Victor Martinez Rumors

Quick Hits: Stanton, Mariners, Rios, Payrolls

The Marlins hope to have Giancarlo Stanton signed to a long-term extension before the Winter Meetings, Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link).  Hill said that Jose Fernandez‘s rehab from Tommy John surgery is going well but the team is “not going to push anything because he is so valuable to us.”  Not included in the audio link, but available via Bowden’s Twitter feed, are Hill’s remarks about wanting to add another starting pitcher and a big bat to the Marlins’ roster this offseason.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Ten hitters who the Mariners could pursue via trades or free agency are listed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News TribuneVictor Martinez, Michael Cuddyer and Billy Butler seem to be Seattle’s likeliest targets, Dutton believes, while players like Melky Cabrera (desire to play on the East Coast), Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas (salary demands) seem unlikely to join the M’s.
  • Alex Rios is likely viewed by the Mariners and other teams as “a fall-back option” if their preferred outfield choices aren’t available, Dutton writes.  “Few if any” scouts would sign Rios to a two-year contract, though a one-year deal worth no more than $10MM “could be a reasonable…risk.”  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted Rios would find a one-year, $8.5MM deal this winter.
  • A number of trends emerged from a study of how the last 46 playoff teams allocated their payroll, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.  Spreading salaries around seemed to be a key factor — only nine of the 46 teams spent more than 17% of their Opening Day payroll on a single player, and the teams averaged 54.5% on their five most expensive players.  Of the 46 teams studied, only two had a highest-paid player who was also their most productive player (according to WAR).
  • With offense down, starting pitchers (maybe even the top arms) could see their market diminished in free agency this winter, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only piece.  Conversely, this also raises the value of free agent hitters, plus some teams could receive some big returns in trades for quality bats.  Olney lists a few hitters that have already been mentioned as possible trade candidates (i.e. Yoenis Cespedes and Cubs‘ middle infielders) as well as longer-shot options as Manny Machado.
  • Mike Elias, the Astros‘ director of amateur scouting, discusses Houston’s scouting department, some prospects the difficulty in accurately grading hitting and a number of other topics as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fangraphs’ David Laurila.

Tigers Make Qualifying Offer To Scherzer, Martinez; Outright Kelly, Reed

The Tigers announced that they have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to impending free agents Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez. Additionally, the team announced that utility man Don Kelly and right-hander Evan Reed have been outrighted off the 40-man roster. The Tigers also announced that they have selected the contract of outfielder Wynton Bernard, adding him to the 40-man roster.

That Scherzer and Martinez — two of the top 10 free agents in the Majors — received qualifying offers comes as little surprise. Each should be in high demand this offseason, and by extending the QO, the Tigers assure themselves of receiving a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round for each player, should he sign elsewhere as a free agent.

The 34-year-old Kelly has been with the Tigers in a utility capacity since 2009 and has posted a .234/.297/.340 in 1157 plate appearances with Detroit in that time. Kelly has seen time at every position on the diamond, including catcher and pitcher, in his career, although his lone experience at shortstop came with the Pirates in 2007 — his only Major League stint that came in a uniform other than that of the Detroit Tigers.

Reed, 28, pitched to a 4.18 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 32 1/3 innings for the Tigers this season, and he posted similar numbers in 24 1/3 inning sample size a year prior. That Reed would clear waivers is a mild surprise, given his 96 mph average fastball velocity and fairly solid 3.78 FIP, 3.89 xFIP and 3.51 SIERA marks in addition to his 4.20 ERA. He can become a minor league free agent now by refusing his outright assignment.


AL Notes: Rays, Indians, Buehrle, Rangers

In the wake of yesterday’s report Rays ownership has discussed relocating the franchise to Montreal, Commissioner Bud Selig paused and then declined to answer whether Tampa Bay is a viable major league market, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Selig did say, however, the team needs a replacement for Tropicana Field. “The team has to have a ballpark that makes them competitive,” the commissioner said before Game Four of the World Series. “It doesn’t produce the kind of revenue they need.

In other news involving the Rays and the American League:

  • Change is coming to the Rays and the front office and players alike don’t see it as a negative, writes the Tampa Tribune’s Roger Mooney. “Whoever we bring in here, they’re going to set the scheme and how they want to win games and be a successful organization,” said pitcher Alex Cobb. “When that trickles down to the players, all that is is us playing up to our capabilities, and that doesn’t matter who is in the dugout or the front office.” Mooney notes all coaches are under contract for 2015; but, if the new manager is from outside the organization, there may be changes to the staff.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader proposed his Indians offseason plan to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer: trade Jason Kipnis and David Murphy for prospects to free up money, then use that money on Victor Martinez. Hoynes doesn’t see the Tribe trading Kipnis so soon after giving him a $50MM+ extension, despite his bad year. The reader’s ambitious plan also calls for Cleveland to have one of their young outfielders form a platoon with Nick Swisher and, given his $15MM salary, Hoynes believes the team wants to see him in the lineup every day.
  • Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe identified Mark Buehrle as a trade candidate earlier today and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets the Twins have long been admirers of the Blue Jays hurler. Still, his $19MM salary is too high.
  • If the Jon Daniels-Jeff Banister partnership works in Texas, it will continue a trend in the game of a college educated GM with no professional playing experience working with a baseball lifer as manager, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.


Victor Martinez To Seek Four-Year Deal

Victor Martinez is coming off perhaps the finest season of his career at age 35, but age won’t stop the designated hitter from pursuing a four-year contract on the open market, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Martinez implied earlier in the month to Anthony Castrovince that he’d like to play another four years, though not specifically all on one contract.

Martinez will decline a qualifying offer from the Tigers and seek a contract that covers the same term that his previous four-year, $50MM contract with Detroit. However, it can be reasonably assumed, in my estimation, that the guarantee on a new four-year deal would exceed that total. The Tigers would love to have Martinez back, Heyman writes, but a four-year deal could be a sticking point for the team.

Martinez ranked sixth on the final in-season edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings and will undoubtedly be looked upon favorably in MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agent Rankings following the conclusion of the World Series. The veteran DH (and occasional first baseman/catcher) put up an excellent .335/.409/.565 batting line with 32 homers this season, leading the American Legaue in OBP and leading all of Major League Baseball in OPS (.974).

Nonetheless, a four-year deal for Martinez would run through his age-39 season, which obviously carries a tremendous amount of risk for any party interested in signing him. A four-year deal at an average annual value he and his representatives deem acceptable could approach or even exceed the $60MM mark — a steep price to pay for a slugger of that age, even coming off such a strong season.

Then again, the free agent market lacks power bats, so Martinez will have no shortage of interest. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that a team in need of a bat that feels it can contend in 2015-16 ponies up that kind of cash, even if the final years of the deal can be reasonably expected to return diminished results.


Cafardo On Peavy, Martinez, Samardzija

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jake Peavy has gone from a likely minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal.  The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has gotten great work out of him.  For his part, the 33-year-old appears to enjoy being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego.  Here’s more from today’s column..

  • A major league source tells Cafardo that Victor Martinez‘s preference is to stay with the Tigers and, therefore, Detroit will get the first crack at him. The interest is mutual and the Tigers would like to get something done sooner rather than later.
  • If A’s GM Billy Beane listens to offers on Jeff Samardzija this offseason, you can count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties.  The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens.
  • Orioles outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz enjoys Baltimore and wants to stay, but Cafardo expects the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners to be in on the bidding.  No matter what, the 34-year-old looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere on a three- or four-year deal.
  • First baseman Adam LaRoche likely won’t re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base.  However, LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield.  He could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz.
  • While there’s intrigue over Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, there’s still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he can translate well to MLB.  Some are worried about the pronounced leg kick in his stance that lasts deep into his swing.  There also has always been skepticism over his defensive ability, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.

Tigers Notes: Price, Miller, V-Mart, Martin

In the wake of another postseason disappointment for the Tigers, “there’s the underlying question whether this could be the end of an era,” MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes.  Several key members of the roster will hit free agency, including Max Scherzer, though the 2013 Cy Young Award winner said “I do hope I’m back. I love this clubhouse, love everybody in here, been to battle with these guys for five years. It would mean a lot to me.”

Here’s the latest from the Motor City…

  • If Scherzer doesn’t return, the natural next step for the Tigers would be to pursue an extension with David Price, though the southpaw naturally wasn’t concerned with his contract in the wake of the painful ALDS sweep.  “That’s out of my control. That’s the last thing that’s on my mind right now. I’m not worried about that,” Price told reporters, including Mlive.com’s Chris Iott.  Price has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting the free agent market after the 2015 season.
  • The Tigers’ failure to acquire Andrew Miller at the trade deadline may have been the turning point of their season, John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press writes.  Miller could’ve been prevented the bullpen meltdowns that plagued the Tigers in the ALDS, but instead, he ended up stifling Detroit in two late-game appearances for the Orioles.  The Tigers came very close to closing a deal Miller at the deadline but the Red Sox instead sent the lefty to Baltimore in exchange for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
  • A rival official recently told ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) that he thinks the Tigers will do whatever it takes to re-sign Victor Martinez, as “considering the Tigers’ win-at-all-costs approach and Martinez’s importance in the Detroit lineup, he cannot see them being outbid.”  Olney lists five other teams as possible fits for Martinez in free agency, and three are from the AL Central.
  • Also from Olney’s piece, he lists the Tigers as a potential suitor for Russell Martin.  The free agent catcher could be “a plan B” if the Tigers are concerned about Alex Avila‘s concussion history and want a change behind the plate.

Quick Hits: Reds, Martinez, Street, Blue Jays

The Tigers and Athletics made noise at the trade deadline when they acquired David Price and Jon Lester, respectively, but now they have little to show for it, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. Instead, some of the most effective moves have been the quieter ones, like the Orioles acquiring dominant lefty reliever Andrew Miller or the Giants dealing for Jake Peavy. Nightengale also notes that the Dodgers made the best move of the trading season by not dealing Matt Kemp, who hit like crazy down the stretch and so far in the postseason. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.

  • Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon can all become free agents after the 2015 season, putting the Reds in a tough spot, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. “As much as I think we’d like to be able to keep every single guy and pay them what they deserve, it’s impossible to do it here,” says manager Bryan Price. Rosecrans quotes Cueto, Latos and Leake all saying they would be happy staying in Cincinnati, but the Reds will have a tight budget, with plenty of money already committed to Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey.
  • Victor Martinez doesn’t have a monetary goal in mind when it comes to the contract he’ll sign as a free agent this offseason, but he does know how many years he’d like to receive, writes Anthony Castrovince of Sports On Earth. Martinez won’t say how many years that is, but he does say he doesn’t want to still be playing at 40. He’ll open next season at 36, which might indicate he’s looking for a four-year deal. Martinez is poised to cash in after an outstanding .335/.409/.565 season in Detroit, although Castrovince notes that Martinez’s market will be constrained somewhat because he’s a DH and because the Tigers will almost certainly extend him a qualifying offer.
  • Now with the Angels (who were just eliminated from the postseason by the Royals), Huston Street fondly remembers his time as the Padres‘ closer, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  “When you leave someplace, you want to miss it as much as I miss San Diego, says Street. “Just because that means the time you spent there was meaningful. It was a time in my career that really set me on a very successful path.
  • Not retaining Casey Janssen will probably be the correct decision for the Blue Jays, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star writes. Teams frequently change closers, as a look at playoff teams’ rosters indicates — the only playoff closer who has been in that position with his team for three years is Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers. Instead of worrying about a closer, Griffin argues, the Jays should address second base and the outfield.

The Most Improved Free Agents

Behind the scenes at MLBTR, we’re busy discussing and polishing our Top 50 Free Agents list for the 2015 offseason. While we’ll wait until the appropriate time to officially release the list, it’s not too soon to talk about a few of the players who have done the best to improve their free agent stock. In general, I’m looking at players who weren’t even on the radar when Steve Adams kicked off our 2015 Free Agent Power Rankings series on April 15. Today, we’ll take a look at a pure hitter, a starting pitcher, and an elite reliever.

1. Victor Martinez. I’m sure Martinez’s appearance on this list is of no surprise. When we compiled our initial power rankings post, 25 players were named. Martinez was not one of them. The 35-year-old designated hitter is limited in defensive versatility, but his bat is clearly elite. He is enjoying a fantastic offensive season with a .335/.404/.566 line and 31 home runs. All are career bests. He’s even stolen three bases (also a career best). The exceptional performance comes with a 10.5% walk rate and 6.6% strikeout rate, making him one of just two players with more walks than strikeouts (Jose Bautista is the other).

Martinez, who earned $12MM this season, will receive a qualifying offer, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. It’s difficult to handicap how the slugger will perform on the free agent market. The only recent comparable player is David Ortiz, although the short contracts he signed with the Red Sox do not appear to be directly applicable to Martinez’s situation.

The Tigers will have some leverage in retaining Martinez, where he can continue to hit with Miguel Cabrera. The White Sox are also said to be interested, per Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com. Chicago appears to be an ideal fit with its extremely hitter friendly stadium (Detroit’s Comerica Park is a neutral stadium), and he would make a good tandem with Jose Abreu. We seem to have the basic ingredients for a bidding war, and other teams will likely enter the fray.

2. Brandon McCarthy. What a fascinating season it’s been for McCarthy. His fastball gained two mph over previous seasons, and he’s posted the highest ground ball rate of his career at 52.7%. While his 3.93 ERA is merely decent, advanced ERA estimators like xFIP (2.90) and SIERA (3.03) expect better things to come. He’s also buffed his strikeout rate to 7.72 K/9 while maintaining an elite walk rate of 1.53 BB/9.

McCarthy was easy to overlook entering the season. His command and control profile made him a steady but uninspired rotation option. His first 18 starts came with the Diamondbacks, where he flashed excellent peripherals with an unseemly 5.01 ERA. He was dealt to the Yankees prior to the July trade deadline. In 13 starts, he’s pitched to a 2.54 ERA that is supported by his peripherals. Many pundits (including this one) worried about the influence of Yankee Stadium on the homer prone starter, but his HR/FB ratio has regressed to league average in New York.

Prior to this season, he never managed more than 170 and two-thirds major league innings in a single season. That came in 2011. He’s frequently dealt with injuries including recurring “stress reactions” in his pitching shoulder. His most recent shoulder injury occurred in 2012. This season, he’s managed a career high 194 and two-thirds innings with a chance to eclipse the 200 inning threshold.

A sabermetrically inclined front office – especially one with a large ballpark – could justifiably view McCarthy as the fourth best free agent starter, after the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. McCarthy’s history of shoulder problems will likely temper enthusiasm for a large contract offer. That might serve to increase demand by making him an affordable, second-tier option. McCarthy, who is entering his age 31 season, could top the four-year, $49 million contract signed by Ricky Nolasco last offseason. However, a smart club would include language to mitigate risk from future shoulder flare-ups.

3. Andrew Miller. If Miller was on anybody’s radar entering the season, it was as a moderately interesting LOOGY. By halving his walk rate and proving he’s no platoon pitcher, Miller will enter the offseason as an untested but possibly elite closing option. Due to his inexperience recording saves, clubs may still look at him as a setup reliever.

Split between the Red Sox and Orioles, the 30-year-old southpaw has posted a 1.93 ERA in 60 and two-thirds innings. His 14.84 K/9 is impressive, especially in light of his 2.37 BB/9. He’s allowed just 32 hits on the season and is one of three relievers to cross the 100 strikeout threshold – four others appear poised to do so by the end of the season.

No recent left-handed reliever has entered free agency coming off of such a strong season, which puts Miller in uncharted waters. Jeremy Affeldt, who signed a three-year, $18MM contract with the Giants following the 2012 season is a distant comparable. Joaquin Benoit is probably the best example among recent right-handed pitchers. He signed a two-year, $15.5MM contract with an option after emerging as the Tigers closer. However, he was also entering his age 36 season, so he was considerably older than Miller. Per the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, no non-closing reliever has signed a contract with over a $20MM guarantee. Miller has a chance to be the first. Prior to the 2007 season, Justin Speier signed a four-year, $18MM contract that could serve as a barometer of sorts once inflation is included.


Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

Quick Hits: Stanton, Davis, Yankees, Peavy

Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton is already home from the hospital and is not expected to require major surgery, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Preliminary testing has not shown concussion symptoms, though Stanton will be closely monitored going forward. Needless to say, it is great to hear that things are looking up so soon after his frightening injury.

Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:

  • Underlying the suspension of Orioles slugger Chris Davis is the fact that Adderall addiction is a significant problem, especially among athletes, writes ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark. Davis has already tested positive for a stimulant and knew that he would receive additional testing, yet still was caught. Of course, as Stark does note, it is not known whether Davis himself has such a problem. It is worth bearing in mind, also, that Davis has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD in the past, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Rosenthal says that it remains unclear why Davis no longer sought to obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption as he had at some points in the past.
  • If the Yankees decide to make significant free agent additions this year, the player to target is Victor Martinez, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman acknowledges that the DH slot may be an attractive place to stash one of the team’s current veterans, but argues that Martinez is a rare offensive force who has demonstrated his ability to thrive against virtually all types of pitchers and pitches.
  • Giants righty Jake Peavy has continued to adapt and modify his repertoire as he has aged, as Eno Sarris of Fangraphs explores. The veteran hurler will hit free agency for the first time in his career at age 33. (He has already signed three separate contract extensions and been traded three times.) It is well worth your time to check out Peavy’s thoughts and grips, as well as relevant statistics on his pitch mix.