- Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson has drawn trade interest this offseason, Cafardo reports. The hurler is out of minor league options, meaning the Red Sox could lose him to waivers if they don’t trade him and he doesn’t make their 25-man roster, Cafardo notes. Johnson, a first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2012 and a former top 100 prospect, has seen minimal big league action to this point (31 1/3 innings). The 27-year-old tossed 27 1/3 major league frames across five starts last season and did OK, notching a 4.33 ERA/4.90 FIP with 7.0 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9. Johnson fared better over 90 1/3 Triple-A innings (3.09 ERA/4.19 FIP, 6.97 K/9, 2.79 BB/9).
Injuries to his neck, spine, shoulder and back have limited Mets third baseman David Wright to 75 games since the start of 2015, derailing a potential Hall of Fame career. Now, having not played in a game since May 2016 and having undergone back surgery in October, Wright realizes the Mets can’t count on him heading into the new season. “It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can’t be relied on to go out there and do what I’ve done throughout my career,” the 35-year-old told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. “That is a tough thing to say.” Wright added that he hasn’t made enough progress since his latest surgery to know if his back is going to hold up in 2018, though he expects to find out “closer to spring.” Unfortunately, Wright’s injuries have made the eight-year, $138MM extension he signed in 2012 a poor investment for the Mets. He’s still in line to collect $47MM over the next three years.
More from New York and two other East Coast cities:
- The Blue Jays have addressed their position player group in recent weeks with the additions of Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. The club still has around $10MM left to spend, and it’s primarily focused on finding a fifth starter and bolstering its bullpen, per Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. The Jays also “remain in the mix for backup catching depth,” Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet writes. For now, Joe Biagini is penciled in as Toronto’s No. 5 starter behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Biagini has spent the majority of his two-year career in the bullpen, however, and could shift back there in the event of an outside acquisition. In doing so, he’d presumably help a unit that lost reliever Dominic Leone in the Grichuk trade.
- The Mets have shown offseason interest in free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon, former Twins teammate Ervin Santana told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “He just wants to win six more games and then he will retire,” Santana said of the soon-to-be 45-year-old Colon, who’s six victories away from passing Dennis Martinez’s 245 and becoming the winningest Latin American-born pitcher ever. Colon spent 2014-16 as a Met, with whom he was a reliable fan favorite. After a subpar 2017 divided between Atlanta and Minnesota, Colon was reportedly willing to consider a minor league deal to rejoin the Mets earlier this offseason, though indications were that they weren’t all that interested.
- Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale wasn’t as effective in the second half of last season as he was during the first, which has led to a change in routine this winter for the 28-year-old ace, as he explained to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “I’ve made a couple tweaks to my throwing this year,” Sale said. “Started a bit later trying to ease into it a little more. In terms of working out, started working out earlier, doing pilates. The same things I’ve been doing conditioning and strength wise, just kind of dialing back my throwing program.” Manager Alex Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and the Red Sox trainers are all on board with the changes, per Sale, who insists it won’t mean a lighter workload in 2018. Rather, after leading the American League with 214 1/3 innings last season, he expects to be similarly durable this year.
- Although Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is entering a contract year, he and the club have not discussed an extension. The 29-year-old Kimbrel is open to staying with the Sox for the long haul, though, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald relays. While Kimbrel has been an elite closer for most of his career, including during an otherworldly 2017 in which he logged a 1.43 ERA with 16.43 K/9 and 1.83 BB/9 over 69 innings, new manager Alex Cora may use him earlier in games this year if the situation calls for it. Kimbrel addressed that, saying: “There will definitely have to be a plan in place, and it’s going to come from both sides, mine and his side. I’m sure we’ll be able to talk something out and it’s going to be based off workload and things like that. It’s just the way the game is going.” Mastrodonato posits that fewer saves in 2018 could mean fewer dollars for Kimbrel on his next contract, though I’d argue that teams already know what he’s capable of in the ninth inning. Thriving in a slightly different role could make him all the more attractive as a free agent, then.
Recent comments from Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski hint that the front office would feel confident going into the 2017 season with the pieces they have in the fold right now. But Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston isn’t convinced at all. In a candid editorial, Drellich blasts Dombrowski for his supposed comfort with the current roster. “Who really believes this?” Drellich writes. “Who really believes the Red Sox could proceed into the season comfortably without some external improvement? You’re in a market competing with the Patriots, a division with the Yankees, and a league with the Astros, and this is what you’re bringing to the table?” He seems particularly miffed by a comment that the team “could stay with anybody”; Drellich rejects such logic by stating that the team’s goal should not be to “stay” with other teams, but rather to be outright better.
Tim Britton of the Providence Journal agrees with Drellich’s stance in his own piece, pointing out the lack of a middle-of-the-order slugger in Boston’s lineup. Britton also exposes Dombrowski’s supposed level of comfort by pulling a quote of his from the day after the club’s ALDS loss to Houston. “I didn’t supply the players that would give us enough runs. We do need that,” Dombrowski said at that time. Indeed, it doesn’t seem as though he’s done anything to follow through on that so far this winter. The club is, of course, still engaged in discussions with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, and for his part, Drellich believes a deal will get done. But while Dombrowski seems comfortable taking his time in negotiations with Martinez (waiting for “the ice to melt,” in his own words), one has to wonder what kind of backlash he’ll face in the harsh Boston media if another team swoops in and inks the righty-hitter to a deal first.
A few other items out of Boston…
- It’s evident that Blake Swihart has thus far been unable to live up to his top prospect billing; he’s been unable to stick at catcher due to poor defense, and his lifetime .270/.330/.380 batting line at the MLB level leaves plenty to be desired. But he’ll enter spring training without any minor league options remaining, and the Sox are intent on finding a spot for him on the roster, according to a tweet from Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Drellich adds in his own tweet that Swihart “finally feels healthy,” and is confident in his ability to play all nine positions on the diamond (though there’s obvious reason for skepticism about the latter point). Swihart was ranked as Boston’s consensus number one prospect following a 2014 season during which he hit .300/.353/.487 at the Double-A level, though it should be noted that he struggled to get on base following a promotion to Triple-A.
- Drellich also tweets that although left-hander Drew Pomeranz is open to a long-term extension with the Red Sox, the two sides have not discussed one to date. The 29-year-old southpaw made 32 starts for Boston in 2017, pitching 173 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA baseball. He’s set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
- The Red Sox have announced that they’ll be expanding their protective netting in 2018. The press release describes the expansion as follows: “The new netting system will extend from Field Box Section 79 to Field Box Section 9, expanded from an area previously covering Field Box Section 61 to Field Box Section 29. It will be positioned with the same consistent height as the existing system, which stands at 12 feet, 8 inches above the playing field.” As Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports notes, Boston will join the Yankees and Blue Jays as teams who have recently expanded their netting in order to improve fan safety.
- Red Sox chairman Tom Werner acknowledged today that the organization is engaged in active talks with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal was among those to report on Twitter. While noting that “it takes two” sides to get a deal done, Werner certainly gave plenty of reason to believe that the Boston organization isn’t done adding to its roster. Of course, the interest in Martinez is longstanding and well known; earlier today, it emerged that the Sox have made an offer of $25MM annually over a five-year term.
- Infielder Eduardo Nunez has worked out for the Red Sox, per Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald. We learned earlier today about developing interest in the utilityman, who thrived in a brief, injury-shortened stretch in Boston in 2017. Nunez has long seemed likely to draw wide interest after three straight seasons of average or better production at the plate, but understandably has seen a quiet market to this point while recovering from a knee injury. Now that he has been cleared for activity, Nunez can try to max out his value. Entering the winter, MLBTR predicted that Nunez would command two years and $14MM.
FRIDAY: Boston has actually offered something more in the vicinity of $125MM over five years, per Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Obviously, that’s a far sight more than what had been reported a few days back — and generally within the range of what might reasonably have been anticipated for Martinez entering the winter.
WEDNESDAY, 8:10pm: Boras tells Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that the reported offer is “not accurate,” though the agent did not specify what, precisely, is off the mark (Twitter link).
12:58pm: It has long been known that the Red Sox have dangled a five-year offer to free agent slugger J.D. Martinez. The value, though, hasn’t every fully been clear. Per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, via Twitter, Boston has offered the Scott Boras client something “in the range of” $100MM over a five-year term.
As we covered recently, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reported less than a week ago that Martinez is preparing to wait for those numbers to move northward. The veteran slugger is said to want six years with an annual value at or above the $30MM rate. That’s a massive ask — well over the six-year, $150MM prediction that MLBTR made entering the winter.
Interestingly, though, Heyman suggested there was interest at a higher rate — as he put it, “somewhere in the $120 million to $150 million range” — than Olney’s report provides. Just how to explain that notable difference is not immediately clear. It could be the Sox or others have expressed some willingness to go higher but haven’t yet done so. Offers on the table might have changed. Or, perhaps, it’s different information coming from different sources.
Whatever the reason, this lower number seems to put a different spin on Martinez’s market situation. Boston has long seemed the obvious landing spot, with the major issue for the slugger being where he could drive bidding. The Diamondbacks reportedly love him but have not yet managed to clear salary to free a surprising run that would strain their balance sheets. The Blue Jays have reportedly been on the fringes but there’s no indication that organization is preparing to drive an auction.
- Also via Heyman, Eduardo Nunez is seeing his market “heat up” a bit. There are as many as eight teams that have shown interest in Nunez of late, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Braves, Brewers and Royals. (Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area recently suggested that a reunion with San Francisco wasn’t likely, implying that Nunez can receive superior offers elsewhere.) Heyman joins others that have recently reported that Nunez is on the Mets’ radar as a second base option. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Brewers all make varying degrees of sense as well, though it’s tougher to see a clear fit with the Jays, Giants and Royals for various reasons. Toronto has already added Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this winter (with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis both still on board as well), while the Giants picked up Evan Longoria and are reportedly striving to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Nunez would almost certainly put them over, as they’re within less than $5MM of that point at present. As for the Royals, they could use a versatile infielder, but they’re also gearing up for a rebuild.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels cast doubt on the idea of the team making any marquee additions in comments yesterday to the media, including MLB.com’s TR Sullivan. Daniels called it “unlikely” that the club would end up with a top starter, though he said he also wouldn’t “close the door” on a market that includes former ace Yu Darvish. More likely, it seems, would be a depth addition of some kind, though Daniels also emphasized that the organization is not close to any new deals. Broadly, the organization remains steadfast in its “realistic” assessment of its abilities and needs. While the anticipated roster mix is likely “to create some challenges,” says Daniels, that doesn’t mean it will vary from its strategy entering the winter. The Rangers, he says, were “not going to go all-in, spending big dollars this year, nor were we going to be looking to trade all of our young players.”
More from the American League:
- The Angels received some promising news on righty J.C. Ramirez, GM Billy Eppler tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Ramirez is continuing to show healing in his right elbow, where he suffered a season-ending partial UCL tear. Stem cell treatment has been promising to this point, giving the team some renewed confidence that it will receive a contribution again from Ramirez, who agreed to a $1.9MM arbitration salary after turning in 147 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball in 2017.
- As the Red Sox prepare for an arbitration show-down with star outfielder Mookie Betts, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald argues the team never should have put itself in this position. The sides have a $3MM gap at present ($10.5MM vs. $7.5MM) and indications are they’ll resolve it in a hearing, meaning the Sox will be put in the position of presenting Betts in a less-than-positive light before an arb panel. With a prior disagreement over his 2017 pre-arb salary, the financial relationship between the sides isn’t exactly off to the most promising start. For what it’s worth, MLBTR contributor and arbitration guru Matt Swartz argued before numbers were exchanged that Betts is likelier to command a first-time arb payday on the lower side of the existing gulf.
- Speaking of arbitration, the Orioles will evidently not commit to going to trial over their remaining cases, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Rather the club is still willing to engage in negotiations with both infielder Jonathan Schoop ($9MM filing versus $7.5MM counter) and righty Kevin Gausman ($6.225MM filing versus $5.3MM counter). Whether that’ll mean avoiding a hearing isn’t yet known, but the seeming strategic shift will at least leave remaining room for talks on a few players of quite a bit of importance to the organization’s future.
- While Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. has been popular in trade rumors this offseason, they’re not going to deal him, Peter Gammons of The Athletic writes (subscription required/highly recommended). Boston’s front office regards Bradley as one of the team’s most important players, as it places great value on his “elite” defense and leadership, Gammons details.
We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)
Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)
- Mookie Betts, Red Sox: expected to go to hearing, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe; Betts filed at $10.5MM, Boston countered at $7.5MM (per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, via Twitter)
- George Springer, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); Springer filed at $10.5MM, Houston countered at $8.5MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Ken Giles, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); Giles filed at $4.6MM, Houston countered at $4.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Collin McHugh, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); McHugh filed at $5.0MM, Houston countered at $4.55MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: Schoop filed at $9MM, Baltimore countered at $7.5MM (per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, via Twitter)
- Kevin Gausman, Orioles: Gausman filed at $6.225MM, Baltimore countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: Stroman filed at $6.9MM, Toronto countered at $6.5MM (per Nightengale, via Twitter)
- Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays: Osuna filed at $5.8MM, Toronto countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jose Iglesias, Tigers: Iglesias filed at $6.8MM, Detroit countered at $5.6MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Avisail Garcia, White Sox: Garcia filed at $6.7MM, Chicago countered at $5.85MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Trevor Bauer, Indians: Bauer filed at $6.525MM, Cleveland countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jake Odorizzi, Rays: Odorizzi filed at $6.3MM, Tampa Bay countered at $6.05MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Adeiny Hechavarria, Rays: Hechavarria filed at $5.9MM, Tampa Bay countered at $5.35MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Scooter Gennett, Reds: expected to go to hearing, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Gennett filed at $5.7MM, Cincinnati countered at $5.1MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Eugenio Suarez, Reds: expected to go to hearing, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Suarez filed at $4.2MM, Cincinnati countered at $3.75MM (per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, via Twitter)
- Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks: Miller filed at $4.9MM, Arizona countered $4.7MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kyle Gibson, Twins: Gibson filed at $4.55MM, Minnesota countered at $4.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- J.T. Realmuto, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Realmuto filed at $3.5MM, Miami countered at 2.9MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Dan Straily, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Straily filed at $3.55MM, Miami countered at $3.37MM (per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, via Twitter)
- Justin Bour, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Bour filed at $3.4MM, Miami countered at $3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Brandon Maurer, Royals: have hit stalemate, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (via Twitter); Maurer filed at $3.5MM, Kansas City countered at $2.95MM (per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, via Twitter)
- Felipe Rivero, Pirates: Rivero filed at $2.9MM, Pittsburgh countered at $2.4MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kendall Graveman, Athletics: Graveman filed at $2.6MM, Oakland countered at $2.36MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Justin Grimm, Cubs: Grimm filed at $2.475MM, Chicago countered at $2.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Mike Foltynewicz, Braves: Foltynewicz filed at $2.3MM, Atlanta countered at $2.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Zack Wheeler, Mets: Wheeler filed at $1.9MM, New York countered at $1.5MM (per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, via Twitter)
- Other tendered players who have not yet reportedly agreed to terms: Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox; Brad Hand, Padres