With camp well underway, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag questions:
How would you compare the prospects the Padres gave up to acquire Craig Kimbrel to the ones they received? — Jeremy B.
The prospects the Padres received from the Red Sox in exchange for Kimbrel are widely considered to be better than the prospects they surrendered, but that’s because a large part of value the Padres provided to the Braves in order to get Kimbrel was to take on the remaining salary on Melvin Upton’s contract. Including the money owed to Kimbrel himself, the Padres took on about $56MM in that trade, which carried huge value to the Braves. The Padres also gave up the 41st pick in the 2015 draft, their Competitive Balance Round A selection. They received more prospect capital than they surrendered, but they still have an expensive Upton on their books, and the loss of the pick in last year’s draft also detracted from the club’s farm system.
With Ian Desmond taking a one year $8 million dollar deal, I’m very curious as to why the Detroit Tigers didn’t try and get him. They basically have a replacement level playing at third base in Nick Castellanos, and a very talented yet injury prone shortstop in Jose Iglesias, both positions that Desmond can play. The Tigers also have a protected pick so that wouldn’t have been an issue. Do they really think Andrew Romine and Mike Aviles are better options than Ian Desmond? If so, I would have to totally disagree. — Broc R.
I agree with the general assessment, and not just from the Tigers’ vantage point. At $8MM, Desmond looks to be a strong buy — albeit moreso if he was being used in the infield. In today’s free-agent market, $8MM doesn’t typically get a player with the upside Desmond brings. That’s the same annual rate with half the commitment that the Tigers doled out to Mike Pelfrey, and it’s the range of what the Mets and Rangers paid for Bartolo Colon and Colby Lewis, respectively — a pair of aging fifth starters. True, Desmond required draft pick compensation, but the actual cost of that hit varies quite a bit from team to team. Recognizing that it’s much more difficult to spend $8MM in late February than it is earlier in the winter — clubs have their payrolls closer to maxed out now, 40-man roster spots are at more of a premium, etc. — the pure return on investment the Rangers can get from this deal is considerably more than most $8MM investments.
I’m sure Detroit is higher on Castellanos than you are, and there’s no reason to sign someone to play over Iglesias, so long as he projects to be healthy. But the Desmond contract has the potential to be one of the better buys of the offseason, even with the defensive question marks that come along with a new position.
Manny Machado recently told beat reporters he would “hope they keep me here long term.” What kind of contract extension would Machado be looking at if the O’s moved on it before this season? During the season? Waiting until after the season? — Carlos O.
Machado is earning $5MM after avoiding arbitration for the first time this winter, and he’s statistically close enough to Josh Donaldson that I don’t mind using the two for a rough comparison. Donaldson signed his second and third arbitration years away for a combined $28.65MM, and also had the benefit of qualifying as a Super Two to boost his starting point. Machado doesn’t have an MVP or 40-homer season under his belt, and he hasn’t played his first full arbitration season yet, so we can probably discount Donaldson’s deal somewhat when looking at the arb years. That being said, I don’t think $26MM for Machado’s final two arbitration seasons is outlandish, and from there you have to look at pricing him as an elite talent — something along the lines of $25MM+ per season — who is set to hit the market in advance of his age-26 season.
Quite honestly, I don’t even see how an extension is possible without the Orioles caving on their stance against opt-out clauses. The way the game is trending, especially in terms of long-term contracts for young players, an opt-out would seem almost like a requirement. Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Clayton Kershaw, Masahiro Tanaka, Elvis Andrus, and Justin Upton all represent players that signed long term contracts at young ages (whether via free agency or extension), and each secured an opt-out clause in his deal. If the 2015 season, or even 90 percent of that production, becomes the norm for Machado going forward, he should have an easy case for $300MM or more in free agency. Given that, an extension for him right now should easily top $200MM and include an opt-out clause after his second and/or third would-be free-agent year. Given his age, and with two 6+ WAR seasons already under his belt, Machado’s agents could be looking to the Stanton contract as a comparable (though it was signed one service year later in his career).
Do you think the Royals will stick with Jarrod Dyson in RF? Or do you see them possibly picking up one of the left-over outfielders still on the market on a one-year deal – such as Austin Jackson, bringing back Alex Rios, David DeJesus? – Matthew G.
I touched upon this idea earlier today in breaking down Jackson’s market. Adding him seems plausible in theory, but in practice I’m not sure I see it happening. (Neither, perhaps, do our readers; Kansas City currently sits in last place in the poll for a Jackson landing spot — behind eight clubs and “other.”) While the newly free-spending team has shown an increased ability and willingness to spend, that doesn’t mean it will be willing to plunk down a few million bucks (or more) for a roll of the dice on AJax — especially since second base is probably a bigger need and others could well arise over the course of the season. Plus, for Jackson, there’s probably more to be gained by seeking an opportunity at more certain playing time on a team that will deploy him in center.
That’s not to say that another addition doesn’t make sense, but there’s probably more bang for the buck in focusing on ensuring a good mate to go with Dyson, who is sort of a perfect platoon outfielder. He hits well enough against right-handed pitching for his speed and defense to make him a valuable contributor. And while he’s not useful when a southpaw is on the hill to start a game, he’s quite an asset off the bench as a pinch runner/defensive replacement. That obviously lines him up well to pair with a right-handed hitter — possibly one that has limitations in the areas that Dyson has strengths. On the other side of the equation, there are times when a lumbering right-handed slugger would make for a great pinch-hitter to spell Dyson.
So far, the Royals have seemed happy to give that role to Paulo Orlando, who is a somewhat less extreme, right-handed-hitting version of Dyson himself. (He managed 1.0 fWAR in 251 plate appearances last year based on his contributions in the field and on the bases.) But they could certainly stand to add some competition in that regard, and there are some interesting names still out there who could be interesting additions to the mix — at least, that is, if any is willing to accept a reduced role (and possibly come in on a minor league deal). Rios could theoretically fit, as could Chris Denorfia. Both have good career batting numbers against opposing lefties, and despite sub-par offensive platforms did turn in solid seasons with the glove last year. The volatile but generally lefty-mashing Ryan Raburn also remains available, as does Marlon Byrd, who’s coming off a year in which he put up a 121 wRC+ against southpaws.
What should we expect from the Braves starting rotation this year? It appears that Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, and Bud Norris will have three of the spots coming out of spring training but what else should we expect? Think Aaron Blair could win a spot out of spring training? — Tim B.
It’s hard to set many clear expectations for this unit, because there’s all manner of uncertainty in the staff — and that figures to continue all season long. Teheran is the only guy who seems a complete lock as camp opens, but he also remains a trade candidate for an organization that has proven willing to strike deals at any point in time. (Let’s not forget that first Kimbrel trade discussed above.) Norris and Wisler do indeed seem lined up for jobs, though neither is at all certain to stay there. The former could end up being shifted to the pen or another team, depending upon how things progress, while the latter still has a lot to prove after a less-than-dominant debut last year.
Beyond that group, it’s an open competition. Blair is obviously an intriguing talent, but it seems rather unlikely that he’ll appear on the Opening Day roster — even if he impresses this spring. For one thing, he isn’t on the 40-man roster. For another, even a brief stint in Triple-A would delay his service clock. For what it’s worth, those same considerations apply to two other young, talented pitchers who are in big league camp: Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims.
If you’re hoping to see young arms with some upside emerge to earn rotation spots in camp, Manny Banuelos and Mike Foltynewicz have clearer paths since they’ve already cracked the majors. (Folty is still working back from a bout with blood clots, but he’s said to be progressing well.) Among the other younger starters who are already on the 40-man, only Casey Kelly and Ryan Weber made it up to the majors last year (both for brief stints).
The bet here is that the competition for the final two spots will come down to Banuelos, the young but generally lightly-regarded Williams Perez, and the club’s slate of minor league free agents. Atlanta must’ve promised Kyle Kendrick a real shot at earning a job to woo him this winter, and Jhoulys Chacin is another established veteran in camp. Either or both could conceivably end up on the staff. David Holmberg and Chris Volstad also have appeared in several MLB seasons, though they seem more likely to serve as swingman-capable depth pieces than members of the starting five coming out of camp.