The Dodgers only signed Arruebarrena early this year, and he still has four years and $16MM on his contract. Clearly, the Dodgers’ new front office does not think as highly of Arruebarrena as the old one did, although it’s likely he’ll wind up back with the Dodgers organization anyway, as he’s a good bet to clear waivers. A trade is also a possibility. The 24-year-old Cuban defector hit .259/.304/.417 in 272 plate appearances split between four minor-league levels this season, notably playing a key role in an ugly brawl with Triple-A Albuquerque. He also struggled through 45 plate appearances in the big leagues, hitting .195/.244/.220. Arruebarrena does, however, have a strong defensive reputation.
Archives for December 2014
The Dodgers have announced that they’ve signed lefty Brett Anderson to a one-year deal. Anderson, a client of the Legacy Agency, will make $10MM, plus up to $4MM in incentives for innings pitched. The incentives would kick in beginning at 150 innings, and Anderson would receive the full $4MM for pitching 200 innings.
The signing represents yet another fascinating move out of the new L.A. front office. Anderson is still only 26 years old and has generally been quite effective when healthy. But he has not thrown over 100 innings since 2010, falling prey to a variety of maladies, including a UCL tear (and resulting Tommy John surgery) and a stress fracture in his foot. Last year, Anderson fell victim to a freak finger fracture on a hit-by-pitch and ended the year on the operating table for a bulging disc in his back.
With risk looming large in his profile, the Rockies paid Anderson a $1.5MM buyout rather than picking up his $12MM club option. Anderson was also pursued by the Yankees and Athletics before picking his new home, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
For their money, the Dodgers will be adding a true high-ceiling, high-risk arm for the following season. That is the kind of chance a deep-pocketed club can take, of course, as Los Angeles will have options to fill the void if Anderson fails to stay healthy.
If it all works out, it would not be surprising to find that Anderson becomes the steal of the offseason. He threw to a 2.91 ERA last year in just 43 1/3 frames, posting 6.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 along with a typically outstanding 61% groundball rate.
Over 494 career innings, Anderson’s earned run average stands at 3.73, but his career FIP (3.51), xFIP (3.52), and SIERA (3.55) all paint him in even a better light. If one accepts the premise that Anderson would have posted better numbers had he not been constantly succumbing to and returning from injury, his true talent ceiling is probably quite high.
Anderson and Brandon McCarthy will, when their signings are official, step into a rotation fronted by Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu. If all five of those arms manage to stay on the rubber for the most part, that has the look of quite an imposing group. Behind them are pitchers such as Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, and Mike Bolsinger. It would not be surprising, perhaps, to see the Dodgers pursue a veteran to hold down the swingman role played last year by Paul Maholm.
ESPN’s Buster Olney originally tweeted that the two sides had agreed to a deal, and reported the basic financial outline. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan and the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez reported details relating to the incentives in the deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Smith doesn’t have a broad skill set, but given how good he is at hitting right-handed pitching, he’s an excellent fit for the Mariners, Paul Swydan of Fangraphs writes. And unlike many good hitters against righties, Smith plays outfield and isn’t incredibly costly.
- Still, the trade might not work out for Seattle, Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com writes. Smith is signed through 2016 (for $13MM, which isn’t prohibitive but also isn’t nothing for a part-time player) and might not hold up through age 33, while Maurer has plenty of upside and could benefit from joining up with PETCO Park and Bud Black. The Padres have gotten good value by acquiring pitchers like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross in trades, and they might do so again with Maurer, meaning the Padres might be selling high and buying low.
- The Mariners don’t seem inclined to add another first baseman to back up Logan Morrison despite Morrison’s past injury issues, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” says GM Jack Zduriencik. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not.” Dutton adds that Brad Miller could be a factor at first if Chris Taylor wins the starting shortstop job.
Here are today’s minor moves from around baseball.
- The Indians have signed Casey Weathers to a minor-league deal, Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The hard-throwing righty and former Rockies first-round pick has struggled with his control throughout his career. He also has a lengthy injury history and missed most of the past two seasons with elbow trouble, although he says he’s now pain-free, and Passan links to a recent video of Weathers throwing 106 MPH after getting a running start.
- The Rays have signed another hard-throwing righty reliever, Jhan Marinez, according to the International League transactions page. Marinez, 26, posted a 6.69 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 7.1 BB/9 in 40 1/3 innings in the Dodgers and Tigers systems in 2014, struggling badly with his control. He last appeared in the big leagues with the White Sox in 2012.
- The Rangers have signed righty Mitch Atkins, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. Atkins, 29, pitched for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves system in 2014, posting a combined 3.76 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings. He pitched briefly in the big leagues for the Cubs (2009-2010) and Orioles (2011).
The Blue Jays only have about $9MM left to spend this offseason, Richard Griffin of TheStar.com writes. The team’s top priority is upgrading the bullpen, which means the Jays aren’t likely to spend most of that money on a second baseman or an additional bat. (Griffin notes on Twitter that the Blue Jays’ apparent lack of funds likely means they won’t get Stephen Drew, who has reportedly been asking for around $9MM.) Griffin suggests that GM Alex Anthopoulos might prefer to add a younger pitcher, which could limit the Jays’ interest in older free agent options like Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano or former team closer Casey Janssen. Instead, he could pursue trade options like Tyler Clippard, Tommy Hunter (although, as a reader points out, it does not seem likely that the Orioles would trade Hunter within the division), Tanner Scheppers, or one of any number of Athletics relievers. Here are more notes from the AL East.
- The Orioles have recently been connected to Colby Rasmus, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com looks at the repercussions for other Orioles outfielders, and especially David Lough, if the O’s were to acquire another left-handed outfielder. The main reason for keeping Lough was his ability to play center field, but Rasmus has played center throughout his career. Separately, Kubatko notes that the Orioles will need to open a 40-man roster spot shortly to clear space for Delmon Young.
- After struggling in 2014, Craig Breslow took an unusual road back to the Red Sox this offseason, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. “In terms of the process, it was exciting, it was unsettling,” says Breslow, who agreed to a one-year, $2MM deal to return to Boston after posting a 5.96 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 2014. “[E]veryone will go through a career with one season being their worst. Now, the fact that mine came on the cusp of free agency, that’s not how you draw it up.” Breslow attended the Winter Meetings and sat in on discussions between his agent, Bob Baratta, and various teams, explaining his tough year and making a case for himself. “Ultimately even teams we diverged from mentioned their appreciation for my involvement and that I had left an impression on them,” Breslow says.
Earlier today, the Rays reportedly struck a one-year deal with Asdrubal Cabrera, prompting immediate speculation that the versatile Ben Zobrist could be on the move before the offseason is over. Given the fact that Zobrist’s defense ranges from adequate to exceptional at second base, shortstop and the outfield corners, he could help virtually any team in the game. In this afternoon’s MLBTR Chat, I noted that Zobrist could plausibly draw from interest from nearly half the teams in the league, as the one year and $7.5MM remaining on his contract is something that any club can absorb.
Here’s a very speculative division-by-division look at teams that could make a play for Zobrist.
- Angels: The Angels dealt Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers in a one-for-one trade that netted them top young lefty Andrew Heaney, and they now project to have Grant Green or Josh Rutledge starting at second base. Zobrist’s contract wouldn’t push them over the luxury tax threshold, though they lack impact prospects to entice the Rays.
- Rangers: The Rangers have yet to add a bat that can handle left field, and an acquisition of Zobrist would solve that need (either with Zobrist playing left or Shin-Soo Choo shifting to that position, and Zobrist manning right field). The Rangers have a bounty of young infielders to offer.
- Athletics: The A’s currently project to have Marcus Semien and Eric Sogard up the middle, and Zobrist could take one of the middle infield spots, with Semien handling the other. He’s the type of versatile piece that has come to be commonly associated with the A’s, although Oakland has admittedly looked like a rebuilding club for much of the offseason (the Billy Butler signing notwithstanding).
- Mariners: Seattle will have Robinson Cano at second, Dustin Ackley in left and a platoon of Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith in right field. However, shortstop right now looks to be a battle between Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, and a year of Zobrist would likely be an upgrade over either. Seattle has young pitching and hitters that could appeal to Tampa.
- Astros: As a rebuilding club that most don’t expect to contend, Houston’s a stretch to be connected to a one-year upgrade like Zobrist. Still, they could deploy him in left field or shift Jed Lowrie to the hot corner. Of course, part of the selling point for Lowrie in Houston was that he’d be playing shortstop.
- White Sox: The most aggressive club in the Central this offseason, the ChiSox could deploy Zobrist at second base. They’ve already added Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke this winter, and Zobrist would fit GM Rick Hahn’s recently stated goals of getting more athletic and improving his team’s defense.
- Tigers: The Tigers aren’t a great fit, but they traded Eugenio Suarez to the Reds in the Alfredo Simon deal, and Jose Iglesias’ health isn’t certain. They’re a stretch, but they’re in clear win-now mode with a closing window for contention as the team’s core continues to age.
- Royals: The Royals were interested in Cabrera before he signed with the Rays and are said to want to move Omar Infante’s remaining salary. If they can pull off that deal, a second significant trade with the Rays for GM Dayton Moore would make a good deal of sense.
- Yankees: The Yankees are gearing up for a Spring Training battle between Rob Refsnyder, Jose Pirela and others to see who will man second base, but Zobrist could step into that spot and give the team better all-around contributions.
- Blue Jays: Toronto is reportedly focusing on its closer position at the moment, but Zobrist would fill another need — a bat to plug in at second base. Toronto managed to acquire both Josh Donaldson and Michael Saunders without parting with any of its top-ranked prospects, so they’d still have plenty of appealing assets for the Rays.
- Orioles: The O’s have yet to replace either Nick Markakis or Nelson Cruz, and second baseman Jonathan Schoop struggled greatly at the plate as a rookie in 2014. Zobrist could help in a variety of ways as Baltimore looks to keep up with the much-improved Blue Jays and Red Sox.
- Padres: I’d be remiss not to mention the hyper-aggressive Padres as a possible destination for a trade target. The Friars have plenty of outfielders, but they’re looking at Alexi Amarista or Clint Barmes as a starting shortstop right now. Zobrist would be yet another upgrade to a completely revamped Padres lineup, and the Friars still have a number of top prospects, as they didn’t part with the likes of Austin Hedges, Matt Wisler and Hunter Renfroe in their other trades.
- Giants: The Giants have been frequently linked to Zobrist, with Peter Gammons even writing recently that many GMs feel Zobrist will end up in San Francisco. The reigning World Champs could deploy Zobrist in left field and use him as insurance if Joe Panik can’t repeat last year’s production.
- Cubs: The Cubs need to add another outfield bat, and Zobrist could fill that role while serving as an insurance policy to Javier Baez at second base. With one year remaining, he wouldn’t block any of Chicago’s vaunted young prospects, and he could help push them toward the postseason.
- Reds: Cincinnati is also in need of a left fielder and has had trade talks regarding Marlon Byrd in addition to free agent interest in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, among others. The Reds have traded away Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, so it’s possible that they’re no longer interested in one-year upgrades.
- Mets: The Mets have remained patient in their search for a shortstop, and as ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes, that patience will look like a shrewd decision if the team is able to acquire Zobrist to man shortstop in 2015. Zobrist would deepen New York’s lineup and give them a chance at contention with a healthy Matt Harvey in a division that has seen the rival Braves shift to a minor rebuild.
- Nationals: With Ryan Zimmerman now shifting to first base and Anthony Rendon presumably manning third base, the Nationals project to have the struggling Danny Espinosa as their Opening Day second baseman. The Nationals are considered the division favorites, but deepening their roster would better position them for a potential postseason run.
In terms of what Zobrist should fetch in a trade, it seems reasonable to expect either a Major League ready player and perhaps a prospect in addition, or a package of three to four prospects headlined by at least one particularly well-regarded name. Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan took an excellent look at this scenario earlier today, noting that Jason Heyward’s trade to St. Louis represents a fairly sound comparable, despite differences in age and the Braves’ inclusion of Jordan Walden.
It should also be noted, of course, that clubs not listed here could make a run at Zobrist if a different move or injury opens a need. Likewise, a rebuilding club that doesn’t appear to be a fit could have interest in Zobrist simply because they want a chance to extend him or feel they can trade him midseason for more than they’d give up to initially acquire him. A team with an established second baseman may just decide that Zobrist is an upgrade and pursue him with the intention of then shopping their incumbent at the position.
The Rays don’t need to trade Zobrist now; they could move Yunel Escobar instead or simply keep Zobrist and bounce him around the diamond in a role not dissimilar to the one the Pirates assigned to Josh Harrison for much of the 2014 campaign. They could also deal another outfielder and return Zobrist to right field.
However, Zobrist has long been an attractive trade chip, and the addition of a player who could be viewed as redundant with Cabrera also on the roster figures to further motivate rival GMs to reach out to the Rays as Zobrist heads into a contract season.
The Angels employ a young quartet of analysts in their baseball operations department, and the four young executives took some time to talk about the work they do with the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura. Jeremy Zoll, Jonathan Strangio, Nate Horowitz and Mike LaCassa (whose ages range from 24 to 28) discuss their efforts, which include seeing if trends translate from college to minor league ball and grouping players by swing path and testing splits for trends. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Moura as well regarding the team’s increased usage of information: “As we’ve organized and analyzed numbers better, it’s helped us, primarily on the defensive front. It’s also helped with some lineup issues or determinations. I think our decisiveness was noticeable last year.” GM Jerry Dipoto said that each of Zoll, Strangio, Horowitz and LaCassa is future GM material and offered high praise for his young lieutenants.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- New Rangers special assistant Michael Young sat down with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss his new role with the team. Among the topics they discussed were Young’s involvement in the hiring of manager Jeff Banister — Young particularly praised Banister’s communication prowess — and the problems with the 2014 club. Young said that in addition to injuries, the Rangers lacked leadership with their best players out, which sometimes led to a poor collective approach to the daily grind of a 162-game season.
- In a piece for Baseball America, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Jeff Wilson writes that Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. will be given an opportunity to make the Rangers’ Opening Day roster as a backup center field option. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that he likes “the combination of now and the future” with DeShields, whom he can envision getting some time in left field in addition to backing up Leonys Martin. DeShields’ work ethic has been questioned in the past, but Wilson writes that the Rangers feel the environment fostered by Banister will help turn that around.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters today, including the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton, that he isn’t concerned about adding a backup first baseman to serve as a safety net in the event that Logan Morrison is again injured in 2015. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not. That’s going to be up to him, and we’ll see what happens.” Dutton also mentions Brad Miller as a backup possibility at first, although Zduriencik didn’t list Miller specifically.
The 32-year-old Smith (pictured) unquestionably had an excellent 2014 campaign, and his career year earned him a two-year $13MM extension in early July. He’s slated to earn $6MM in 2015, $6.75MM in 2016 and has a $7MM club option ($250K buyout) for the 2017 season. The Padres, at the time of the signing, assured Smith that he wouldn’t be traded after signing, but that assurance was made by different leadership; GM A.J. Preller was not in place yet at that time.
Preller has taken a dogged approach to acquiring talent via trades this offseason, successfully obtaining an entirely new outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. Those three additions have left Smith without regular at-bats, and his inability to handle center field makes him a poor choice as a fourth outfielder. Thus, despite hitting a strong .266/.367/.440 with 12 homers, he found himself a frequently mentioned trade candidate. Smith’s strong production was the best of his career, especially considering that it came at Petco Park, but the new Padres front office may have been wary of his ability to repeat a career year.
In acquiring Smith, the Mariners have netted a platoon partner for fellow trade acquisition Justin Ruggiano. Smith’s platoon problems are well known; he’s a lifetime .205/.291/.314 hitter against fellow lefties, but he’s crushed right-handers to the tune of a .277/.358/.481 batting line. That will pair well with Ruggiano’s .288/.357/.569 triple slash against southpaws over the past three seasons.
Upon first glance Maurer’s stats aren’t particularly appealing, but the 24-year-old became a different pitcher upon moving to the bullpen midway through the season. Maurer’s heater averaged better than 95 mph as a reliever, and he posted a 2.17 ERA with a 38-to-5 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings out of the Seattle ’pen in 2014.
The Padres’ pursuit of Maurer has been ongoing for about a year, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Some within the organization feel he could return to a starting role, though the Padres likely will rely on Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy atop their rotation, with a combination of Robbie Erlin, Odrisamer Despaigne, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson (once his deal is finalized) fighting for the final two spots. San Diego will control Maurer through the 2019 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration for another two years.
Maurer is the second arm acquired by the Padres to deepen the bullpen this week, as the Friars struck a deal to acquire Shawn Kelley from the Yankees yesterday. Maurer and Kelley will give manager Bud Black a pair of strikeout arms to add to a bullpen that already featured Joaquin Benoit, Kevin Quackenbush, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Alex Torres. That creates a deep and formidable bullpen, though we of course shouldn’t rule out that possibility that Preller will deal some of those arms in further trades. Benoit, in particular, seems like a possible trade candidate to me, given his $8MM salary and the presence of other closing options in the Padres’ bullpen.
Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle was the first to report that a trade of Smith to the Mariners was close (Twitter link). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first mentioned Maurer’s possible involvement in the deal (on Twitter). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the swap was complete (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
4:30pm: Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune hears from officials with both clubs that a trade is indeed close, but the Mariners are pushing to include a reliever other than Maurer, for whom the Padres are strongly pushing in talks.
12:03pm: The Mariners are close to a trade for Padres outfielder Seth Smith, Shannon Drayer of 710AM ESPN in Seattle tweets. The Padres are trying to get righty Brandon Maurer for Smith, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.
The Padres, of course, have a surplus of outfielders after their recent string of trades for Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and the Mariners lost out on Melky Cabrera and have been known to be looking for outfield help, so a trade involving Smith would appear to make sense for both sides. The lefty Smith would fit well in right field, where the Mariners can use a platoon partner for the newly acquired Justin Ruggiano.
Smith, 32, is coming off a strong season for San Diego in which he hit .266/.367/.440, and in July, the Padres’ previous management signed Smith to a two-year, $13MM extension with a club option for 2017. After that, though, Smith tailed off in the second half, and in any case, the Padres’ current glut of outfielders makes him an obvious trade candidate — Kemp, Upton and Myers are all arguably best best utilized in the corner outfield spots, and Smith has played exclusively corner outfield in the Majors since 2008.
Maurer, 24, had a 4.65 ERA in 2014, but with fairly good peripherals (7.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) and a big fastball (averaging 94.4 MPH). Maurer also got much better results pitching in relief (9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9) than starting. If the trade is completed, he could compete for the Padres’ fifth starter job, but he might ultimately be best suited for relief. He also has fly ball tendencies, which could make him a good fit for PETCO Park.
Over the past two seasons, Gomes, now 27, has established himself as Cleveland’s starting catcher and one of the better all-around catchers in the league. The Brazilian-born backstop has batted .284/.325/.476 in 223 games for the Indians since being acquired from Toronto. He played a career-high 135 games this past season and won his first Silver Slugger award, hitting .278/.313/.472 with 21 homers. He’s also regarded as a plus pitch-framer and has thrown out 35 percent of attempted base-stealers in his career. The Indians can currently control Gomes through his age-33 season, as he previously signed a six-year, $23MM contract that comes with a pair of club options valued at $9MM and $11MM.
As Tim points out, Gomes will be one of several notable catchers represented by Jet, whose agents also represent Brian McCann, Devin Mesoraco and Mike Zunino. Gomes joins an agency that represents 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who inked a seven-year, $100MM extension earlier this winter.
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