- What would Nolan Arenado earn if he was a free agent this winter? ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (subscription required) floated the question to some evaluators in the wake of Arenado’s disappointing 2020 season, and the results were still pretty strong — a deal worth somewhere between $100MM-$125MM. This offers some idea that Arenado’s 2020 numbers “will likely be treated as an outlier by any interested teams” in trade talks, but also of how much of Arenado’s actual contract (six years and $199MM remaining, with an opt-out after the 2021 season) the Rockies could be asked to cover to accommodate a deal. It just adds another layer of difficulty to any possibility that Arenado could be traded this offseason, since it seems unlikely that the Rox would be okay with eating that much money to move a player they surely consider a prize trade asset.
Gonzalez will be 29 years old next season coming off a 0.1 bWAR effort in 2020 that spanned six appearances (four of which were starts). The right-hander was tagged with a 6.86 ERA/5.54 FIP in 19 2/3 innings with 7.3 K/9 to 4.6 BB/9. He was non-tendered last week, but returns now with a chance to make the 2021 team. He has an option remaining, which should help him stick with the organization through the 2021 season. The Rockies need as much pitching depth as they can muster.
Gonzalez was a first round draft pick of the Rangers, but an elbow injury sidelined his career. He made it back to the bigs in 2019, making 11 starts for the Rockies with a 5.29 ERA/5.64 FIP. He throws a five-pitch mix on the backbone of a high-spin, 92 mph four-seam fastball.
A potential trade of star third baseman Nolan Arenado remains a legitimate possibility for the Rockies this winter, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports, though Saunders downplays the possibility of Arenado landing with the Dodgers or any other division rival in the NL West. Owner Dick Monfort is “extremely hesitant” to trade Arenado within the National League West, according to Saunders.
The remaining money on his contract limits the number of potential suitors, however, making it easy to project Arenado into the Justin-Turner-sized hole currently at third base for the Dodgers. Trading a face-of-the-franchise superstar like Arenado, however, rarely fits as glove-in-hand as it may seem on the surface. Still, the Rockies only have so many ways to cut payroll, if that’s their goal.
They are warming to the idea of moving Trevor Story, per the latest report from the Athletic’s Nick Groke and Eno Sarris. The Colorado front office has long put off the possibility of dealing their star shortstop. Beyond Arenado and Story, however, their two largest contracts on the 2020 payroll belong to Ian Desmond and Charlie Blackmon, both of whom would be difficult to move. Beyond that quartet, there simply aren’t many simple solutions to create more payroll flexibility while bringing back assets.
Story is facing his final season before free agency. For all his talent, however, it’s a complicated time to move a first-division All-Star shortstop like Story. The Indians were quick to put Francisco Lindor at the front of the line, while Didi Gregorius, Marcus Semien, and Ha-Seong Kim from the KBO are attractive alternatives on the free agent market.
On the other hand, taking the risk on one year of Story might be an easier pill to swallow for inquiring teams given the surfeit of peers on the same free agency timeline. Corey Seager, Javier Báez, and Carlos Correa will join Story and Lindor as free agents after 2021 if none are extended.
Unfortunately, the Rockies have fewer and fewer researchers to help the front office make qualified, franchise-altering decisions, writes Groke and Sarris. They lost four of six researchers from their Research and Development team since the end of last season, though it’s important to note that these weren’t employees let go by the organization. And yet, Groke and Sarris provide a relatively grim picture of the Rockies’ current resources, but they are far from the only team in the league dealing with tightened belts and smaller staffs. The full article from the Athletic on the state of affairs in Colorado is well worth a read.
- The Rockies announced that they have acquired left-hander Yoan Aybar from the Red Sox for infielder Christian Koss. Aybar, now 23, didn’t produce much as an outfielder through 2017, which led the Red Sox to move him to the mound. With a fastball that can reach triple digits, Aybar pitched to a 4.61 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 6.5 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings between the Single-A and High-A levels in 2019. Koss, who will turn 23 in January, was a 12th-round pick of the Rockies in 2019 who hasn’t gotten past rookie ball. He did perform very well there during his first pro season, though, as he slashed .332/.447/.605 with 11 home runs in 238 plate appearances.
Dahl, 26, registers as something of a surprise non-tender. The former top prospect was due only a very modest raise on last year’s $2.475MM salary, and while he struggled through an awful 2020 season, hitting .183/.222/.247, he’s only a year removed from an All-Star campaign. In 2019, Dahl slashed .302/.353/.524 with 15 big flies, 28 doubles and five triples through 413 plate appearances.
The sky once looked to be the limit for Dahl, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was universally regarded as a top 100 prospect throughout his minor league career, landing within the top 25 on multiple lists in multiple offseasons. He debuted in 2016 and hit .315/.359/.500 through 236 plate appearances, looking every bit like the star that most anticipated he would become.
Unfortunately for Dahl, injuries have hindered him time and time again. He’s had his spleen removed after suffering a laceration during a violent on-field collision, and he’s since dealt with stress reactions in his rib cage, a fractured foot, a high ankle sprain, multiple back injuries and most recently a shoulder injury. With all of those health concerns, perhaps the Rockies simply didn’t expect they could count on him to remain on the field in 2021, but a salary in the $2.5-2.6MM range doesn’t seem like much of a risk given the upside he carried over his remaining three years of club control.
Wolters, 28, has been a non-tender candidate in each of the past two seasons but hung onto his roster spot despite a lack of production at the plate. Rockies brass clearly has long liked his defensive capabilities, but at this point the club wasn’t willing to give him a raise on top of last year’s $1.9MM salary. Over the past three seasons, Wolters has batted .231/.316/.307. Gonzalez, also 28, has pitched in 20 games (16 starts) for the Rox since 2019 but been roughed up for a 5.66 ERA and 5.62 FIP.
- Jon Gray is a potential non-tender candidate following a rough 2020 season, though MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link) reports that the Rockies are “expected” to tender Gray a deal in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. Gray posted a 6.69 ERA over eight starts before being shut down due to shoulder inflammation in early September, ending a season that saw him post some ugly Statcast metrics as well as career worsts in K/9 (5.1), K/BB rate (2.00), grounder rate (36.7%), and fastball velocity (94mph). While there was some misfortune involved in Gray’s struggles (such as a stunningly low 54.4% strand rate), the season represented another low point of an up-and-down career for the former third overall pick. Gray is projected for a salary in the range of $5.9MM in 2021, which the Rockies may feel is an acceptable price tag to see if Gray can get himself on track next year.
With the non-tender deadline on the horizon tomorrow, expect quite a few players to agree to contracts for the 2021 season, avoiding arbitration in advance. In many (but not all) cases, these deals — referred to as “pre-tender” deals because they fall prior to the deadline — will fall shy of expectations and projections. Teams will sometimes present borderline non-tender candidates with a “take it or leave it” style offer which will be accepted for fear of being non-tendered and sent out into an uncertain market. Speculatively, such deals could increase in 2020 due to the economic uncertainty sweeping through the game, although there are also widespread expectations of record non-tender numbers.
You can track all of the arbitration and non-tender activity here, and we’ll also run through today’s smaller-scale pre-tender deals in this post. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s arbitration salary projections here.
- Athletics second baseman Tony Kemp will get $1.05MM over one year, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle relays.
- The Rockies announced that they have re-signed righty Jairo Diaz to a one-year pact. It’s worth $1.1MM, Feinsand tweets.
- The Phillies and righty reliever Seranthony Dominguez have a one-year, $727,500 deal, according to Feinsand. Dominguez underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of June, so he might not pitch at all in 2021.
- The Athletics and utility player Chad Pinder reached a one-year, $2.275MM deal, per Nightengale. Pinder has two seasons of team control left.
- The Orioles and catcher Pedro Severino agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.825MM, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link). There was some speculation that Severino could be a non-tender candidate, though he has posted pretty decent numbers over two seasons as Baltimore’s primary catcher. Severino is controllable through the 2023 season.
- The Nationals and right-hander Joe Ross agreed to a one-year, $1.5MM contract, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. This is a match of the salary Ross and the Nats had agreed on for the 2020 season, but Ross decided to opt out back in June. This was Ross’ third year of arbitration eligibility, and is now expected to return and compete for a job in Washington’s rotation in 2021.
- The Royals agreed to one-year deals with righties Jesse Hahn and Jakob Junis and outfielder Franchy Cordero, according to Feinsand and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links). Hahn signed for $1.75MM in guaranteed money with another $350K available in incentives. Junis will rake in $1.7MM. Cordero will earn $800K in his first arbitration-eligible year.
- The Athletics and righty Burch Smith agreed to a one-year deal worth $705K, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. The 30-year-old Smith allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with 13 strikeouts in 12 2/3 frames with the A’s in 2020. That was a solid showing for Smith to carry into his first trip through the arb process, though he carried a career 6.57 ERA in 135 1/3 frames into the 2020 season. The A’s can control Smith through 2023.
- The Rockies agreed to a one-year, $1.2MM deal with catcher Elias Diaz, per Nightengale (Twitter link). The contract contains another $300K in available incentives. The 30-year-old looked like a clear non-tender candidate after posting an ugly .235/.288/.353 slash with lackluster framing marks and just a 1-for-8 effort in throwing out base thieves, but the Rockies must remain hopeful he can return to his 2018 level of performance. Diaz is controllable through the 2022 season via arbitration.
- Right-hander Jacob Barnes and the Mets agreed to a one-year deal worth $750K, Nightengale tweets. Barnes, claimed off waivers back in October, was a quality reliever in Milwaukee from 2016-18 but has seen his results crater over the past two seasons. From 2019-20, he’s posted a 6.75 ERA over 50 2/3 innings. Barnes has averaged 10 strikeouts per nine frames in that time but also averaged 4.6 walks and 1.42 homers as well. Barnes is controllable through 2022.
- Scott Oberg has begun a throwing program, The Athletic’s Nick Groke reports (Twitter link), as the Rockies right-hander is making his way back from undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in September. The hope is that the TOS surgery will finally solve the blood clotting issues that have plagued Oberg throughout his career, as he has undergone multiple procedures in the past. Oberg didn’t pitch at all in 2020, leaving Colorado without an important piece of its bullpen. In 2018-19, Oberg posted a 2.35 ERA, 3.29 K/BB rate, and 9.0 K/9 over 114 2/3 innings.
- The Dodgers have been speculated upon as a potential candidate to acquire Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado this offseason. However, the potential roadblocks to such a deal are “monumental,” notes Buster Olney of ESPN, who feels they may be “impossible to overcome.” Indeed, MLBTR’s Steve Adams detailed the challenges of any deal involving Arenado coming together in an overview of his potential trade market. Arenado’s lofty contract could be an even bigger impediment than normal in the wake of teams’ revenue losses in 2020. The 29-year-old star had a down season offensively, and it’s anyone’s guess whether the Rockies would consider moving Arenado to a division rival.
It’s early in the offseason, but three star shortstops have already been mentioned as trade candidates. The Indians’ Francisco Lindor, the Rockies’ Trevor Story and the Astros’ Carlos Correa each seem to have at least a small chance of ending up on the move this winter. The question is: Which of the three would you prefer to acquire?
There isn’t a more accomplished member of the trio than Lindor, a 27-year-old who has already earned four All-Star nods and a pair of Gold Glove Awards since his career began in 2015. If you’re looking for flaws, though, the switch-hitting Lindor isn’t coming off a stellar year at the plate, as he slashed .258/.335/.415 (good for a league-average 100 wRC+) with eight home runs and six stolen bases in 266 trips. He also comes with potentially the biggest price tag of the three players, with MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projecting a salary between $17.5MM and $21MM for his final year of team control.
Story, 28, had a better year than Lindor and Correa in 2019, slashing .289/.355/.519 (117 wRC+) with 11 homers and 15 steals across 259 plate appearances. It was the third straight exemplary season for Story, a two-time All-Star who’s also a year from free agency. Story’s locked in for a $17.5MM salary next season after signing a two-year, $27.5MM extension before 2020.
Correa is also slated to be part of next winter’s standout class of free-agent shortstops. In the meantime, he’ll rake in the lowest salary (between $8MM and $10.2MM) next year. The 26-year-old’s name hit the rumor mill earlier this week, though the Astros reportedly aren’t in active negotiations to trade him. If they were, they wouldn’t be aiming to sell high on Correa, who was uncharacteristically pedestrian at the plate in 2020. Correa wound up with a line of .264/.326/.383 (97 wRC+) and five HRs in 221 PA. The good news is that he stayed healthy after three consecutive injury-limited, albeit more productive, seasons.
All three of these well-known shortstops are nearing free agency, so any of them could be involved in trades before the 2021 campaign. Considering their production and their salaries, which one would you want?
(Poll link for app users)