- The power-needy Red Sox have interest in Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN.com, though he casts doubt on the idea of Chicago moving the 24-year-old. The Cubs’ front office has long been bullish on Schwarber, who’s coming off a disappointing season (granted, he did hit 30 home runs) but still under control for five more years. In the seemingly unlikely event the Cubs deal Schwarber to Boston, he’d be a candidate to slot in at first base/designated hitter.
Though the Cardinals weren’t able to convince Giancarlo Stanton to waive his no-trade clause, they may yet be able to work out a trade with the Marlins. Specifically, rival execs say they expect the Redbirds to make a “legit pitch” for fellow outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN tweets. Crasnick describes a deal for Ozuna or Yelich as more of a “pure baseball trade” than a deal for Stanton, adding that he believes that’s more in the confines of St. Louis GM John Mozeliak’s comfort zone. While it would require a lot more in terms of prospects to land one of the Marlins’ remaining outfielders, previous negotiations for Stanton could potentially expedite trade talks. It stands to reason that the two teams should already be quite familiar with each others’ valuations on several Cardinals prospects. Furthermore, the Cardinals may have already evaluated avenues for what to do with Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty in the event they are able to acquire a new outfielder. It will be interesting to see if anything unfolds between these two teams during the winter meetings.
- The Cubs have their sights set on Rays pitchers Alex Colome and Chris Archer, Phil Rogers of MLB.com reports with a tweet, though he acknowledges that getting both in one swoop would require a “monster return.” From my point of view, it seems difficult to imagine that the Cubs could put together a package worthy of Archer alone; their farm system is devoid of top 100 prospects following several promotions over the past few seasons, coupled with trades for players such as Wade Davis, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana. Archer alone would require at least some players from the major league club. It’s tough to know whether giving up one or more of Ian Happ, Javier Baez or Kyle Schwarber (to name just a few examples) in exchange for pitching would significantly improve the major league team. The top three names in the Cubs’ farm system (according to MLB Pipeline) are right-handed pitchers Oscar de la Cruz, Jose Albertos and Adbert Alzolay.
- Tom Haudricort of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details some of Brewers GM David Stearns’ comments about the upcoming winter meetings. Last year, Stearns had no idea he’d gain enough traction in talks for Travis Shaw to actually complete a trade during the meetings. “You’re never really sure which one will be the one you get a foothold on,” Stearns said. “Last year, we were able to get that foothold in the Shaw talks and get a deal done.” Haudricort describes adding to a thin starting rotation as a “major priority” for Stearns this winter, noting that Jimmy Nelson might not be healthy in time for Opening Day. Beyond Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, there aren’t any definite fixtures in the rotation. Josh Hader performed well in the bullpen last year, but the notion of transitioning him back to a starting role remains simply a “topic of discussion.” Stearns notes that Hader’s role with the team will depend on how the offseason shakes out, as well as continued internal dialogue about how he fits best on the team. The only thing Stearns would commit to is that Hader will be in a “position to accumulate innings.” On the notion of that the Brewers could pursue big-ticket names like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, Stearns had the following comment: “Our market and our history here probably is a better indicator of the types of moves we’re seeking than some of the external speculation.”
By operation of an escalator provision, that $13MM salary for 2020 will climb to $15MM if he earns an All-Star nod in each of the next two seasons or receives one Cy Young vote in either of those years. A single Cy Young vote in each of those two seasons would mean a $17MM salary for 2020. And Chatwood will also receive a $500K bonus if he’s traded.
12:29pm: The exact number on the deal is a $38MM guarantee, Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic reports (Twitter link).
12:20pm: The Cubs announced on Thursday that they’ve agreed to a three-year contract with free agent right-hander Tyler Chatwood. The 27-year-old Chatwood, a client of Excel Sports Management, will receive “around $40MM” on the contract, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link).
Chatwood, who’ll turn 28 in a couple of weeks, was one of the youngest free agents on the market. It’s a significant payday for a player that has yet to experience sustained success at the big league level, but the right-hander was a popular free agent target due to a number of appealing secondary metrics including his velocity, ground-ball rate and spin rate. Chatwood posted a 4.69 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 4.7 BB/9 in 147 2/3 innings with the Rockies this past season, though in addition to his age and promising peripherals, he’s long performed considerably better away from the hitters’ haven of Coors Field.
In the past two years since returning from a second career Tommy John surgery, Chatwood has started 52 games (in addition to eight relief appearances) and totaled 305 2/3 innings with a 4.27 ERA. Those numbers don’t exactly leap out, but they also feature a dramatic home/road split: a 6.07 ERA and 21 homers allowed at Coors Field and a 2.57 ERA with 14 homers allowed on the road.
As I noted when sorting through some free-agent starters by individual skill set, Chatwood represents the hardest-throwing starter on the market and also boasts the best ground-ball rate and one of the lowest hard-contact rates in free agency. He also posted the 29th-highest spin rate on his four-seam fastball and the fifth-best spin rate on his curveball, per Statcast (min. 100 of each pitch type).
That said, the near-$13MM average annual value of the deal comes in well north of the three-year deal projected by MLBTR when ranking Chatwood 29th on our Top 50 list of the available free agents. The contract serves as a reminder that now, more than ever, teams are willing to look beyond traditional metrics like earned run average and beyond a player’s past performance and instead pay for projected output in the coming years.
The Cubs have a clear need in the rotation with both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey departing via free agency. He’ll slot into the fourth spot in the rotation behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana at present, though it still seems likely that Chicago will add another arm to help round out the starting five. As a finalist for Nippon Professional Baseball star Shohei Ohtani, the Cubs could find out in the very near future if he’ll be the final piece to that puzzle. If not, they’ll presumably hit the trade market and explore further free agent additions at next week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In a series of analytical pieces, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times checks in on the Rays’ offseason in advance of the Winter Meetings. He explains that the club seems to have been slowed, in particular, by the as-yet-unresolved Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani situations. Topkin also analyzes the team’s options for dealing a starter, explaining that the team’s history suggests it’s quite likely that at least one arm will be on the move. He pegs Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi as the likeliest candidates to be dealt. He goes on to discuss the potential for a deal involving third baseman Evan Longoria, who’ll attain full no-trade rights early in the 2018 season, though it’s important to note that there is no clear indication as of yet that he’s on the block.
Here are a few more notes on a slow-moving market for players that has only just begun to show signs of thawing:
- The Angels are still keeping an eye on the market for corner infielders, Jon Morosi of MLB Network tweets, even as they continue to direct their immediate attention to Otani. Landing the Japanese star would presumably impact the organization’s plans regarding adding hitters, since he’d occupy some at-bats and perhaps force Albert Pujols to spend more time at first base — thus reducing the need for another corner option, particularly with C.J. Cron having been tendered a contract. Still, Carlos Santana remains an option, per the report. It’s worth noting, too, that Pujols is said to be trimming up and leaving the team with some optimism of a bounceback, Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group tweets.
- As the Cubs look to bolster their late-inning mix after non-tendering Hector Rondon, they have made contact with Brandon Kintzler’s representatives, according to Morosi (via Twitter). The veteran groundball specialist might conceivably add a new element to the Chicago pen, though Morosi cautions talks have not advanced very far at this point. Kintzler has drawn fairly wide interest after a strong campaign with the Twins and Nationals, over which he turned in 71 1/3 innings of 3.03 ERA pitching.
- Right-hander Neftali Feliz is hoping to show he’s healthy and throwing well in a bid to earn a bounceback opportunity, per a report from Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (Twitter link). The 29-year-old, who caught on with the Royals after being cut loose by the Brewers in the middle of the 2017 season, went in for a checkup from Dr. James Andrews but was reportedly cleared of any arm issues. He’s also set to hold an audition for an unnamed team today. Despite his rough results in his 46 innings in the most recent campaign — a 5.48 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 — Feliz showed a typically strong 96.5 mph fastball and 11.6% swinging-strike rate that matches his career average.
- Mike Minor is one of the most popular free agents of the offseason, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required/recommended) that the Cubs are eyeing him as a potential option for the ninth inning. Chicago has been tied to a number of relievers already this offseason, including Brandon Morrow and Addison Reed, and it seems likely that they’ll pursue multiple ’pen arms after non-tendering Hector Rondon and seeing Wade Davis, Brian Dunesing and Koji Uehara hit free agency.
Shohei Ohtani has already narrowed his list of potential landing spots to seven team, according to multiple reporters (with Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM the first to tweet the final seven). Only the Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Padres, Mariners, Rangers and Cubs will receive meetings with Ohtani. While Ohtani has three weeks to negotiate with teams, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Ohtani could make a decision well before that point, noting that he could be introduced by his new club at next week’s Winter Meetings.
Of the remaining teams in the fold, the Rangers still have the most money to offer Ohtani, at $3.535MM, though his signing bonus seems increasingly to be a secondary consideration in where he ultimately signs, especially after last week’s reports that Ohtani could top $20MM in annual earnings in marketing endorsements. Certainly, his list of finalists reflects a preference for West Coast teams and a proximity to Japan, though the presence of the Rangers and Cubs indicates that he’s not quite locked into that mindset just yet.
11:40pm: The Angels are indeed one of the finalists, as per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).
10:39pm: The Angels are thought by “multiple sources” to be one of the finalists, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The Tigers are out of the running, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.
8:59pm: The Rangers and Cubs will both meet with Ohtani, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link), and they’re also the only two non-West Coast teams who appear to still be alive in the candidate process. The Rangers, Grant notes, have yet to comment on their status one way or the other.
7:22pm: The Nationals won’t be receiving a meeting, the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (Twitter link).
6:58pm: The Braves are out, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter).
6:50pm: The Padres will receive a meeting with Ohtani, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). The Dodgers are also thought to still be active in the Ohtani sweepstakes though Heyman doesn’t have confirmation; regardless, the Dodgers aren’t thought to be favorites to land Ohtani.
6:15pm: The Diamondbacks won’t receive a meeting, Ken Rosenthal tweets.
6:12pm: The Blue Jays, Pirates, and Brewers are all out, as respectively reported by Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi, MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt (all Twitter links).
5:48pm: The Mets are also out, as per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
5:38pm: Ohtani’s list is “heavy” on West Coast teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, though the Cubs may still be involved. Not every west-based team is included, however, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the A’s aren’t involved.
5:28pm: The Red Sox are also out of the running, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The Twins also won’t be getting a meeting with Ohtani, Heyman tweets.
5:16pm: The Giants and Mariners are among the teams that will receive meetings with Shohei Ohtani and his representatives next week, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). It isn’t known who the other finalists are in the Ohtani sweepstakes, though the Yankees are one of the teams that didn’t make the cut, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty and MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch).
According to Cashman, Ohtani seems to be leaning towards West Coast teams in smaller markets. This ties to a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman saying that Ohtani’s reps are informing teams that the two-way star would prefer to play in a smaller market.
The news adds another fascinating layer to the Ohtani sweepstakes, which was already one of the more intriguing free agent pursuits in recent memory. Given the seeming lack of immediate financial motive that inspired Ohtani’s move to Major League Baseball, it opened the door for every team in baseball (regardless of market or payroll size) to make a push for the 23-year-old. There had been speculation that Ohtani might look to avoid playing in a larger market, so this apparent confirmation creates a realistic possibility that he will land with a team that wouldn’t normally be considered a favorite to land such a coveted free agent.
Of course, San Francisco isn’t exactly a small market, though Ohtani wouldn’t necessarily be the center of attention on a club with such established stars as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner (and maybe even Giancarlo Stanton in the near future). Playing for an NL team, however, would force Ohtani into a pinch-hitting or even a part-time outfield role for the at-bats he seeks in his attempt to be a two-way player in the big leagues. The Mariners do have such a DH spot available (in a timeshare with Nelson Cruz), and were considered to be a contender for Ohtani given their long history of Japanese players.
The Yankees also have had several significant Japanese players on their past and current rosters, and were widely seen as one of the major favorites for Ohtani’s services from a financial (in terms of available international bonus money) and positional (openings at DH and in the rotation) standpoint, not to mention their international fame and their young core of talent ready to make a World Series push. With Ohtani now out of the picture, the Yankees could move to signing more pitching depth — a reunion with C.C. Sabathia has been widely speculated as a possibility — or a veteran bat to serve as designated hitter, if the club doesn’t just rotate its DH days to find plate appearances for everyone on the current roster.
The deadline to tender 2018 contracts to players is tonight at 8pm EST. We’ll keep track of the day’s non-tenders in this post (all referenced arbitration projections courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) …
- The Giants non-tendered righty Albert Suarez, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. Suarez, 28, was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Righty Tom Koehler and infielder Ryan Goins are heading to the open market after being non-tendered by the Blue Jays, per a team announcement.
- The Rays announced that lefty Xavier Cedeno has been non-tendered, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
- The Cubs non-tendered catcher Taylor Davis, per a team announcement. He was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Four Rangers players have not been tendered contracts, per a club announcement. Righties Chi Chi Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin, and Nick Martinez have been cut loose along with infielder Hanser Alberto. Griffin ($3.0MM projection) and Martinez ($2.0MM) were both noted as non-tender candidates by MLBTR. The other two players were not yet eligible for arbitration. Gonzalez was a former first-round pick who had struggled of late and underwent Tommy John surgery in July.
- The Diamondbacks have also non-tendered lefty T.J. McFarland, who had projected at a $1.0MM salary.
- The Reds non-tendered lefty Kyle Crockett, a pre-arb lefty who was only recently claimed on waivers, per a club announcement.
- Per a club announcement, the Brewers have non-tendered veteran righty Jared Hughes. He will end up being the only 40-man player not to receive a contract from Milwaukee. Hughes had projected at a $2.2MM arbitration value. The 32-year-old is a master at inducing grounders and has turned in repeatedly excellent results. He also averaged a career-best 93.9 mph on his sinker in 2017.
- The Mariners have non-tendered lefty Drew Smyly and righty Shae Simmons, per a club announcement. While the former was expected, due to Smyly’s Tommy John surgery, the latter rates as something of a surprise given his cheap $700K projection. Of course, it’s possible the club is not optimistic of his chances of bouncing back from arm troubles.
- The White Sox will not tender a contract to reliever Jake Petricka, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). He had projected to take home $1.1MM in his second trip through the arb process. Also non-tendered, per a club announcement, were righties Zach Putnam and Al Alburquerque as well as infielder Alan Hanson.
- It seems that righty Bruce Rondon will wind up his tenure with the Tigers, as the organization is set to non-tender him, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free-Press (via Twitter). Rondon was long viewed as a potential late-inning arm for the Tigers, but had some notable run-ins with the organization, struggled with control, and never consistently produced at the MLB level. Though he projected to earn just $1.2MM, Rondon will be allowed to find a new organization. He will turn 26 later this month.
- The Diamondbacks will non-tender righty J.J. Hoover, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Hoover projected at just $1.6MM, but Arizona is watching every penny as it seeks to return to the postseason with a tight payroll situation. The 30-year-old turned in 41 1/3 innings of 3.92 ERA ball in 2017 with 11.8 K/9 but also 5.7 BB/9 on the year.
- The Royals announced that they have non-tendered outfielder Terrance Gore. Though Gore was not eligible for arbitration, teams occasionally utilize today’s deadline to prune their 40-man rosters. Gore had quite an interesting run with Kansas City, scarcely playing at all during the regular season and then appearing as a speed-and-defense asset in the team’s two storied postseason runs. Now, though the fleet-footed 26-year-old is out of options. With an upper minors OPS that hovers just over .600, Gore just was not going to break camp with the club. It seems reasonable to think there’s a chance he’ll return to the organization on a minors deal, though Gore will also have a shot at exploring the broader market.
The Cubs will not tender a contract to reliever Hector Rondon, according to ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers (via Twitter). MLBTR had projected Rondon to earn $6.2MM via arbitration — a price that was too high for Chicago and, evidently, other teams around the league.
Rondon, 29, made quite an impact as a former Rule 5 pick, turning in a quality three-year run for the organization between 2014 and 2016. Over 184 1/3 innings in that span, he turned in a 2.44 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. Though he ceded his closer role to Aroldis Chapman in the midst of the team’s World Series run, Rondon remained a major piece of the club’s late-inning mix.
That did not hold up in 2017, however, as Rondon ended the year with a 4.24 ERA in 57 1/3 frames. He struck out 10.8 batters per nine but also issued 3.1 free passes per nine innings and allowed ten long balls. Rondon did still deliver his average fastball in the 96 to 97 mph range, and turned in a personal-best 11.9% swinging-strike rate to go with a 48.3% groundball rate.
Rondon seemingly lost the confidence of skipper Joe Maddon, to the point that he did not factor in the late-inning mix during the team’s postseason run. While the Cubs’ decision to move on is not terribly surprising at this point, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that the organization was not able to find a suitable trade partner. The one-year price tag is hardly cheap, but falls in the range of contracts that often go to somewhat less-accomplished pitchers. There’s plenty of reason to think that Rondon will catch on elsewhere, perhaps even earning consideration for high-leverage innings, but it seems he’ll need to settle for less money than the $6.2MM or so he might have expected through arbitration.
Carasiti, 26, landed in Chicago in a mid-season swap with the Rockies — the team that originally drafted and developed him. He reached the majors with Colorado in 2016, struggling in limited action.
There was some cause to think that Carasiti could earn a return trip to the majors before long. He worked to a 3.26 ERA with 12.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 over 49 2/3 Triple-A frames in 2017. Carasiti showed a mid-nineties heater during his brief MLB stint and has typically generated solid groundball numbers.
In the NPB, though, Carasiti will likely enjoy solid earnings and a clear path to a significant role. At his age, it’s certainly possible that he could end up moving back to the big leagues if he proves himself at Japan’s highest level.