Denver native Kyle Freeland was a revelation for the Rockies in his sophomore season, posting a 2.85 ERA/3.67 FIP over 202 1/3 innings. Two years later, however, and the Rockies have yet to discuss an extension with their homegrown star, writes the Athletic’s Nick Groke. Freeland’s 2018 was an almost as a magical affair, so starved is the Rockies franchise for a cornerstone rotation piece. The bubble burst in 2019, of course, as his run prevention numbers ballooned to a 6.73 ERA/5.99 FIP. He found a middle ground over 70 2/3 innings in 2020, logging a 4.33 ERA/4.65 FIP with a 15.1 percent strikeout rate, 7.6 percent walk rate, and 51.5 percent groundball rate. Freeland agreed to a $5.025MM deal for 2021 on Friday, and he has two more seasons of arbitration before reaching free agency. Given the range of outcomes Freeland has already seen across four seasons, he’s likely to go year-to-year until reaching free agency after 2023. Let’s stay out west and check in with the Angels…
The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is today at 1pm ET. As of this morning, there were 125 arbitration-eligible players who’d yet to agree to terms on their contract for the upcoming 2021 season. Arbitration is muddier than ever before thanks to the shortened 2020 schedule, which most believe will lead to record number of arb hearings this winter. Be that as it may, it’s still reasonable to expect dozens of contractual agreements to filter in over the next couple of hours.
We’ll highlight some of the more high-profile cases in separate posts with more in-depth breakdowns, but the majority of today’s dealings will be smaller-scale increases that don’t radically alter a team’s payroll or a player’s trade candidacy. As such, we’ll just run through most of today’s agreements in this post.
I’ve embedded MLBTR’s 2021 Arbitration Tracker in the post (those in the mobile app or viewing on mobile web will want to turn their phones sideways). Our tracker can be sorted by team, by service time and/or by Super Two status, allowing users to check the status on whichever groups of players they like. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s projected arbitration salaries for this year’s class, and we’ll do a quick sentence on each player’s agreement at the bottom of this post as well, with the most recent agreements sitting atop the list.
Today’s Agreements (chronologically, newest to oldest)
- Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia avoided arbitration with a $1.95MM deal, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. The team also reached an agreement for $805K with reliever Robert Stephenson, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The Tigers have deals with infielder Jeimer Candelario ($2.85MM), outfielder JaCoby Jones ($2.65MM) and righty Jose Cisnero ($970K), Chris McCosky of the Detroit News relays.
- The Yankees and reliever Chad Green settled for $2.15MM, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports.
- The Marlins and lefty Richard Bleier have a deal for $1.425MM, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets.
- The Dodgers reached a $3.6MM settlement with lefty Julio Urias, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The Angels announced a deal with righty Dylan Bundy for $8.325MM.
- The Tigers and southpaw Matthew Boyd have settled for $6.5MM, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets.
- The Yankees have deals with catcher Gary Sanchez ($6.35MM), first baseman Luke Voit ($4.7MM), third baseman Gio Urshela ($4.65MM), shortstop Gleyber Torres ($4MM) and outfielder Clint Frazier ($2.1MM), per Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
- The Rays and outfielder Manuel Margot avoided arbitration with a $3.4MM agreement, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- The Padres and outfielder Tommy Pham have a deal for $8.9MM, according to Robert Murray of FanSided. Reliever Dan Altavilla settled for $850K, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com tweets.
- The Angels and righty Felix Pena have come to terms for $1.1MM, Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers have reached a $4.575MM agreement, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
- The Mets and outfielder Brandon Nimmo have come to a $4.7MM agreement, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets.
- The Reds and righty Luis Castillo have settled for $4.2MM, Robert Murray of FanSided relays.
- The Rays reached a $2.25MM agreement with infielder Joey Wendle and a $1.175MM settlement with righty Yonny Chirinos, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
- The Cardinals and flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks have an agreement for $862,500, according to Heyman.
- The White Sox and ace Lucas Giolito avoided arbitration with a $4.15MM agreement, James Fegan of The Athletic reports.
- The Pirates and righty Joe Musgrove have reached an agreement for $4.45MM, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. They also made deals with second/baseman outfielder Adam Frazier ($4.3MM), third baseman Colin Moran ($2.8MM) righty Chad Kuhl ($2.13MM) and lefty Steven Brault ($2.05MM), per reports from Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Adam Berry of MLB.com.
- Hard-throwing right-hander Reyes Moronta agreed to a $695K deal with the Giants after missing the 2020 season due to shoulder surgery, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided.
- The Tigers agreed to a $2.1MM deal with infielder Niko Goodrum, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided. They also inked lefty Daniel Norris for a $3.475MM salary, tweets Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Pirates agreed to a $1.3MM deal with catcher Jacob Stallings and a $1.1MM deal with righty Chris Stratton, per Robert Murray of Fansided (Twitter links).
- Athletics right-hander Lou Trivino agreed to a $912,500 salary for the 2021 season, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided.
- Right-hander Richard Rodriguez and the Pirates agreed to a $1.7MM deal, tweets Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Catcher Jorge Alfaro and the Marlins agreed to a $2.05MM deal, tweets Craig Mish of SportsGrid.
- The Reds agreed to a $2.2MM deal with right-hander Tyler Mahle, tweets Fansided’s Robert Murray. Cincinnati also signed lefty Amir Garrett for $1.5MM, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
- The Indians agreed to a $2.4MM deal with newly acquired shortstop Amed Rosario and a $975K deal with righty Phil Maton, tweets Zack Meisel of The Athletic.
- The Tigers and righty Buck Farmer settled at $1.85MM, tweets Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Marlins agreed to a $1.9MM deal with right-handed reliever Yimi Garcia, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
The Rockies and right-handed reliever Mychal Givens have avoided arbitration with a $4.05MM agreement for 2021, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. MLBTR had projected a $3.4MM to $4.3MM arbitration salary for Givens, who’s entering his last season of arb control.
[RELATED: MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker]
Givens joined the Rockies in a trade with the Orioles last August, a time when the Rox were hoping to earn a playoff berth, but the team fell out of contention during the last month of the season. Givens didn’t necessarily help their cause, as he allowed seven earned runs in 9 1/3 innings during his Rockies debut. Between Colorado and Baltimore, Givens finished the season with an acceptable 3.63 ERA/4.31 SIERA and a 26.9 percent strikeout rate across 22 1/3 frames, though a 10.8 percent walk rate and a career-low groundball percentage of 23.2 percent helped lead to his issues.
Since he debuted in the majors in 2015, Givens has pitched to a 3.41 ERA/3.35 SIERA with a 29.1 percent strikeout rate and a 9.4 percent walk rate over 345 1/3 frames. Putting up numbers like those in 2021 would make it easier for Givens to cash in as a free agent next winter.
The Rockies and right-hander Antonio Senzatela have avoided arbitration with a $3MM agreement, Robert Murray of FanSided tweets. MLBTR projected Senzatela would make anywhere from $2.2MM to $4.9MM in arbitration.
The 25-year-old Senzatela was an oft-utilized member of the Rockies’ pitching staff for the fourth straight season in 2020, which has been his best campaign to date. Senzatela finished second on the Rockies in starts (12) and innings (73 1/3), paced their starters in ERA (3.44), and notched impressive walk and groundball percentages of 5.9 and 50.8, respectively. However, despite averaging upward of 94 mph on his fastball, Senzatela posted a meager 13.5 percent strikeout rate and did not perform especially well by Statcast’s standards.
The Rockies will be able to control Senzatela through 2023, as he’ll also be eligible for arbitration in each of the next two offseasons.
Much has been written about the Rockies potentially trading stars Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. There has been decidedly less chatter about starter Jon Gray. On the surface, though, the right-hander looks to be one of the more sensible trade candidates around the league.
That’s mostly a function of his contractual status. Gray has five years and sixty-two days of MLB service, meaning he’ll hit free agency at the end of next season. Meanwhile, contending in the NL West will be an uphill battle for the Rockies. The Dodgers are a perennial juggernaut, while the already-contending Padres made a trio of impact additions last month. The Giants also had a decent 2020 season; the Diamondbacks did not, but Arizona has largely the same roster that won 85 games and finished second in the division the year before. As Dan Szymborksi of FanGraphs examined this week, the Rockies look more likely to finish near the bottom of the division than the top.
Colorado projects as a longshot for the postseason, particularly if MLB returns to a five-team-per-league playoff structure in 2021. There’s a case to be made the Rockies should move short-term players for future value. The organization needn’t embark on a full rebuild, but a single year of production from Gray (or Story, for that matter) would probably be worth more to another team than it would to Colorado.
Admittedly, Gray is coming off a dismal season. He pitched just eight games with terrible results before being shut down with inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Gray’s velocity, strikeout and ground ball rates all dropped precipitously from past seasons. He ultimately posted an ERA just under 7.
Yet the former third overall pick looked like a capable mid-rotation starter entering 2020. Over the three prior seasons, Gray pitched to a 4.31 ERA (a deceptively solid mark in the hitters’ haven of Coors Field) across 432.2 innings. In that time, his strikeout (24.2%), walk (7.5%) and ground ball (48.8%) rates were each better than league average. As is, Gray was a productive starting pitcher. There remained some hope the former top prospect could yet emerge as a top-of-the-rotation arm. His fastball was in the mid 90’s and he flashed a pair of swing-and-miss breaking pitches.
After his disastrous 2020, Gray would be a reclamation project. But it’s easy to imagine plenty of contenders having interest in acquiring him. Eight poor starts don’t negate what Gray had achieved in the seasons before. His ending last season on the injured list is a red flag, but it’s notable the Rockies seemingly believe he can return to form this year. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have made sense for the Colorado front office to tender him an arbitration contract, projected in the not-insignificant $6MM range, as they did in November.
There has been no indication the Rockies are actually exploring trades involving Gray this offseason. On paper, though, Colorado looks a reasonable bet to subtract short-term pieces from the major league roster. Gray’s pre-2020 track record and past flashes of high-end raw stuff could entice some teams closer to contention to call the Rockies, particularly in a winter without many obvious rotation upgrades available in free agency.
A unique set of challenges faced anyone running a Major League franchise in 2020, between dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and then the difficulties involved in playing games during the delayed-then-shortened season. Nevertheless, it seemed like only a certain amount of slack was granted the sport’s managers and front office leaders (whether that top title was president of baseball operations, general manager, chief baseball officer, etc.) through the turbulent year, as we still saw a number of teams make changes either in the dugout or at the top of the baseball ops department.
As such, it’s fair to assume that a “normal” amount of pressure to put a winning — or championship-winning — team on the field will be the same in 2021 as in any usual season, even if 2021 is already looking it may have its own share of abnormality. That means that for managers and executives heading into the last guaranteed year of their contracts, job security will likely be on the line in the coming months.
Thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts for information on the various contractual details of team personnel, though this list may not be complete. Some teams don’t publicly reveal contract lengths of managers or front office execs, so it’s possible some of these names might be locked up beyond 2021 whether due to the original terms of their current deals or due to extensions that haven’t been announced.
Astros: Originally signed to a one-year deal with a club option for 2021, Dusty Baker saw Houston exercise that option last summer, lining Baker up for his 24th season running a Major League dugout. Recent comments from Baker indicate that the 71-year-old is taking something of a year-by-year approach to his future, though if the Astros again reach the postseason, one would imagine the team would certainly have interest in retaining Baker for 2022. A longer-term extension seems unlikely, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if at least another club option (or even a mutual option) was tacked onto Baker’s deal to give both sides some flexibility going forward.
Athletics: While major postseason success continues to elude the team, Oakland has reached the playoffs in each of the last three years. This makes six postseason appearances for Melvin in 10 years managing the A’s, and it seems likely the team will discuss another extension for Melvin as he enters the final year of his current contract. While Billy Beane’s possible departure would naturally have a major impact on the Athletics, the likelihood of longtime executive and current GM David Forst taking over the baseball operations department would probably mean that Melvin would be welcomed back.
Blue Jays: Charlie Montoyo is entering the last guaranteed year of his original three-year contract, and the Jays hold a club option on Montoyo’s services for 2022. That option could be exercised to give Montoyo a bit more security as a reward for leading Toronto to the playoffs last year, though expectations are certainly higher for the 2021 team. It should also be noted that there hasn’t yet been any official confirmation that president/CEO Mark Shapiro has signed a new contract with the team after his five-year deal ran out after last season, but last October, Shapiro seemed to imply that a new deal was all but complete.
Braves: After going from interim manager to full-time manager following the 2016 season, Brian Snitker has twice been signed to extensions — most recently last February, when Atlanta turned its 2021 club option on Snitker into a guaranteed year. Snitker has led the Braves to three straight NL East titles and the team fell one game shy of the NL pennant last October, so Snitker seems like a prime candidate for another extension prior to Opening Day.
Diamondbacks: 2020 was an overall disappointing year for a D’Backs team that was aiming for the postseason, but team president/CEO Derrick Hall indicated that the organization wasn’t planning to make any wholesale changes due to the season’s unusual nature. This bodes well for manager Torey Lovullo as he enters the last year of his contract, and it seems possible Arizona could add another year to Lovullo’s deal just so he can avoid lame-duck status.
Mariners: Both GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais were in the final year of their contracts when both inked extensions with Seattle in July 2018. The terms of those extensions weren’t known, but 2021 would be the final guaranteed year for both if the extensions were three-year deals like their original contracts, though it’s possible Dipoto and Servais each got more security than just a three-year pact. The Mariners have mostly been in rebuild mode since those extensions were signed, and with the team only starting to deliver on some of the young talent amassed in the farm system, ownership could give Dipoto (and quite possibly Servais) more time to see if they can finally get the M’s back to the playoffs. Considering the previous extensions weren’t announced until midseason, we might not know Dipoto/Servais’ fate for some time — and if the Mariners get off to a particularly disappointing start, changes might be in the offing.
Marlins: One of few holdovers from Jeffrey Loria’s ownership, Don Mattingly was signed to a two-year extension following the 2019 season that contained a club option for 2022. The young Marlins reached the postseason last season, so Mattingly has a good case to at least get his option exercised at some point this year, and another extension could well be discussed if CEO Derek Jeter and GM Kim Ng are satisfied with the team’s progress. It can’t hurt that Ng knows Mattingly well from her past days an assistant general manager with the Yankees and Dodgers.
Mets: The winds of change have swept through the Mets organization this winter, yet Luis Rojas wasn’t affected, as team president Sandy Alderson announced that Rojas will remain in the dugout for 2021. Making the move from quality control coach to manager after Carlos Beltran’s quick resignation last winter, Rojas signed a two-year deal with club options for both 2022 and 2023. Expectations are definitely higher for Rojas under the Steve Cohen regime, but given all of the tumult of the 2020 season, Cohen and Alderson (plus newly-hired GM Jared Porter) seem interested in seeing what they actually have in Rojas before deciding on whether a new manager is required.
Orioles: According to The Athletic’s Dan Connolly, “one industry source said it’s believed” that 2021 is the last guaranteed year of manager Brandon Hyde’s contract, with the club possibly holding a club option for 2022. For that matter, executive VP/general manager Mike Elias didn’t have his contract terms revealed when he was hired in November 2018, so he could also be in his final guaranteed year if he hired Hyde on a similar timeline to his own deal. It doesn’t seem like a change is coming in either the front office or the dugout, as the Orioles are still at least a couple of years away from coming out of a complete rebuild. (Connolly makes the case that Hyde should be retained, as Hyde has had little to work with as manager and deserves a chance to steward an actual competitive roster.)
Rangers: Chris Woodward is entering the last guaranteed year of his deal, with the Rangers holding a club option for 2022. Woodward has a 100-122 record over his first two years in the Texas dugout, and since the team is looking to get younger in 2021, it doesn’t seem like an immediate return to contention is in the cards. If it’ll be a year or two until the Rangers are done with what seems like a mini-rebuild, it’s possible the team might decide to hire a new manager to herald them into something of a new era. Woodward may have to prove himself anew by shepherding this younger talent and keeping the Rangers as competitive as possible while they shuffle the roster.
Rays: Erik Neander’s contract terms aren’t known, and it has been over four years since his promotion to the GM/senior VP of baseball operations position in November 2016. So, if Neander’s new gig came with a five-year contract, it would be up at the end of 2021. He makes the list due to uncertainty over his contractual situation, but it doesn’t seem like Neander and the Rays will be parting company any time soon, especially after the club reached the 2020 World Series. Neander reportedly has no interest in leaving the organization and the Rays turned down the Angels’ request to speak with Neander about their GM opening earlier this offseason.
Reds: 2021 is the last guaranteed year for manager David Bell, with the Reds holding a team option for 2022. On the plus side for Bell, he led the team to the playoffs in 2020, though Cincinnati was swept out of the two-game wild card series without scoring even a single run against Atlanta pitching. The Reds spent a lot of money to build that winning team, yet now seem focused on moving salaries, with Raisel Iglesias dealt to the Angels and such names as Eugenio Suarez and Sonny Gray also coming up in trade talks. It remains to be seen if the Reds are trying to just trim payroll or make more wholesale cuts, and this direction could certainly impact Bell’s future if the club is already thinking rebuild.
Rockies: Now through six full seasons as Colorado’s GM, Jeff Bridich’s contractual status is unknown. Between the Rockies’ struggles over the last two years and the frosty relationship between Bridich and star third baseman Nolan Arenado, it would certainly seem like Bridich will need to get things turned around quickly. However, payroll cuts appear to be on the horizon, and the front office is also dealing with the loss of two-thirds of the analytics department. As has been noted many times in the past, Rockies owner Dick Monfort tends to give his employees lots of opportunities, but if Bridich’s contract is up any time soon, one wonders if Monfort might feel a change is necessary.
Yankees: While no official statement has been made, owner Hal Steinbrenner clearly stated after the season that manager Aaron Boone will be returning in 2021, so it’s safe to assume the Yankees have exercised their club option on Boone. There hasn’t been any buzz about an extension, and until then, there will be plenty of media focus on Boone’s lame-duck status. Boone has a 236-148 record and three postseason appearances in his three seasons as manager, but as always in the Bronx, the focus is on playoff success — the Yankees have only made it as far the ALCS once during Boone’s tenure. Anything short of a World Series appearance could spell the end of Boone’s stint as manager.
The Rockies would like to add another bat to the lineup, preferably in the outfield or on the right side of the infield, manager Bud Black told reporters (including Thomas Harding of MLB.com). That leaves plenty of options for GM Jeff Bridich and the front office, but Harding casts doubt on Colorado playing at the top or even second tier of the free agent market. The Rockies have had discussions this offseason with free agent outfielder Kevin Pillar, who performed reasonably for Colorado last season after being acquired from the Red Sox in a midseason trade. The Rockies got next to nothing from their first and second basemen in 2020. The free agent market is significantly deeper at the latter position.
- The Rockies have “had discussions” about a reunion with outfielder Kevin Pillar, according to manager Bud Black (via Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post). Black isn’t sure how far those talks have gone, though. The 31-year-old Pillar, whom the Rockies acquired from the Red Sox over the summer, posted a career-high .288/.338/.462 line with six home runs and five stolen bases in 223 plate appearances last season.
The Rockies “want to engage with” the Mets regarding third baseman Nolan Arenado, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network (via Danny Abriano of SNY). It’s unclear whether the Mets have interest in Arenado, but team president Sandy Alderson told WFAN on Wednesday that he “expects to be involved” in the trade market for players with large contracts and those with one year of control left, Tim Healey of Newsday tweets. Arenado’s contract certainly counts as “large,” as he’s owed $199MM over the next six years. The five-time All-Star will have a chance to opt out of his deal after next season, but that seems even less likely than before when considering the economic uncertainty across the league.
More from Queens…
- Right-hander Noah Syndergaard is “on schedule or maybe a little bit ahead of schedule” in his recovery from late-March Tommy John surgery, manager Luis Rojas told reporters (per Mike Puma of the New York Post). Meanwhile, Alderson revealed on WFAN that it’s “reasonable” to expect Syndergaard to return to the majors in June. With Syndergaard shelved, the Mets are slated to begin next year with Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson as their top three starters, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team add to its rotation before then.
- Before they signed catcher James McCann to a four-year, $40.6MM contract, the Mets had interest in fellow backstop Tyler Flowers, Healey reports. He would have been a fallback option had the Mets missed out on McCann. While the 34-year-old Flowers has a longer track record of success than McCann, 30, the latter has been the better player over the past couple seasons. Flowers, who spent the previous five years with the division-rival Braves, is coming off a year in which he hit .217/.325/.348 with one home run and a bloated 42.5 percent strikeout rate in 80 plate appearances. He backed up ex-Met Travis d’Arnaud in 2020.
- Amed Rosario has made 387 of his career 388 appearances at shortstop, though he’ll begin to receive reps at third base, Rojas stated (via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com). However, Rosario will not get any time in the outfield. “That’s something that he’s not doing, and we’re not planning on doing right now with him,” Rojas said. While Rosario’s still just 25, the former star prospect hasn’t lived up to the hype in the majors so far. He posted an uninspiring .252/.272/.371 line with four homers and a measly 2.7 percent walk rate last season, during which he lost playing time to Andres Gimenez. Barring an offseason acquisition at short, Gimenez looks like the front-runner to start for the club in 2021.
The Rockies and right-handed reliever Daniel Bard have avoided arbitration with a $2.925MM agreement for 2021, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. Bard had been projected to earn anywhere from $1.2MM to $2.2MM in arbitration.
This is a nice payday for the 35-year-old Bard and one few would have expected he’d end up receiving when he signed a minor league contract with the Rox in February. At the time, Bard was coming off a long layoff from Major League Baseball, owing to struggles with injuries and performance. Bard began his career with a flourish in Boston from 2009-11, during which he looked as if he would be a long-term answer at the back of its bullpen. However, Bard severely tailed off after that three-year run, and he was out of the league within a couple of years.
Although he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013, Bard earned a spot on the Rockies’ roster and proceeded to enjoy a career renaissance last season. Across 24 2/3 innings, Bard recorded a 3.65 ERA/3.64 FIP with 9.85 K/9, 3.65 BB/9 and a 48.5 percent groundball rate, even recovering the 97 mph fastball velocity that abandoned him during his final two seasons with Boston. Thanks to his perseverance and solid production, Bard earned National League Comeback Player of the Year honors.