-eligible players as having clean bills of health. On the other end of the spectrum, a full-fledged combine could take place that, among other things, would result in much more significant medical information going to every team.
Even the less involved of those two poles of the range of possibilities would come with difficulties. Logistics such as draft timing (in relation to the NCAA season) must be addressed. Both sides will have plenty to work through, but it seems from the report as if there is at least broad agreement that some procedural improvements should be considered.
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.
Baseball is back, and that means it’s time for an early-season fantasy baseball contest from Draft Kings! Take your shot at a $100K total prize pool, with $10K for the winner and payouts going to the top 7,850 point scorers. The entry fee is only $3, or free with your first deposit. Click here to enter!
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