Will Venable Rumors

Marlins Interested In Andy Dirks, Will Venable

The Marlins are looking for a left-handed bat that can spell their outfielders and do some pinch hitting.  Their search, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, has now led to a couple of new names: Andy Dirks and Will Venable.

The Blue Jays non-tendered Dirks back in December instead of keeping him on board for a projected $1.6MM.  The left fielder, who didn’t make a major league plate appearance in 2014, slashed .276/.332/.413 between 2011-2013 for the Tigers.  He grades out as an excellent defender in left field, having compiled 16 Defensive Runs Saved and an UZR/150 mark of +5.1 in 1569 innings in left field.

Venable, 32, has come up quite a bit in trade rumors over the last month and change with the Orioles among the teams that have been linked to him.  Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune recently said that it seems more and more likely that the Padres will hang on to him, but one has to wonder if the Marlins’ interest could change things.  Venable is due to earn a reasonable $4.25MM in 2015.

The Marlins are also looking into Ichiro Suzuki and Nate Schierholtz as fourth outfielder options.  When word of that came out last week, our own Steve Adams speculated that Dirks and Venable could be considerations for Miami.

NL West Notes: Johnson, Haren, Venable, Quentin, Padres

Randy Johnson, who was elected to the Hall of Fame with more than 97 percent of the vote, will join the Diamondbacks‘ front office as a special assistant to GM Dave Stewart, the team announced yesterday. As MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert writes, Johnson will participate in community initiatives, weigh in on baseball operations decisions and, most excitingly to Johnson himself, work with minor league pitchers. “I don’t see myself being a coach,” Johnson said, “but I do see myself going around to the Minor Leagues and I think that’s where I can best help.” Johnson won’t specialize in discussing pitching mechanics with the D-Backs’ prospects, but rather on the mental side of the game, such as the mindset and work ethic needed to be successful. Meanwhile, D-Backs CEO Derrick Hall indicated that Johnson’s No. 51 will be retired this season or next — an honor which Johnson wanted to delay until he received the call to Cooperstown.

Elsewhere in the NL West…

  • Dan Haren‘s preference to end up back on the West Coast is common knowledge at this point, and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Giants checked in with the Marlins on Haren earlier this offseason (Twitter links). However, Morosi adds that those talks came before the Giants re-signed Jake Peavy. It doesn’t seem that the Giants are pursuing rotation help any longer based on comments made by assistant GM Bobby Evans on Tuesday in the wake of Tim Hudson‘s ankle surgery, though Morosi notes that Haren would likely welcome the opportunity to pitch in San Francisco — a West Coast club with a pitcher-friendly park.
  • It’s looking more and more like the Padres will hang onto Will Venable rather than trade him, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. As Lin notes, Venable is a left-handed bat on a right-leaning roster and can back up all three outfield spots. He’s also earning a relatively modest $4.25MM next season, so the price isn’t prohibitive. I’ve previously speculated that the Marlins could have interest, as they’re looking for left-handed-hitting backup outfielders, but Lin’s report suggests there’s not much of a match there.
  • Lin also spoke with manager Bud Black today regarding Carlos Quentin, who appears to be the odd man out in the outfield mix (Twitter link). Black simply told Lin that the Padres were going to have to see how Quentin’s knees are in Spring Training before proceeding, indicating that even if he is ultimately moved, it may not happen until March.
  • In addition to Black, Lin spoke to GM A.J. Preller today, who cautioned that Padres fans shouldn’t necessarily expect any more large splashes. Any remaining moves from San Diego would be “more likely something around the edges, to continue to add to the depth of what we’re building,” according to Preller.
  • MLB.com’s Corey Brock tweets that we shouldn’t be surprised if the Padres add a veteran catcher who can back up Derek Norris between now and Spring Training. The Friars do have Tim Federowicz on their roster after acquiring him in the Matt Kemp trade, but they may prefer a backup with more big league experience.

AL Notes: Mariners, Yankees, Olivera

Here’s the latest from the American League:

  • The Mariners still have their eye on Padres outfielder Seth Smith, writes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. However, it’s unclear if San Diego is eager to move Smith. Along with Will Venable, Smith is one of just two left-handed outfielders on San Diego’s 40-man roster. While the club is still expected to trade one of them, there remain several factors in play. Divish also hears that offers have been made by Seattle for Smith.
  • After today’s trade of Shawn Kelley, the Yankees appear to have 11 candidates for two bullpen jobs, writes Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Kuty assumes the club will attempt to identify a long reliever and a spring standout to fill the spots. Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell, and Manny Banuelos are the top candidates for to fill in as long reliever. Of those who may be given a chance to surprise in spring training, 2014 draft Jacob Lindgren is perhaps the most interesting. Across four levels, Lindgren struck out 48 batters in 25 innings last season. He’s yet to pitch above Double-A and isn’t on the 40-man roster, so he should still be viewed as a long shot.
  • The A’s could be among the clubs interested in 30-year-old Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, opines John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Oakland has few internal options at second base beyond Eric Sogard. Meanwhile, Olivera hit .316/.412/.474 in the Serie Nacional last season. After returning from an injury that caused him to miss the previous season, Olivera spent the majority of his time at designated hitter. He has yet to establish residency in another country, making a spring training debut doubtful. Clubs expect Olivera to hold an open showcase once the residency issue is resolved.

Orioles Discussing Outfielders With Padres

The Orioles are still talking with the Padres about the possibility of dealing for a piece of San Diego’s overstocked outfield, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Left-handed hitters Seth Smith and Will Venable are the two names that have drawn the most interest from Baltimore, Encina adds.

For their part, the Padres have asked about young arms Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy — a common target for teams eyeing the O’s system — but that appears to be a non-starter. Baltimore has already shown it will not rush to fill in for the losses of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, and Encina notes that the Padres are not exactly flush with leverage given their readily apparent logjam.

Though both Smith and Venable are most useful against right-handed pitching, Encina says that the O’s are content to combine such a player with another bat in a platoon. The club has long been said to be interested in a reunion with Delmon Young, for instance, and he would presumably be a candidate for that sort of role. Of course, Baltimore recently tendered a contract to Alejandro De Aza and owns the rights to David Lough, and adding a new left-handed-hitting outfielder would almost certainly push one or both of those players off the roster.

Stark On Rays, Zobrist, Utley, Cubs, Padres

The trade deadline is rapidly approaching and while things figure to get exciting over the next month and change, not everyone is drooling over what might be available.  “To be honest, I don’t see much out there,” an official of one contender told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. “Who’s even selling? And what are they selling? I know there will be guys to trade for. But where’s the quality?”  The whole column is worth a read, but here are some of the highlights from Stark’s latest..

  • The Rays front office believed that they had the talent to win it all this year and that optimism could play into how they approach the deadline.  The Rays aren’t selling and Stark writes that if they believe what they have can power them to a championship next season, they might stand pat and keep the band together.  Teams that have spoken with Tampa Bay see a fire sale as unlikely.
  • The Rays might listen on Ben Zobrist, but one exec who has spoken with the club gets the sense that it would be “really, really difficult” for them to part with him.  The exception to all of this, of course, is David Price.
  • The Phillies are expected to be open for business between now and the deadline, but they might not like the offers that come in.  “Look at their trade chips,” said an NL executive. “Even if they blow it up, dangle [Cole] Hamels and dangle all these other guys, each one of those guys has some reason it will be hard for them to get back what they want.
  • Meanwhile, one exec flatly said a Chase Utley trade is “not happening.”  The sticker price might not be met on Phillies like Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jimmy Rollins, but teams see Domonic Brown as someone whom the Phillies would like to swap for a different young change-of-scenery candidate.
  • Teams that have spoken with the Cubs expect them to move pitcher Jason Hammel in the next two weeks.  That could just be the warm up for Jeff Samardzija, but they continue to tell teams that they’d like to hammer out a new contract with him.  This week we learned that the Cubs ace rejected a five-year, $85MM+ offer.
  • While some teams are beating around the bush, the Padres are aggressively letting teams know that they want to sell.  All of their outfielders, except Cameron Maybin, are available, and that includes Seth Smith, Chris Denorfia, and Will Venable.
  • Several teams report the Dodgers are telling them they’ll listen right now on every one of their outfielders except Yasiel Puig.
  • The Yankees have been asking almost exclusively about starting pitching in their preliminary conversations.
  • Teams that have talked with the Tigers say they’re focused on bullpen upgrades, not shortstop.
  • The Angels are in the bullpen market, but they’re looking hard at left-handed-relief options, not closers.
  • Things are murky around the D’Backs since no one really knows who is in charge their or what their goals are.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore has indicated that the Royals can add payroll, but clubs believe that he won’t get to go-ahead to spend until mid-July.  When and if KC starts buying, they are expected to target right fielders and bullpen arms since that is what they’ve been asking about in conversations.

Notes On Will Venable’s Extension

Yesterday, the Padres guaranteed one of their best players in 2013 would be around in 2014 and 2015 by locking Will Venable up to a two-year deal worth $8.5MM. Venable was already under team control through 2015, so the contract doesn't buy out any free agent years, but it does give San Diego some cost certainty. Here's more on Venable and his extension…

  • Padres GM Josh Byrnes told reporters, including Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune, that he began discussing an extension with Venable's agent before Venable's recent surge at the plate. “When I began talking to Will’s agent (Rex Gary) about the extension,” said Byrnes, “Will had 12 homers.” Venable hit his 12th homer of the season on July 23, so talks likely began in late July.
  • Also from Center's piece, Byrnes said he considers Venable to be a "very young 30," because the outfielder didn't get serious about baseball until his sophomore season at Princeton.
  • MLB.com's Corey Brock has video from the press conference announcing the contract, which features quotes from Venable and Byrnes. Venable is happy to have been drafted by the Padres and happy that he switched his focus from basketball to baseball in college. He adds: "Even though [statistically] I haven't consistently been where I want to be, I feel each year I have taken steps toward being the player I want to be, with this year being the biggest step."
  • Eno Sarris of Fangraphs spoke with Venable at length regarding his approach at the plate and in the field. Venable said he hasn't made any drastic changes to his swing plane that would explain the boost in his power output, and he credits his success to staying in a rhythm at the plate. He also modestly says that he considers himself a corner outfielder after playing alongside a "true, elite center fielder" in Cameron Maybin, despite the fact that both UZR and DRS suggest that he's been solid in center. Sarris calls the contract a "no-brainer," noting that Venable has been a two-win player for several years before 2013's breakout.
  • Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune looks at the recent extensions issued by Byrnes and notes that in a best-case scenario, Venable's deal is a bargain, and at worst, he now forms a cost-effective platoon with Chris Denorfia.
  • My own take: It seems that Venable could have earned more on a year-to-year basis, but he chose the immediate security of a guarateed $8.5MM. That's no small sum for a player who had less than $6MM in career earnings entering the season. Venable's contract is one of many low-risk deals that Byrnes has issued since taking over as the Padres' GM and could save the team precious resources as they try to extend Chase Headley this offseason. Even if Venable's bat regresses a bit, his strong defensive track record and excellent baserunning will be more than enough to justify the modest commitment.

Padres Extend Will Venable

The Padres have officially announced a two-year contract extension for outfielder Will Venable. The new contract is reportedly worth $8.5MM and will buy out Venable's final two years of arbitration eligibility and pay him $4.25MM each season. Venable is represented by Rex Gary of Turner Gary Sports.  Venable-Will

Venable, 30, is in the midst of the finest season of his career. The Princeton product and lifetime Padre is batting .273/.315/.503 with a career-high 20 homers and 15 stolen bases (in 20 attempts). Always one to succeed away from Petco Park, Venable is getting the job done in San Diego this season for the first time. It may be due to a small sample or it may be due to Petco Park's new dimensions, but he's slashing .277/.330/.559 with 14 of his 20 long balls at home.

Venable is earning $2.675MM this year after avoiding arbitration for a second time as a Super Two player this past winter. Had he remained this productive in 2014, he likely could have exceeded a guaranteed $8.5MM from 2014-15, but in accepting this deal, Venable has more than doubled his career earnings, which likely made it a worthwhile compromise.

This is the second consecutive September in which Padres GM Josh Byrnes has hammered out an affordable multiyear deal for one of his outfielders. As I pointed out earlier today in examining recent September extensions, the Padres and Chris Denorfia agreed to a two-year, $4.25MM contract last September that looks to be a steal for the Friars now, given Denorfia's strong season at the plate and in the field.

As can be seen in MLBTR's Extension Tracker, the Padres have made a habit of extending their players since Byrnes took over as GM following the 2011 season. In that time, Venable, Denorfia, Carlos Quentin, Huston StreetCory Luebke, Cameron Maybin and Nick Hundley have all signed low-cost multiyear deals, though some have worked out better than others. Byrnes will have his biggest task this offseason as he looks to lock up third baseman Chase Headley just one year prior to his first taste of free agency.

MLB.com's Corey Brock first broke the news of the extension and provided the contract breakdown.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Padres Avoid Arbitration With Will Venable

The Padres have agreed to a one-year, $2.675MM deal with Will Venable, avoiding arbitration with the outfielder, reports Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  This was Venable's second year of arb-eligibility, and he was projected to earn $2.5MM by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.  Venable is represented by Turner Gary Sports.

The left-handed hitting Venable hit .270/.339/.440 against right-handers last season and hit very well (an .875 OPS) overall away from Petco Park.  He also stole 24 bases in 30 attempts.  Venable, 30, will get the lion's share of at-bats as San Diego's right fielder next season with Chris Denorfia getting some playing time against left-handed pitching. 

With Venable and Kyle Blanks signed to 2013 contracts, MLBTR's Arbtracker tells us that the Padres now have seven remaining arbitration-eligible players: John Baker, Everth Cabrera, Luke Gregerson, Chase Headley, Clayton Richard, Joe Thatcher and Edinson Volquez.

Braves Inquired On Will Venable

The Braves asked the Padres about right fielder Will Venable, only to hear he’s not available, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (all Twitter links). It was reported over the weekend that Atlanta GM Frank Wren seeks depth for the infield and outfield.

The Braves would prefer to add someone who can play center field if they acquire an outfielder, Morosi writes. Venable has MLB experience at all three outfield positions, though he spent most of last season in right field. He has great speed for a right fielder to go along with outstanding range, according to The Fielding Bible Volume III. The Braves are reluctant to trade Kris Medlen for an outfielder, since they value the right-hander’s versatility.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here.  Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing.  Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints.  Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM: