- The Reds and Billy Hamilton settled at $2.625MM for the upcoming season, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman. Hamilton had a breakout second half and finished the year with a .260/.321/.343 batting line, plus three homers and a whopping 58 steals (in 66 tries). He cleared his $2.3MM projection by a fair amount and is controllable through 2019 via arbitration.
- Zack Cozart and Tony Cingrani agreed to one-year deals with the Reds, per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon (Twitter links), as did right-hander Blake Wood, tweets Heyman. Cozart, a free agent next winter, handily topped his $4.7MM projection after hitting .252/.308/.425 with 16 homers and premium defense at short. Cingrani gets $1.825MM, per Heyman, which is just a hair shy of his $1.9MM projection. Wood had a solid season out of the Cincinnati bullpen, with a 3.99 ERA in 76 2/3 innings after signing as a minor league free agent. He can be controlled through 2018.
Free-agent righty Greg Holland is arguably the highest-upside reliever left on the open market, and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag provides some notable updates on his situation. The 31-year-old is in a somewhat unusual spot as a free agent, in that he brings a sparkling track record but is also seeking to return from a long layoff due to Tommy John surgery.
Given his health situation and also the evident interest around the league, Holland seeks a two-year deal that would allow him to opt out after the first season, according to Heyman. That’s the same structure that Brian Wilson landed with the Dodgers before the 2014 season, though he had made it back to the hill late in the prior campaign.
In Holland’s case, there’s perhaps greater uncertainty, but also greater upside. He took a step back in his most recent action, in 2015, but that may well have been due to the elbow issues that led to his surgery. Over the prior four campaigns, Holland was one of the game’s very best relievers, as he compiled 256 1/3 innings of 1.86 ERA pitching with 12.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.
There’s interest in Holland’s proposed two-year arrangement, per the report. Among the teams still pursuing him are the Dodgers, Nationals, Rockies, Brewers, Reds, and Rays. While the Cubs showed prior interest, it’s not clear whether they are still in. And the Royals have also indicated a desire to bring back their former closer, though it seems that the team’s payroll situation may not allow for a competitive bid.
That group of organizations would presumably offer Holland a variety of possible roles. The Nationals, Rockies, Brewers, Reds, and Royals (if they’re involved) could all promise him first dibs on closing roles, while the Dodgers and perhaps the Cubs are more likely to view the veteran as a setup man. Tampa Bay, perhaps, might be most interested in the event that it strikes a deal for incumbent closer Alex Colome. Whether and to what extent the chance to take hold of the ninth is an important factor in Holland’s decisionmaking is not immediately clear.
- Right-hander Deunte Heath has agreed to terms with the Reds on a minor league contract, as Baseball America’s Matt Eddy first reported. The deal comes with a $600K base salary in the Majors, I’m told. Heath, 31, last appeared in the Majors with the 2013 White Sox. He’s pitched just 9 2/3 innings at the big league level but has recently posted a 2.37 ERA in 101 1/3 innings between two campaigns with Japan’s Hiroshima Carp. He also pitched 46 1/3 innings with a 3.11 ERA in the Mexican League in 2016. Cincinnati also picked up catcher Adrian Nieto on a minors pact, per Eddy. The 27-year-old spent the 2014 season with the White Sox as a Rule 5 pick, hitting .236/.296/.340 with a pair of homers in 118 plate appearances. That’s been Nieto’s only big league exposure to this point, as he’s struggled greatly at Double-A and Triple-A in the two subsequent seasons. The 27-year-old switch-hitter posted a meager .195/.287/.257 batting line in 129 PAs with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate last year.
Coleman, 30, tossed 48 frames last year for the Dodgers, working to a 4.69 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9. Despite the unfavorable results, he did at least return to health after an injury-ravaged 2015 season that represented the conclusion of his run with the Royals.
There are some reasons for Cincinnati to hope it can find a serviceable arm on a meager commitment. Coleman ran up a 2.69 ERA across 140 1/3 innings between 2011 and 2013, so he has a track record of success. And he still managed a useful 12.4% swinging-strike rate last year.
Though he isn’t a hard thrower, Coleman has consistently generated swings and misses with his oft-utilized slider. He relied on that offspeed offering on nearly three of five deliveries to the plate in 2016, which perhaps helps to explain why he ended up in the zone on just 39.7% of his pitches.
The Reds will likely allow Coleman to battle for a pen spot this spring. Cinci already signed Drew Storen to a modest pact, and could still look to add to a relief corps that was terrible in 2016 but figures to be better in the season to come.
JAN. 6: Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM cites a Reds source in reporting that there’s still a possibility of a trade that would send Phillips to Atlanta, with the Reds picking up the majority of the money that remains on the contract. He adds, though, that Reds executives “acknowledge that they made promises and assurances to Phillips that they are not living up to” and will need to work through those issues with Phillips before a deal. Moving Phillips would allow the Reds to clear an easier path to playing time for Jose Peraza and potentially for Dilson Herrera as well.
JAN. 5: The Reds had worked out a deal that would have sent second baseman Brandon Phillips to the Braves, but he utilized his no-trade protection to scuttle the arrangement, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Phillips’s no-trade clause previously got in the way of potential trades last winter.
While Phillips is a Georgia native who (per Rosenthal) owns a home in Atlanta, he still wasn’t amenable to the move. There was no discussion of an extension this time around, according to the report; the Braves would not have been interested, and Phillips made his view clear before that subject was even broached.
This latest episode raises the question whether the 35-year-old Phillips will ever be a movable asset for Cincinnati, which had been set to retain “a significant portion” of his $14MM salary as part of the proposed trade. He’s in the final year of his contract, and it seems all but inevitable that he’ll land elsewhere after the 2017 season. But Phillips is still holding firm on his desire to remain in Cincinnati as something of a “matter of principle,” per Rosenthal, who says that Phillips would only be willing to sign onto a deal if “certain, unspecified issues” are dealt with by any acquiring team.
While Phillips is more than entitled to utilize the no-trade clause (which he earned through ten-and-five rights) in whatever manner he chooses, it’s certainly something of an odd situation. The Reds have a variety of young infielders they’d surely like to expose more to the majors in the coming year, which could bite into Phillips’s own playing time.
Long a productive regular who combined excellent glovework with solid overall offensive production, Phillips has declined of late. Since the start of the 2014 season, he has slashed .285/.319/.396, which amounts to slightly below-average (94 OPS+) work at the plate. Phillips has returned to running more, though his 14 stolen bases in 2016 came at the cost of being caught on eight other attempts. And he’s still good for about a dozen home runs per year. The most concerning change, perhaps, comes on the defensive side. Phillips has long rated as a well-above-average defender at second, but took a bit of a step back in 2015 and drew negative metrics in his most recent season.
Still, Phillips would represent a steadying presence in the right organization — particularly, one that has taken a positive view through recent scouting assessments. If he can bounce back in the field, there’s reason to hope that he could put up a season worthy of regular play despite the fact that he was worth less than one win above replacement last year. A right-handed hitter, Phillips has never carried drastic platoon splits and actually fared better against same-handed pitching in 2016.
Though it’s still theoretically possible that the sides could revisit a deal, Rosenthal says that’s not seen as a likely scenario. When Rodriguez inked his deal in late November, that added a second-base-capable, right-handed bat and perhaps absorbed some of the salary that might have been allocated to Phillips.
“We explore a myriad of trade opportunities,” Braves GM John Coppolella tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, “some which make more progress than others, and some which get more media attention than others. Trades aren’t done until they are done.”
That being said, it’s still imaginable that Atlanta will consider moving to bolster its mix at second and third base. Rodriguez has experience at both spots, creating some flexibility. But it’s far from clear that Adonis Garcia will be a worthwhile semi-regular at the hot corner. The left-handed-hitting Jace Peterson is also on hand, of course, and perhaps top prospect Ozzie Albies will be ready sooner than later, but the Braves have already made several 2017-centric moves, attempting to improve the near-term outlook without sacrificing the future.
If Atlanta does take a look at adding another infielder, there are any number of trade targets that it could pursue. And the open market still features a variety of second and third basemen that might conceivably be of interest. That includes righty hitters such as Aaron Hill and Trevor Plouffe, as well as lefty bats like Luis Valbuena, Chase Utley, Stephen Drew, Chris Coghlan, and — of course — perennial favorite Kelly Johnson.
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly suggested that Phillips’s decision was influenced by the signing of Rodriguez.
- While the Reds just announced a deal with righty Drew Storen, they are still in the market for relievers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Also seeking pen arms are the Brewers and Athletics, per the report. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon adds that Cincinnati is additionally looking at the market for a veteran starter as well as some catching depth, so there may yet be some more additions on the horizon.
The Reds have officially struck a one-year deal with reliever Drew Storen, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon first reported (via Twitter), making him the first player the organization has signed to a major league deal this winter. It’s a one-year, $3MM major-league deal for the veteran righty, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (Twitter links).
Storen, a client of CAA Sports, can earn an additional $1.5MM via incentives. He’ll receive $50K apiece upon appearing in 15, 20, and 25 games, plus another $100K upon reaching 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 games finished. He’ll also receive a $500K assignment bonus in the event he’s traded.
As Steve Adams and I recently discussed, Cincinnati seemed primed to add an experienced, late-inning arm to its bullpen mix. Storen, in particular, appeared to be an interesting fit given his relative youth and high-quality performance in the not-so-distant past.
Now that he’s slotted into the Reds’ late-inning mix, Storen figures to have a strong shot at returning to the closer’s role he once held with the Nationals. For now, Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource is penciling him into a setup spot behind Raisel Iglesias.
[RELATED: Updated Reds Depth Chart]
Utilizing the experienced Storen in the ninth would have some side benefits, though. He’d keep Iglesias and fellow youngster Michael Lorenzen free for more flexible, multi-inning stints, and by being the one to accumulate saves would tamp down their future arbitration earnings. Either way, he may end up turning into a summer trade chip, depending upon how things go both for Storen and his new team.
Of course, there’s a reason that the 29-year-old was available on just a one-year commitment. His 2016 season represented a significant departure from his prior years’ work, as Storen scuffled to a 5.23 ERA over 51 2/3 frames split between the Blue Jays and Mariners. Declining fastball velocity (92.3 mph average, down from 94.1 mph in 2015) and elevated home-run tallies (six in 33 1/3 innings with the Jays) were just two of the major problems that arose.
Storen ended up being designated for assignment by Toronto and ultimately swapped in a change-of-scenery deal for Joaquin Benoit. He did pick up the pace upon the move to Seattle, allowing seven earned runs on just 13 hits, three walks, and one home run over 18 1/3 innings. But Storen ultimately hit the DL with shoulder inflammation, adding to the concern about his near-term outlook.
While there’s obviously some cause for concern, Cinci isn’t taking much of a gamble here and has much to gain. Storen racked up a career-best 11.0 K/9 in 2015, and metrics suggested he was unlucky to end that year with a 3.44 ERA. In the season prior, he ran up a 1.12 ERA by allowing just 44 hits and 11 walks over his 55 strong innings. Despite his loss of velocity in his most recent campaign, he did manage to maintain his swinging-strike rate, which provides some additional cause for optimism. If he can return to anything approaching his prior form, Storen would represent a screaming value for a Reds organization that trotted out a historically bad bullpen in 2016.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Padres have claimed righty Tyrell Jenkins off waivers from the Reds, San Diego announced. Cincinnati evidently sought to slip the 24-year-old through waivers, but he’ll land on the 40-man roster of a new organization instead.
This isn’t the first time Jenkins has changed hands this winter, of course. He previously went from the Braves to the Rangers via trade before being designated by Texas and claimed by Cincinnati.
It’s obvious that plenty of teams still like Jenkins’s arm, despite his less-than-inspiring 2016 season. A sandwich-round selection in the 2010 draft, Jenkins has posted excellent run-prevention numbers in the upper minors, but lacks the peripherals to match them.
Over 129 career frames at Triple-A, Jenkins owns a 2.86 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9. Things got worse when he received a call to the majors for the first time in 2016. He worked to a 5.88 ERA, recording just 26 strikeouts while allowing 33 walks and 11 home runs over his 52 innings.
To set the stage for the remainder of the offseason, we’ll take a look at the most pressing remaining needs of every team in baseball over the coming week or so, division by division. (Hat tip to MLBTR commenter mike156 for the idea.) We often discuss things through the lens of an organization’s trajectory; thus, a rebuilding team might “need” to move some salary, while a contender might “need” an expensive starter. But with camp in sight, every club is making final calls on who’ll compete for big league jobs in the season to come (while also pursuing broader opportunities), so the focus here is on specific positions on the MLB roster. Fortunately, the task of roster analysis is made much easier by the MLB depth charts available at RosterResource.com. Each team listed below is linked to its respective depth chart, so you can take a look for yourself.
- Negotiate with Jake Arrieta. The Cubs appear set to try to negotiate a deal with their star righty this month after the two sides swap arbitration figures. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted this week, it’s hard to assess the Cubs’ chances of extending Arrieta, or what kind of money he should ultimately get after a good, but still disappointing, 2016 season. Negotiations between the Cubs and Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, will be an important story line in Wrigleyville over the next few weeks. And even if there’s no extension, expect to see at least a couple interesting Arrieta-related headlines — he’s projected to make $16.8MM through arbitration in 2017, so even arriving at a one-year salary will be a relatively high-stakes endeavor.
- Keep an eye out for starting pitching help. The Cubs’ roster is extraordinarily talented and deep, so much of what we’ve heard about the team since their swap of Jorge Soler for Wade Davis and their signing of Koji Uehara has pertained to potential role players. One name who’s repeatedly come up has been that of Tyson Ross, who (as MLBTR’s Steve Adams pointed out in a recent chat) would be an interesting fit with the Cubs in that the team’s depth would give him the luxury of taking his time returning from shoulder injury, then providing rotation help once fully healthy. In any case, the Cubs could still perhaps use a bit more starting pitching, although options like Rob Zastryzny, Aaron Brooks and Jake Buchanan do give them a variety of palatable spot starters.
- Consider adding a bit more left-handed relief. The Cubs have a heavily right-handed bullpen (with veteran Brian Duensing, waiver claim David Rollins, Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith and Jack Leathersich topping their current list of lefty relief options), so they could consider adding a lefty as a late-offseason move. They’ve been connected to Justin Wilson of the Tigers, and they could also make a move to bump lefty Mike Montgomery from the rotation back to the bullpen. Of course, the idea that lefty relief is a serious need for the Cubs is already nit-picking — they do already have a sufficient quantity of lefties, and their excellent group of righty relievers somewhat mitigates the need for southpaws, particularly since newcomer Uehara is very tough on lefty batters.
- Add pitching help. The Reds haven’t signed a single player to a big-league deal to this point in the offseason, which isn’t necessarily surprising — as a rebuilding club, they shouldn’t feel an urgent need to make short-term upgrades, and they might get better deals on helpful players later in the winter anyway. Last week, MLBTR’s Steve Adams and Jeff Todd looked at big-league free agent pitchers the Reds could pursue, focusing in large part on the Reds’ open closer role, which could provide an opportunity both for interested free agents (who might be able to establish or reestablish themselves as closers in Cincinnati) and for the team (which might be able to deal relievers they sign this winter at next year’s deadline).
- Find opportunities for young players. The Reds’ projected 25-man roster still includes a variety of veterans. The team hasn’t been able to strike deals this offseason, though, in part because those veterans either have no-trade protection or aren’t in high demand. For 2017, that leaves them in somewhat of an awkward position, particularly in their middle infield, where they have prospects Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera ready for playing time and veterans Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart blocking them. Phillips, of course, is one of those veterans with a no-trade clause. The Reds might not make any moves before the start of the season to deal with their middle-infield issue, but they’ll have to deal with it one way or another, perhaps by getting creative with various infielders’ playing time. Peraza could also occasionally play center field.
- Acquire more catching depth. The Reds have identified catching depth as an area of need — Devin Mesoraco has struggled to stay healthy in the past two seasons, and the team doesn’t have enough help behind Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart. Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner is another possibility, but he has a limited offensive track record and has never played above Double-A.
- Add power. Assessing what the Brewers perceive their needs to be at this point is difficult, since they’ve been relatively quiet since the Winter Meetings and they don’t figure to contend in 2017. One area where they might have an opportunity, though, is in adding power to their lineup. First base is mostly open for them after they non-tendered Chris Carter, and their string of veteran trades leaves them with what should be plenty of money available to add a bat. The team did sign Eric Thames for a relatively substantial $16MM guarantee earlier in the offseason, and Thames currently tops their depth chart at first. Thames, though, can also play outfield, and the team’s relative uncertainty in the corners (where they have trade candidate Ryan Braun and the interesting but still unproven Domingo Santana) could clear space for Thames to move around. Meanwhile, the glut of power bats remaining on the free agent market (including Carter and many others) could give the Brewers an opportunity to add someone who could potentially contribute in 2017 and possibly fetch a prospect in a trade next summer.
- Continue evaluating Braun’s market. The Brewers and Dodgers reportedly discussed a deal last summer that would have sent Braun to Los Angeles for a package that included Yasiel Puig, but Braun’s market has been relatively quiet this winter. Now, the same market conditions mentioned in the previous bullet might have an impact on Braun’s market. There have also been whispers that Braun’s large contract and PED history might be problems as well. Regardless, with much of the Brewers’ previous core already having departed, there’s little reason for the Brewers not to investigate potential trades involving Braun.
- Create competition. The Brewers likely won’t be competitive in 2017, but they’ve already acquired a fair amount of interesting talent in their rebuild, and they have plenty of flexibility heading into the near future. With that in mind, they’ve added a number of marginal players this offseason, including catcher Jett Bandy, infielder Eric Sogard, and pitchers Tommy Milone, Ryan Webb and Andy Oliver. The moves that landed those players weren’t glamorous, but they’ll help give the Brewers depth they’ll need to get through 162 games, while also limiting the possibility of disaster should players further up the depth chart struggle.
- Consider continuing to add starting pitching. The Pirates made a big move to steady a wobbly rotation when they re-signed Ivan Nova late last month. Still, the team could use a bit more pitching help, as it currently figures to be heavily reliant on youngsters behind Gerrit Cole and Nova. The Pirates have been connected to White Sox star Jose Quintana, who certainly would be a big step forward. Beyond that, GM Neal Huntington has been outwardly noncommittal about the possibility of further additions, noting that he is open to bringing in more pitching but adding that “we like the group as is,” via Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Balance the bullpen. With the recent addition of Daniel Hudson to a group that already included Tony Watson, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, Antonio Bastardo, A.J. Schugel, Jared Hughes and others, the Pirates have what appears to be a decent group of relievers. That group, however, is heavily left-handed, with Watson, Rivero, Bastardo, Wade LeBlanc and Rule 5 pick Tyler Webb all pitching from the left side. Watson’s name has come up in trade rumors this offseason, and either he or Bastardo look like reasonable candidates to be dealt, partially to get value from them but also partially to clear space for more right-handed relief help.
- Figure out whether Andrew McCutchen stays or goes. Following the collapse of trade negotiations with the Nationals, Huntington said the Pirates were likely to keep their star center fielder. Rumblings surrounding McCutchen have continued, albeit in more muted form, over the past several weeks, however. There’s also the question of what position he’ll play in 2017, as there have been various reports about the likelihood that the Pirates will move him to a corner after he posted poor defensive numbers in center in 2016.
- Figure out who’s on second. The latest Cardinals-related rumors have connected them to Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. While Dozier would undoubtedly help almost any team, though, most indications have been that the Cardinals’ interest in striking a deal with Minnesota isn’t particularly strong. Cardinals brass have also strongly praised Kolten Wong, who is signed through 2020 with an option for 2021 and who currently appears unlikely to be traded elsewhere.
- Consider extending Carlos Martinez. As of October, both Martinez and the Cardinals reportedly had interest in extension, and as Jeff noted last week, deal discussions could happen in the coming weeks as the two sides discuss Martinez’s pending arbitration case. The 25-year-old’s youth, blistering fastball and strong performances the last two seasons figure to make him a player well worth keeping, if the right deal can be found.
- Consider adding another outfielder. The Cardinals have a perfectly good starting outfield of Randal Grichuk, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty. But as Viva El Birdos’ Ben Markham recently pointed out, the team’s fourth outfielder, Tommy Pham, has struggled to stay healthy, and the team doesn’t have great depth beyond that. As Markham notes, Brandon Moss is probably the best outfielder available who could conceivably sign as a backup, and Moss is a lefty hitter who could complement righties Grichuk and Piscotty in the corners.
- The Reds are monitoring the market for veteran catchers, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com in his latest Reds Inbox. Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart project to split time behind the dish in Cincinnati next year, but health has been a major factor for Mesoraco, who caught just 18 games from 2015-16 due largely to hip surgery. Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner (out of the Twins organization) is also an option, Sheldon notes, though he’s behind both Mesoraco and Barnhart. Sheldon also notes that he asked newly minted president of baseball ops Dick Williams about the possibility of signing Greg Holland recently, and while Williams sidestepped a specific comment on Holland, he said the team is looking to add relievers on potential value deals. “A lot of times it comes from a guy who has missed time from an injury or had a bad year,” said Williams. Certainly, Holland would fit that bill after missing the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Sheldon also tackles questions about playing time for Jose Peraza and notes that he considers trades of Anthony DeSclafani and/or Dan Straily unlikely.