- The Tigers engaged in contract extension talks with outfielder/third baseman Nicholas Castellanos’ agent after the season, but they haven’t had any discussions since, general manager Al Avila told reporters Monday. It looks unlikely the two sides will reach an agreement, per Jason Beck of MLB.com (Twitter link). As things stand, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Castellanos is controllable for just two more seasons. The former top prospect will make a projected $7.6MM in arbitration in 2018, when he’ll try for a third straight above-average offensive showing. Castellanos, who slugged a career-best 26 home runs last season, has batted .277/.325/.493 with 44 HRs in 1,112 plate appearances since 2016.
The latest free agent rumors…
- Contrary to a report from Sunday, the Rockies haven’t had any discussions about signing first baseman Logan Morrison, per Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (Twitter link).
- Reliever Tommy Hunter has emerged as a “prime target” for the Mets in their search for bullpen help, according to Marc Carig of Newsday (on Twitter). The 31-year-old right-hander was quietly excellent over 58 2/3 innings with the Rays in 2017, recording a 2.61 ERA and putting up 9.82 K/9 against 2.15 BB/9.
- Count the Diamondbacks among those interested in reliever Brandon Kintzler, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, who expects the former Twins closer to land a two-year deal. Kintzler suggested last month that his wife is rooting for him to sign with Arizona. The Twins continue to monitor him, and they’ve also checked in on almost every other available pitcher, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey revealed (Twitter link via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com).
- Brewers GM David Stearns said Monday that he’s likely to “cross paths” at the Winter Meetings with the agents for second baseman Neil Walker and reliever Anthony Swarzak, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Walker and Swarzak ended last season with the Brewers after coming over in trades and performed quite well during their short stints in Milwaukee.
- Although the Orioles badly need starters, they’re not inclined to dole out long deals. GM Dan Duquette suggested to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun and other reporters Monday that four- to five-year pacts for pitchers generally don’t work out well (Twitter link). On the other hand, Duquette hasn’t closed the door on re-signing righty Chris Tillman, who figures to be an affordable, short-term pickup after enduring a dreadful 2017 (Twitter link via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com).
- As is the case with Baltimore, the Tigers are in the market for a starter who won’t require a long commitment, GM Al Avila informed reporters (via Evan Woodbery of MLive.com, on Twitter). Detroit is open to reeling in another starter on a one-year deal to join the just-signed Mike Fiers.
- The Blue Jays are engaging with multiple starters and relievers, GM Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet and other reporters Monday. They “will most likely add an infielder,” too, and are looking at outfielders, Atkins said (Twitter link).
- The Rangers are considering signing catcher Rene Rivera, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). The righty-hitting Rivera, who was with the Mets and Cubs last year, batted .252/.305/.431 in 237 plate appearances. Behind the plate, he caught an excellent 38 percent of would-be base stealers (10 percent above the league average) and, as has been the case for most of his career, held his own as a framer.
- Right-hander Jesse Chavez appears likely to sign this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes tweets. The 34-year-old Chavez spent last season with the Angels and posted an ugly 5.35 ERA across 138 innings and 38 appearances (21 starts), though he did log acceptable strikeout and walk rates (7.76 K/9, 2.93 BB/9).
Should the Orioles decide to trade superstar third baseman Manny Machado prior to 2018, his contract year, they could find a taker in Philadelphia. The Phillies are among “the more interested parties” in Machado, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports. The Orioles have studied the Phillies’ farm system in the event of a deal, and they now “covet” right-hander Sixto Sanchez (Baseball America’s 61st-best prospect), per Kubatko. Second base prospect Scott Kingery and major league shortstop Freddy Galvis could also be involved in a potential trade, Kubatko writes. But a swap would require a 72-hour window for the Phillies to extend the 25-year-old Machado, according to Kubatko, and hammering out an agreement could be a tall order given that he’s so close to hitting the open market.
More of the latest trade chatter:
- The Yankees reportedly came away from talks with the Pirates with the impression that they won’t move righty Gerrit Cole. However, the Pirates are at least willing to listen to offers for Cole, per Buster Olney of ESPN (Twitter link). The Yankees and Bucs match up well for a potential Cole trade, sources tell Olney, who notes that Bombers general manager Brian Cashman and the Pirates’ Neal Huntington have swung plenty of deals in the past.
- In the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton acquisition, the Yankees are loaded with outfielders. Although that seems to be bad news for Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s toward the bottom of the Yankees’ current outfield depth chart, he’s still “unlikely” to waive his no-trade clause, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets. The belief is that the Yankees would eat roughly half of the $68MM to jettison Ellsbury, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag, but it could be a moot point if he’s unwilling to go anywhere. And Cashman said Monday that Ellsbury “has a spot on the roster” and “will compete to take his job back,” Alex Speier of the Boston Globe relays (Twitter link). On the other hand, if the Yankees make 23-year-old outfielder Clint Frazier available, the Athletics would unquestionably have interest, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (via Twitter). However, the price to acquire Frazier would likely be too high, Slusser adds.
- The Tigers expect to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler, GM Al Avila told Evan Woodbery of MLive.com and other reporters (Twitter link). Meanwhile, they’ve gotten “mild inquiries” on arguably their most valuable trade chip – righty Michael Fulmer – but they’re not actively shopping him (via Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, on Twitter). “There are a handful of teams out there that have the players to do it, but we have not come close to those conversations,” Avila said of a potential Fulmer trade (Twitter link via Jason Beck of MLB.com).
- While the Brewers are listening to offers for outfielder Domingo Santana, there’s not a lot of traction in trade talks, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN tweets. The Brewers want “an affordable impact starter” for Santana, Crasnick suggests. GM David Stearns told reporters Monday that “if we’re going to even consider trading someone who is such an important part of our team, we are going to expect a sizable return” (via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, on Twitter).
Right-hander Victor Alcantara has been outrighted after clearing waivers, as Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reported on Twitter. That leaves the team with an open 40-man spot in advance of the Rule 5 draft later this week.
The 24-year-old Alcantara, who came to the organization in the Cameron Maybin swap, struggled in his first, limited MLB action in 2017. Alcantara spent most of the year in the upper minors, where he was utilized mostly as a reliever after spending the bulk of his career to that point as a starter. Over 74 2/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A, he posted a 3.62 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9.
- All along, Tigers second bagger Ian Kinsler has seemed the likeliest player at his position to move. And it’s possible a deal could come together this week, GM Al Avila tells reporters including MLB.com’s Jason Beck (Twitter link). It’s a “possibility,” but not a certainty, that something will get done, according to Avila.
Though baseball hasn’t publicly embraced sports science the way it has analytics, the Giants are looking towards that very field as a way to gain an advantage. A fascinating article by Ian MacMahan of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) provides some insight into the goals of Geoff Head, San Francisco’s newly-promoted assistant director of player development. “Everybody in baseball is tired by August,” Head tells MacMahan. “But if we are a little less fatigued than our opponent, it gives us an advantage.” The field of sports science focuses heavily on factors such as hydration, nutrition, workload and sleep; experts attempt to put together a formula that will keep players performing at their optimal levels as often as possible. According to Dr. Glenn Fleisig, the main difference between sports science and analytics is that sports science focuses on the “physical and medical aspects of a player,” as opposed to gameplay-based statistics. Less than half of all MLB teams currently have a dedicated sports scientist on their staff, and heavier use of sports science data could lead to big improvements by baseball players. As MacMahan puts it, “no one hits a home run sitting in the dugout nursing lead-filled legs and a tight back.”
- Evan Woodbery of mlive.com provides some insight into the questions the Tigers face as the winter meetings commence. Most notably, Woodbery reports that there hasn’t been much buzz surrounding shortstop Jose Iglesias, who will become a free agent after the 2018 season. With no open spots on the 40-man roster, Iglesias is one player Detroit could consider moving in order to take advantage of having the first pick in baseball’s Rule 5 Draft this Thursday (As Woodbery points out, Ian Kinsler could also be on the move before then). Though Iglesias hit just .255/.288/.369 across 489 plate appearances last year, his excellent defense boosted his fWAR to 1.6. Because he’s projected to earn just $5.6MM in his final year of arbitration, there would seem to be some surplus value in his contract.
- Reliever Peter Moylan is generating some interest, specifically from the Royals and Braves (hat tip to Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston). As Drellich notes, Moylan held opposing right-handed hitters to a .161/.244/.236 batting line in 2017 (and may have also provided the Royals with some intangible value thanks to his espresso skills). The 38-year-old Moylan has typically been excellent against righties over the course of his 11-year major league career; he’s posted a 2.22 ERA against them in 280 innings with the Braves, Dodgers and Royals.
- Even after losing out on Shohei Ohtani, the Rangers may still elect to use a non-traditional rotation, Evan Grant of SportsDay writes. Texas has reportedly kept contact with Yu Darvish, who has pitched in a six-man rotation in Japan and prefers such a setup; that might be one item which could help entice him to return to Arlington. Grant mentions Cole Hamels, who is generally a stickler for routine, as someone who could present a roadblock to such a strategy. However, based on Hamels’ quotes in the piece, he’d be willing to consider it if the modification helped bring about a postseason berth. “I’d love to get to the postseason again and win a World Series. That’s what I want to do here,” said Hamels. “If we can be stronger and healthier, not as worn down, you have the advantage.”
Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were both elected to the Baseball Hall Of Fame today, as announced on the MLB Network. The two longtime Tigers greats were voted in via the HOF’s Modern Baseball Era Committee, who weighed the cases of Morris, Trammell and eight others who weren’t originally selected in the traditional writers’ vote. (MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom has the details on the Modern Era Committee’s composition and process.)
Both Morris and Trammell went the full 15 years on the Baseball Writers’ Association Of America ballot without getting the necessary 75% of the vote necessary for election. Still, both players (as well as the others on the Modern Era Committee’s ballot) had their share of supporters who felt that the duo was long overdue to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Morris won 254 games over his 18-year career, with 14 of those seasons coming in Detroit. While advanced metrics weren’t always keen on Morris’ work, he was a prototypical old-school workhorse, tossing complete games in 175 of his 527 career starts. His most famous outing, in fact, was a complete game on the sport’s biggest stage — Morris tossed 10 shutout innings in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series to help lead the Twins to the championship. That was one of four World Series rings Morris earned during his career, while posting a 3.90 ERA and 2478 strikeouts over his 3824 career innings.
Trammell spent all 20 seasons of his career in Detroit, highlighted by his World Series MVP performance in the Tigers’ championship season in 1984. Trammell hit .285/.352/.415 with 185 homers over 9376 career plate appearances, with six All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards to his credit. Despite this impressive resume, Trammell’s overall steady play may have actually led to his being underrated in comparison to star shortstops of his era (as recently argued by MLB.com’s Joe Posnanski), hence his long wait for Cooperstown.
The Modern Era Committee focused on names from 1970-87, with other candidates including union leader Marvin Miller and former star players Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, and Luis Tiant. Simmons came closest to induction, falling just a single vote shy of the 12-vote threshold. Miller was the next-highest candidate, earning seven of 16 votes.
7:02pm: The Tigers’ efforts to trade Kinsler have “intensified” of late, Katie Strang of The Athletic reports (subscription required and recommended). Moving Kinsler will be a key area of focus for Detroit during the upcoming week, Strang adds, given that the team has a full 40-man roster with Thursday’s Rule 5 draft approaching. The Tigers are slated to pick first in the draft, and dealing Kinsler by then would give them room to select a player with that choice.
9:31am: According to Marc Carig of Newsday, the Mets have had talks about significant potential trades for Ian Kinsler of the Tigers and Jason Kipnis of the Indians. The Mets may also use the winter meetings to explore a deal with the Pirates for Josh Harrison, says Carig.
At this point, Carig clarifies, it seems as though the Mets have had much more dialogue with the Tigers regarding Kinsler; however there’s “some skepticism about a deal getting done there”.
It’s certainly no surprise to hear that a team with a need at second base has inquired on Kinsler. The last-place Tigers endured a rough first half last season that culminated in a decision to tear down and rebuild. Veterans J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander were all traded to different contending teams, and Detroit ultimately finished the season with just 64 wins. With no serious ability to contend next season, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd already pointed out that Kinsler seems like a prime trade candidate.
While Kinsler finished 2017 with his worst full season by fWAR (2.4), he’s a solid bounceback candidate for a Mets team with plans to push for a pennant in 2018. Kinsler hit just .236/.313/.412 this past season, but was seemingly held back by some terrible luck with BABIP (.244). At 35, he’s no sure bet to return to previous form, but considering he combined for 9.8 fWAR between 2015 and 2016, acquiring Kinsler could be well worth the risk for the Mets.
The news about talks for Kipnis are perhaps a bit more surprising. There’s been some speculation about Kipnis as a trade candidate this offseason; he’s coming off a down offensive year during which he hit just .232/.291/.414 and missed significant time due to shoulder and hamstring injuries, and he seems to have been displaced at the keystone by teammate Jose Ramirez. However, Kipnis is one of the more significant faces in the Indians franchise, and he’s been one of their best offensive players overall for the past half-decade. To this point, there’s been no indication from Cleveland’s camp that they’d be willing to trade Kipnis at all; the fact that they’ve had talks with the Mets about him seems to imply that they’re at least willing to explore trade scenarios.
Of course, there’s no real word as to the extent of the trade talks surrounding Kipnis. The report that the Mets have had more dialogue about Kinsler and that such a deal is met with skepticism seems to imply that negotiations for Kipnis are far from advanced. It could be that the Mets were simply doing their due diligence, and that the Indians were willing to listen. Regardless, Kipnis being available to any extent would add an interesting new twist to a second base market that no longer includes Dee Gordon.
While there’s not much word yet on the Mets’ reported interest in Harrison, he’d also be an upgrade to their current depth chart. Harrison has been a solid infielder for the Pirates over the past four seasons, and is capable of playing in the outfield and at third base as well. The Pirates haven’t yet signaled whether or not they’re making a push for contention, but if they decide to rebuild instead, Harrison would be one of the more obvious trade candidates. The 30-year-old is guaranteed $11.5MM for the remainder of his contract, which includes salary for 2018 season as well as buyouts for 2019 and 2020. Harrison hit .272/.339/.432 across 542 plate appearances for Pittsburgh last season.
The Tigers have filled the fifth spot in their 2018 rotation, announcing on Friday a one-year deal with free agent right-hander Mike Fiers. He’ll reportedly earn $6MM on the contract and will remain under Tigers control through 2019 as an arbitration-eligible player. Detroit’s 40-man roster is now full.
Detroit has long seemed to make sense as a landing spot for a bounceback starter or two, and Fiers clearly fits that description. The 32-year-old was recently non-tendered by the Astros, who were unwilling to commit to what MLBTR projected as a $5.7MM salary.
That no other teams stepped in to trade for Fiers seemingly suggested that the rest of the market was equally unwilling to pay that price. Yet Fiers has evidently secured a guarantee that’s greater than the projection. Of course, it’s possible that the market moved a bit more than anyone anticipated. And it’s at least arguably preferable to have him at a fixed price rather than risking an arb hearing.
It’s worth noting that Detroit will also pick up what’s essentially a team option at a floating price. Since Fiers is eligible for arbitration one more time, the organization will get to decide whether to tender him at the end of the 2018 season.
[RELATED: Updated Tigers Depth Chart]
Of course, that assumes that Fiers is not traded in the interim. If all goes as hoped, and he delivers strong results, perhaps he’ll end up being pursued by contending teams over the summer. (While the Tigers certainly could, in theory, be competitive themselves, that seems quite unlikely given the organization’s direction.)
The 2017 season wasn’t kind to Fiers, who ran a 5.22 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 over 153 1/3 innings. While many of his peripheral numbers fell in their normal ranges, Fiers coughed up a hefty 1.88 dingers per nine.
But he has shown more in the past, including a steady showing in 2015, when he put up 180 1/3 innings of 3.69 ERA ball and memorably threw a no-hitter. Fiers has also been healthy of late, taking the ball for at least 28 starts in each of the past three seasons, even if he doesn’t always work deep.
Taking a chance on some kind of turnaround is easy enough for an organization that is entering a rebuilding phase and needs innings. As currently composed, the rotation would likely feature Fiers along with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, and lefties Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris. It’s still possible to imagine the Tigers adding another arm to that mix, even if that just means bringing in some veterans on minor-league pacts to provide depth and spring competition.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The rebuilding Tigers are pursuing a pair of potential bounce-back starters, right-handers Chris Tillman and Mike Fiers, as well as Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets. On the other hand, they’re not after free agent starters Jason Vargas, Jeremy Hellickson or ex-Tiger Anibal Sanchez, according to McCosky. Detroit’s interest in Tillman has been known since last month, and he and Fiers look like strong candidates to sign one-year deals after enduring rough 2017 campaigns. Hirano also figures to land a short-term pact because of his age (34 in March), though he ran roughshod over hitters as a closer in Japan for most of the past decade. The Tigers join the Cardinals as the second team with reported interest in the righty.