Wade Davis Rumors

King’s Latest: Yankees, Fielder, Rangers, McGehee

Here are some notes from George A. King III of The New York Post

  • “I am ready to rock and roll," said Yankees GM Brian Cashman while acknowledging that he still isn't optimistic about making a major pitching addition. "The Yankees are open for business."
  • An NL executive heard that the Rangers have interest in signing Prince Fielder and trading Mitch Moreland to the Rays for Wade Davis. A person with knowledge of Texas' plans say neither scenario is close to being done, however. The Rangers checked in with Scott Boras about Fielder during the winter meetings.
  • The Rangers also have interest in Casey McGehee of the Brewers to play first base, which would still allow them to make the Moreland-for-Davis swap. Matt Moore's new extension means the Rays won't have to send him down to the minors for service time reasons, giving them six starters (David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Jeremy Hellickson, Moore, and Davis) for five spots.

Knobler’s Latest: Braves, Beckham, Tigers, Rays

Some Winter Meetings rumors courtesy of CBS Sports' Danny Knobler:

  • Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado continue to be "as sought after as any players" on the trade market. Atlanta has received calls from 8-10 teams on Jurrjens and "half the teams in baseball" on Prado. Most see Prado as a second base upgrade. The Braves continue to say they don't need to move either player.
  • It's been well-documented that the White Sox could trade any combination of John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Carlos Quentin this offseason, but Knobler says they'll listen on Gordon Beckham as well. Many Sox officials are hesitant to concede to rebuilding, despite the fact that GM Ken Williams used that exact word last month.
  • If the Tigers are going to make a big free agent signing, it's more likely to be Yoenis Cespedes than anyone else.
  • The Rays are open to trading Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis to improve the offense. They're also looking to deal Reid Brignac and upgrade their catching.

Rockies Rumors: Trade Targets, Stewart, Sizemore

The latest on the Rockies from the Denver Post's Troy Renck:

  • The Rockies continue to search for starting pitching via trade, having met with a few teams already. They probably won't match the asking prices for John Danks or Wandy Rodriguez, but they could target arms such as Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis, if the Marlins and Rays are willing to deal.
  • The club plans to tender Ian Stewart a contract, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be a Rockie in 2012. Multiple clubs have inquired on Stewart, and Colorado is listening.
  • Grady Sizemore won't work out for the Rockies, but the team hopes to get a better read on his health when he visits the Steadman-Hawkins clinic in Vail, Colorado.
  • The Rockies would have interest in LaTroy Hawkins if they opened up a spot for him by trading Huston Street.

Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers Interested In Buehrle

6:05pm: It's highly unlikely that the Yankees will make a serious run for Buehrle, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter).

1:54pm: The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers are interested in free agent lefty Mark Buehrle, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, and the Marlins are meeting with him today.  Buehrle, 32, posted a 3.59 ERA, 4.8 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.92 HR/9, and 44.9% groundball rate in 205 1/3 innings this year.  The long time White Sox starter has pitched 200+ innings in every season since 2001.

The Marlins and Blue Jays are the teams most aggressively pursuing trades for starting pitchers, add Rosenthal and Morosi.  One GM said of the Jays' Alex Anthopoulos, "You can’t pin him down. He has interest in every one of your players."

James Shields, Wade Davis, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Jair Jurrjens, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Chad Billingsley, and Wandy Rodriguez are the pitchers "known or thought to be available in trades," according to the FOX writers.  Cahill and Billingsley are the new names here, but it's unclear whether they fall under "known" or "thought."  The availability of Rodriguez will depend on whether Jim Crane is approved as new Astros owner next week, as Crane does not share Drayton McLane's reluctance to move the 32-year-old.

Cafardo On Gonzalez, Rays, Davis, Ortiz

The Cubs and Red Sox are after managers that will take a lot of input from their front offices, writes Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe.  In fact, the two teams have quite a bit of overlap on their lists.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals will also be looking for their next skipper and it'll be interesting to see what type of manager they look for.  Cafardo writes that the important thing for the new managers in any of these cities is that they know the ground rules from the start.  Here's more from Cafardo's Sunday column..

  • A's lefty Gio Gonzalez remains a viable trade option for many teams, including the Red Sox and Marlins.  Meanwhile, the Athletics probably aren’t ready to contend.  The club appears to be buying time until they can build a new stadium in the San Jose area.  Until then, they may be in the mode of developing players and dealing them for players who might emerge a few years from now.
  • When all is said and done, the Rays are expected to be willing to deal right-hander Wade Davis this offseason.  A major league source says that while Tampa Bay will listen on James Shields, Davis is the pitcher they will likely end up dealing for an outfielder or a catcher.
  • Free agent David Ortiz seemed upset that the Red Sox did not re-sign him during the exclusivity period, but it made no sense for the club to do so with the veteran's limited options.  While Ortiz wants a three-year deal, the BoSox can wait and survey the market before committing to a multiyear deal for the 36-year-old hitter.
  • Red Sox assistant GM Allard Baird removed himself from the Orioles GM search this week and Cafardo wouldn't be shocked to hear of a new title for him within the Sox organization.
  • Cafardo envisions Tim Bogar winding up with a significant role with either the Cubs or Red Sox.
  • Former Rangers and Red Sox skipper Kevin Kennedy says that he enjoys his broadcast career but he sometimes gets the itch to return to the dugout.  Kennedy says that he would even consider being a bench coach.
  • Larry Bowa, currently working as an analyst for MLB Network, also has aspirations of managing in the majors again.

Friedman On Rays’ Pitching Depth

Some rival executives and scouts believe the Rays should trade some of their starting pitching depth for offense this winter, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. But executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman sees things differently.

"Starting pitching depth is very fleeting," Friedman said. "While we have it right now, we can't wake up one day with three or four starters, where we have to go looking on the market. We're absolutely doomed if that happens. We're certainly not going into the winter saying we have too much starting pitching." 

Knobler reports that the Reds and Tigers were among the teams interested in James Shields at the trade deadline, but the Rays hung onto the durable right-hander instead. Joining Shields in the projected 2012 rotation are David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann and, if injury strikes, Matt Moore or Alex Cobb.

The Royals will be interested in trading for pitching help this offseason and it's easy to imagine teams like the Rockies, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Marlins and A's checking in if the Rays are entertaining trade offers.

Rays Borrow Indians’ Model For Extensions

If you find it hard to imagine the Rays without the long-term extensions they’ve handed out to players like James Shields (pictured) and Evan Longoria, you’re not alone. Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay’s executive vice president of baseball operations, says extensions for key players are necessary for the Rays. 

“They are because for us we want to be able to extend our competitive window by as many years as we can,” Friedman told MLBTR. “And to have a chance to keep our nucleus together for an extra year, an extra two years is critical for us.”

James Shields

It’s so important because the Rays play in the American League East against two of baseball’s best and richest teams: the Yankees and Red Sox. Boston, for example, committed $154MM to Adrian Gonzalez on his recent extension and while the deal couldn’t be going better for the Red Sox, it’s not a realistic model for the Rays. $154MM is three times Tampa Bay’s annual payroll, so Friedman has to look elsewhere for solutions.

One of the places Friedman looked was Cleveland. In the early 1990’s, Indians general manager John Hart had a roster full of talented players, but this was before the Indians reached two World Series and won six division titles in seven years. Hart didn’t have the financial leeway to consider the mega-extensions that players can command as they approach free agency. 

“We were running an entire crop through that were all going to hit arbitration within one or two years of each other and we never could have afforded it,” he said.

Simply put, the Indians couldn’t wait for players like Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Charles Nagy to advance too close to free agency, when their asking prices would skyrocket and the Indians’ chances of controlling their core long-term would plummet. So Hart signed the trio to multiyear extensions early on in their careers, gambling that the relatively unproven group would develop into stars and contribute to Indians teams for years to come. 

The system worked. Baerga blossomed into one of the best second basemen in baseball, Alomar made six All-Star teams and Nagy posted a 3.86 ERA (115 ERA+) in 1100 innings through his arbitration years without earning more than $3.5MM in a season. It’s been a while since those Indians teams took the field, but Friedman hasn’t forgotten them. Though each era and division brings different challenges, the Rays used the Indians’ approach as a loose model for their recent extensions.

“They vary from market to market and you can learn and you should learn from what other teams do,” Friedman said, “but you have to mold that into a specific strategy for your market.”

In Tampa Bay’s case, the market is small. The Rays cut payroll by $30MM last offseason after having $72MM to work with a year ago. They have never spent over $72MM on payroll under Friedman, who was promoted to his current role in 2005. 

That means the Rays are willing to commit tens of millions to players with limited MLB experience, but it doesn’t mean they’ll gamble on anyone with talent and a willingness to sign on the dotted line. The Rays look for maturity and work habits in extension candidates, not simply on-field results and potential.

"We’re all kind of elbow to elbow for six weeks of Spring Training and at least six months of the season, and so you get a chance to see a guy and assess how they go about their work,” Friedman said. “That being said, it’s far from an exact science and if it was I think the success rate for teams would be much higher.”

The Rays have completed some deals that appear shrewd now, though they were risky at the time. No team succeeds with every extension (the Angels are paying former Rays starter Scott Kazmir $12MM this year on a deal Friedman signed), but Tampa Bay has more successes than failures under Friedman’s front office (see table of extensions for current homegrown Rays). 

Current Rays Extensions

As Hart points out, players need to keep working after signing extensions and “you’ve got to get a little bit lucky that you don’t have an injury.” Now a special assistant in the Rangers’ front office, Hart says the Rays have succeeded in committing to players who are talented and dedicated.

“They’ve had outstanding players with quality makeup,” he told MLBTR. “Longoria? I love this guy. Wade Davis, you know, it’s risky yet as a GM and as baseball people, you have to know your guys and you cross your fingers you don’t have injury, but at the end of it, if these guys stay healthy, you’ve made a good baseball decision.”

After a few years it’s easy to distinguish good baseball decisions from bad ones. Part of the challenge for the Rays is determining which relatively inexperienced players will respond well to extensions – without the benefit of hindsight.

"So many of these deals for young players, especially zero-plus, one-plus and even two-plus players, odds are they aren’t going to work out,” Friedman said. “You have to get to know the player as well as you can, get to know their makeup and make the best decision you can knowing that they’re not all going to work out.”

The goal, Hart says, is to find players who can “bite down” and perform even after the life-changing experience of signing for millions. The teams, meanwhile, do some biting down of their own. There are always concerns about signing unproven players to generous extensions, but it’s one way for small market franchises to extend their competitive window on budget.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.

Eight-Player Deal Sending Rasmus To Jays For Jackson Imminent

12:08pm: The Cardinals will send Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters to the Blue Jays for Jackson, Rzepczynski, Dotel, and Corey Patterson, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.  Olney adds that Miller is then expected to be traded to the White Sox.

12:01pm: This trade is not yet official because of the money involved, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  He says that aspect may need to be reworked before it's approved.

11:35am: A trade of Rasmus to the Blue Jays for Jackson, Dotel, and Rzepczynski is imminent, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  He says an announcement could come early this afternoon.

11:22am: Edwin Jackson is definitely going to be traded by the Blue Jays, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.  Heyman heard it's going to be for Cardinals outfielder Colby Rasmus.  Rasmus being under team control through 2014 and still highly-regarded, the Cards will require more than just two months of Jackson.  The two teams have talked about Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel, notes Olney, and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets that the Cards asked about outfielder Eric Thames.

Rasmus is a popular trade target.  ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Rays offered one of Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and Alex Cobb, and the young center fielder is very much available.  The Indians have interest as well.

AL East Notes: Niemann, Davis, Orioles

We’ve already checked in on the AL East and taken detailed looks at its two biggest spenders, the Yankees and Red Sox. Here are some new notes from around the division, with an emphasis on teams that could be sellers:

Extension Candidates: Sophomore Starters

Wade Davis signed a multiyear extension with the Rays last week, though he's just one season into his MLB career. The deal is not without risk for Davis, since he could pitch like Ubaldo Jimenez and become a bargain for Tampa Bay, or for the Rays since Davis could get hurt, depriving them of a pitcher they need.

Here's a list of pitchers who could sign deals like the four-year, $12.6MM contract Tampa Bay completed with Davis. Like the Rays righty, these pitchers are on track to hit arbitration after 2012 and free agency after 2015 unless otherwise noted (age in parentheses):

  • Mat Latos, Padres (23) – Latos was flat-out phenomenal last year and would be positioned to ask for more than Davis obtained with his record deal. The skill is there, so if the Padres believe in his health (he's now on the DL) and maturity, Latos would be an extension candidate.
  • Wade LeBlanc, Padres (26) – LeBlanc, now in the minor leagues, is older than Latos and without the same front-of-the-rotation potential. His numbers, though comparable to the ones Davis has, don't scream 'lock me up,' so a deal seems unlikely.
  • Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies (23) – The Rockies were aggressive with extensions this offseason, locking up Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and others. Chacin, who struck out a batter per inning in 2010, wouldn't cost nearly as much as his more experienced teammates.
  • Mike Leake, Reds (23) – If one organization was as extension happy as the Rockies this offseason it was the Reds. Leake struggled down the stretch last year and just barely made Cincinnati's rotation. They'll likely let the 2009 first rounder prove himself before committing eight figures to him.
  • Jon Niese, Mets (24) – Niese has comparable numbers to Davis, with slightly more strikeouts per inning (7.4 K/9) and a higher ERA (4.33).
  • Brian Matusz, Orioles (24) – Matusz compares to Davis statistically, but he could establish himself as a front-of-the-rotation starter with a breakout 2011 season, so he may be reluctant to lock himself in to pre-set salaries.
  • Mitch Talbot, Indians (27) - Talbot has poor walk (4.3 BB/9) and strikeout (5.0 K/9) numbers so far in his career, so he doesn't seem like a likely extension candidate. The Indians did extend Fausto Carmona, who doesn't get many strikeouts, but they may prefer to let Talbot prove himself further before committing to him.
  • Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (24) and Madison Bumgarner, Giants (21) both impressed in 2010. They're possible super two players, which means they may go to arbitration four times, once more than the starters above. If either Cecil or Bumgarner signed an extension, it wouldn't be completely parallel to the Davis deal.

It's possible that none of these pitchers will sign extensions, since long-term contracts for starters with fewer than two years of service time are uncommon. Some players don't mind going year to year in anticipation of big arbitration paydays and many teams prefer not to commit eight-figure deals to relatively unproven pitchers.

But some small market clubs, like the Athletics, Indians and Rays, have successfully completed a number of multiyear contracts for emerging pitchers. Teams looking to spend now and save later could take note and approach their best sophomore arms about long-term deals.