In last week’s MLBTR Mailbag, Mark Polishuk stepped in and answered questions on Jason Heyward‘s potential of re-signing in St. Louis, a Daniel Murphy qualifying offer, the Red Sox’ pursuit of an ace and Bronson Arroyo‘s future. Let’s dive right into this week’s questions, with a reminder of course that you can email questions at any time throughout the week (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How much would it take for the Nationals to extend Bryce Harper this offseason? Could 10 years at $300M get it done? How about the Stanton contract? — Spencer J.
Harper’s season has been nothing short of incredible, especially factoring in his age. Scott Boras rarely goes the extension route with his clients in the first place, and in Harper’s case, I don’t see how he’d take anything short of a record- and precedent-setting contract extension. As weird as it is to say — $300MM is probably light.
Harper will already earn $5MM in 2016 (bringing his career earnings to $13.65MM, not including endorsements, so it’s not as if he needs the cash desperately). After that he has two more trips through arbitration. If we pencil Harper in for even 80 to 90 percent of his 2015 production next season, he’ll be in line for a historic arb raise. To put it into perspective, Chris Davis got a record $7MM arb raise from his first to second season after hitting 53 homers in 2013. Another huge season could get Harper a raise of $8-9MM, followed by a similarly sized raise for his final arb season. That means that just going year to year, Harper can expect to earn something like $36MM for his final two arbitration seasons.
Let’s assume that Boras would want to set a clear precedent with Harper. Factoring in that $36MM over the first two years and adding on another 11 seasons at a $31MM AAV would result in something like $375MM over 13 years. I’m not sure that anything could get done for less, and that might only be a starting point.
That might sound like complete craziness, depending upon one’s perspective, but the same would’ve been said about a 13-year deal for Giancarlo Stanton last year at this time. Harper’s set to hit free agency heading into his age-26 season. He’ll be even younger than Jason Heyward’s set to be this coming winter and, presumably, will have a strong enough platform that Boras will realistically be seeking contracts worth well north of $30MM annually. Put another way: if Harper hits the open market following the 2018 season as currently projected, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he ends up with a $400MM+ contract. An extension would, in all likelihood, need to reflect that kind of earning power.
With the Angels seemingly out of the division race and struggling to contend for a wildcard spot, how much do you think the departure of Dipoto effected the team? The trades Stoneman made haven’t seemed to help much. What trades and/or free agent signings do you predict for their offseason? — Scott P.
It’s true that Stoneman and Co.’s additions haven’t been all that positive, but I don’t know that you’d have seen a wildly different approach from Dipoto. Avoiding the luxury tax was a mandate while Dipoto was GM as well, and it’s not as if his offseason addition of Matt Joyce paid much in the way of dividends. That’s not to disparage Dipoto, who I think is a very worthy GM candidate for one of the four current openings. Rather, it’s to say that he, too, had his missteps, and to remind that trades are a group effort and not made by one lone decision-maker.
Predicting free agent and trade targets is always difficult, but it’s even more so when it’s still September and the team in question lacks a permanent GM. I don’t expect a big deviation from the desire to avoid the luxury tax, and while they’re shedding the contracts of Chris Iannetta and Joyce, among others, they’re also facing arb raises for Kole Calhoun, Fernando Salas and Cesar Ramos — all of whom will be retained.
As such, my personal expectation is for the Angels to pursue shorter-term upgrades as they did last offseason. Catcher, third base and left field figure to be primary targets. If they’re going to plan for even mid-level spending, they might first have to shed some payroll. In that instance, I’d think second-tier free agents like Daniel Murphy are more likely than those atop the market.
But that’s not the only possibility, of course. Following 2016, the Halos will be free of commitments to C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver and Joe Smith, which will give the incoming GM quite a bit of breathing room between the team’s payroll and the luxury tax threshold (assuming there are no dramatic changes in the upcoming CBA negotiations, of course). I spoke with MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes on the matter, and he feels the Angels could pursue some higher-end pitching this winter with those contracts set to move off the books.
With the surprise success of the Twins this year, do you see them being active in the pitching free agent market? Most of their position player talent is home grown but the pitching staff is definitely not. — Andy V.
The Twins do actually have their fair share of pitching they either drafted or acquired in trades — Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, Glen Perkins, Tommy Milone — but they’ve definitely shown a willingness to spend on free agency in recent seasons. I don’t know that that’ll be the case this offseason, though — at least not in the rotation. Jose Berrios — one of the game’s top 25 prospects or so — will join Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco, May, Gibson, Duffey and Milone in a crowded, albeit underwhelming slate of options for the Twins. In fact, if anything, they might look to shed some of those veteran obligations (Nolasco in particular).
The Twins would be wise to pick up at least one bullpen arm (perhaps two, especially if May is moved back to the rotation), and they have huge needs at catcher and perhaps shortstop as well, depending on your opinion of Eduardo Escobar (I’m not especially sold on his second-half power spike).
If the Twins do enter the free agent market for pitching, I’d expect more interest in relief help than in starters, as a lot of the power arms they’ve drafted in hopes of quickly ascending to the big league ’pen have stumbled.
What are the chances that the Padres go in to 2016 with Jedd Gyorko as their starting shortstop? He’s been steady yet unspectacular there this year, which is more than most expected. — Roy T.
Gyorko was never a great defender at third base or second base, and reports on his glovework at shortstop to this point, predictably, aren’t great. I’d be pretty surprised if San Diego was willing to run him out there at shortstop for a full season, especially since it’s not as if they have lock-down options at third and second that can’t afford to be displaced. The Padres already punted on defense heading into a season last winter, and they’ve been one of the worst defensive units in all of baseball. Penciling in Gyorko at shortstop would be not only failing to address that need, it’d be exacerbating the existing problem.
There’s a history of big contracts to first basemen becoming complete disasters, with the perfect example being Ryan Howard. You could make arguments for Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Albert Pujols all being under some bad contracts as well. That being said, should the Orioles push hard to re-sign Chris Davis? If they don’t re-sign Davis, who do you guys see as top targets the Orioles should pursue (at any position)? — Dillon A.
At this point, if the Orioles were to re-sign Davis, they’d need to shatter their existing record for largest contract in franchise history (Adam Jones’ six-year, $85.5MM deal). Davis is going to command well over $100MM on the strength of ~45 home runs and a respectable glove, and the O’s have too many needs elsewhere to dedicate most of their resources to plugging one hole.
Adding a reliable arm to the rotation, if not two arms, should be a priority. On the position-player side of the equation, adding a reasonably priced corner outfielder would top my to-do list. Justin Upton and Heyward are too expensive, as is Yoenis Cespedes, but someone like Dexter Fowler would make some sense in Baltimore.
As far as replacing Davis goes, Christian Walker decimated left-handed pitching in Triple-A this season, and adding a platoon partner with a low cost of acquisition (e.g. Logan Morrison, Pedro Alvarez) could be a suitable, if unexciting replacement. Manager Buck Showalter has plenty of familiarity mixing his assets based on matchups.
Kyle Kendrick has been disappointing for the Rockies this year, but will his track record be enough to get him a major-league deal, perhaps in a ballpark where long fly balls stay in the yard? Or will he be AAA rotation depth for somebody next year? — Allan
Kendrick has a few things going for him in that he’s consistently been able to make 25 starts and soak up 140+ innings per season, plus some clubs might give him the benefit of the doubt due to pitching at Coors Field. If I had to guess right now, though, I’d peg him for a minor league deal with a decent base salary ($2-3MM) and incentives if he makes the team. Better pitchers than Kendrick (e.g. Roberto Hernandez) had to go that route last offseason. I won’t be shocked to see him get a couple million dollars and a guaranteed roster spot, but I’m not going to predict that as an outcome because I’m not sure exactly where he’d find it. Even his road numbers this year are pretty tough to look at.