Noesi posted a 6.89 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in 32 2/3 innings with the White Sox in 2015 before being outrighted, after which he had more success with Triple-A Charlotte. In 2014, though, he was a regular in the White Sox’ rotation, pitching 166 innings with a 4.77 ERA. In addition to the White Sox, Noesi has pitched with the Yankees, Mariners and Rangers in his five-year big-league career, posting a 5.30 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 395 1/3 innings. As a fly ball pitcher, he gives up more than his fair share of homers, thus far preventing him from being more than a passable fifth starter in the big leagues.
Archives for October 2015
The Cubs’ primary offseason goal is to add an impact starting pitcher. They will also address center field, consider trades for surplus position players, and explore an extension for Jake Arrieta.
- Jon Lester, SP: $125MM through 2020; mutual option for 2021
- Starlin Castro, 2B/SS: $38MM through 2019; club option for 2020
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B: $32MM through 2019; club options for 2020 and 2021
- Miguel Montero, C: $28MM through 2017
- Jorge Soler, RF: $18MM through 2020; may opt into arbitration after 2017
- Jason Hammel, SP: $11MM through 2016; club option for 2017 that may become void based on ’16 performance
- David Ross, C: $2.25MM through 2016
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections by MLB Trade Rumors)
- Clayton Richard (5.154) – $1.1MM
- Chris Coghlan (5.148) – $3.9MM
- Jonathan Herrera (5.101) – $1.1MM
- Travis Wood (5.004) – $6.4MM
- Pedro Strop (4.156) – $4.7MM
- Jake Arrieta (4.145) – $10.6MM
- Taylor Teagarden (4.093) –
- Hector Rondon (3.000) – $3.6MM
- Justin Grimm (2.170) – $1.0MM
- Non-tender candidates: Herrera, Teagarden
- Dexter Fowler, Trevor Cahill, Dan Haren, Tommy Hunter, Jason Motte, Fernando Rodney, Chris Denorfia, Austin Jackson
Expectations have been raised for the 2016 Cubs, after the club reached the NLCS for the first time in 12 years. The team’s position player core has the potential to be in place for at least five more years. Jorge Soler is under team control through 2020, while Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez are under control through 2021. At 26 years old, Rizzo is the elder statesman of the group. Bryant, Russell, Schwarber, and Baez are years from arbitration, and Soler ($3MM) and Rizzo ($5MM) are also very cheap. Theo Epstein and company have assembled something special and have lined the players up for sustained success.
Bryant’s rookie season defense suggests he’ll remain mostly at third base next year, although manager Joe Maddon dabbled with him at each outfield position and may continue to do so. Rizzo is locked in at first base. The veteran tandem of Montero and Ross will return at catcher.
The Cubs have a middle infield surplus. Russell will remain the starting shortstop, so the question is what to do with Baez and Castro. Both players were acquired under the Jim Hendry front office, though Epstein’s group brokered the extension with Castro in the summer of 2012. Castro’s 2015 season was near replacement level, and he lost the starting shortstop job to Russell in August. Partially because of an injury to Soler that forced Chris Coghlan back to the outfield, Castro became the starting second baseman in September and had a blistering month. He continued in that role throughout the playoffs.
Castro won’t turn 26 until March, and he’s an enigma. He tallied 529 hits from age 20-22, joining Alex Rodriguez as the only middle infielders to accomplish that feat in baseball history. Since then he’s had replacement level seasons in 2013 and ’15, sandwiching a solid 2014. The Cubs prefer Russell and Baez over Castro as defensive shortstops, so it’s unclear whether another team would install Castro at short. He did show pretty well at second base late in the year.
If Castro became a free agent right now and demanded a four-year deal with a club option, I think he could get $38MM or a bit more. So perhaps the Cubs could move him without eating salary, though they wouldn’t get a player back with much surplus value. The Mets, Padres, White Sox, and Yankees could be potential trade partners for the Cubs, who would presumably look to add starting pitching. Most of those teams have pitching depth, and the Cubs could look to add to their bullpen as well.
Baez, who turns 23 in December and comes with six years of control, is also a trade candidate. He was able to cut his strikeout rate a bit in Triple-A this year, while dealing with the tragic passing of his sister as well as a broken finger. Baez’s star potential gives him much more trade value than Castro, and it would be risky for the Cubs to move him. The flip side of that is that making him available opens the door to controllable upper-tier arms like Carlos Carrasco and Tyson Ross, pitchers the Cubs pursued in July. All in all, Castro is more likely to be dealt than Baez this winter, yet there is a reasonable chance the club enters the season with both and delays the trade decision. Baez could serve as the team’s backup infielder to start the season.
Schwarber’s bat is well ahead of his glove. He joined the Cubs in mid-June and clubbed 21 home runs in 304 plate appearances, including his postseason onslaught. The plan remains the same for 2016: bring him along as a catcher when possible, while keeping his bat in the lineup as the left fielder. Trading Schwarber at this point in his career would be an extremely bold move that I don’t anticipate the Cubs making. Trading Chris Coghlan is a safer alternative. He and Schwarber both bat left-handed, so they can’t form a left field platoon. Coghlan remains affordable in his final year of team control, and he hit .264/.355/.476 against right-handed pitching this year. I’m reminded of Seth Smith, who was traded to the Padres for Luke Gregerson two years ago. The Angels, Astros, Giants, Orioles, Padres, Royals, and White Sox could be potential trade partners for Coghlan.
Though he’s cut from the same cloth as Baez, the Cubs could consider trading Soler for controllable pitching. Soler posted a replacement level rookie season, with poor defense and a 30% strikeout rate. His 112 total games played marked a pro career high. Still, Soler flashed All-Star potential in the playoffs. Like Baez, the safe move here is to retain Soler and see what he becomes.
With Schwarber and Soler penciled in at the outfield corners, center field is the Cubs’ clearest position of need. Coming off the healthiest season of his career, Dexter Fowler is due a qualifying offer and perhaps a four-year contract in the $60MM range. While the Cubs have the capacity to sign him, they may acknowledge that a four-year deal wouldn’t provide good value. If Denard Span does not receive a qualifying offer and the Cubs aren’t scared off by his September hip surgery, he could be a cheaper replacement on a shorter term. The Cubs have 2012 first-rounder Albert Almora working his way up the minor leagues, so a shorter-term investment makes sense. Bringing Austin Jackson back is an option, or the Cubs could look into a trade for the Yankees’ Brett Gardner. Epstein has named outfield defense as an area of improvement, which could mean exploring trades for players like Leonys Martin or Juan Lagares.
Despite some decisions to be made on the position player side, the Cubs’ offseason focus will be on their rotation. The group is currently fronted by Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. After the season, Epstein spoke of his desire to add “impact pitching,” as well as big league depth. He seems open to the “necessary evil” of free agency, and this year’s class is stacked with David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, and Jordan Zimmermann. Jeff Samardzija could also be considered a potential impact arm. Then there’s John Lackey, who Epstein signed as Red Sox GM six years ago. Greinke, Zimmermann, Samardzija, and Lackey would likely require the Cubs to forfeit their first-round draft pick. The Cubs could make trade attempts for Carrasco, Ross, Jose Quintana, Sonny Gray, Matt Harvey, or Stephen Strasburg, though some of them will be off-limits and they come with varying amounts of team control. In the end, expect the Cubs to come away with someone they’re comfortable starting in the first three games of a playoff series.
Hammel and Hendricks can capably fill out the back of the Cubs’ rotation. Hendricks, 26 in December, won’t reach arbitration until after the 2017 season, and the Cubs could include him as part of a trade for a better pitcher like Ross. Epstein’s mention of depth is important, as the club avoided major injuries in 2015. They need to safeguard against possible injuries in 2016, especially with ace Jake Arrieta reaching 248 2/3 frames. That means starting the year with at least six capable options. Travis Wood could be stretched out if needed, but the Cubs should probably add two starters.
The Cubs assembled an interesting collection of relievers by the time the playoffs started, with a surprisingly heavy reliance on failed starters Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard along with Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Justin Grimm. Wood’s past as a starter will drive his arbitration price up to more than you’d like to pay, but he posted a 2.95 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in regular season relief and should be retained. It’s unclear whether Cahill, 28 in March, will embrace a relief role as a free agent. He was very good in that role for 22 1/3 innings after joining the Cubs, and the team should find a way to bring him back.
Perhaps in the new year, the Cubs will explore an extension for Arrieta. A big factor is who they are able to acquire – if it’s David Price on a seven-year deal, the Cubs would seem unlikely to make Arrieta their third long-term $25MM+ pitcher. If it’s two years of Tyson Ross, maybe there’s room for a huge deal for Arrieta. We project Arrieta to make a big leap to a $10.6MM salary in arbitration for 2016, and then he’d be due another raise for 2017. Signing him now could allow the Cubs to temper those two arbitration salaries, but it would be a question of how many years the pitcher would need on top. Arrieta’s projected free agency begins with his age 32 season, and Scott Boras is his agent. Zack Greinke’s new deal will also begin with his age 32 season. Whatever Greinke gets for his free agent years, Boras will expect the same. That could be $150MM over five years, $160MM over six, or something else, but we should know by January. The Cubs have to ask the hard question of whether giving Arrieta ace money through age 36 or 37 is prudent, when they already control his age 30 and 31 seasons.
If the Cubs are already looking at $185MM or so over seven years to lock Arrieta up in January 2016, how much higher would the price be in January 2017? Can the Cubs wait this year out to see how Arrieta’s arm holds up after all the added innings, or will the window to extend him be mostly closed by that point? If a long-term deal can’t be reached, the Cubs could at least gain cost certainty by signing Arrieta to a two-year deal.
In 2015, Joe Maddon’s Cubs got close enough to taste their first World Series in 70 years before running into the Mets buzzsaw in the NLCS. The Cubs were playing with house money with a lot of fans this year, as many perceived this club to be a year early. Now, the team will hike ticket prices and add to the payroll to assemble a playoff-caliber rotation to complement their exciting young position players.
The Reds fast-tracked Mike Leake toward free agency by having him skip the minor leagues almost entirely, and he’s now poised to be one of the youngest free-agent pitchers in recent memory.
The biggest positive for Leake heading into free agency is his age. Because the former No. 8 overall pick went straight from college ball to the Reds’ Major League rotation — with a pit stop in the Arizona Fall League along the way — he racked up six years of service time quickly. Leake doesn’t turn 28 until November, so the first year of his free-agent contract will come at a time when most comparably aged players are still two, if not three years removed from free agency. And, because he skipped the minors, his 1110 career professional innings are 170 innings fewer than the next lowest among his free-agent competitors (Marco Estrada).
For the second consecutive year, Leake posted a 3.70 ERA. That marks three straight seasons with a sub-3.75 ERA and at least 190 innings. All but two months of those three years came while pitching his home games at an extremely hitter-friendly home venue: Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park. Leake was able to thrive in large part due to his excellent control (2.3 BB/9 for his career) and his strong ground-ball rate. Leake’s 50.2 percent career mark in that regard is impressive, and it’s ticked upwards over the past two seasons, now siting closer to 53 percent.
Leake’s mix of pitches is an interesting component of his free agent stock. Detractors can point to the fact that he doesn’t throw particularly hard, but his fastball has increased in average velocity each season, per Baseball Info Solutions. He’s also less reliant on that fastball than nearly every pitcher in the game; Leake’s 44.1 percent fastball usage was the seventh-lowest among non-knuckleballers this year, and he’s thrown it at just 45 percent in his career. Leake throws five different pitches at about 10 percent each, and you won’t find another starter who does that on a year-to-year basis. Four of those five pitches rated as above-average offerings this season.
Though he has just one season of 200-plus innings, Leake has been virtually injury free throughout his career. He landed on the DL late in the 2010 season with right shoulder fatigue but avoided the DL for the next five years, until a hamstring injury sidelined him for about two weeks in August. He dealt with some forearm tightness at season’s end, but it wasn’t serious and didn’t lead to major concern.
Leake batted quite well early in his career, and while he had his worst season at the plate in 2015, he’s an overall .212/.235/.310 hitter in the Majors. That’s obviously not good, relative to the rest of the league, but it’s not bad for a pitcher. Leake has six career homers and has hit a pair of long balls in each of the past two seasons. For NL clubs with interest, that’s a nice bonus element.
Because Leake was traded from Cincinnati to San Francisco, he’s ineligible for a qualifying offer. The same cannot be said for second-tier free agents such as Jeff Samardzija, Wei-Yin Chen, Ian Kennedy and Jordan Zimmermann — all of whom will likely require interested teams to surrender a draft pick upon signing.
Leake is highly durable in the sense that he’s steered clear of the DL, but he’s not exactly a big innings eater. His career-high is 214 1/3 in 2014, but he’s never surpassed 200 otherwise. He’s young and durable, but teams will stop short of considering placing a “workhorse” label on him. Part of that is due to the fact that Leake is undersized for a pitcher. He’s listed at 5’10” and 190 pounds in the Reds’ media guide.
Perhaps more concerning for clubs is that in an age where velocity and strikeouts are being emphasized more than ever, Leake doesn’t bring either to the table. His career-best K/9 rate is 2014’s 6.9, and he averaged just 5.6 K/9 in 2015. Leake has added some life to his fastball each year, but this season’s 90.9 mph average still rated below the 91.7 mph league average for starting pitchers.
Leake has owned right-handed hitters over the past two seasons, but he’s had less success against lefties, and that’s been a trend throughout his career. He’s yielded a .274/.324/.444 batting line to lefties throughout his big league tenure. Some of that should be taken with a grain of salt, as those numbers aren’t park-adjusted, but that’s still the rough equivalent of Evan Longoria’s 2015 batting line — hardly an ideal result.
Part of the reason for those struggles against lefties is that while he throws five pitches, Leake’s changeup is decidedly below average. The same pitch values linked to above indicate that Leake’s changeup has been a positive pitch in just one season (and not by much). Perhaps it helps keep hitters off balance, but the pitch should seemingly be scratched from his arsenal. Leake’s cutter also ranks as a negative for his career, though it was a good pitch for him in 2015.
Leake’s age, clean bill of health on his right arm and lack of a qualifying offer will make him appealing to a number of clubs. The Giants are known to very much want to re-sign Leake, and the California native is open to remaining in San Francisco. However, the Giants will face competition.
The Diamondbacks have already been linked to Leake on multiple occasions, and he makes sense for any club hoping to bolster the middle of its rotation. That could include the Tigers, Orioles, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Marlins, Mariners, Rangers, and Twins.
Leake is a native of Fallbrook, Calif., which is about 56 miles north of San Diego, 75 miles south of Anaheim and 98 miles south of Los Angeles, so perhaps he’ll have some desire to latch on with one of the Southern California teams, if they show interest. However, Leake also played college ball at Arizona State, whose campus is all of 10 miles from Chase Field. It’s not hard to imagine him having interest in returning to the area, and the D-Backs are reportedly interested.
Four years has been the going rate for the market’s top secondary arms in recent seasons, with Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brandon McCarthy and Jason Vargas all serving as examples. However, each of those pitchers was at least two full years older than Leake at the time they hit the open market. Leake’s skill set doesn’t necessarily leap off the page and lead to visions of five- and six-year contract offers, but teams will undoubtedly recognize that they’re buying far more of a pitcher’s prime than they would with virtually any other free agent arm.
As such, five years seems not only possible but likely for Leake and his representatives at the Beverly Hills Sports Council. That’s an atypical number of years for a starting pitcher based on recent markets, as Leake would become the first pitcher in three years to ink a five-year pact (Anibal Sanchez, 2012). Typically, it’s a four-year ceiling for the second-tier of arms and a minimum of six year’s for the market’s truly elite, but there’s a stacked crop of starting pitchers this offseason, and Leake isn’t your average free agent due to his age.
Rick Porcello — a similar pitcher to Leake in terms of both age and skill set — recently commanded $20MM per free agent year on an extension with the Red Sox. That huge annual value, however, came when Porcello was younger than Leake and also was somewhat of a trade-off for keeping the term of the contract to four years. That deal serves to emphasize the value that teams will place on young arms, even if they’re not traditional power pitchers that can rack up a strikeout per inning. Because he’ll command a term of at least five years on the open market, Leake won’t be able to make that trade-off for the higher annual value, but he should still do well for himself. I’m predicting a five-year, $80MM contract.
As he departs the Marlins, Dan Jennings issued a statement thanking the team (via MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro). He indicated that the club called him yesterday to tell him he “was being relieved” from his general manager duties, calling that move “sad and regrettable” but expressing that he respected the decision and would look back on his time in Miami with fondness. Jennings is said to be receiving strong interest from other clubs around baseball now that he’s a free agent.
Here’s more form the east:
- Recent Braves acquisition Hector Olivera is expected to spend time at both third base and left field in the Puerto Rican winter league, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. The organization hopes to add to Olivera’s defensive capabilities while getting an idea of “what their needs might be over the next few years,” says Bowman. Atlanta would surely prefer to feel comfortable putting Olivera in either spot, as it would open up ample flexibility in the club’s developmental and acquisition plans.
- It’s still a bit early to get a read on what the Blue Jays will do to replace Alex Anthopoulos in their general manager’s role, but Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that president Mark Shapiro does intend to hire a day-to-day GM while holding onto final decisionmaking authority. He will also be able to hire away at least one or two front office members from the Indians if he wishes, so long as the hirings are promotions. Morosi tosses out a few hypothetical matches. Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star did the same last night.
- Clubs around baseball are gearing up to talk trades with new Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. Dombrowski has shown a willingness both to promote young players aggressively and to ship them out in trades, and that makes for a fascinating pairing with the organization’s highly-regarded talent base.
Jason Heyward hasn’t maintained the power output that many once predicted, but he’ll hit the market at a very young age while playing at quite a high level and should be paid accordingly.
There’s a lot to like about Heyward’s all-around game, as he rates as a positive in essentially every area. His tools are undeniable, and he’s turned them into tangible production in most regards.
Heyward’s best single attribute might be his glove. Ultimate Zone and Defensive Runs Saved ledgers are filled with big numbers, as he’s consistently rated as an outstanding right fielder. Since he debuted in 2010, Heyward has easily paced all outfielders in accumulated UZR (Alex Gordon’s 68.3 UZR is second to Heyward’s 96.2). Though his arm is more solid/good than great, he excels in the range department and isn’t prone to mistakes. Given his age and remarkable consistency, this is about as bankable a skill as one could hope to find.
Another often-underappreciated source of value is the basepaths, and Heyward excels there, too. He’s a fairly consistent source of twenty stolen bases, and more importantly, draws excellent overall marks. Indeed, Heyward ranked fifth in all of baseball in 2015 in Fangraphs’ BsR metric (the baserunning component of fWAR) and sits in the top thirty since his rookie year.
Heyward isn’t quite as outstanding with the bat — if he was, we’d be looking at Mike Trout’s theoretical free agent case — but he’s hardly a liability. He’s reached base at a solid .353 clip and walked at a strong 10.8% rate for his career. Though Heyward’s power has not returned to its peak 2012 levels (27 home runs, .210 ISO, .479 SLG), he’s significantly cut back on the strikeouts since and now sits at about a 15% K rate, well below the league average.
Having only just turned 26, it’s not at all out of the question that Heyward could still tap into some pop, particularly since he’s shown the ability to do so at the major league level. His HR/FB rate did land at 12.0%, near his historical norm, after it fell to 6.5% in 2014.
It’s also worth noting that Heyward has also continued to improve in the plate discipline department over the years, showing that he’s continuing to hone his craft. His chase rate and overall swing percentage have dropped every year since 2012, and his contact numbers have risen: in his most recent campaign, he posted a 93.8% in-zone contact rate.
By measure of wRC+, Heyward has been 18% better than the league-average batter over his career and was slightly north of that in 2015, when he slashed .293/.359/.439. He’s been a consistently above-average performer at the plate, apart from a fairly mild sophomore slump, and also shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields. All said, there’s a lot to like about Heyward at the plate.
But the biggest reason that Heyward’s free agent guarantee will likely place at or near the very top of the market is his age. Though he’s already racked up six full years of MLB service, Heyward won’t turn 27 until next August, making him a rare free agent who still could have much of his prime ahead of him. For some context, consider that Alex Gordon — another top free agent corner outfielder this year — had his breakout 2011 campaign in his age-27 season. Gordon, one of Heyward’s chief competitors this winter, is a full five years older.
The total package makes Heyward one of the game’s best overall players. He hasn’t put up a single huge season, really, but consistently registers excellent campaigns. Somewhat quietly, he’s accumulated more fWAR since 2010 than any outfielder not named Trout, McCutchen, or Bautista. (He sits 11th overall among position players.)
That’s due in part, also, to his solid record of durability. Heyward has averaged 139 games and 572 plate appearances per year — good, but not great — but has mostly missed time due to bad luck (e.g., appendectomy, broken jaw).
There’s really no broad area in which Heyward fares particularly poorly, but there are certainly some rather significant factors that hold down his value.
The power conundrum certainly rates at the top of the list. As discussed above, it is a huge question for him. His established 27-homer upside remains tantalizing. Were he a reliable source of 25 home runs, his earning power would be astronomical. But, that’s not how things have shaken out in recent seasons. Heyward’s isolated power hasn’t exceeded .150 in either of the last two years, and he hasn’t popped more than 14 long balls since his 2012 campaign.
As a result, some teams looking at the idea of committing huge money over a lengthy term will certainly feel some uncertainty. If you believe that Heyward has settled in as a 12-to-15 annual home run level of power, then any fall-off in his speed and defense could leave him as an even less exciting player than he already is. Two fairly recent, seven-year free agent deals with non-power-hitting, average-OBP outfielders — Jacoby Ellsbury ($153MM) and Carl Crawford ($142MM) — have fallen flat.
We discussed Heyward’s increasing contact tendencies above, and that does have some benefits (e.g., his improving strikeout numbers). But the list of elite contact makers is also riddled with slap hitters, and there are some concerns in Heyward’s batted-ball profile. Last year, his groundball/flyball ratio was way out of whack when compared to career norms. After consistently hitting in the range of 45% groundballs against 35% flyballs annually, Heyward saw his groundball rate shoot up to 57.2% while his flies plummeted to 23.5%. That could be a one-year blip, but it’s not the most encouraging sign to see so many balls hitting the ground.
Likewise, Heyward has traditionally struggled against left-handed pitching. He increased his output to about league-average in 2015, but he’s running a .230/.309/.351 batting line for his career. When weighing a decade-long commitment (or thereabouts), it’d probably be preferable not to be wondering whether and how soon you’ll need to find a platoon mate.
Heyward was born in New Jersey but grew up in Georgia and excelled there as a high school ballplayer. He wears the number 22 to honor the memory of his former high school teammate, Andrew Wilmot.
As Peter Gammons explored in an interesting 2010 piece, Heyward is the product of a well-educated and thoughtful family. Even as his son participated in competitive youth baseball, Heyward’s dedicated father made sure the focus remained on having fun. Even as he was just entering the big leagues, Heyward drew rave reviews from teammates, coaches, and scouts for his hard work, and he’s only enhanced that reputation since.
“I love to play. I love to play hard,” Heyward himself explained. “I try to play the right way. I was brought up by parents who taught me to treat everyone with respect, to treat them the way I want to be treated.”
Heyward is a special free agent because of his age and consistent level of production. That his annual earning power isn’t exceptional could keep more teams in the hunt than might otherwise be the case, and of course some will see an opportunity to buy up still-undervalued skills.
It’s hard to completely rule out any large market clubs, because other roster moves could always be made to free space for this kind of opportunity. Organizations such as the Angels, Tigers, Giants, and Mariners have the means and, quite possibly, the need for Heyward. The Cardinals don’t generally chase top-of-the-market free agents, but just had him for a year and gave Matt Holliday big money under similar circumstances. There’d be a nice fit with the White Sox, Orioles, Astros, Royals, and Padres, if they’re willing to spend beyond their typical levels. Meanwhile, big spenders such as the Yankees — but also, theoretically, including the Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, and Nationals — could make room for Heyward if they feel the opportunity is just too good to pass up.
There’s a range of possibilities here, as always, but I’m guessing Heyward will command a longer deal at a slightly lesser average annual value. Ellsbury’s deal came at just under $22MM in AAV, and even Crawford cracked $20MM annually (five years ago). It’s hard to put Heyward in the same production bracket as Robinson Cano (ten years, $240MM), and you could argue that he’s not as valuable a free agent as was Prince Fielder (nine years, $214MM), depending upon how one values defense and baserunning. But those signings show that super-length contracts at still-significant AAVs can be had.
It’s important to note, also, that Heyward looks like a prime candidate to negotiate an opt-out clause into his deal. Given his age, he’d probably see value in having the right to return to free agency after a reasonable stretch. (After all, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams points out, even five years from now Heyward will still be younger than Gordon is as he hits the market this winter.) And Heyward is represented by Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close, who has guided clients such as Zack Greinke and Masahiro Tanaka to opt-out arrangements.
My prediction: ten years, $200MM.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here are the day’s outright assignments:
- The Reds have announced that seven players were outrighted off the club’s 40-man roster (h/t to C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer, on Twitter). On the chopping block were pitchers Nate Adcock, Collin Balester, David Holmberg, and Josh Smith, outfielders Brennan Boesch and Jason Bourgeois, and infielder/outfielder Kris Negron. Adcock, Balester, Boesch, and Bourgeois have all seen reasonably frequent MLB action but have bounced around quite a bit in recent years. Negron has appeared in each of the last three seasons in Cincinnati, compiling a .220/.296/.353 batting line over 270 plate appearances. Holmberg was acquired as part of the pre-2014, three-team deal that sent Heath Bell (from the Diamondbacks) and Ryan Hanigan to the Rays. He’s functioned as a depth starter, walking nearly as many batters as he’s retired via strikeout over his 58 1/3 MLB innings with Cincinnati. Smith made his MLB debut last year, allowing 25 earned runs in 32 2/3 innings of work, but found himself squeezed out by Cincinnati’s recent influx of young, upper-level pitches.
The Dodgers have parted ways with manager Don Mattingly in what appears to be a mutually agreeable divorce. That leaves the organization searching for a new skipper, marking an important hire for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. We’ll keep tabs on the hiring process right here:
- The Dodgers will interview Darin Erstad for the position, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Erstad currently serves as the head coach at the University of Nebraska. While it would be unusual for a big league club to hire a skipper directly out of the college ranks, Erstad was a long-time major leaguer.
- Padres bench coach Dave Roberts, who was a finalist in the Mariners’ managerial search, will interview for the Dodgers, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Roberts, of course, had a 10-year playing career as an outfielder and stole one of the most famous bases in recent history in the 2004 ALCS. He’s been coaching for the Padres since 2011, beginning as a first-base coach.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that he’s spoken to a number of people in the past day who said they’d be stunned if anyone other than Kapler is named manager in Los Angeles.
- Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles tweets that he’s hearing Mets bench coach Bob Geren will be in the mix for the Dodgers’ opening. Geren, 54, managed the Athletics from 2007-11, so Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi is plenty familiar with him.
- Dodgers director of player development Gabe Kapler is a “serious frontrunner” for the job, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com, who acknowledges that the process is only just beginning. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported earlier this morning (via Twitter) that Kapler was considered a candidate. While he only has minimal managerial experience in the low minors, Kapler is a highly respected former player who has long been viewed as a budding managerial prospect.
- Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times lists some names to keep an eye on, with Kapler among them. Other strong possibilities to come under consideration by the Dodgers, per Shaikin, include former Rays and current Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, former Padres skipper Bud Black, current Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach, and recently-hired Dodgers third base coach Ron Roenicke.
Free agency is just around the corner, which means it’s about that time for mass public speculation as to which players will end up with which team. Part of the fun of the offseason is, of course, playing GM from home and trying to figure out which players will either push your favorite club into contention or ensure that they stay in the thick of the playoff hunt next year. For those who enjoy playing GM — which, I assume, encompasses most regular MLBTR readers — I’ve created a set of Fangraphs leaderboards for this year’s class of free agents, as I did in both 2014 and 2013.
Fangraphs’ leaderboards will allow you to filter hitters both position and/or sort them by statistics. These lists can be sorted by everything from traditional stats like batting average, RBIs and homers; to sabermetric stats like wRC+, wOBA and baserunning runs above average; and batted-ball metrics like line-drive rate, homer-to-flyball ratio and hard-contact percentage. If you click the “Fielding” tab near the top of the page, you can check out sortable defensive metrics as well. On the pitching side of things, everything from ERA to FIP to swinging-strike rate to fastball velocity can be found. You can also set each leaderboard to include data from previous seasons to increase the sample size, or set minimums in plate appearances/innings pitched in order to narrow the field.
It should be noted that these leaderboard are sorted by Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement and should not be confused with our annual Top 50 Free Agent rankings (which, I might add, will be released in early November). Our Top 50 is a completely separate exercise; this is done solely to give our readers an easier tool to break down the upcoming free agent class. All that said, onto the leaderboards:
Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…
- The Braves have signed right-hander Chris Volstad to a minor league deal, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They’ve also inked indy ball pitchers Bryan Morgado and Connor Little. Volstad, the most notable of the bunch, spent nearly all of the 2015 season with the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate, working to a 3.18 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 155 2/3 innings. The former first-round pick has a lifetime 4.92 ERA in 705 2/3 innings and was a mainstay in the Marlins’ rotation from 2009-11. As O’Brien notes in a second tweet, Baseball America ranked Little as the No. 8 prospect on the independent circuit this year.
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that Twins catcher Eric Fryer has elected free agency after being outrighted by the club. Fryer, 30, batted .227/.370/.318 in 27 PAs for Minnesota this season and has a career .243/.329/.336 slash line in 158 big league PAs. The minor league veteran had a nice year at Triple-A Rochester, hitting .293/.367/.360 for the Twins’ top affiliate.
The Rangers announced yesterday that pitching coach Mike Maddux will not return for the 2016 season. “Jeff Banister and I met with Mike this morning to inform him we had decided to go in another direction,” said general manager Jon Daniels via press release. “I want to thank Mike for his outstanding contributions to the Texas Rangers organization. He has played a major role in the success we have enjoyed over the last seven years. His dedication to developing and improving our major league pitching staff is greatly appreciated.” Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (via Twitter) that the highly respected Maddux probably won’t be unemployed long; several clubs have already reached out to Maddux to express “serious interest” now that he and the Rangers have officially parted ways.
A few more notes from the AL West…
- With Carlos Corporan electing free agency, the Rangers have Robinson Chirinos, Chris Gimenez and Bobby Wilson as remaining catching options on the 40-man roster, but the team will take a look at the market for backstops this winter, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Chirinos, who quietly had a nice season at the plate despite spending time on the DL, projects as the club’s No. 1 catcher. Gimenez, too, hit well and also served as Cole Hamels’ personal catcher following his acquisition. And while Wilson struggled as a hitter, Sullivan notes that the organization considers him the best defensive option of the three. Daniels told Sullivan that the Rangers need to be careful “not to covet something that may or may not be out there,” in reference to a catching upgrade, though he did say he expects to explore the market for catching help so as to bring the best group possible to Spring Training in 2016.
- The Mariners announced a wave of front office promotions. Assistant GM Jeff Kingston, who served as the team’s interim general manager between the firing of Jack Zduriencik and the hiring of Jerry Dipoto, has had vice president of baseball operations added to his title and will now also oversee the entire player development department. Director of pro scouting Tom Allison has been bumped up to vice president of player personnel and will oversee the team’s scouting operations. Major League scout Lee MacPhail IV (the nephew of Phillies president Andy MacPhail) has been promoted to Allison’s old post as director of scouting. Additionally, the Mariners hired Joe Bohringer, who has spent the past four seasons as the Cubs’ director of pro scouting, as a special assistant to Dipoto.
- Turning to the Mariners’ actual roster, John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune opines that the Royals serve as a blueprint for the type of club that Dipoto should attempt to construct. The Royals trounced the Mariners in terms of defensive metrics, contact rate and baserunning efficiency, McGrath notes, indicating that they have a roster that is tailored far more appropriately for a spacious ball park. The Mariners’ Safeco Field is similarly spacious to the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium, yet Seattle ranked among the worst defenses in the league, was far too reliant on home runs (as opposed to making contact) and was successful in just 60.5 percent of its collective stolen base attempts. McGrath also notes that a superior bullpen — one that is more adept at protecting marginal one- and two-run leads — will be needed if the Mariners are to contend again.