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Rather than throwing touchdowns for the Patriots, could Tom Brady have instead had a career throwing out baserunners for the Expos? MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro looks back at how Montreal selected Brady (then a catcher at Serra High School) in the 18th round of the 1995 draft, even though it was widely known that Brady was going to play football at Michigan. “I think he would have been a pro,” said scout John Hughes, who evaluated Brady for the Expos. “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power. There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big league catcher.” While every New England sports fan breathes a sigh of relief that Brady stuck to the gridiron, here are some more notes from around baseball…
- Joba Chamberlain has rejected multiple offers because he simply didn’t want to pitch for the teams that offered him those deals, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. He’s considering a one-year deal with a modest base salary and incentives, as his hopes for a two-year contract have likely gone by the wayside. There is still some question about Chamberlain’s makeup amongst league executives, and one exec told Rosenthal that the Tigers‘ lack of interest in re-signing Chamberlain “alarmed him” given Detroit’s need for bullpen help.
- Though Brandon Beachy was reportedly considering multiple offers and was thought to be close to signing a new contract earlier this month, his agent Rob Martin tells Ken Rosenthal (all Twitter links) that the right-hander will wait a bit longer. “Brandon has decided not to sign a contract at this time. With each day his arm is getting stronger and he’s feeling even more confident about his progress,” Martin said. “Thus, he is going to continue with his throwing program and make a decision closer to Spring Training.”
- The Marlins were linked to Wade Miley earlier this winter, and now ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) reports that the Marlins thought they were in agreement with the Diamondbacks on a Miley-for-Nathan Eovaldi trade. Arizona pulled out of the deal, however, and Miami instead dealt Eovaldi to the Yankees while the D’Backs sent Miley to the Red Sox.
- Also from Olney, there is some speculation in rival front offices that the Nationals‘ trade of Tyler Clippard might’ve been motivated by more than just a desire to move salary, especially since Washington just signed Casey Janssen to a healthy contract. It’s possible the Nats could see “red flags” about Clippard’s future production that aren’t obvious to most observers, especially given that Clippard had another strong season in 2014.
Pat Gillick is a curious choice to serve as the Phillies‘ president, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Murphy feels that the decision to move David Montgomery from president to chairman, with Gillick remaining president, was little more than a cosmetic change to buy time before a larger restructuring. That, he writes, would seem to suggest that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is capable of doing something to save his job, as the reason for that evaluation would be to determine which of these three options are the best: replace Amaro, extend Amaro, or hire a new permanent president and let that newcomer determine the front office situation. As Murphy notes, no evaluation of the moves Amaro will make over the coming months will be able to be judged immediately (he’ll be acquiring prospects that will take years to properly evaluate), making the recent shuffle all the more puzzling. Gillick has expressed no interest in overseeing a lengthy rebuild, per Murphy, who adds that he may not be well-equipped to do so anyway based on his lack of success in the draft.
Other items pertaining to the National League East:
- The Nationals are nearing — and will likely exceed — $160MM in Opening Day commitments for the coming season, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. That would put the team amongst the five highest salary tabs in the league, a level of spending that seemed hard to imagine in the not-so-distant past. GM Mike Rizzo told MLBTR at the GM Meetings that the organization would make baseball decisions without payroll restrictions, and that has indeed seemed largely to be the case.
- Marlins righty Jarred Cosart is now represented by agent Erik Burkhardt, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Burkhardt is best known, perhaps, for repping NFL quarterback (and recent MLB draftee) Johnny Manziel. Cosart had previously been a client of Excel Sports Management. The 24-year-old will not be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 campaign.
- There is no denying the excellence that Ichiro Suzuki has displayed over his outstanding career, but it is fair to ask what kind of production — and presence — he will deliver to the Marlins in 2015. Crasnick spoke with various talent evaluators and executives around the game, with the consensus seeming to be that Ichiro is certainly still capable of being a useful big league player.
Today featured some important front office moves for a Phillies club that is facing some significant challenges — albeit with quite substantial resources — in the coming years. The team announced that longtime executive David Montgomery will return from a health-related hiatus to become the organization’s chairman, while current president Pat Gillick will retain that role.
Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia and the rest of the NL East:
- Gillick leaves the impression that he is prepared to stay on board past the coming season, per Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times (Twitter links). “I’ll do it as long as it is a challenge to me and [I am] capable of doing it,” said Gillick. “Age is just a number.” The 77-year-old Hall of Fame inductee reiterated that sentiment, and then some, in speaking with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. “I’m going to probably stay in this position as long as ownership wants me to stay in it,” he said. Emphasizing that his prior expectation had been that Montgomery would return to the full-time president’s chair, Gillick said that he is “not really setting a timetable” on his time in office, though he does not expect to be “a long, long-term replacement.”
- While Gillick has obviously earned quite a bit of respect over his years in the game, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News asks whether he really is the right man for to lead a rebuild at this juncture. While moving veteran assets for the best return possible is a straightforward-enough function, says Murphy, it will be much more tricky to make the right decisions in applying Philadelphia’s financial might to acquire the right new talent. Though Gillick oversaw many winning clubs, and adeptly constructed big league rosters, Murphy also points out that the organizations he guided tended not to be set up well for the long haul and that the baseline circumstances (rules, modes of analysis, and the like) were quite different in his heyday.
- The Marlins obviously were interested in adding Ichiro Suzuki as a veteran presence to their young outfield and hopefully getting a late-career renaissance from an all-time great ballplayer, but the club also was interested in his nationality, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. President of baseball operations Michael Hill and president David Samson both emphasized the fact that Ichiro’s Japanese heritage was a factor in his signing. Indeed, the front office traveled to Tokyo to announced the deal. “It’s a bonus he’s a Hall of Famer and a Japanese player,” said Samson, who noted that Miami was one of only two teams (the Reds being the other) that had yet to employ a Japanese ballplayer. (For what it’s worth, Cincinnati has fielded a Korean player.)
- Bringing in veteran reliever Casey Janssen fills the final hole for the Nationals, writes MLB.com’s Phil Rogers. The veteran should slot in nicely in a setup capacity while also providing some insurance in the closer position, says Rogers.
11:40pm: Svrluga adds that Janssen will earn $3.5MM in 2015, and the buyout on his mutual option is valued at $1.5MM (Twitter link).
10:48am: Janssen’s mutual option is valued at $7MM, reports Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post (Twitter link).
9:41am: The Nationals and right-hander Casey Janssen have agreed to a one-year contract with a mutual option that will guarantee him a total of $5MM, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Janssen is represented by ACES.
The 33-year-old Janssen was one of the best remaining options on the relief market and has spent the bulk of the past three seasons serving as Toronto’s closer. His stats took a tumble in 2014, though some of that decline may have been attributable to a violent case of food poisoning. Janssen reportedly lost eight pounds in a single day as a result of that episode, and he likely rushed back to the mound too soon; Janssen spent two days on an IV to rehydrate his body and the next day began a stretch of five appearances in eight days.
Overall, he posted a 6.26 ERA in the second half that caused his overall mark on the season to balloon to 3.94. Janssen showed his typically excellent command in 2014, walking just 1.4 hitters per nine innings, but his strikeout rate curiously dipped, even during his healthy first half. Janssen averaged just 5.5 K/9 in 2014 — a decline of three strikeouts per nine when compared to his previous four seasons of work.
A rocky 2014 notwithstanding, Janssen’s work dating back to the 2011 season is nothing short of outstanding when judged as a whole. In that time, he’s worked to a 2.77 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate. He saved 83 games for Toronto in that stretch and should give Nationals manager Matt Williams an experienced safety net for closer Drew Storen. However, Storen posted a sensational 1.12 ERA in 2014 and took over the ninth inning late in the season after Rafael Soriano struggled. His ERA and the fact that he closed out the year with a stretch of 20 innings without allowing an earned run likely still makes Storen the favorite for saves in 2015.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Former Nationals minor leaguer Justin Bloxom transitioned quickly from a stalled playing career to re-joining the organization as a scout, Chelsea James of the Washington Post writes. The eleventh-rounder was part of a productive 2009 draft for the team, which will now hope to extract value from him in a somewhat different manner.
- The Diamondbacks are comfortable with their budget sitting in the low-$90MM range, GM Dave Stewart tells MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. Arizona is open to moving more salary but will not sacrifice on-field performance to do so, per Stewart. The most likely avenue to savings, says Gilbert, would be shedding some portion of the large tabs owed righty Trevor Cahill and outfielder Cody Ross.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that it is “highly, highly unlikely” that the team will make a deal involving either of the club’s two biggest stars (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez), Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. That is no surprise, of course: there have always been multiple, significant barriers to a deal this offseason, and any earlier momentum seems to have died in recent weeks.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Righty Jair Jurrjens has agreed to return to the Rockies on a minor league deal with a big league camp invite, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports. The 28-year-old righty has never regained the form he showed early in his career with the Braves. Last year, he was hit hard in two big league starts and worked to a 4.54 ERA over 81 1/3 Triple-A frames with the Reds and Rockies organizations.
- The Orioles sent cash to the Braves in exchange for lefty Daniel Rodriguez. Baltimore had tried to nab Rodriguez out of Mexico several years ago, says Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). The 30-year-old came to Atlanta from Saltillo before the 2012 campaign and went straight to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he has generally struggled while working as a starter. The team is likely interested in taking a look at Rodriguez out of the pen, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweets.
- The Rangers have signed righty Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal that includes a spring invite, the club announced. Ohlendorf had a quality 60 1/3 inning run with the Nationals in 2013, working to a 3.28 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. That earned him a $1.25MM arbitration deal, but injury derailed his entire 2014 campaign.
- Two former Rangers ballplayers are among the recent moves reported by Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (links to Twitter). The Dodgers have signed righty Ben Rowen, a 26-year-old righty who cracked the Rangers’ pen last year and who has had solid results in the upper minors. And the White Sox signed center fielder Engel Beltre, a defense-first player who has struggled to produce offensively and missed most of last year with a fractured tibia.
- Also via Eddy, the Braves have inked former Angels reliever David Carpenter — not to be confused with the other right-handed reliever by the same team that Atlanta just traded. Carpenter has struggled in limited MLB exposure, but last year put up a 2.17 ERA over 62 1/3 innings, with 8.3 K/9 against 6.4 BB/9, despite pitching in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL.
If the Red Sox are serious about not wanting to over-commit in money or years to starters in free agency, then Alex Speier of the Boston Globe thinks the club might already be out of the running for next year’s available hurlers. David Price seems likely to command a contract in the Max Scherzer range, while an NL evaluator thinks Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann could find deals similar to Jon Lester‘s contract with the Cubs. The Sox topped out at $135MM for Lester this winter and they were only wiling to go that high because they were familiar with him and because he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached. The volume of high-level aces available in free agency next winter might not do much to keep prices down, Speier writes, as Scherzer and Lester showed this year that frontline starters will always command big contracts.
Here’s some more from Fenway Park…
- Left-hander Scott Diamond will throw a bullpen session for the Red Sox, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Diamond posted a 4.43 ERA, 4.2 K/9 and 1.92 K/BB rate over 343 innings (all as a starter) with the Twins from 2011-13. He spent last season pitching for Minnesota and Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliates.
- Mookie Betts‘ name surfaced in many trade rumors this offseason, but the top prospect tells MLB.com’s Ian Browne that he’s happy to still be with the Red Sox. He tried his best to avoid the rumors, though his friends and family “try and keep up with all that stuff. I guess they want to play GM. They let me know the things that are going on.” Betts’ loved ones may be letting him know about this next item…
- …as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron argues that a trade of Betts-for-Stephen Strasburg makes some sense for both the Red Sox and Nationals, though such a deal is “almost certainly not going to happen.” Betts would give the Nats an elite controllable talent, a big bench upgrade and he’d probably find plenty of everyday work filling in for the injured Jayson Werth or perhaps displacing Yunel Escobar at second. Tanner Roark could take Strasburg’s spot in the rotation and allow the Nats to explore re-signing Zimmerman. For Boston’s side, Strasburg gives their rotation a clear ace, and while Betts is a valuable piece for the Sox, his best positions (2B and CF) are both blocked by Dustin Pedroia and Rusney Castillo for the foreseeable future.
- The Sox are “focused short-term” on Allen Craig, GM Ben Cherington told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, as the team just wants him to get back into a rhythm following an injury-plagued season. Craig’s versatility will help him earn playing time on a crowded Boston roster, and John Farrell noted that Craig is open to all options, potentially even his first taste of third base since 2008.
7:56pm: Scherzer’s $50MM signing bonus is broken down by Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, who reports that Scherzer will receive $5MM of the bonus in 2015 as paid out in twice-monthly in-season installments. A similar structure will result in Scherzer getting the rest of his bonus, with the righty being paid $15MM in 2019, $15MM in 2020 and $15MM in 2021.
5:25pm: Scherzer will earn $10MM in 2015 and $15MM in each of 2016, 2017 and 2018, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports in a breakdown of the contract. The deferred payments begin after the 2018 season, as while Scherzer is scheduled to earn $35MM in each of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons, all of that money will be paid to him through 2028.
JAN. 22, 12:33pm: Scherzer’s contract does not have a no-trade clause, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). The Nationals feel that the deferrals and 14-year payment structure of the contract serve as de facto no-trade protection, and as Heyman points out, Scherzer will receive 10-and-5 rights after the 2019 season.
Additionally, Scherzer’s deal calls for a $500K bonus for each Cy Young Award he wins. He’ll receive $250K for finishing second, $150K for finishing third, $100K for finishing fourth and $75K for finishing fifth.
JAN. 21: The Nationals have officially agreed to sign the market’s top starting pitcher to join a rotation that already ranked among the league’s best. Ace right-hander Max Scherzer will come to D.C. for a seven-year term that will run through his age-36 season.
Scherzer will earn $210MM for seven years of work, but will receive that payout over twice that duration. The contract’s unusual structure has a significant impact on its value. Scherzer will receive $15MM per season for the next 14 years, meaning the Nationals will be paying Scherzer through 2028. Scherzer’s deferral is, obviously, the largest one in MLB contract history, leaving Bobby Bonilla and the Mets’ lengthy $29.8MM deferral in the dust.
That delayed payment drags down the deal’s true worth when discounted to present value. While it appears that the league will value the deal at $185MM for purposes of luxury tax calculations, the actual savings to the Nationals are likely much more significant, as Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explains. (In Cameron’s estimation, Scherzer may have achieved only $10MM more in present value than Jon Lester received from the Cubs.)
The deal’s structure does, however, also protect Scherzer by including a $50MM signing bonus that will be paid in even installments over the 14-year term. In concert with Washington, DC’s lack of non-resident income tax and Scherzer’s planned move to Florida, he figures to reap tens of millions of dollars in tax savings. Needless to say, it is all but impossible to arrive at a precise valuation of the contract, both to team and player.
The Nats’ emergence as a top bidder for Scherzer came as somewhat of a surprise, given the terrific starting pitching they already had (including Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister, with the signing bumping Tanner Roark, who himself had a very good 2014 season, out of the rotation). But signing Scherzer should help the Nationals continue to contend in a weak NL East division beyond next winter, when Zimmermann, Fister, Ian Desmond and Denard Span all can become eligible for free agency.
The Scherzer deal also gives the Nationals the option to trade someone like Zimmermann or Fister within the next few months, potentially getting good value for one of their free-agents-to-be while maintaining a formidable rotation. A trade involving Strasburg, who is eligible for free agency following the 2016 season, could also be a possibility. (One also wonders whether Roark, with his lengthy and affordable control rights, might also be had.) The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga tweets, though, that the Nationals won’t necessarily have to trade anyone to make room for Scherzer.
Though MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes rated Scherzer the top available free agent this winter, actual news about Scherzer had been slow in coming before this weekend. He and another top starting pitcher, James Shields, lingered on the market long after everyone else in the top ten had signed. Boras and Scherzer had reportedly been seeking a $200MM contract after rejecting a $144MM extension offer from the Tigers last spring.
Seven years is, of course, a very long time in a pitcher’s career. Via MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker, only four pitchers in recent history have received seven-year deals. Two of those were relatively recent extensions for Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. C.C. Sabathia‘s seven-year deal worked out well for the first few seasons, but Sabathia has struggled with injury and diminished velocity in the last two years. A fourth seven-year deal, the Giants’ pact with Barry Zito, was a bust, although Zito, unlike Scherzer, showed signs of decline even before signing his contract. Depending upon how one values the deal (see above), Scherzer’s contract would exceed Hernandez’s $175MM contract and would also top Justin Verlander‘s 2013 extension with the Tigers, which tacked five years and $140MM onto Verlander’s existing deal to total seven years and $180MM.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo drafted Scherzer in the first round in 2006 while Rizzo was vice president of scouting for the Diamondbacks. Scherzer quickly emerged as a solid starting pitcher, making the Majors less than two years after being drafted and one year after signing. After two seasons in Arizona, he headed to Detroit and developed into an ace, posting three good seasons in his mid-20s before winning his first Cy Young award in 2013. He had a strong repeat season in 2014, throwing 220 1/3 innings with a 3.15 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
Even without Scherzer, the Nationals already appeared to be easily the best team in the NL East — they won the division by 17 games last year, and the only other team in the division that has decisively improved its roster for 2015 is the Marlins. The Nationals’ acquisition of Scherzer strengthens their already-strong status as NL East favorites.
Scherzer’s departure leaves the win-now Tigers without their top starting pitcher, although they still have David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Verlander, and the newly acquired Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene. Price and Simon are eligible for free agency next winter.
Scherzer rejected the Tigers’ qualifying offer earlier this offseason, so the Nationals will sacrifice their first-round pick of this year’s draft, No. 27 overall, as a result of the signing. The Tigers will acquire the No. 35 pick.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted that the deal was agreed to after being first to report that the Nationals and another team were in talks for Scherzer. The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore later tweeted that the sides were close to a deal. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times (via Twitter), Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (in a tweet), Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan (likewise), and Heyman reported details of the contract deferral.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Nationals have signed right-hander Evan Meek to a minor league deal with an invite to big league Spring Training, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (on Twitter). Meek is a client of Relativity Sports.
The 31-year-old Meek isn’t quite as flashy as the Nats’ most recent pickup, but he is a former All-Star setup man. From 2009-11 with the Pirates, Meek posted a strong 2.74 ERA in 147 2/3 innings of work, though other metrics such as his 7.9 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and 3.58 FIP in that time indicate that he was likely overperforming a bit. A shoulder injury limited Meek to 12 innings in 2012, and he spent the 2013 season with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate (somewhat curiously starting 15 games despite spending nearly all of his career as a reliever).
Meek was with the Orioles in 2014, but he struggled after breaking camp with the team and found himself outrighted to Triple-A in early June. From there, he went on to dominate at the Triple-A level, posting a 1.94 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9 in 41 2/3 innings of work. That earned him a September call-up, but while he got better results in the season’s final month, he still finished with a 5.79 ERA in 23 1/3 big league innings. He’ll compete for a job in a Nats bullpen that features Drew Storen in the closer’s role in front of setup options such as Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins, Matt Thornton, Blake Treinen and possibly Tanner Roark, who could be bullpen-bound following Washington’s addition of Max Scherzer.
Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM contract with the Nationals is still the talk of baseball, and Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com was among the reporters to speak with GM Mike Rizzo, the Lerner family (who own the Nats) and agent Scott Boras at today’s introductory press conference. The massive deferrals in the contract — half of Scherzer’s guarantee is deferred from 2022-28 — were essential to its completion. “If that didn’t happen, there wouldn’t have been a deal,” said Mark Lerner. “It was really my father and (Rizzo) coming up with a creative deal and luckily it worked out for everybody.” Rizzo explained that a straight seven-year deal would not have fit into the team’s budgetary parameters. Boras, meanwhile, said that he had to have multiple discussions with the Lerner family, as the front office and manager Matt Willians approved of the move from a baseball standpoint. Said Boras: “It was really a matter of working out their interests, understanding the complexity, what’s going to be best for the team — long term, short term — their revenue dynamic.”
Here’s a bit more on Scherzer and his new team…
- ESPN’s Jayson Stark takes a look at the history of seven-year contracts for free agent pitchers and points out that the odds aren’t in the Nationals’ favor on this contract. Kevin Brown‘s seven-year deal with the Dodgers is probably the best signed by a free agent hurler, he writes, with CC Sabathia‘s current seven-year deal ranking second. Brown’s deal ended poorly, and Sabathia’s looks to be on a similar trajectory. Stark spoke with a number of executives about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of seven-year deals for pitchers, with several execs opining that Jon Lester (who signed a six-year deal) is a better bet to hold up in the long term than Scherzer. One GM plainly stated: “Look, these contracts are dumb to begin with. Really, only a three- or four-year deal makes sense. Seven or eight is what the players want. So they should come down to five or six, as opposed to seven. But here’s the thing: It’s all market-based, so you do it.”
- Boras spoke to reporters, including Tom Schad of the Washington Times, following today’s press conference and quickly debunked the rumor that another of his clients, Stephen Strasburg, is ready to move on from the Nationals. “We don’t know where that came from,” Boras explained. “Stephen Strasburg wants to play here and wants to be with Max Scherzer and grow.” Boras added that at the time of Scherzer’s signing, Rizzo informed him that the team’s intention was to keep the current roster intact. Owner Mark Lerner said the same to Schad.
- Boras expanded on those thoughts a bit on MLB Network Radio’s Inside Pitch with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern (audio link): “The Nationals have told us that they intend to keep their pitching staff. They intend to try to win a World Series, to try to move forward, and Stephen Strasburg is certainly a part of that…” Boras also explained why he doesn’t foresee the unique structure of Scherzer’s deal as the beginning of a trend, but rather as a unique situation.
- For those interested, the 15-minute press conference to introduce Scherzer to the D.C. media is available on MLB.com (video link). Scherzer discusses what drew him to the Nationals, being reunited with former teammate Doug Fister and his own reaction to the jaw-dropping $210MM guarantee he will receive. Rizzo talks about scouting Scherzer as an amateur and the Nationals’ offseason plan as a whole, while manager Matt Williams recalls a story from his days as Scherzer’s manager with the D-Backs’ Double-A affiliate.