- Nats GM Mike Rizzo says the team hasn’t yet determined what Revere’s role will be, James Wagner of the Washington Post tweets. It sounds like Revere could be the Nats’ starting center fielder, or he could move around between the three outfield spots. Center fielder Michael Taylor and left fielder Jayson Werth both had underwhelming seasons in 2015; perhaps Revere’s role could depend in part on how former top prospect Taylor develops, and upon whether everyone in the Nats’ outfield can stay healthy.
- Rizzo says he’s not set on trading closer Jonathan Papelbon unless he can find a suitable trade, tweets Wagner. “We see Papelbon as one of our late-inning relievers,” says Rizzo. (Rizzo previously said something similar about Storen, so it seems unwise to dismiss the possibility of a deal, although Storen’s departure does reduce the Nationals’ bullpen depth.)
- Rizzo adds (again via Wagner on Twitter) that he feels the Nationals’ roster is fairly complete. “I don’t see any major needs we haven’t addressed,” he says. The Nats’ big additions this winter have included Revere, Daniel Murphy, Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, Yusmeiro Petit and Stephen Drew.
- In an article written before the Storen trade, Wagner wonders whether the Nationals ought to pursue another starting pitcher. The idea is that the Nats can use more depth, and this year’s strong class of free agent pitching might help them compensate for the possible loss of Stephen Strasburg to free agency next winter, much in the same way that Max Scherzer’s addition last year helped them compensate for the impending loss of Jordan Zimmermann. There have also been recent rumors about the possibility that the Nats could trade Gio Gonzalez. Adding another starter via the free agent market (perhaps Wei-Yin Chen, who is represented by Scott Boras, with whom the Nationals frequently do business) would make even more sense in such a scenario.
In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Diamondbacks strongly considered a swap that would’ve sent center fielder Ender Inciarte to the Nationals in exchange for lefty Gio Gonzalez. While such a scenario is no longer a possibility — Inciarte went to the Braves along with two other highly regarded pieces in exchange for Shelby Miller, and Gonzalez makes little sense for a rebuilding Atlanta club — Rosenthal notes that the Nats could still explore similar possibilities. Moving Gonzalez for a center field option and then signing Wei-Yin Chen, to whom the Nats have previously been linked, could give the team the left-handed-hitting center field option it desires without significantly weakening the rotation. It’s also worth noting that Washington has been linked to the Rockies in the past, who have a left-handed hitting center field option in the form of Charlie Blackmon, though GM Mike Rizzo figures to explore many avenues if that route is indeed on the table.
A few more notes from Rosenthal’s latest column…
- Rizzo has repeatedly stated that he’s not interested in trading Jonathan Papelbon or Drew Storen unless he receives a nice return, but sources tell Rosenthal that the Nationals are indeed trying to move both of the right-handers. The Nats would likely need additional bullpen help were they to move either pitcher, though as Rosenthal points out, right-hander Tyler Clippard is still available in free agency, and a reunion between the two sides could make some sense. The Dodgers “figure to be” one club that will check in with the Nationals regarding Storen, Rosenthal writes.
- The specific irregularities in Kenta Maeda’s elbow remain unknown, but the Dodgers’ $25MM guarantee with $10MM worth of annual incentives is a reflection of the team’s acknowledgment that he may require surgery over the deal. According to Rosenthal, the bonuses at the back end of the deal are “largely unattainable,” so even though the contract can max out at $105MM over eight years, it’s unlikely that Maeda will receive such a sum. The elbow issue was known to every team that requested Maeda’s medical information, as it turned up in an MRI taken at the urge of his representatives with the Wasserman Media Group. Per Rosenthal, Maeda is presently asymptomatic and pain-free when he pitches.
- The Orioles have been debating moving on from Chris Davis for about a month, but the team remains engaged with the slugging first baseman due to owner Peter Angelos’ affinity for Davis. If Baltimore does ultimately move on to alternatives, Yoenis Cespedes is a more likely target for the team than Justin Upton, as Cespedes wouldn’t require the O’s to part with a draft pick.
The Royals are among the teams with “strong interest” in free agent starter Ian Kennedy, according to Jon Heyman (Twitter links). Kansas City is expected to try to “make [a] push” to land the righty now that Alex Gordon is under contract to return, per the report.
All of those pitchers declined qualifying offers at the outset of the offseason. Signing any one of them, then, would require the Royals to part with the club’s first overall selection after already giving up the chance to add an extra pick by bringing back Gordon. Of course, fresh off a World Series victory, the choice will not end up being near the top of the first round.
The Royals may also spend some time exploring the possibility of a re-worked deal with backstop Salvador Perez, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports adds on Twitter. We’ve heard chatter before that this could be considered, but the enormously team-friendly deal that he’s bound by also doesn’t leave much motivation for a deal. The large-framed, heavily-used backstop can already be controlled through 2019 (his age-29 season) via a series of options. That makes it seem unlikely, at least from an outside perspective, that he’ll be able to achieve much more than a few guaranteed years — likely at the price of surrendering yet more options at the back end.
The baseball world is mourning the loss of former All-Star outfielder Dave Henderson, who passed away this morning at age 57. “Hendu” played for five teams over his 14-year career, including six years each with the Mariners and Athletics. He was the first draft pick in Mariners franchise history and spent a decade as an M’s color commentator on TV and radio after his retirement. The slugger was a member of the Oakland teams that won three straight AL pennants from 1988-90 and captured the 1989 World Series, and Henderson played a big role in that championship with a 1.129 OPS over 39 postseason plate appearances. Of course, Henderson’s most famous playoff moment came in Game Five of the 1986 ALCS as a member of the Red Sox, when he hit a dramatic two-run homer (with two outs and two strikes on him) in the ninth inning to temporarily put Boston ahead, and Henderson then drove in the game’s winning run in the 11th on a sac fly. That victory saved the Red Sox from elimination and sparked an unlikely comeback, as they then beat the Angels in Games Six and Seven to win the pennant.
“Hendu played just two seasons in Boston, but we always regarded him as one of us, and are grateful for the time we were able to enjoy his talent and infectious personality,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said in an official statement from the club. “Everywhere he went, Henderson made friends. He was a great ambassador for our game, and we have lost him far too soon.”
We at MLBTR send our condolences to Henderson’s family and countless friends around the game. Here are some news items from around the West divisions…
- It’s a lot easier to win when your team has a high payroll (and/or a wealth of controllable young talent), and as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes, the Mariners are in something of a difficult spot since they’re a consistent mid-range payroll team that has a big chunk of their spending tied up in a handful of star contracts. If the M’s aren’t willing to spend more, Baker notes, then GM Jerry Dipoto will be doubly challenged to find affordable young pieces to fit around those core stars. Given Dipoto’s very busy offseason, it’s hard to say he hasn’t been trying to fulfill that exact goal.
- Giants right-handed pitching prospect Ray Black turned a lot of heads in the Arizona Fall League, Andy Baggarly writes in a subscription-only piece for Baseball America. Black’s fastball topped out at a whopping 104mph in AFL play and he also possesses (perhaps anecdotally) a 98mph changeup. Black, 25, was a seventh-rounder for the Giants in the 2011 draft who has battled a variety of injuries and didn’t being his pro career until 2014. Black has a 3.28 ERA over 60 1/3 minor league innings, exhibiting both some shaky control (6.1 BB/9) and overwhelming strikeout power (18.2 K/9).
- The Dodgers have been linked to both Wei-Yin Chen and Kenta Maeda in free agency rumors, and Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times looks at the pros and cons for the club of signing either pitcher. Whatever choice the team makes (if it goes with either starter), Dilbeck thinks the Dodgers need to address their rotation after falling short on a number of offseason pitching targets.
In our last MLBTR poll, over 38.6% of MLBTR readers surveyed felt that Alex Gordon would be the next to sign out of a group consisting of the top five players left on MLBTR’s list of this offseason’s Top 50 Free Agents. Fast-forward a week and, unsurprisingly, all five players (Gordon, Justin Upton, Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes and Ian Desmond) are all still on the board.
Earlier today, Charlie Wilmoth examined the situations surrounding not just those five, but also the next five remaining from MLBTR’s original list — Wei-Yin Chen, Kenta Maeda, Dexter Fowler, Scott Kazmir and Ian Kennedy. These five may not carry the high price tags of the top-rated quintet, so it’s possible any of them could come off the board before Gordon and company. (Then again, it wouldn’t shock me if Chen or Maeda both sign for more than Desmond given how badly Desmond struggled in 2015. In fact, with the other top free agent pitchers all signed, it’s possible Chen or Maeda could even best Gordon’s eventual contract.)
Also, given the intertwined free agent market, some of the big names may need to be signed before attention can be turned to the next five names. As Charlie noted, for instance, Fowler’s market may not come into focus until the top-tier outfielders find new homes. Conversely, Fowler offers a different skillset than Upton, Cespedes or Gordon, so it’s also possible he could be signed before any of them.
The qualifying offer also looms large in this tier of free agents. Chen, Fowler and Kennedy all rejected the QO, so any new team that signs them will have to give up a draft pick as compensation. Maeda, obviously, doesn’t have the qualifying offer to worry about coming from Japan, though he has two more obstacles — the extra $20MM posting fee his MLB team will have to pay to the Hiroshima Carp, and the simple fact that Maeda is the most unknown quantity in Major League play. Kazmir doesn’t have a qualifying offer attached, yet that actually may be what’s holding up his signing since multiple teams are showing interest; Kazmir reportedly has several three-year offers in hand but he may be holding out for a team that gives him that guaranteed fourth year.
With these factors in mind, which of the “next five” do you think will be the first to sign a contract? (MLBTR app users can weigh in here)
The Royals have been told by Alex Gordon’s camp that they have “no chance” to re-sign their franchise cornerstone as things currently stand, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Gordon’s camp is seeking a contract that will pay him upwards of $20MM per season, and Heyman hears that Kansas City has only offered four years, noting that Jim Bowden reported at ESPN that the annual value of said offer is believed to be in the $12-13MM range.
With their chances of retaining Gordon looking slim, the Royals have begun to explore the market for alternatives, writes Heyman, including Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, Austin Jackson and another player who was with Kansas City in 2015 — Alex Rios. Each of those players, with the exception of Parra, is a client of agent Scott Boras, with whom the Royals have negotiated a number of deals in recent seasons. Span, coming off hip surgery, is said to be hosting a showcase for interested on teams on Jan. 8 next month, while Parra reportedly already has three-year offers in hand but hopes to land a fourth year. Jackson and Rios have both been largely absent from the rumor circuit this offseason. Each is coming off a relatively disappointing year, though Jackson was more productive than Rios both at the plate and in the field.
Heyman also discusses Kansas City’s ongoing search for rotation help, noting that while lefty Wei-Yin Chen sits atop the team’s wish list, but they won’t go to six years for him or offer the five-year, $100MM contract that Chen is reportedly seeking. (I’d personally expect Chen and Gordon to ultimately command relatively similar contracts, so it stands to reason that both would be out of the Royals’ price range.) Heyman also mentions Scott Kazmir and Yovani Gallardo, each of whom has previously been linked to Kansas City. He also, however, adds Ian Kennedy’s name to the list of players the Royals like.
The 31-year-old Kennedy hasn’t seen his name come up in many rumors this winter. He got off to a dreadful start in 2015, logging a 7.15 ERA through his first eight starts of the season. However, from June 1 moving forward, Kennedy righted the ship and recorded a 3.41 ERA with a 137-to-38 K/BB ratio in 129 1/3 innings across 22 starts. Though many were surprised to see Kennedy reject a qualifying offer — and that factor does figure to impact his market somewhat — he’s made at least 30 starts each season dating back to 2010, averaging 196 innings of 3.88 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 in that time. As a fly-ball pitcher that is susceptible to home runs, Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium would seem, on paper, to be an excellent fit for Kennedy. Not only does the stadium have spacious dimensions, Kansas City’s incumbent center fielder, Lorenzo Cain, is among the game’s premier outfield defenders. And Jarrod Dyson, who could see a more regular role in the outfield corners next season, has registered outstanding defensive ratings in his limited role in previous seasons.
After discussing the Mets’ budget-conscious offseason spending thus far — and questioning the team’s choice of an apparently conservative route after a run to the World Series last year — Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports runs through a variety of notes from around the league. Here are some highlights:
- Even as the Dodgers pursue Kenta Maeda, the team is continuing to show interest in Scott Kazmir, per Rosenthal — despite an already heavily left-handed rotation. And there is some sentiment among rival executives that L.A. could make a play for yet another southpaw, Wei-Yin Chen.
- The Giants remain unlikely to play at the top of the free agent outfield market, according to the report, but might look at the next level down. Two names in play are Dexter Fowler and Gerardo Parra, with another possibility being the addition of a right-handed-hitting platoon partner for Gregor Blanco. San Francisco is also in communication with the Rockies on their outfielders, Rosenthal’s colleague Jon Morosi reports.
- The Cardinals did not sign Mike Leake with intentions of spinning off another starter for outfield help, says Rosenthal. As he notes in another post, signing Leake — while allowing John Lackey to walk — came with some draft benefits, as the club didn’t have to sacrifice a pick to add the former and will gain a selection for losing the latter.
In a radio interview on The 670 Score’s “Inside The Clubhouse” show, Theo Epstein said the Cubs are committed to Jorge Soler as a big part of their roster, CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reports. “We are putting our stock into his future,” Epstein said. “Barring anything [an overwhelming trade offer], he knows to ignore all the trade rumors and take it as a compliment.” Epstein praised Soler’s hitting potential and his offseason training, as Soler “is down to 225 [pounds] and is working hard on his quickness and flexibility” to improve his right field defense. The Cubs could add a defense-first backup outfielder, Epstein hinted, which probably isn’t a surprise given Soler’s inexperience and the questions about whether or not Kyle Schwarber can handle left field. Here’s some more from around baseball…
- The Brewers don’t want to sell low on Jonathan Lucroy in the wake of his underwhelming 2015 season, though they could be taking a risk by waiting to make a trade, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes in a piece for FOX Sports. If Lucroy’s concussion and injury history continues to diminish his ability, Milwaukee will have missed its window to recoup significant value for the former All-Star. Midseason deals for catchers are also somewhat uncommon, as it’s somewhat hard for a new catcher to instantly develop a rapport with pitchers.
- The Braves targeted Dansby Swanson even before they created room at short by dealing Andrelton Simmons, GM John Coppolella tells Fangraphs’ David Laurila. “We’ve been in talks with Arizona since the end of the 2015 season,” Coppolella said. “We hoped to get Swanson, but we didn’t know if, or how, the deal would materialize. We saw him as a fit for us, whether we made the Simmons trade or not. We just want really good players and he’s a really good player.”
- Wei-Yin Chen may have the most value of any remaining free agent pitcher, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello writes, as he has posted comparable numbers to Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmermann and probably won’t cost as much. Of course, Chen and his agent Scott Boras are looking for healthy compensation for the southpaw’s services in the form of a five-year, $100MM contract.
- While opt-out clauses are usually considered to provide little benefit to a team, the Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber notes that there’s certainly upside if a club can avoid paying big money to a player outside of his prime years. For instance, Lauber reports that had the Red Sox been successful in obtaining Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers in the 2003-04 offseason, they had no intention of re-signing him after he opted out of his deal (as expected) after the 2007 season. The Yankees, who did deal for A-Rod and then re-signed him to a whopping 10-year, $275MM contract after 2007, have surely regretted not letting Rodriguez walk when they had the chance.
- Blue Jays director of analytics Joe Sheehan is profiled by the Toronto Star’s Brendan Kennedy, who notes that Sheehan’s promotion to the newly-created position is a sign of the team’s increased focus on analytics under Mark Shapiro.
- The Giants are the most likely team to sign Yoenis Cespedes, MLB.com’s Jim Duquette opines. The Tigers, Orioles, White Sox and Angels round out Duquette’s list of Cespedes’ most likely landing spots.
The Nationals are on the lookout for starting pitching now that Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are out of the picture and their hunt has led them to at least consider one of the best options still available. Free agent Wei-Yin Chen is on the Nationals’ radar, a source tells Bill Ladson of MLB.com, though that source isn’t sure whether Washington would give him the five-year deal that he is seeking.
Every team in the league would obviously love to add a solid starter like Chen, but his price tag has so far left him dangling on the market without a ton of buzz as to where he might land. Last week, it was reported that the Scott Boras client is seeking a five-year, $100MM commitment. Earlier this offseason, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projected that Chen would land a five-year deal worth $80MM. Chen is – at least for now – aiming a whole lot higher.
The Nationals were recently said to have some interest in right-hander Mike Leake and GM Mike Rizzo even confirmed that an offer was made. However, the price tag was apparently too rich for their blood and their interest quickly cooled off. Overall, Rizzo indicated that the club hasn’t been very active on the market for starters. The Nats already have a top three of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez plus Tanner Roark and Joe Ross in the backend. Beyond them, youngsters like A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito knocking on the door.
The 30-year-old Chen is coming off a nice four-year run with the Orioles which was highlighted by a particularly strong two-year platform in 2014-15. Over the past two seasons, he’s logged a 3.44 ERA with 6.9 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 to go along with a 40.8 percent ground-ball rate in 377 innings of work. Chen turned down a qualifying offer from the Orioles earlier this offseason, so signing him would require a team to forfeit its first eligible draft pick. That’s a notable disadvantage for Chen compared to quality pitchers remaining on the free agent market such as Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir, and Kenta Maeda. Late last month, Tim took an in-depth look at Chen and speculated on the type of deal he could land.
Right now, there isn’t an obvious landing spot for Chen. Cardinals appeared to be a solid fit for a pitcher like Chen but GM John Mozeliak recently said that the team is unlikely to make a “dynamic” signing at this stage of the offseason. The Giants were known to have some level of interest in Chen, but they are almost definitely out on high-priced pitching after adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto this winter.
There are a host of interesting notes in the latest column from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Here are some of the highlights:
- While the Royals are still interested in free agent starters Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir, as has previously been reported, the club may be most intrigued by Wei-Yin Chen, per Heyman. Kansas City would have to go well beyond its usual spending levels to add the southpaw, but Heyman writes that the club has newfound budget “flexibility” in the midst of its renaissance. Chen, though, is represented by Scott Boras, with whom the Royals have a strong relationship. (Kendrys Morales, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Rios and Franklin Morales are among the current or recent Royals to be Boras clients.)
- Kazmir already has multiple three-year offers with guarantees in the range of $12MM to $13MM annually, per the report, with teams like the Athletics, Orioles, and Dodgers said to be involved. It seems like the first legitimate four-year offer could land Kazmir, Heyman adds. Of course, it’s unclear if the A’s will still be in the hunt if and when their reported one-year deal with righty Henderson Alvarez is finalized.
- Meanwhile, the Royals are still pursuing Alex Gordon, but Heyman reports that the team’s initial four-year offer was not met with a very promising response from Gordon’s camp. It’s been surprisingly quiet on the Gordon front for much of the offseason, although with Jason Heyward off the board, it’s easy to imagine the market for him and fellow corner outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton picking up quickly.
- The Royals are holding extension discussions with backstop Salvador Perez, says Heyman, and there’s interest from team and player in reaching “something equitable.” But K.C. has all the leverage, of course, given its already lengthy and cheap control rights over the sturdy young catcher. Heyman adds that Perez’s representatives have raised the extensions of players like Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, and Ryan Braun in talks, with the Royals not favorably disposed to those concepts. (An observation: those deals certainly don’t seem all that relevant from where I sit. Perez is an excellent player, but hasn’t reached the heights of those stars, and his current contract is far cheaper than the ones Longoria and Braun turned into new deals. Also, as a heavily-worked, large-framed catcher, there are questions about how wise it would be to make a long-term investment in Perez.)
- The Marlins have continued their extension talks with Dee Gordon, and Heyman says that Miami has put a five-year deal on the table. But Gordon and his reps are looking for seven seasons in an extension. The talks are moving slowly, but still moving, per Heyman.
- While the Mets do have legitimate interest in Tyler Clippard, they only want him with a one-year guarantee, per Heyman. Clippard is looking for a two-year deal he adds. It certainly seems that the veteran’s market is lagging the rest of the top-end set-up men who hit free agency this year. That could be due to a combination of his heavy recent workload and sub-par peripherals last year, but Clippard should still find a significant contract given his lengthy track record and the high dollars we’ve seen given to inferior arms.
- Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday has been working out at first base, with the veteran looking to extend his career by adding defensive versatility. While that’s been done at Holliday’s initiative, Heyman wonders whether the hypothetical possibility of a move could keep St. Louis involved in the hunt for Gordon.
- The Padres seem unlikely to put together a big offer for Ian Desmond. That would certainly be bad news for the free agent, whose market has yet to develop, as San Diego seems like one of the best fits. The Pads are not getting a lot of interest in James Shields at present and have put a high price on Tyson Ross, per the report. Meanwhile, the club is considering a move for veteran reliever Fernando Rodney.
- The Astros aren’t done with their bullpen and remain in the market for relievers as well as a corner bat, Heyman writes. Houston non-tendered Chris Carter, and A.J. Reed probably won’t be ready to begin the season, so there does indeed appear to be room for someone capable of taking some at-bats at first base (although Jon Singleton could be given another look there as well).
- We’ve heard chatter that the Orioles and Rockies have had some talks regarding outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and Heyman says that Colorado asked for young righty Kevin Gausman in a deal. That was, unsurprisingly, a non-starter for Baltimore. The O’s, meanwhile, tried to get Andre Ethier from the Dodgers last offseason, and Heyman wonders whether another such effort could take place this year as the club continues to hunt for another left-handed-hitting outfielder (per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, on Twitter).
- The Indians had talks with free agent Austin Jackson before signing Rajai Davis, per Heyman. He adds that there are legitimate concerns that Michael Brantley will be out into June “or perhaps even later” after some undisclosed new shoulder “issue” arose this winter.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.