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Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Padres announced a slew of non-roster invitees, including right-hander Michael Mariot and catcher Raffy Lopez, each of whom has prior Major League experience. Mariot, 29, last saw time in the Majors back in 2016 when he tossed 21 2/3 innings for the Phillies. He’s struggled to a 5.98 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 5.1 BB/9 in 49 2/3 MLB innings to date, though he has a vastly superior 3.34 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 240 innings of Triple-A work. Lopez, meanwhile, picked up a career-high 63 plate appearances with the Blue Jays last season, hitting .222/.306/.463 in that brief time. The 30-year-old is a career .267/.342/.380 hitter in 877 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
- First baseman Jonathan Rodriguez has a minor league deal with the Marlins, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). The 28-year-old spent the 2017 season in the Twins organization, hitting .309/.414/.525 with 21 homers, albeit in Double-A against much younger and less experienced competition. Rodriguez has yet to reach the Majors and only has 165 career plate appearances in Triple-A.
Jan. 18: The Pirates have formally announced the extension.
Jan. 15: The Pirates have agreed to a four-year deal with closer Felipe Rivero, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). The deal, which will buy out all of Rivero’s arbitration seasons, is believed to guarantee Rivero about $22MM in total, per Rosenthal. It also contains a pair of club options over what would have been his first two free-agent seasons. Interestingly, Rosenthal notes that it’s unclear if an agency was involved in the negotiations. Rivero had recently hired Scott Boras to represent him, though this is the type of extension to which the Boras Corp is typically averse.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Rivero will earn $2.5MM in 2018, $4MM in 2019, $5.25MM in 2020 and $7.25MM in 2021. The deal also comes with a $2MM signing bonus, and his contract contains a pair of $10MM options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The 2022 option comes with a $1MM buyout, and the 2023 option has a $500K buyout. In all, that totals the $22MM sum Rosenthal suggested, though the contract would top out at $41MM over six years should both options be exercised.
Certainly, the timing of the deal comes as something of a surprise. The Bucs, in the past week, have traded longtime top starter Gerrit Cole to the Astros and shipped face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for righty Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.
The Rivero deal, though, serves an indicator that the Pirates aren’t necessarily eyeing a full tear-down of the roster but are instead intent on turning some (relatively) high-priced and short-term assets into controllable pieces in an effort to manage payroll and re-establish a core of cost-effective young parts. It’s understandably not a popular approach among Pirates fans, but it’s a reality the Bucs have had to accept under current ownership and with one of the league’s worst TV contracts (which reportedly affords them only about $20MM annually — though that deal is nearing its expiration).
In some respects, the timing of these moves is reminiscent of the Pirates’ salary dump of Francisco Liriano, which was quickly followed up by an extension for veteran third baseman David Freese. The long-term deal for Rivero may ever so slightly lessen the sting of losing both McCutchen and Cole in the eyes of Pirates fans, though it’s nonetheless a difficult sequence of events for Pittsburgh faithful to stomach.
While the extension for Rivero technically does enhance his trade value, it now seems unlikely that he’ll be moved anytime in the near future. The Bucs now have cost certainty over Rivero for more than half a decade, and his salary won’t even climb higher than $6MM until the 2021 campaign. The Pirates can assuredly hang onto Rivero for the foreseeable future and be confident that he’ll retain plenty of trade value, barring a massive injury or unforeseen decline.
The latter of those two scenarios seems unlikely, as Rivero has looked legitimately dominant since being acquired in the 2016 deadline trade that sent Melancon to the Nationals. (A trade that, much like Pittsburgh’s recent trades, emphasized MLB-ready talent with extended team control.) In 102 2/3 innings with the Pirates, Rivero has worked to a pristine 2.10 ERA with 11.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a grounder rate right around 50 percent. Rivero’s swinging-strike rate jumped to an enormous 15.8 percent, and his average fastball checked in north of 98 mph.
His extension comes on the heels of a similar deal for the Padres’ Brad Hand, another southpaw closer, though Rivero’s $22MM guarantee tops the $19.75MM that Hand pulled in, and the two are in different service classes. Rivero’s deal, it seems, is a record for a pitcher in his service class and is the fourth-largest ever agreed to by a reliever at any point in the arbitration process, trailing only Craig Kimbrel, Brad Lidge and Huston Street (MLBTR Extension Tracker link). Of course, that’s largely because relievers are volatile enough that teams don’t often make them the target of long-term deals in their pre-arb and early arb years.
While the contract’s standing in historical context is among the strongest for an arb-eligible reliever, it nonetheless stands out as a strong deal for the Pirates. It’s not uncommon for upper-tier relievers to clear $10MM annually in their final years of arbitration, but Rivero will make a combined $12.5MM in his final two arb years.
Rivero figures to continue to hold down the ninth inning for the Pirates, anchoring a relief corps that features Daniel Hudson, George Kontos and A.J. Schugel. Pittsburgh’s bullpen will also very likely feature newly acquired righties Michael Feliz (picked up in the Cole trade) and Kyle Crick (McCutchen trade), and there’s room for further additions of the Pirates feel there’s value remaining on the free-agent market for relievers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Brewers have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with veteran righty Ernesto Frieri, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (on Twitter). The former Angels closer will be invited to Major League Spring Training and vie for a spot in the bullpen.
Frieri, 32, did not pitch in the Majors or minors in 2016, but he used the 2017 World Baseball Classic as an audition to return to pro ball in North America. Frieri pitched for his native Colombia in that tournament and showed enough that the Yankees picked him up on a minor league pact. While Frieri didn’t make it to the big leagues in the Bronx, the 3.00 ERA and 24-to-9 K/BB ratio that he logged with their Triple-A affiliate was enough to draw the interest of the Rangers.
Frieri did log seven innings out of the Rangers’ bullpen last season, though that was his lone big league action in 2017. He spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A with the Yanks, Rangers and also the Mariners, pitching to a 3.43 ERA with 11.9 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9.
Overall, Frieri has a lifetime 3.59 ERA in 303 1/3 innings at the Major League level. He’s averaged a healthy 11.5 K/9 in the Majors against 4.2 BB/9 but just a 26.4 percent ground-ball rate. Frieri relies heavily on a four-seam fastball that he’ll often throw up in the zone, generating to plenty of whiffs above the zone and a sky-high 15.5 percent infield-fly rate (one of the best in the Majors over the past decade). However, home runs became an increasing problem for Frieri over the course of his career, as he averaged 1.7 HR/9 from 2012-15 before sitting out the 2016 campaign.
The Mets announced on Thursday that they’ve designated right-hander Chasen Bradford for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, whose one-year deal with the team has now been formally announced.
Bradford, 28, made his big league debut with the Mets this past season and racked up a fair amount of time in the bullpen, appearing in 28 games and tallying 33 2/3 innings of work. In that time, the former 35th-round pick posted a solid 3.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a hefty 55.9 percent ground-ball rate.
While Bradford doesn’t throw hard — he averaged just 90.6 mph on his fastball in that rookie season — he has a history of limiting walks (1.6 BB/9 in parts of four Triple-A seasons) and has routinely turned in ground-ball rates north of 50 percent in the minor leagues.
Jan. 18: Gonzalez has passed his physical, and the Mets have formally announced his signing via press release.
Jan. 13: The Mets have agreed to sign first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pending a physical. Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported the news via Twitter. Nightengale reported earlier tonight that discussions between the two sides were serious, with Jon Heyman of FanRag confirming shortly thereafter.
As we noted earlier in the evening, Gonzalez was recently traded from the Dodgers to the Braves in a deal heavily driven by luxury tax considerations. By sending the 35-year-old first baseman to Atlanta (along with Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson) in exchange for former Dodger Matt Kemp, Los Angeles will be able to stay under the tax cap for 2018. The Braves granted him his release the following Monday, leaving Gonzalez free to sign with any team willing to pay him the MLB minimum salary. Atlanta, of course, is still on the hook for just under $17MM of his guaranteed 2018 salary.
Presumably, Gonzalez will compete with 22-year-old Dominic Smith for the Mets’ first base job in spring training. GM Sandy Alderson has gone on record saying that the Mets wouldn’t make any moves that eliminate Smith as a possibility at first base, but the presence of a five-time All Star with a chance to bounce back to above-average offensive production leaves the Mets some room to give their first baseman of the future some more seasoning at the Triple-A level. That’s now a much more viable contingency plan if Smith struggles to produce offensively the way he did last season. Indeed, as Heyman notes, there are questions about whether Smith is ready for the majors and in good enough shape to reach his potential.
The deal clearly carries very little risk for the Mets, as they’re only obligated to pay Gonzalez the $545K MLB minimum salary in 2018. And yet the upside of this signing should not be taken lightly. As recently as 2015, the former number one overall pick slashed .275/.350/.480 with 28 homers, good for a 129 wRC+ and 3.0 fWAR. His performance has declined in recent seasons, possibly due to age and absolutely due to injuries, but if he can stay healthy, there’s a chance Gonzalez could bounce back from a -1.1 fWAR 2017 campaign and reward the Mets for bringing him into the fold. As we already noted today, he also carries a lifetime 138 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, making him a potentially great asset even in a part-time role.
The Florida Marlins selected Gonzalez out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, CA with the number one overall pick in the 2000 draft. His MLB debut came with the Rangers on April 18th, 2004, but he didn’t truly catch fire until then-Padres-GM Kevin Towers acquired him (along with Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge) for the 2006 season. Gonzalez went on to post ten consecutive seasons of at least 2.9 fWAR between the Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers (38.3 fWAR total from 206-2015), homering 283 times during that span. All told, his .288/.359/.488 lifetime batting line paints a picture of a very impressive career.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The Blue Jays are in agreement with veteran right-hander Al Alburquerque on a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Alburquerque is represented by the MVP Sports Group.
The 31-year-old Alburquerque was a fixture in the Tigers’ bullpen from 2011-15, appearing in a total of 241 games and totaling 225 innings of 3.20 ERA ball. Alburquerque has long shown a knack for missing bats thanks in large part to an excellent slider that he throws more often than his fastball (60.2 percent usage rate in his career).
Alburquerque averaged 11.0 K/9 and just 0.6 HR/9 in his run with the Tigers, but his control was also a persistent issue. Alburquerque averaged 5.0 walks per nine innings in that span, hit eight batters and uncorked 20 wild pitches. By the time he reached his fifth season in Detroit, his strikeout rate and swinging-strike rates had dropped off considerably from their peak levels (8.5 K/9, 11.1 swinging-strike rate in ’15).
Since that time, Alburquerque has bounced around the American League, spending time in the Angels, Mariners, Royals and White Sox organizations. (He did not pitch in the Majors with Seattle.) Alburquerque has totaled 20 innings in the Majors across the past two seasons, working to a 2.70 ERA with a less-encouraging 15-to-10 K/BB ratio in that time. He did post a strong 2.87 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against just 2.4 BB/9 in 37 1/3 Triple-A frames last season, though he was ultimately non-tendered by the White Sox in December.
The Mets have designated right-hander Kevin McGowan for assignment as one of the two necessary 40-man roster moves to create space for the signings of Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez, tweets Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. The move has yet to be formally announced by the team, though it’s listed on the Transactions page at MLB.com.
McGowan, 26, made his big league debut with the Mets in 2017 and tallied 8 2/3 innings out of the team’s bullpen. In that time, he yielded five runs on the strength of eight hits (two homers) and five walks to go along with eight strikeouts. McGowan showed rather strong fly-ball tendencies both in his brief MLB tenure and in Triple-A Las Vegas last season, and he averaged 92.6 mph on his fastball in the Majors.
[Related: Updated New York Mets depth chart]
The former 13th-round pick (Mets, 2013) out of Division-II Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire has a career 4.19 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level. Because his contract was only just selected to the big league roster in 2017, he has multiple minor league options remaining in the event that another club wants to take a shot on him via the waiver wire. If not, he’ll be assigned outright back to Triple-A and vie for a spot with the big league club once again at some point in 2018.
Despite Christian Yelich’s unhappiness with the Marlins’ direction and the recent comments from his agent to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick indicating that the relationship between team and player is “irretrievably broken,” the Marlins maintain an understandably high asking price on the 26-year-old. MLB Network’s Peter Gammons uses the Braves as an example of that lofty asking price (video link), reporting that the Marlins at one point informed Atlanta that they’d be willing to talk about a multi-player package that would send Yelich to the Braves if and only if top prospect Ronald Acuna was the headliner of the deal. (Braves fans will undoubtedly scoff at the very notion, though it’s hardly a surprise to see the Marlins pushing for any team’s top-ranked prospect when peddling five years of Yelich at a maximum total of $58.25MM.)
Unsurprisingly, Gammons quickly adds, “That’s one guy the Braves are not going to trade,” in reference to Acuna. Despite the drama surrounding Yelich and teammate J.T. Realmuto, Gammons notes that the Marlins aren’t locks to deal the pair, with Yelich being especially difficult to pry away given the affordable half-decade of control he has on his contract.
More from the division…
- At today’s press conference to reintroduce Jay Bruce, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson suggested to reporters that his team likely has the budget to make one more notable addition (link via Ken Davidoff of the New York Post). Alderson confirmed recent reports that his preference would be to sign a free agent rather than make a trade. “If we were to try to improve in that area, I think we prefer to sign a free agent, only because it doesn’t require us to give up talent,” the GM said. Alderson acknowledged a trade as a possibility, adding that while his farm isn’t as strong as it once was, the Mets do still have players that have drawn interest from other clubs. There have been suggestions that young outfielder Brandon Nimmo could be on the table if the Mets and Pirates discuss a Josh Harrison trade, though the Post’s Mike Puma tweeted today that the Mets “aren’t particularly enthusiastic” about the idea of trading Nimmo for Harrison.
- Nick Williams has been working out alongside free agent Jake Arrieta for much of the offseason in Austin, he tells Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, and the young outfielder has talked up Philadelphia in an effort to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies. “He has told me he likes working with young guys,” said Williams. “I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.” While Williams’ pitch to his workout buddy should hardly be characterized as a legitimate connection between the Phils and Arrieta, Salisbury notes that the team is still actively trying to add to the rotation. If the price tag for Arrieta or another top starter comes down to a shorter length — Salisbury suggests three years, though it’s tough to see Arrieta dropping to that point — the Phillies’ interest could be piqued.
- Though much of the attention in Washington D.C. is placed on the fact that 2018 is Bryce Harper’s final year before free agency, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale points out that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is also entering the last year of his deal. The two sides haven’t spoken about an extension yet, per Nightengale — owner Mark Lerner tells Nightengale a new deal will be discussed “in the normal course of business” — but Rizzo hopes to remain beyond the ’18 season. Rizzo is wrapping up a five-year, $10MM deal, per Nightengale, and the GM somewhat candidly suggested that he feels he’s earned a deal more commensurate with the top executives in the league. “I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too,” he said.
Collins, 28 in June, is no stranger to the AL Central after spending parts of the past four seasons with the Tigers. The former sixth-round pick (2011) at times looked like he could lock down a fairly significant role in Detroit. The 2015 campaign saw Collins take 207 plate appearances with the big league club and post a solid, if unspectacular .266/.316/.417 slash. At the very least, the Tigers’ confidence in his ability to play all three outfield spots made him a candidate to stick around as a fourth outfielder.
From 2016-17, though, Collins’ offensive production tumbled in significant fashion (.213/.291/.357) — a decline that prompted the Tigers to designate him for assignment midway through the 2017 campaign. Collins cleared waivers and stuck with the organization, returning later in the year only to be outrighted once again in October, at which point he filed for minor league free agency.
[Related: Updated Kansas City Royals depth chart]
While Collins clearly doesn’t have much in the way of MLB success under his belt, he did hit .288/.358/.462 in Triple-A this past season. At the very least, he’ll give the Royals a depth option for an outfield that looks anything but settled. With Lorenzo Cain’s likely departure via free agency, the Royals will deploy Alex Gordon in left field (in hopes of a significant rebound), while Paulo Orlando, Billy Burns, Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler split up the remaining outfield reps.