Uncategorized Rumors

West Notes: Astros, Tulowitzki, Padres

News out of the AL and NL West..

  • The Astros have had an eventful offseason, but it sounds like most of the heavy lifting has been done already, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes.  “I don’t know if we’re going to sign anybody on a major league deal, but there’s possibilities we’d bring another pitcher on the NRI (non-roster invitee) basis,” General Manager Jeff Luhnow said.
  • Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki isn’t stressing out about the constant trade talk surrounding him, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes.  “In this game you never get relaxed,” Tulowitzki said. “Anything can happen. I’ve heard a few people say, ‘As soon as I thought that I was going to stay somewhere, that’s when I got traded.’ So I won’t go there. Whatever they do, they do. Whatever happens, happens.”  At this stage of the offseason, it seems unlikely that the shortstop will be moved, but he says that he’s prepared for any possibility.  Tulowitzki is currently rehabbing a surgically repaired left hip labrum.
  • The Padres pulled the trigger on the Matt Kemp blockbuster thanks in large part to Logan White and his knowledge of the player, as Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes.  “He had some good insight into Matt Kemp — the person, the makeup,” Padres VP of scouting operations Don Welke said of White. “One of the things he does that fits in with what A.J. [Preller] and I do is getting to know the person, background and family — going into all that. He’s very good at that.”  White, whose current priorities include filling out his pro scouting staff, likely will have a significant role in the Padres’ international efforts going forward.

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AL East Notes: Blue Jays, Axford, Zobrist

The Rays are big on promoting from within both on the field and off.  That’s why they were able to replace popular Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen, now with the Twins, with another sharp mind in Kyle Snyder, writes Marc Topkin for Baseball America. “Kyle Snyder is an excellent pitching coach,” Rays farm director Mitch Lukevics said. “He’s way ahead of the curve in development. He’s smart, has passion, can relate to all. I say all, because he’s been often injured as a professional. He’s been in the big leagues. He’s been rehabbed. He’s been bounced around.”  More out of the AL East..

  • The Blue Jays have been linked to free agent John Axford and there are several reasons why they would make sense for the closer, including proximity to his hometown, as Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes.  “Living and growing up not too far away from Toronto — Port Dover, Ont. — I lived just under two hours away,” Axford said of the proximity factor. “Growing up a Blue Jays fan, that would be a big deal for me, definitely. I still live close to Toronto, about 45 minutes away in the off-season, still close to home. So, yeah, it would definitely be big for me, but I’m not going to shut out any team.”
  • Before Ben Zobrist was shipped to the A’s, the Orioles discussed him with the Rays, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The O’s really wanted the standout second baseman/outfielder, but the asking price was just too high for them.
  • David Laurila of FanGraphs (on Twitter) likes the Zobrist trade from the Rays‘ perspective. The A’s get the short-term win on the deal, but infield prospect David Robertson has a bright future and should excel for years after Zobrist is done playing.

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The contest starts on Saturday, January 10th at 4:35pm eastern time.  It’s a salary cap style contest, where you use a $50K budget to select nine players. The roster will be 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex, and 1 Defense. Here’s a look at my potential roster:

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Agents, Executives On Holiday Activity In Baseball

Reprinted from December 25, 2013. 

So far, it has been an entertaining offseason in baseball littered with surprising trades and free agents landing lucrative deals thanks to the influx of new TV money across MLB.  However, there tends to be less deals consummated during the holidays and (never say never, but) we’re not likely to see a major transaction go down on Christmas.  That doesn’t mean that the business of baseball magically comes to a screeching halt, however.  Agents and executives are still sending texts and making calls as they enjoy Christmas and New Year’s Eve with their families.

When I’ve had a free agent negotiation in progress, I can recall times that I have been talking to a GM in the back of my in-laws house while he was at the back of his in-laws house,” said agent Joe Longo of Paragon Sports International, a firm that represents Mike Napoli, Sergio Santos, and other notable big leaguers.

We all have families and we’re all trying to celebrate the holidays but sometimes you just have to get an update on a free agent when there are four or five teams you’re talking to.  Luckily, my family is really understanding.  My wife gets it.

For Giants Vice President Bobby Evans, there’s “never a complete shutdown” on business and he told MLBTR last week that his front office will continue to be active through the holiday season.

There are still quite a few guys out there so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some activity.  Some of it can be put to the side and kept quieter until after the day of Christmas or the New Year but there’s still goint to be activity, there are just too many options out there,” Evans said, while noting that, in his case, the Giants have already taken care of most of their Christmas shopping list and will instead focus on minor league pickups from this point forward.

While everyone acknowledges that the holidays are a slower time, agent Burton Rocks says that he finds that the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s Eve can be a springboard for future activity.  Deals that have stalled, he notes, can be rekindled by reaching out to an executive and wishing them happy holidays.

Meanwhile, one prominent agent says he’ll be focusing on negotiations for his arbitration-eligible clients during the holidays.  Of course, he acknowledges that it’s still possible for something to come out of left field for one of his free agents before the ball drops.  Things may be a bit quieter during the holidays, but every agent and GM will be keeping their phones handy during their downtime.


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Arbitration Breakdown: Rick Porcello

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Rick Porcello enters his fourth and final arbitration year coming off of a career year — and heading to a new team. With a 3.43 ERA, he bested his career ERA by over a run, and he had personal records with 15 wins and 204 2/3 innings too. Porcello had never had an ERA better than 3.96—and that was his rookie year—and he had gotten 14 wins a couple times, although not since 2011. Porcello had also never thrown more than 182 innings, yet he beat that handily this year. After establishing himself as a slightly below average starter whose best characteristic was that he was durable, Porcello emerged as an important contributor in 2014.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers

Those three key statistics for which Porcello had a career record in 2014 (ERA, wins, innings) are by far the most important ones for starting pitchers in arbitration. Furthermore, in general only the most recent season counts towards a player’s arbitration raise once they have reached their second year of eligibility or later. The previous years’ performances only really matter in as much as they affect the salary base from which the player will earn a raise. As a result, Porcello is likely to get a healthy raise from his $8.5MM salary in 2014, and my model projects his raise to be $3.7MM, putting him at $12.2MM. By looking at other comparables, this looks like a reasonable estimate.

Shaun Marcum in 2012 received a $3.30MM raise after going 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 200.2 innings. Although strikeouts do appear to have some effect on starting pitchers’ arbitration cases, and Marcum had 158 to Porcello’s 129, the rest of Marcum’s case seems to be slightly worse across the board. His ERA is barely higher, his innings are barely lower, yet he won two fewer games. As a result, Marcum is likely to be seen as floor for Porcello. This means that Porcello is likely to be able to argue that any agreement should give him a raise of more than the $3.3MM than Marcum received.

A possible ceiling for Porcello could be Justin Masterson’s $4.07MM raise last year. Masteron had a 14-10 record, so he did win one fewer game than Porcello, and his 3.45 ERA was similar. Masterson also had 193 innings, which is less than Porcello’s 204.2. However, all of those numbers are similar and Masterson had 195 strikeouts, beating Porcello by 69. If strikeouts are given any real weight in Porcello’s process (which does not always seem to be the case), they are likely to make Masterson look like a ceiling because of the similarity of his case otherwise. However, if they are not considered strongly, then Masterson would look more like an even comparable for Porcello.

Another possible comparable could be Jason Vargas from 2013, who got a $3.65MM raise—just $50K less than my model predicts. Vargas went 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA, so he had one fewer win and an ERA 0.42 higher. But Vargas had 217.1 innings, topping Masterson by 12.2 innings, and he struck out twelve more batters. The case is definitely similar, with the extra win and better ERA not necessarily giving a better case because of the 12.2 fewer innings and twelve fewer strikeouts. As a result, the $3.65MM seems likely to be close to what Porcello earns.

I suspect that the model will nail this case based on these three comparable pitchers. This would put Porcello at $12.2MM in his last year before free agency.


AL West Rumors: Rangers, Kemp, A’s, Kang

The Rangers are expected to talk to the Mets and Marlins about starting pitchers, tweets T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Sullivan mentions Jon Niese and Dillon Gee of the Mets and Andrew Heaney and Nathan Eovaldi of the Marlins as likely targets. Presumably, Texas would consider other targets as well. New York needs a shortstop while Miami could use first base help. The latest from the AL West..

  • There has been no recent progress in the Matt Kemp trade talks between the Mariners and Dodgers, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).
  • A’s manager Bob Melvin likes internal shortstop options, notably Andy Parrino, but he also said he wouldn’t be surprised if they added one before spring, according to Jane Lee of MLB.com (via Twitter).
  • Meanwhile, GM Billy Beane says that contrary to reports, the A’s are not among the teams with interest in Korean shortstop Jung-ho Kang (link).
  • Beane confirmed that the A’s are targeting young shortstops in deals, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter).
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says he’s still very much focused on adding bullpen depth through free agency or trade, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (via Twitter).

AL East Notes: Sandoval, Ramirez, Rays

Red Sox owner John Henry made comments back in April that seemed to imply he was done with signing players over the age of 30 to monster contracts.  However, Boston’s signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez show that’s not quite the case.  “John Henry comes from a world where everything has a value,” General Manager Ben Cherington said, according to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. “Sometimes it’s worth investing a lot if you think you’re getting really good talent back or performance. The age thing, of course, is part of the conversation because we all know players age and when they get into their 30s, historically speaking, there starts to be a decline. But when we get in a room and talk about offseason planning, it’s never pursue this guy or don’t pursue this guy just for these rules. It’s all about what makes sense, what fits on the team.”  More from the AL East..