MLB Trade Rumors Sun, 21 Jan 2018 01:57:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Twins Interested In Wade Miley Sun, 21 Jan 2018 01:56:42 +0000 The Twins and the agents for Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, Wade Miley, Chris Tillman and Mike Napoli are “maintaining regular dialogue,” according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). Minnesota’s interest in nearly all of those names was already known before Saturday, though this is the first reported connection between the team and Miley.

While the Twins are seeking a front-end starter to complement their only reliable options – Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios – chief baseball officer Derek Falvey revealed this week that they’re also pursuing “value adds” for their rotation. The 31-year-old Miley would qualify as the latter, considering the struggles the left-hander has endured lately.

As a member of the Orioles in 2017, Miley made 32 starts to reach the 30 mark for the fifth straight year, but he averaged fewer than five innings per appearance and finished with 157 1/3 frames – the lowest full-season total of his career. He also notched personal worsts in ERA (5.61), FIP (5.27) and walks per nine (5.32). As a result, the Orioles decided after the season to decline Miley’s $12MM option for 2018 in favor of a $500K buyout, thus sending him to the open market.

Despite his impressive track record of durability, run prevention hasn’t been a strong suit for Miley for the majority of his career, which began in 2011. At his best, Miley combined for an outstanding 3.44 ERA/3.57 FIP across 397 1/3 innings as a Diamondback from 2012-13. Since then, he has pitched to a 4.89 ERA/4.32 FIP over 718 1/3 frames in Arizona, Boston, Seattle and Baltimore.

Miley, to his credit, isn’t that far removed from serving as a competent innings eater with the Red Sox in 2015. And while last season was mostly disastrous, he did manage an 8.12 K/9 – the second-highest figure of his career – along with a quality groundball percentage (50.3). Maintaining those numbers and cutting walks closer to his career mark (3.13 BB/9) would help make Miley a useful back-end option for the Twins or another club in 2018. He’ll also need positive regression in the home run department after last year saw him record a 19.4 percent HR-to-fly ball rate (compared to a lifetime 12.5 percent).

East Notes: Mets, Wright, Colon, Jays, Red Sox, Sale Sun, 21 Jan 2018 01:09:45 +0000 Injuries to his neck, spine, shoulder and back have limited Mets third baseman David Wright to 75 games since the start of 2015, derailing a potential Hall of Fame career. Now, having not played in a game since May 2016 and having undergone back surgery in October, Wright realizes the Mets can’t count on him heading into the new season. “It really hurts to say this, but I obviously can’t be relied on to go out there and do what I’ve done throughout my career,” the 35-year-old told Anthony DiComo of “That is a tough thing to say.” Wright added that he hasn’t made enough progress since his latest surgery to know if his back is going to hold up in 2018, though he expects to find out “closer to spring.” Unfortunately, Wright’s injuries have made the eight-year, $138MM extension he signed in 2012 a poor investment for the Mets. He’s still in line to collect $47MM over the next three years.

More from New York and two other East Coast cities:

  • The Blue Jays have addressed their position player group in recent weeks with the additions of Randal Grichuk, Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. The club still has around $10MM left to spend, and it’s primarily focused on finding a fifth starter and bolstering its bullpen, per Gregor Chisholm of The Jays also “remain in the mix for backup catching depth,” Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet writes. For now, Joe Biagini is penciled in as Toronto’s No. 5 starter behind Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada. Biagini has spent the majority of his two-year career in the bullpen, however, and could shift back there in the event of an outside acquisition. In doing so, he’d presumably help a unit that lost reliever Dominic Leone in the Grichuk trade.
  • The Mets have shown offseason interest in free agent right-hander Bartolo Colon, former Twins teammate Ervin Santana told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “He just wants to win six more games and then he will retire,” Santana said of the soon-to-be 45-year-old Colon, who’s six victories away from passing Dennis Martinez’s 245 and becoming the winningest Latin American-born pitcher ever. Colon spent 2014-16 as a Met, with whom he was a reliable fan favorite. After a subpar 2017 divided between Atlanta and Minnesota, Colon was reportedly willing to consider a minor league deal to rejoin the Mets earlier this offseason, though indications were that they weren’t all that interested.
  • Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale wasn’t as effective in the second half of last season as he was during the first, which has led to a change in routine this winter for the 28-year-old ace, as he explained to Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. “I’ve made a couple tweaks to my throwing this year,” Sale said. “Started a bit later trying to ease into it a little more. In terms of working out, started working out earlier, doing pilates. The same things I’ve been doing conditioning and strength wise, just kind of dialing back my throwing program.” Manager Alex Cora, pitching coach Dana LeVangie and the Red Sox trainers are all on board with the changes, per Sale, who insists it won’t mean a lighter workload in 2018. Rather, after leading the American League with 214 1/3 innings last season, he expects to be similarly durable this year.
AL Notes: Rangers, Cain, Twins, Red Sox, Kimbrel Sat, 20 Jan 2018 23:41:07 +0000 In updating the Rangers’ pursuit of starters, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that there has recently been “more activity between” other teams and free agent right-hander Yu Darvish. However, having spent nearly all of his career in Texas, Darvish is waiting for the Rangers to court him more aggressively, Wilson suggests. The Rangers expect him to land better offers elsewhere, though, per two club officials who spoke with Wilson, who adds that they continue to view Alex Cobb more favorably than Lance Lynn when it comes to available second-tier starters. Regardless, a significant free agent investment doesn’t seem likely for the Rangers, general manager Jon Daniels indicated.

Regarding free agents in general and Texas’ reported interest center fielder Lorenzo Cain, Daniels said: “We want to play Delino (DeShields) in center field. Obviously, Cain’s a very good player. I would figure that if we have another big expenditure it would be on the pitching side. I’ve said all along I think it’s unlikely either way.”

More on a couple other AL franchises:

  • The Twins, who have been among Darvish’s pursuers this offseason, don’t have a “budget limitation” when it comes to addressing their rotation, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told Rhett Bollinger of Falvey wouldn’t comment on any single player, but he did note that he sees “5-10 pitchers out there who could impact us.” Beyond the top available options, the Twins are also looking at “value adds that could help us,” Falvey revealed. Owner Jim Pohlad was willing to discuss Darvish, on the other hand, stating he’s “on board” with signing him. Pohlad added that he’s “as intrigued by [Darvish] as anybody and attracted to [signing him] as anybody” (via Bollinger).
  • Although Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is entering a contract year, he and the club have not discussed an extension. The 29-year-old Kimbrel is open to staying with the Sox for the long haul, though, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald relays. While Kimbrel has been an elite closer for most of his career, including during an otherworldly 2017 in which he logged a 1.43 ERA with 16.43 K/9 and 1.83 BB/9 over 69 innings, new manager Alex Cora may use him earlier in games this year if the situation calls for it. Kimbrel addressed that, saying: “There will definitely have to be a plan in place, and it’s going to come from both sides, mine and his side. I’m sure we’ll be able to talk something out and it’s going to be based off workload and things like that. It’s just the way the game is going.” Mastrodonato posits that fewer saves in 2018 could mean fewer dollars for Kimbrel on his next contract, though I’d argue that teams already know what he’s capable of in the ninth inning. Thriving in a slightly different role could make him all the more attractive as a free agent, then.
  • A reunion with free agent left-hander Francisco Liriano is not high on the Twins’ list of priorities, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Liriano began his career in Minnesota and flourished at times as a starter with the club from 2005-12, but he’s now coming off a pair of less-than-stellar seasons in which he pitched for a combined three times (Pittsburgh, Toronto and Houston). After finishing last year as a reliever with the World Series-winning Astros, it’s unclear whether the 34-year-old will continue in that role or move back to the rotation with his next employer – which apparently won’t be the Twins.
AL East Notes: Orioles, Donaldson, Rays Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:57:02 +0000 There’s no official decision yet regarding where Manny Machado will play in 2018, but one could come as soon as this weekend. Roch Kubatko of provides some insight into Orioles manager Buck Showalter’s thought process in determining the young star’s position. Showalter has spoken with both Machado and Tim Beckham in regards to Baltimore’s infield alignment, and though nothing is definite yet, Kubatko seems to have confidence that the O’s will grant Machado’s wishes to move him to shortstop this coming season, which would in turn push Beckham to third base or into a super utility role. Showalter also offers some very honest evaluations of Mike Moustakas as well as the price points of some of the high-end free agent pitchers on the market. In addition, he delves into Baltimore’s catcher situation.

A few other notes out of the AL East…

  • Josh Donaldson told reporters today that, to his knowledge, his agent has not been engaged with the Blue Jays regarding a potential contract extension (hat tip to Gregor Chisholm of This doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possibility that extension talks have taken place, but it certainly casts doubt on it. Donaldson has been the third most valuable player in baseball by fWAR (21.4) since he was traded to Toronto prior to the 2015 season, Though he started off slowly last season, he still managed an excellent .270/.385/.559 batting line for the campaign while hitting 33 homers. He’d be one of the marquee free agents of an impressive 2018, though the fact that he’ll be nearly 33 by the beginning of November will detract from his value in comparison with players like Bryce Harper and Machado.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times points out that the Rays are in a position to enter 2018 with both a higher payroll than last season and less talent on the roster overall. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for the team to make more moves. Topkin cites the lack of activity industry wide as a factor that has “paralyzed” the organization, but believes that once the “dam finally breaks,” they’ll have a lot of things to address. He quotes GM Erik Neander, who describes the team’s to do list as similar to what it was at the outset of the offseason. Topkin mentions a number of candidates who could possibly be traded in order to cut payroll for the team, including closer Alex Colome and the recently-acquired Denard Span. From my own standpoint, it’s not unfair to wonder whether Tampa Bay has any chance to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox as things stand now, let alone if the team continues to make cuts to a payroll that’s one of the lowest in baseball. That can only increase the trade speculation surrounding Chris Archer, Colome, and others on the roster.
Red Sox Notes: Roster, Swihart, Pomeranz, Protective Netting Sat, 20 Jan 2018 19:13:04 +0000 Recent comments from Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski hint that the front office would feel confident going into the 2017 season with the pieces they have in the fold right now. But Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston isn’t convinced at all. In a candid editorial, Drellich blasts Dombrowski for his supposed comfort with the current roster. “Who really believes this?” Drellich writes. “Who really believes the Red Sox could proceed into the season comfortably without some external improvement? You’re in a market competing with the Patriots, a division with the Yankees, and a league with the Astros, and this is what you’re bringing to the table?” He seems particularly miffed by a comment that the team “could stay with anybody”; Drellich rejects such logic by stating that the team’s goal should not be to “stay” with other teams, but rather to be outright better.

Tim Britton of the Providence Journal agrees with Drellich’s stance in his own piece, pointing out the lack of a middle-of-the-order slugger in Boston’s lineup. Britton also exposes Dombrowski’s supposed level of comfort by pulling a quote of his from the day after the club’s ALDS loss to Houston. “I didn’t supply the players that would give us enough runs. We do need that,” Dombrowski said at that time. Indeed, it doesn’t seem as though he’s done anything to follow through on that so far this winter. The club is, of course, still engaged in discussions with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, and for his part, Drellich believes a deal will get done. But while Dombrowski seems comfortable taking his time in negotiations with Martinez (waiting for “the ice to melt,” in his own words), one has to wonder what kind of backlash he’ll face in the harsh Boston media if another team swoops in and inks the righty-hitter to a deal first.

A few other items out of Boston…

  • It’s evident that Blake Swihart has thus far been unable to live up to his top prospect billing; he’s been unable to stick at catcher due to poor defense, and his lifetime .270/.330/.380 batting line at the MLB level leaves plenty to be desired. But he’ll enter spring training without any minor league options remaining, and the Sox are intent on finding a spot for him on the roster, according to a tweet from Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Drellich adds in his own tweet that Swihart “finally feels healthy,” and is confident in his ability to play all nine positions on the diamond (though there’s obvious reason for skepticism about the latter point). Swihart was ranked as Boston’s consensus number one prospect following a 2014 season during which he hit .300/.353/.487 at the Double-A level, though it should be noted that he struggled to get on base following a promotion to Triple-A.
  • Drellich also tweets that although left-hander Drew Pomeranz is open to a long-term extension with the Red Sox, the two sides have not discussed one to date. The 29-year-old southpaw made 32 starts for Boston in 2017, pitching 173 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA baseball. He’s set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
  • The Red Sox have announced that they’ll be expanding their protective netting in 2018. The press release describes the expansion as follows: “The new netting system will extend from Field Box Section 79 to Field Box Section 9, expanded from an area previously covering Field Box Section 61 to Field Box Section 29. It will be positioned with the same consistent height as the existing system, which stands at 12 feet, 8 inches above the playing field.” As Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports notes, Boston will join the Yankees and Blue Jays as teams who have recently expanded their netting in order to improve fan safety.
Minor MLB Transactions: 1/20/18 Sat, 20 Jan 2018 17:42:42 +0000 We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves in this post…

  • The Indians have inked a minors pact with lefty reliever Adam Wilk, who’ll receive an invite to spring training. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that Wilk stands to make $560K if he makes the opening day roster, and can opt out of his contract if he doesn’t. The 30-year-old pitched 14 MLB innings last season with the Mets and Twins; he’s also played for the Tigers and Angels during his big-league career. Wilk averages just 88 MPH on his fastball, but boasts a five-pitch repertoire. He throws a four-seamer, sinker, slider, curve and change up; each makes up at least 10% of his pitch selection. For his career, the southpaw has a 7.36 ERA. Right-handed batters have hit .331/.380/.664 against him.
Indians Notes: Machado, Miller, Yelich Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:47:51 +0000 The Indians and Orioles were in contact last month about a trade that could have sent Manny Machado to Cleveland, Jon Morosi of writes, although he adds that the two teams are no longer actively discussing a deal. The O’s have a notable dearth of viable starting pitchers, while Cleveland is said to be willing to trade right-hander Danny Salazar. For their part the Indians are one of the few teams who could afford to deal from their rotation in order to add a premium position player like Machado. Morosi describes 2018 as a “pivotal year” for the Orioles franchise, while Dave Cameron (formerly of Fangraphs) wrote a piece a month ago detailing the Tribe’s limited window of eliteness as a reason to splurge on Machado now. A Machado acquisition would likely push Jose Ramirez to second base and push Jason Kipnis back to positional limbo, which complicates a hypothetical deal from a logistics standpoint.

More news and rumors about the Indians…

  • Lefty fireman Andrew Miller is well-known as a force on the mound, but he’s also got a big voice in the MLBPA. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN discussed the subject of pitch clocks with the Indians reliever recently. One of four elected representatives of the association, Miller hopes that the pitch clock negotiations don’t lead to “some sort of ugly showdown.” He told ESPN that the players understand that they need to put out the best product possible from an entertainment standpoint, and that there’s certainly a need for an adjustment. However, he expresses that the lack of a ticking clock is “one of the things about the sport that makes us so appealing and so unique.” Miller’s viewpoint, while level-headed, reveals a polite distaste for the way MLB is going about the process.
  • Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal outlines his case for an Indians-Marlins trade involving outfielder Christian Yelich. Such a move, Lewis says, would help improve the Tribe’s competitive window through 2020, by which point they stand to lose the bulk of their core (Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Edwin Encarnacion and Jason Kipnis, to name a few). Lewis does take care to mention that the team already has a large surplus of left-handed-hitting outfielders, but also points out that Yelich would serve as an upgrade in 2018 regardless, and would fill what could be a potential hole in right field starting in 2019. From my own standpoint, it seems that while the Indians make sense as a potential fit (I mentioned them when I explored Yelich’s trade value last week), adding the 26-year-old Yelich to the fold would involve dealing heavily from their depth to add a player who seems more of a luxury than a necessity.
Pirates Notes: Fan Base, Rivero, Harrison, Trades, Kang Sat, 20 Jan 2018 15:20:46 +0000 There’s some unrest in the Pittsburgh fan base regarding the team’s recent trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Madasyn Czebiniak of highlights the story of lifelong Pirates fan Jason Kaufman, who started a petition to force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team. The following excerpt gives a pretty good feel for the petition’s tone: “Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better.” As of 9:00am on Saturday, the petition had over 52,000 signatures; well over the seating capacity of PNC Park. Kaufman is gaining plenty of social media attention with his movement, and has even been interviewed by local radio station WTAE. “We’re tired of the ’same-old, same-old’ saying: ’We’re in this for a championship’ when you’re really not,” Kaufman said. “Don’t tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you’re not doing anything to improve the team.”

While Kaufman acknowledges that there’s almost zero chance the petition could ever actually prompt Nutting to sell the team, the 43-year-old Kaufman believes the petition is to show the front office that there’s a collective anger towards the front office. He even goes so far as to compare the McCutchen trade to a “death in the family,” saying that the five-time All-Star’s value isn’t just about how he performs on the field, but what he does for the community.

A few other recent items out of Pittsburgh…

  • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some insightful quotes from Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in regards to his recent extension. He signed the contract at least in part for his level of comfort in the clubhouse and his interest in being relaxed for the next few years. In the reliever’s own words, “It’s not about the money.” Apparently, his sister Prescilla was heavily involved in the negotiations, reportedly even more so than his agent. And it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the McCutchen and Cole trades did not have any effect on the negotiations between he and the Bucs. Rivero came to the Pirates in July of 2016 as part of the return for Mark Melancon. Last season, the left-hander turned in a 1.67 ERA and a 3.03 xFIP. He collected 21 saves following his takeover of Pittsburgh’s closer role in June.
  • In a late response to Josh Harrison’s comments revealing a desire to be traded, Pirates GM Neal Huntington expressed that he wants the team to win “sooner than later” (via Adam Berry of “We love Josh’s passion, love the fire and what he’s done for this team and this organization,” Huntington said. “We want what’s best for this organization.” Yet although he attempts to differentiate the team’s moves from a rebuild, it’s interesting that he describes the 2018 club as “a group of players that’s going to show up every day to defy the odds.” It’s hard to imagine that these comments will ease Harrison’s mind about the Pirates’ ability to compete in the coming season. The 30-year-old infielder can be controlled through the 2020 season.
  • Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports offers a defense of the Pirates’ blockbuster trades, offering some praise for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. In discussing Moran’s value, Heyman adds that he was slated to be a key piece in a trade for Zach Britton before the Orioles cancelled the deal. However, it seems as though the Bucs could have landed a better return for McCutchen had they traded him last offseason, as they reportedly had an offer from the Nationals that included Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito.
  • Jung Ho Kang is making another push to return to MLB, Sung Min Kim of Sporting News tweets. The former Pirates infielder has allegedly arrived in the Dominican Republic in order to apply for a work visa. Kang last played in the majors in 2016, when he collected 21 homers in 370 plate appearances while posting a .255/.354/.513 slash line while playing third base for the Bucs.
Finding A Center Fielder For The Giants Sat, 20 Jan 2018 06:17:31 +0000 The Giants’ acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria have added a pair of offensive upgrades to their lineup, but the team is still facing a glaring hole in center field. Improving the outfield, both offensively and defensively, has been a long-stated goal of GM Bobby Evans and executive vice president Brian Sabean. However, the Giants are also said to be aiming to remain underneath the luxury tax threshold, which is calculated based on the average annual value of their players’ contracts and is set at $197MM for the 2018 season.

As presently constructed, the Giants don’t have much flexibility with regard to those self-imposed restrictions. (They’ve exceeded the luxury tax four years running now, so they certainly have the resources to do so if they change course. Various observers have given different indications of the team’s willingness to do so.) The exact amount of wiggle room the Giants have is difficult to pin down, but most projections give them about $4.5MM to spend. Cot’s Contracts, more specifically, gives the Giants $4.462MM before pushing up against that mark. Of course, it’s also important to bear in mind that salary additions and subtractions during the course of the season factor into whether or not a team ultimately enters the luxury tax space.

The Giants could certainly still trade a veteran player in order to clear some payroll and open up their options a bit more. However, the Giants’ highest-paid players are either core pieces (Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt) or expensive veterans coming off poor seasons that San Francisco would be hard-pressed to trade even if the team is inclined to do so (Hunter Pence, Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto). The Giants could move a reliever such as Sam Dyson, who’s set to earn $4.425MM in 2018, which would roughly double their current level of spending room. Cory Gearrin ($1.675MM) and Hunter Strickland ($1.55MM) are both movable assets that could create some additional wiggle room, albeit at the cost of major league production.

Suffice it to say, a pricey addition along the lines of Lorenzo Cain — free agency’s top center fielder — seems decidedly unlikely unless the Giants decide to zip past the luxury tax line. Another open-market center field option, Carlos Gomez, also seems well beyond their current price range. A trade for Jacoby Ellsbury — an oft-suggested scenario from optimistic Yankees fans — certainly doesn’t fit into their budget, even if the Yankees eat half of the remaining money on Ellsbury’s deal. Christian Yelich? Giants fans would love to have him, but their thin farm isn’t going to produce the top offer the Marlins receive for one of the game’s more alluring trade chips.

The Giants have been connected to second-tier free agents since trading for Andrew McCutchen and announcing that he’ll move to right field, and there are myriad avenues that they could pursue while ever so narrowly sidestepping that $197MM roadblock. A few speculative options to consider, bearing in mind that the goal is to add someone who could conceivably had within a tight budget and can at least play average defense in center…

Free Agents

Jarrod Dyson | Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrod Dyson: The 33-year-old veteran is tops on the Giants’ list of targets, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and it’s not hard to see why. Giants outfielders, in addition to posting a dismal .253/.311/.374 as a collective unit last season, also turned in a ghastly -32 DRS and -5.3 UZR. Their defensive, on the whole, was dreadful. Enter Dyson. At some point, it’s fair to worry that his speed and defense will decline, but his UZR/150 of 13.8 over the past three seasons (min. 1000 innings in the field) ranks 12th among all Major Leaguers at any position. He’d require a platoon partner given his career .215/.293/.259 slash against lefties (Austin Slater, perhaps).

It seems unlikely, though, that Dyson could be had for under $5MM annually. Signing him might require the Giants to move a reliever such as Dyson, as previously speculated.

Jon Jay: Crasnick listed Jay second among the Giants’ center-field targets in free agency, so it’s clear that San Francisco has some degree of interest. Jay would bring more offense to the position than Dyson, having posted roughly league-average (or better) offense in seven of his eight Major League seasons, by measure of OPS+ and wRC+. Jay is a left-handed hitter but has only a minimal platoon split in his career. He’s hit righties at a .289/.354/.392 clip and lefties at a .288/.359/.353 pace.

Jay, however, doesn’t have anywhere close to Dyson’s defensive skill set. He has rated as an above-average center fielder at times in the past, but he spent more time in the corners than in center with the Cubs last season and had below-average defensive ratings in center in consecutive seasons. Granted, even below-average would be an improvement for the Giants, who saw the since-traded Denard Span struggle considerably there in 2017. Jay, like Dyson, figures to cost more than $5MM annually, so signing him might require a corresponding trade if the Giants want to remain under the tax threshold.

Cameron Maybin / Rajai Davis: Maybin and Davis are similar in that each hits from the short side of the platoon, provides superlative baserunning skills and can generally be relied on in center field (despite lackluster ratings there in recent years). As the younger of the two, Maybin would be the pricier option, though Crasnick listed him third on the Giants’ list of center field targets in free agency.

The rest of the market is fairly light on players that could be reasonably expected to hold down a regular role in the outfield. Ben Revere could be a theoretical platoon pairing with Gorkys Hernandez in center, or if the Giants are looking more at reserve types, they could add a defensive-minded veteran like Peter Bourjos to the mix. But, if they’re looking to at a cost-effective center fielder, Dyson is perhaps the best bet. More options would present themselves on the trade market, however. (Although, today’s trade of Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays eliminated one of the more logical options for San Francisco.)

Trade Options

Billy Hamilton, Reds ($4.6MM salary, controlled through 2019): Hamilton is the most frequently linked center field target to the Giants, and he’d fit their needs both in terms of budget and improving the defense. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, though, recently reported that talks between the two teams have gone “dormant,” adding that Hamilton may very well open the year in Cincinnati.

Keon Broxton | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Keon Broxton (pre-arb, controlled through 2022) / Brett Phillips (pre-arb, controlled through 2023), Brewers: The Brewers have reportedly been shopping some outfielders around, and Broxton’s league minimum salary and power/speed blend would figure to intrigue the Giants. Broxton has 29 homers and 45 steals in just 709 MLB plate appearances, but he’s whiffed in a stunning 37.2 percent of his plate appearances. His defense rated excellently in 2016 but poorly in 2017. Phillips has less big league experience and similar strikeout issues, though he’s not far removed from grading out as one of the game’s best overall prospects. Milwaukee has also reportedly taken offers on Domingo Santana, but he’s more of a corner option and would have a higher asking price on the heels of a 30-homer season.

Juan Lagares, Mets ($6.5MM in 2018, $9MM in 2019): Lagares’ remaining salaries are part of a four-year, $23MM deal that the Giants could manage to fit into their payroll by shedding one other player with a relatively modest contract (perhaps sending a big leaguer back to the Mets in return). Lagares hasn’t hit much in the past two seasons as he’s been slowed by hand injuries, but he has a sterling defensive reputation; he notched a +15 DRS mark and +10.4 UZR in just 556 innings in center this past season. Lagares has been connected to the Giants already this winter, though New York doesn’t have a great center field alternative (defensively speaking) on its roster. Brandon Nimmo’s name has also come up in trade talks, though the Mets don’t seem keen to move him unless they’re getting an MLB piece back. (Fire away with your Joe Panik speculation, though such a move would open another hole in San Francisco.)

Tyler Naquin, Indians (pre-arb, controlled through 2022): With Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall set to line up in Cleveland’s outfield, there’s no obvious spot for Naquin, who was an odd man out for much of the 2017 campaign as well (40 MLB plate appearances). Naquin hit well (.298/.359/.475) in Triple-A, though, and had a big, albeit BABIP-inflated, rookie season with the Indians in 2016. Both Brantley and Chisenhall are injury-prone and are free agents next winter, however, so perhaps Cleveland isn’t too keen on depleting its infield depth all that much.

Odubel Herrera ($3.35MM in 2018, owed $28.9MM through 2021, plus two club options) / Aaron Altherr (pre-arb, controlled through 2021) / Nick Williams (pre-arb, controlled through 2023), Phillies: With Rhys Hoskins moving to left field to accommodate Carlos Santana, there are only two spots for these three in Philadelphia. Herrera is the only true center fielder here, though all three have experience there in the minors. The Philadelphia organization may simply share time between those three players while allowing performance to dictate its future decisions. Even if they’re willing to deal from this group, the Phils would likely be on the lookout for MLB-ready rotation help, which makes the Giants a tough match in a deal. (San Fran would also need to shed a bit of cash to fit Herrera’s five-year, $30.5MM deal under the luxury tax bar.) Feel free to dream up three-team trade scenarios accordingly, if you’re so inclined.

Michael Taylor, Nationals ($2.525MM, controlled through 2020): It’s hard to see the Nats parting with Taylor unless they received some definitive MLB help back in exchange — likely behind the plate or in the form of someone that’s a clear upgrade at the fifth spot in their rotation. The Giants don’t really have either of those things to offer, but the fit otherwise works on paper, especially with top prospect Victor Robles looming after briefly reaching the majors late in 2017.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Scott Boras On Slow-Developing Free-Agent Market Sat, 20 Jan 2018 04:45:48 +0000 Super-agent Scott Boras is no stranger to the spotlight, but his unique role in the sport is in some respects more visible now than ever before. With free agency continuing to move at a remarkably slow pace, Boras provided some interesting comments on the matter to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag.

As the most recognizable agent to MLB fans, and the advisor to many of this winter’s best free agents, Boras is one of the most notable characters in the hot stove world. He has also long drawn ire for his non-apologetic efforts at maximizing the earnings of his clients. Most recently, in a rather surprising turn, a league statement even took a passive-aggressive swap at Boras (via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports).

So, is Boras to blame for the slow pace of free-agent signings? Not in his own view. In addition to repeating his clever line to Passan — “I wouldn’t blame the baker if the flour doesn’t show up” — Boras says the pace of signings “has little to do” with him. Neither does Boras seem to believe the players are simply asking for too much in negotiations. MLB revenue has skyrocketed, he notes, and free agents are “just seeking what owners have done before.”

Rather, Boras suggests, this is about whether — or, really, when — MLB teams recognize they need to add pieces to win. Despite the worry in many quarters that a rush of contracts could come with reduced paydays for free agents, Boras says he is not concerned. Once the rest of the league realizes it has work to do to in keeping pace with the Astros — the most complete team in baseball, in his view — they’ll come calling.

This, perhaps, is the key quote to understand his view of things:

Time is not a function of the market; ability to pay and demand are. The timing is not disturbing because the demand and the ability to pay are still evident.”

Of course, Boras is mindful of the need for a contingency plan. If teams “do not compete” — for free agents and, inextricably in Boras’s presentation, the World Series — “and instead choose to profit,” he says, then the player’s side “will have to address the system.” That comment is open to interpretation, but it surely does suggest that Boras feels he has potential avenues of redress if his clients are not able to find contracts at what he deems a market rate.

Perhaps what’s most notable about the viewpoint here is the fact that Boras continues to counsel patience while maintaining focus on the market fundamentals. Anxiety isn’t a problem for his clients, says Boras, who perhaps in some sense is advising other players and their representatives not to panic. Drawing attention to the leaguewide cash position is no doubt also an important element of a nascent PR strategy, should it be needed.

As Passan argues, there may well be some broader forces shifting the ground under foot. But as Boras suggests, we don’t yet know whether the market results will suggest a cause for broader concern. For the time being, timing aside, “demand and the ability to pay are still evident.” And regardless, surely, the players will be served best by holding the line as best they can.

In any event, the stage is set for a fascinating few weeks as we wait to see when and how the standoff is resolved. Boras, no doubt, will be at the center of the proceedings. There’s plenty more to absorb in Heyman’s post, including Boras’s thoughts on player aging and the oft-noted fact that some of his clients have signed late. You’ll want to read it in its entirety for the full effect.


Injury Notes: Perez, May, Pineda Sat, 20 Jan 2018 02:44:15 +0000 We have twice discussed infielder Eduardo Nunez today, as his free agent market kicks into action now that he’s on the mend from knee problems. Now we’ll check in on a few other injury situations from around the game:

  • Rangers lefty Martin Perez says he does not expect to miss any time stemming from the fractured right elbow he suffered in mid-December, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. At the time of Perez’s ill-fated encounter with one of the bulls on his ranch — yes, that story is covered in the link — it seemed he’d likely be sidelined for a decent stretch to open the year. But the 26-year-old, who was fortunate not to have injured his pitching arm, painted a different picture. “I am not going to miss any time,” said Perez. “I have conviction I will be ready the first day.” Whether or not that opinion will be shared by relevant medical personnel isn’t immediately clear, but his positive attitude seems to bode well regardless.
  • Twins righty Trevor May is on track to throw from a mound as soon as the end of the month, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press writes as one of several notes out of TwinsFest. May is currently throwing from 120 feet; he further explains his hopeful schedule for ramping back from from Tommy John surgery in this video clip. May, who has also written about his TJ recovery here at MLBTR, has agreed to a $650K contract for the coming season. The 28-year-old has had some ups and downs early in his career but certainly remains an interesting arm to watch for a Minnesota organization that is hoping to repeat its surprising 2017 postseason trip.
  • Of course, the Twins have a few other pitchers whose injury situations bear watching. Among them is Michael Pineda, who is also working back after receiving a fresh ulnar collateral ligament. Minnesota placed a $10MM bet on his ability to get back to the mound and provide value late this year and (mostly) in 2019. Pineda, Berardino writes, has just begun a throwing program. He says it “feels great” to be throwing again, though of course this is just one step in a laborious process. Pineda’s surgery took place in the middle of July of last year, so he’s well behind May in the process.
AL East Notes: Jays, Martinez, Nunez, Rays, Orioles Sat, 20 Jan 2018 00:36:50 +0000 After acquiring Randal Grichuk earlier today, the Blue Jays appear slated to utilize him as the primary option in right field, GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of (Twitter links). That said, the team believes it can play Grichuk in any of the three spots, with that versatility increasing his appeal. What’s of greater interest, perhaps, is what the move means for the rest of the unit. It’s possible, Atkins suggests, that the Jays will entertain negotiations with other organizations regarding Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera, though the team is also open to sporting a five-outfielder mix on the Opening Day roster.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Red Sox chairman Tom Werner acknowledged today that the organization is engaged in active talks with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal was among those to report on Twitter. While noting that “it takes two” sides to get a deal done, Werner certainly gave plenty of reason to believe that the Boston organization isn’t done adding to its roster. Of course, the interest in Martinez is longstanding and well known; earlier today, it emerged that the Sox have made an offer of $25MM annually over a five-year term.
  • Infielder Eduardo Nunez has worked out for the Red Sox, per Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald. We learned earlier today about developing interest in the utilityman, who thrived in a brief, injury-shortened stretch in Boston in 2017. Nunez has long seemed likely to draw wide interest after three straight seasons of average or better production at the plate, but understandably has seen a quiet market to this point while recovering from a knee injury. Now that he has been cleared for activity, Nunez can try to max out his value. Entering the winter, MLBTR predicted that Nunez would command two years and $14MM.
  • The Rays are far from done with their own winter tinkering, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Trimming payroll and accounting for a few open spots on the roster will still take place, says Topkin, even if it has been quiet of late in Tampa Bay. There are still quite a few potential moving pieces for the Rays, whether or not the team ends up pulling off deals involving some of its best remaining veteran trade assets.
  • This one won’t exactly boil the tea kettle sitting atop the hot stove, but it’s worth noting nevertheless. The Orioles are still looking for veteran catching after agreeing to bring back Audry Perez on a minors deal, says Roch Kubatko of (via Twitter). As things stand, top youngster Chance Sisco will enter camp as the favorite to share time with Caleb Joseph. But there’s time yet for the team to address its overall depth situation — perhaps, in a manner that creates real competition for Sisco, who did not exactly dominate offensively at Triple-A in 2017 (.267/.340/.395 in 388 plate appearances). Meanwhile, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun looks at the O’s options for utility infielders.
Minor MLB Transactions: 1/19/18 Fri, 19 Jan 2018 23:33:34 +0000 We’ll keep track of Friday’s minor moves here…

  • Infielder Tommy Field is hanging up his spikes, according to Rochester Red Wings’ director of communications Nate Rowan (via Twitter). The thirty-year-old says he has been unable to play at the top of his game due to a series of injuries. Field has seen limited MLB action in parts of four seasons, appearing with the Rockies, Angels, and Rangers. He was originally taken by Colorado in the 24th round of the 2008 draft. Field spent the 2017 season at Rochester, the Twins’ top affiliate, where he compiled a .231/.296/.348 slash in 447 plate appearances.
  • The Dodgers have agreed to a minor league deal with infielder Donovan Solano, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The 30-year-old has spent parts of five seasons in the Majors, appearing semi-regularly with the Marlins from 2012-15 and much more briefly with the Yankees in 2016. Solano is a career .257/.306/.331 hitter in the Majors and has spent the vast majority of his time at second base, though he’s also played a handful of games at shortstop, at third base and in left field. He spent the 2017 season with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate and slashed a respectable .282/.329/.391 in 405 plate appearances over the course of 99 games.
Blue Jays Acquire Randal Grichuk From Cardinals For Dominic Leone, Conner Greene Fri, 19 Jan 2018 21:19:31 +0000 The Blue Jays have agreed to acquire outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals, per a Toronto announcement. Righties Dominic Leone and Conner Greene will go to St. Louis in return.

Grichuk becomes the second St. Louis player to move to the Jays via trade this winter, joining infielder Aledmys Diaz. Grichuk also joins Stephen Piscotty as young outfielders who have been swapped out in recent months. This time last year, that trio of departures would have registered as quite a surprise. As things developed, though, those players appeared quite likely to depart.

The Cardinals entered the current offseason determined to upgrade a position-player mix that included quite a few useful pieces but relatively few high-level performers. With the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, the Cards added a player they feel will take them to the next level. With Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham also expected to command near-everyday time, the move for Ozuna left Grichuk and Piscotty without obvious roles.

Sep 8, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Randal Grichuk (15) against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Grichuk turned in a highly promising 2015 season, racking up 17 home runs and a .276/.329/.548 slash in 350 plate appearances. Even then, though, there were some signs of worry — in particular, a 110:22 K/BB ratio.

Since that effort, Grichuk has faded. The right-handed-hitting outfielder is still putting the ball out of the yard at a strong rate. But he has only a .287 on-base percentage and league-average overall offensive output in his 920 plate appearances since the start of the 2016 season.

That said, perhaps there’s still some upside in the bat; he’s still only 26 years of age, after all. And Grichuk continues to provide good value with his glove, generally grading as a slightly above-average performer in center and in the corners. While he’s not much of a stolen-base threat, Grichuk has also rated as a quality overall baserunner.

[RELATED: Updated Blue Jays Depth Chart]

Toronto will pick up three years of control over Grichuk, who’s slated to earn $2.6MM in his first season of arbitration eligibility. He’ll join an outfield mix that already includes a right-handed-hitting center fielder in Kevin Pillar, a corner righty in Steve Pearce, and two left-handed-hitting pieces in Ezequiel Carrera and newly-signed veteran Curtis Granderson. Some platoon matches are to be expected from this group; in that regard, it’s worth noting that Grichuk has carried fairly notable reverse splits in the majors. Of course, it’s still possible the Blue Jays’ outfield unit will undergo some changes before all is said and done.

In return, the Cardinals will add some useful assets. Leone, a 26-year-old righty, has bounced around the league some but is fresh off of an excellent 2017 season. In 70 1/3 innings, he posted a 2.56 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. He’ll join an increasingly deep relief corps that perhaps will still be boosted by another late-inning arm.

[RELATED: Updated Cardinals Depth Chart]

Apr 7, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Dominic Leone (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Leone has had similar success previously — in his 2014 debut with the Mariners — but struggled notably in the ensuing two seasons. All said, though, there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll continue to represent a quality asset. In 2017, he delivered his average fastball at 94.9 mph, recorded a personal-high 14.5% swinging-strike rate, and tamped down on the homers that had come to plague him.

Better still, the cutter-heavy Leone was equally effective against both righty (.208/.267/.357) and lefty (.181/.261/.366) hitters. The Cards will have the ability to control him for four more seasons. Leone reached arbitration as a Super Two, agreeing earlier this winter to a $1.085MM salary for the 2018 season.

Greene is a notable part of the deal as well. Still just 22 years of age, Greene has long been credited with interesting tools. He is said to possess a big heater, quality change, and useful slider. That said, there’s still quite a bit of polish needed and questions persist as to whether Greene will make it as a starter.

Last year, Greene struggled to a 5.29 ERA in his 132 2/3 innings at Double-A, managing only 6.2 K/9 against 5.6 BB/9 on the year. That showing obviously did not help his stock. Still, the Jays placed him on the 40-man roster at the end of the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

It seems reasonable to expect that Greene will be given another chance to work out the kinks as a starter in the upper minor. But he might also take up a place on the Cards’ relief depth chart.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Red Sox’ Offer To J.D. Martinez Reportedly In Range Of $125MM Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:27:54 +0000 FRIDAY: Boston has actually offered something more in the vicinity of $125MM over five years, per Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Obviously, that’s a far sight more than what had been reported a few days back — and generally within the range of what might reasonably have been anticipated for Martinez entering the winter.

WEDNESDAY, 8:10pm: Boras tells Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports that the reported offer is “not accurate,” though the agent did not specify what, precisely, is off the mark (Twitter link).

12:58pm: It has long been known that the Red Sox have dangled a five-year offer to free agent slugger J.D. Martinez. The value, though, hasn’t every fully been clear. Per’s Buster Olney, via Twitter, Boston has offered the Scott Boras client something “in the range of” $100MM over a five-year term.

As we covered recently, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reported less than a week ago that Martinez is preparing to wait for those numbers to move northward. The veteran slugger is said to want six years with an annual value at or above the $30MM rate. That’s a massive ask — well over the six-year, $150MM prediction that MLBTR made entering the winter.

Interestingly, though, Heyman suggested there was interest at a higher rate — as he put it, “somewhere in the $120 million to $150 million range” — than Olney’s report provides. Just how to explain that notable difference is not immediately clear. It could be the Sox or others have expressed some willingness to go higher but haven’t yet done so. Offers on the table might have changed. Or, perhaps, it’s different information coming from different sources.

Whatever the reason, this lower number seems to put a different spin on Martinez’s market situation. Boston has long seemed the obvious landing spot, with the major issue for the slugger being where he could drive bidding. The Diamondbacks reportedly love him but have not yet managed to clear salary to free a surprising run that would strain their balance sheets. The Blue Jays have reportedly been on the fringes but there’s no indication that organization is preparing to drive an auction.

Mariners Claim Chasen Bradford Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:06:35 +0000 The Mariners announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford off waivers from the Mets, who had designated him for assignment yesterday. Seattle’s 40-man roster is now full.

The 28-year-old Bradford reached the Majors for the first time this past season and racked up a fair amount of time in the Mets’ bullpen. Bradford appeared in 28 games with New York and tallied 33 2/3 innings of work. In that time, the former 35th-round pick posted a solid 3.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a hefty 55.9 percent ground-ball rate.

Bradford averaged just 90.6 mph on his fastball in that rookie season, but he has a history of limiting walks (1.6 BB/9 in parts of four Triple-A seasons) and has routinely turned in ground-ball rates north of 50 percent in the minor leagues. He also has multiple minor league options remaining, so the Mariners will be able to shuttle him back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma throughout the year, if needed.

Free Agent/Trade Rumors: Cobb, Lynn, Nunez, Yelich, Ichiro Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:34:56 +0000 Right-handers Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn entered the offseason regarded by many as the third- and fourth-best options on the starting pitching market (in varying order) behind fellow righties Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. And like virtually every other free agent (relievers aside), they’re still struggling to find teams willing to meet their asking prices. FanRag’s Jon Heyman reports in his latest notes column that one GM tells him Cobb is still seeking a contract of four to five years in length at an annual rate of $15MM or more. (Presumably, Cobb’s camp would want a higher annual value on the shorter pact.) Lynn, meanwhile, is believed to be seeking a “at least four years” at $15MM+ annually. The Brewers, according to Heyman, are monitoring the free-agent market with an opportunistic eye and believe both Cobb and Lynn to be more plausible targets for them than the more expensive Arrieta. MLBTR recently penned Free Agent Profiles on both Cobb and Lynn, taking a lengthier look at each right-hander’s strengths, weaknesses, market and earning capacity.

A bit more from around the league as players, agents, media and fans all await… well, anything:

  • Also via Heyman, Eduardo Nunez is seeing his market “heat up” a bit. There are as many as eight teams that have shown interest in Nunez of late, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, BravesBrewers and Royals. (Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area recently suggested that a reunion with San Francisco wasn’t likely, implying that Nunez can receive superior offers elsewhere.) Heyman joins others that have recently reported that Nunez is on the Mets’ radar as a second base option. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Brewers all make varying degrees of sense as well, though it’s tougher to see a clear fit with the Jays, Giants and Royals for various reasons. Toronto has already added Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this winter (with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis both still on board as well), while the Giants picked up Evan Longoria and are reportedly striving to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Nunez would almost certainly put them over, as they’re within less than $5MM of that point at present. As for the Royals, they could use a versatile infielder, but they’re also gearing up for a rebuild.
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald takes a look at the latest on Christian Yelich’s trade market, reporting that the Marlins have informed Yelich’s camp that they’ll entertain offers on him but are not making any promises of a trade. Miami has made its asking price on Yelich a bit more realistic in recent weeks, other teams tell Jackson, but they’re still seeking top-tier talent and looking for multiple prospects from the top 10 of potential trading partners (as one would expect). Both Jackson and Heyman (in a separate article on Yelich) suggest that the Marlins are eyeing talent that is in Double-A and Triple-A, as opposed to high-upside talent that is further down the minor league pipeline. Both reports confirm that the Marlins did indeed ask the Braves about Ronald Acuna (as MLB Network’s Peter Gammons previously reported), only to be rebuffed.
  • If no offers from MLB teams materialize for Ichiro Suzuki, it seems as though he’ll have the opportunity to continue his playing career in Japan. Both the Chunichi Dragons and the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball have already shown some interest, according to reports from the Kyodo News and reports from Japanese media outlets including Sponichi and Nikkan Sports.’s Barry Bloom recently spoke with Ichiro’s agent, John Boggs, about his market this offseason, with Boggs stating that he still had hope of an offer from an MLB team eventually surfacing.
Download Our Free Trade Rumors App Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:40:10 +0000 Looking for the best possible MLBTR experience on your mobile device?  Check out our free Trade Rumors app, available for iOS and Android!  Nine of the top ten free agents somehow remain unsigned with less than a month to go until pitchers and catchers report, so there’s a flurry of hot stove action yet to come.  The Trade Rumors app allows you to set up custom feeds and notifications for your favorite teams and players and is the perfect way to stay on top of the news.

Quick Hits: Ichiro, Orioles, Duffy, Twins Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:19:15 +0000 Ichiro Suzuki’s agent, John Boggs, tells Barry Bloom of that he’s still holding out hope that the 44-year-old will land an offer from a big league club this offseason rather than return to Japan. Boggs had talks with both the Mariners and Padres, but neither of those now looks likely to come to fruition. He also notes that he’d spoken to the Mets before they signed Jay Bruce, as well as the Reds when they were more heavily exploring the market for Billy Hamilton. Boggs tells Bloom that there are still a half-dozen teams that continue to tell him to check back later in the winter once it’s clearer how the market will play out, but it remains unclear whether Ichiro will have a legitimate opportunity to return for an 18th Major League season.

A few other notes as another quiet week of free agency nears its conclusion…

  • Though the stagnant offseason has been frustrating across the board, it may be particularly exhausting for Orioles fans, as the club is known to be looking for two or three starters, an outfielder, a utility infielder and some catching depth. Roch Kubatko of writes that all of that is still in the works, and he spoke with manager Buck Showalter about the team’s offseason pursuits at length. Showalter suggests that the O’s are “down the road real deep on a lot of guys,” adding that GM Dan Duquette has discussed “offers and physicals” with one particular right field target. Showalter adds that a Chris Tillman reunion remains possible. The free agent has been working out at the Orioles’ spring complex in Sarasota, Fla. — a favor granted by the team to their longtime rotation stalwart.
  • Royals left-hander Danny Duffy has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence after initially filing a plea of not guilty upon being cited for a DUI last August, according to the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd. The 29-year-old has been placed on probation and must refrain from drinking and using illegal drugs over the course of a one-year term. He’ll be subject to random breath, blood and urine tests as part of his probation, Dodd adds.
  • The Twins have hired three-time All-Star Jim Kaat as a special assistant in their front office, the team announced. The 79-year-old Kaat enjoyed an excellent 25-year career, starring for the Senators/Twins franchise in 15 of those seasons (3.34 ERA, 133 complete games, 23 shutouts over the life of 3014 1/3 innings). He joins Twins legends Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Tom Kelly and Kent Hrbek in a role that will see him “engage in various Twins community and business initiatives both in Minnesota as well as Southwest Florida,” per the Twins’ press release announcing the hiring.
NL West Notes: Reynolds, Giants, Tomas Fri, 19 Jan 2018 04:11:02 +0000 First baseman Mark Reynolds is hoping to return to the Rockies in 2018, but he’s seeking a big league deal this time around after playing his way onto the team on a minor league pact last season, he tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post“I talked with the Rockies during the winter meetings and Jeff (general manager Jeff Bridich) told me that they had to take care of the bullpen and then see what the money situation was,” says Reynolds. “So now I’m waiting to see what happens.” The 34-year-old Reynolds hit .267/.352/.487 with 30 homers for the Rox last season, though there was a glaring 275-point difference between his OPS at home (.978, 21 homers) and on the road (.703, nine homers). Power is Reynolds’ biggest attribute, but it’s a tough selling point at a time when home runs were hit at an all-time high in 2017.

More from the division…

  • Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tackled some questions from Giants fans. The outfield remains a key point of focus, of course. With Andrew McCutchen expected to play every day in right, Austin Slater could share time in left with Hunter Pence while also picking up some action in center, says Pavlovic. That doesn’t mean the team is bowing out of the pursuit of another up-the-middle player, of course — or that Slater has locked up a roster spot. (He’ll be competing in camp with Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson, and Gorkys Hernandez.) There’s one other notable name to consider in the internal mix. But as Pavlovic wrote yesterday, the San Francisco front office seems inclined to take its time with center fielder Steven Duggar“This is a time of year when you would rather have Duggar in your back pocket and bring in a center fielder that allows us to have more time,” GM Bobby Evans explains. Of course, the club has little wiggle room if it hopes to stay under the luxury tax line; it remains to be seen just how the outfield mix will look when camp opens.
  • Diamondbacks outfielder Yasmany Tomas is facing charges after he was clocked by police driving at high rates of speed, as’s Steve Gilbert reports. Tomas, who was reportedly driving at 105 mph, was initially charged with reckless driving and criminal speeding. While the incident evinces poor judgment on the part of the 27-year-old, thankfully it is said not to have involved drugs or alcohol. It’s not the best start to the new year for Tomas, who is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2017 season in which he struggled when he was on the field.
Latest On Julio Pablo Martinez Fri, 19 Jan 2018 01:54:05 +0000 The market for top Cuban free agent Julio Pablo Martinez has begun to take shape, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Martinez has yet to receive signing clearance, but Badler notes it’s anticipated he will be officially named a free agent before the conclusion of the current July 2nd period.

If Martinez does indeed become eligible to sign before June 15th, he’ll have the open of signing either in the current or the ensuing period. That will help open up his options a bit.

Of the three teams that Badler tabs the leaders, one — the Rangers — might utilize its 2017-18 pool money to make a deal with Martinez. (As Badler explains, Texas will need to use or lose its remaining spending availability, which at last glance sat at about $3.53MM.) The others — the Yankees and Marlins — would almost certainly view Martinez as a major part of the 2018-19 signing class.

Martinez, 21, is considered one of the best young talents from his baseball-loving home nation. Badler provides all the necessary details about his profile in the above link. In brief, Martinez is a fleet-footed center fielder with some pop. Notwithstanding an eye-popping 30:52 K/BB ratio in his last 264 plate appearances in Cuba’s top league, Martinez is said to possess more palatable than great plate discipline abilities.

All said, Martinez seems to be a legitimately interesting prospect asset. Unlike many of the more youthful Latin American players that sign as bonus-limited international amateurs, he may actually not be that far off from the majors. Of course, he’ll still need to refine his skills and prove he’s worthy of a crack at the game’s highest level. Regardless, Martinez ought to represent an intriguing new addition for whatever organization signs him.

Giants Acquire Engelb Vielma Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:51:11 +0000 The Giants have acquired infielder Engelb Vielma from the Pirates, John Dreker of Pirates Prospects reports on Twitter. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review first tweeted that Vielma was on the move; he had been designated for assignment recently.

This’ll be Vielma’s second stop in San Francisco — on paper, at least. He is one of several names that has already bounced from roster to roster via minor trades and the waiver wire this winter, as typically occurs for players that are on the margins of 40-man roster viability. For Vielma, this is the fourth time he has changed hands since September.

Whether the 23-year-old will end up sticking with the Giants organization remains to be seen. The club could still expose him to waivers again in an attempt to stash him as a non-roster player. Even if he makes it into camp on the 40-man, Vielma will no doubt need to show he’s worthy of continuing to occupy a roster spot.

Known as a high-end defender who can handle shortstop, Vielma has not yet demonstrated that he’ll hit much when he ultimately reaches the game’s highest level. He was placed on the Twins’ 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in advance of the 2017 season, but went on to slash just .229/.273/.280 in 455 total plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A.

Pitch Clock Likely For 2018 Despite Ongoing Disagreement Between MLB, MLBPA Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:17:37 +0000 Pace of play has been one of the chief initiatives for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred since he succeeded Bud Selig, with a pitch clock among the potential rules changes most frequently discussed in recent months. Today, both Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required/recommended) and Jerry Crasnick of are reporting that the Major League Baseball Players Association is expected to reject Manfred’s latest pace-of-play proposal, but that Manfred will likely exercise his power to unilaterally implement the new measure despite a failure to reach agreement with the union.

In a follow-up (Twitter links), Rosenthal says the union has in fact “formally rejected” the league’s proposal, but that Manfred will meet with MLBPA chief Tony Clark next week to negotiate further. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has obtained the memorandum on the subject issued by the commissioner’s office. He details the league’s intentions — including timing rules for pitchers and hitters along with limitations on mound visits — as well as the compromise provisions that had been floated (and could, perhaps, still be discussed).

The reports indicate that a variety of pacing measures will go into effect in 2018, with a 20-second pitch clock perhaps the most visible and notable among them. Pitch clocks aren’t exactly new, as MLB has been experimenting with their use in the minor leagues by way of a 22-second pitch clock. If it does go into effect as the reports suggest, the rule would charge pitchers with a ball if they take more than 20 seconds between pitches (after one warning per game). Hitters, meanwhile, would be required to adhere to a 30-second timer between batters; after a warning (one per game), they would presumably be charged with a strike. Another set of rules would provide that a second mound visit to a given pitcher in the same inning must result in his removal from the game. In addition, future efforts would control the amount of time between innings and the number and length of pitching warm-ups, though that does not appear to be on the docket for the upcoming season.

Understandably, players aren’t particularly excited by the notion of feeling rushed or of rules impacting the count and, perhaps, the outcome of a given plate appearance. Indeed, one player involved in the negotiations tells Rosenthal that he’s never seen players so unified against an issue.  Both Rosenthal and Crasnick suggest that the players feel pace of play can be enhanced by making improvements to the instant replay system and more closely monitoring down time between innings — neither of which would require a clock that would limit them on the field. The sentiment appears to be the exact opposite among MLB owners, as Rosenthal reports that they’re “strongly in favor” of the pace-of-play initiatives that the commissioner’s office is pursuing.

Disagreement over pace-of-play efforts won’t do any favors for labor relations. Though the league and union only recently struck a new, five-year collective bargaining agreement, there already appears to be a growing sense of unrest as players and agents alike look for explanations for an unfathomably slow free-agent market (at least for players other than relievers).

Of course, just what has led to the plodding (a perhaps generous choice of adjective) pace of the free-agent market isn’t entirely clear. Theories abound, ranging from the extent of penalization under the luxury tax, to a plethora of Scott Boras clients holding up the market, to a more general sense of groupthink among like-minded general managers that all value players in similar fashion. Some have speculated about the possibility of collusion, though the league has, to no surprise, steadfastly denied and dismissed the very notion — even going so far as to obliquely, and somewhat bizarrely, place the blame on Boras in a statement to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. (We discussed the situation at length here.)

The proposed pace-of-play changes would hardly be the first significant alterations to the fabric of the game in recent years. The implementation of instant replay itself was and still is a rather polarizing topic, while MLB has also instituted rules to protect middle infielders from injury when turning double plays and to protect catchers at home plate in situations that would previously have resulted in violent collisions. More recently, MLB has eliminated the process of lobbing four pitches outside the strike zone on intentional walks, instead allowing managers to grant a free pass by making a signal to the umpires, and mandated that batters remain in the batter’s box between pitches.

Changes to the game are often met with resistance from fans and players alike. Rosenthal, however, notes that Manfred cites focus groups and surveys in emphasizing that younger fans are “alienated” by the game’s slow pace. That notion may well be true, though there are some counterpoints to his argument. It’s fair to wonder whether trimming a few seconds off the time between pitches and/or a few minutes off the average game would really impact interest levels enough to matter. Moreover, the implementation of additional change creates the risk of turning away dedicated fans who worry that alterations may unduly alter the nature of the game.

Clearly, Manfred and his charges feel that the possibility of converting younger patrons is worth the effort despite backlash from current fans and MLB players. As Rosenthal notes, however, the players’ decision to reject the proposal would grant them absolution in the event that the new rules flop or are received even more poorly among fans than expected — which could put them in a stronger position when negotiating rule changes in future offseasons.

Rangers Sign Curt Casali Thu, 18 Jan 2018 22:15:49 +0000 The Rangers have announced the signing of catcher Curt Casali to a minors deal with an invitation to participate in MLB Spring Training. He had recently been released by the Angels after previously signing with that organization earlier in the winter.

Texas also announced that it will bring back outfielder Jose Cardona and righty Tayler Scott. Both also have minors deals with spring invites.

The 29-year-old Casali could battle with Juan Centeno, Brett Nicholas, and Mike Ohlman for the reserve job behind regular Robinson Chirinos. The losers of that fight, presumably, will line up as organizational depth or land with other organizations.

Casali has racked up 19 home runs in 466 career MLB plate appearances — all coming with the Rays in the past four seasons — but also carries a .285 on-base percentage at the game’s highest level. He’s a .246/.349/.352 hitter in 739 career plate appearances at Triple-A.

Of course, a variety of defensive attributes are often deemed most important for reserve catchers. Casali is generally considered a sturdy all-around asset behind the dish. He has graded well as a framer and has succeeded in cutting down would-be base stealers in the majors.

The 23-year-old Cardona reached the upper minors for the first time last year but managed only a .277/.316/.385 slash in 465 Double-A plate appearances. He became a minor-league free agent at the end of the year but will return to the only professional organization he has known.

Scott, 25, landed with the Rangers last season in the deal that sent Jeremy Jeffress to the Brewers. He was bombed in his 13 appearances at Triple-A, but had been more successful with the Brewers and could yet contribute at some point as a releiver.

Nationals Sign Howie Kendrick Thu, 18 Jan 2018 22:00:23 +0000 JANUARY 18: Washington has announced the signing.

JANUARY 15, 2:14pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the two sides have reached an agreement, pending a physical (Twitter links). The contract contains an additional $2.25MM worth of incentives that can be unlocked based on plate appearances.

10:01am: The Nationals are nearing a deal with infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The prospective contract would promise the Reynolds Sports Management client $7MM over two years.


If the contract is finalized, Kendrick will return to the place that he thrived in a late-season stint in 2017. His role is not immediately clear, but odds are he’ll see time around the infield as well as the corner outfield. Most importantly, perhaps, adding Kendrick will help the Nats ease the burden on All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy as he returns from microfracture surgery.

In the aggregate, bringing back Kendrick at this price tag seems to make quite a lot of sense for the Nats. He represents a quality reserve and insurance policy at every position but short and center (along with the battery, of course). Star third baseman Anthony Rendon has had his share of nicks over the years. Outfielder Adam Eaton is returning from ACL surgery, so Kendrick can help reduce his wear-and-tear as well. Kendrick’s righty bat is a natural platoon match with Eaton and fellow corner outfielder Bryce Harper, each of whom hits from the left side, so he can readily spell either over the course of the season.

[RELATED: Updated Nationals Depth Chart]

MLBTR had predicted that Kendrick would get a two-year pact, but at a loftier overall guarantee ($12MM). That reflected not only his long history of solidly above-average production, much of it as a regular at second base, but also a quality output in the 2017 campaign. While he was banged up at times, Kendrick produced on both sides of the mid-season swap that sent him to Washington from the Phillies, ending the year with an overall .315/.368/.475 batting line through 334 plate appearance. And Kendrick has a lengthy record of durability before that.

Between 2010 and 2014, Kendrick functioned as the Angeles’ everyday second bagger. He thrived without standing out in any one area, averaging a .288/.332/.420 batting line with 11 homers and twelve steals per year while generally grading as a plus in the field. After moving to the Dodgers in 2015, though, Kendrick’s defensive grades at his accustomed position slipped. That spurred a move to the corner outfield, where he has been viewed as a roughly average performer, in a 2016 season that was Kendrick’s worst at the plate since he established himself as a big leaguer.

While the 2017 campaign represented something of a return to form, then, expectations will remain in check. Kendrick is already 34 years of age, after all. With the various cracks that have formed in his game, it’s not surprising to see him sign into a situation where he won’t be expected to play every day.

Entering the winter, the Nats justifiably felt most of the pieces were in place for a strong 2018 roster. Even while exploring larger moves — none of which has yet come to fruition — the team has steadily added role players over the course of the winter. Kendrick joins reliever Brandon Kintzler as a 2017 deadline acquisition who was brought back, while the team slotted Matt Adams in as its reserve first baseman and lefty bench bat. Upgrading the catching situation stands out as a remaining possibility, while both the rotation and relief unit could surely still be improved as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

MLBTR Chat Transcript: Yelich, Mets, Ellsbury, Shaw, More Thu, 18 Jan 2018 20:03:18 +0000 Click here to read a transcript of today’s chat with host Jeff Todd.

Minor MLB Transactions: 1/18/18 Thu, 18 Jan 2018 18:30:58 +0000 Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Padres announced a slew of non-roster invitees, including right-hander Michael Mariot and catcher Raffy Lopez, each of whom has prior Major League experience. Mariot, 29, last saw time in the Majors back in 2016 when he tossed 21 2/3 innings for the Phillies. He’s struggled to a 5.98 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 5.1 BB/9 in 49 2/3 MLB innings to date, though he has a vastly superior 3.34 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 240 innings of Triple-A work. Lopez, meanwhile, picked up a career-high 63 plate appearances with the Blue Jays last season, hitting .222/.306/.463 in that brief time. The 30-year-old is a career .267/.342/.380 hitter in 877 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
  • First baseman Jonathan Rodriguez has a minor league deal with the Marlins, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). The 28-year-old spent the 2017 season in the Twins organization, hitting .309/.414/.525 with 21 homers, albeit in Double-A against much younger and less experienced competition. Rodriguez has yet to reach the Majors and only has 165 career plate appearances in Triple-A.
Pirates Extend Felipe Rivero Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:15:52 +0000 Jan. 18: The Pirates have formally announced the extension.

Jan. 15: The Pirates have agreed to a four-year deal with closer Felipe Rivero, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (on Twitter). The deal, which will buy out all of Rivero’s arbitration seasons, is believed to guarantee Rivero about $22MM in total, per Rosenthal. It also contains a pair of club options over what would have been his first two free-agent seasons. Interestingly, Rosenthal notes that it’s unclear if an agency was involved in the negotiations. Rivero had recently hired Scott Boras to represent him, though this is the type of extension to which the Boras Corp is typically averse.

Felipe Rivero | Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Rivero will earn $2.5MM in 2018, $4MM in 2019, $5.25MM in 2020 and $7.25MM in 2021. The deal also comes with a $2MM signing bonus, and his contract contains a pair of $10MM options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The 2022 option comes with a $1MM buyout, and the 2023 option has a $500K buyout. In all, that totals the $22MM sum Rosenthal suggested, though the contract would top out at $41MM over six years should both options be exercised.

Certainly, the timing of the deal comes as something of a surprise. The Bucs, in the past week, have traded longtime top starter Gerrit Cole to the Astros and shipped face of the franchise Andrew McCutchen to the Giants in exchange for righty Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.

The Rivero deal, though, serves an indicator that the Pirates aren’t necessarily eyeing a full tear-down of the roster but are instead intent on turning some (relatively) high-priced and short-term assets into controllable pieces in an effort to manage payroll and re-establish a core of cost-effective young parts. It’s understandably not a popular approach among Pirates fans, but it’s a reality the Bucs have had to accept under current ownership and with one of the league’s worst TV contracts (which reportedly affords them only about $20MM annually — though that deal is nearing its expiration).

In some respects, the timing of these moves is reminiscent of the Pirates’ salary dump of Francisco Liriano, which was quickly followed up by an extension for veteran third baseman David Freese. The long-term deal for Rivero may ever so slightly lessen the sting of losing both McCutchen and Cole in the eyes of Pirates fans, though it’s nonetheless a difficult sequence of events for Pittsburgh faithful to stomach.

While the extension for Rivero technically does enhance his trade value, it now seems unlikely that he’ll be moved anytime in the near future. The Bucs now have cost certainty over Rivero for more than half a decade, and his salary won’t even climb higher than $6MM until the 2021 campaign. The Pirates can assuredly hang onto Rivero for the foreseeable future and be confident that he’ll retain plenty of trade value, barring a massive injury or unforeseen decline.

The latter of those two scenarios seems unlikely, as Rivero has looked legitimately dominant since being acquired in the 2016 deadline trade that sent Melancon to the Nationals. (A trade that, much like Pittsburgh’s recent trades, emphasized MLB-ready talent with extended team control.) In 102 2/3 innings with the Pirates, Rivero has worked to a pristine 2.10 ERA with 11.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a grounder rate right around 50 percent. Rivero’s swinging-strike rate jumped to an enormous 15.8 percent, and his average fastball checked in north of 98 mph.

His extension comes on the heels of a similar deal for the Padres’ Brad Hand, another southpaw closer, though Rivero’s $22MM guarantee tops the $19.75MM that Hand pulled in, and the two are in different service classes. Rivero’s deal, it seems, is a record for a pitcher in his service class and is the fourth-largest ever agreed to by a reliever at any point in the arbitration process, trailing only Craig Kimbrel, Brad Lidge and Huston Street (MLBTR Extension Tracker link). Of course, that’s largely because relievers are volatile enough that teams don’t often make them the target of long-term deals in their pre-arb and early arb years.

While the contract’s standing in historical context is among the strongest for an arb-eligible reliever, it nonetheless stands out as a strong deal for the Pirates. It’s not uncommon for upper-tier relievers to clear $10MM annually in their final years of arbitration, but Rivero will make a combined $12.5MM in his final two arb years.

Rivero figures to continue to hold down the ninth inning for the Pirates, anchoring a relief corps that features Daniel Hudson, George Kontos and A.J. Schugel. Pittsburgh’s bullpen will also very likely feature newly acquired righties Michael Feliz (picked up in the Cole trade) and Kyle Crick (McCutchen trade), and there’s room for further additions of the Pirates feel there’s value remaining on the free-agent market for relievers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brewers Agree To Minor League Deal With Ernesto Frieri Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:49:05 +0000 The Brewers have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with veteran righty Ernesto Frieri, reports’s Mark Feinsand (on Twitter). The former Angels closer will be invited to Major League Spring Training and vie for a spot in the bullpen.

Frieri, 32, did not pitch in the Majors or minors in 2016, but he used the 2017 World Baseball Classic as an audition to return to pro ball in North America. Frieri pitched for his native Colombia in that tournament and showed enough that the Yankees picked him up on a minor league pact. While Frieri didn’t make it to the big leagues in the Bronx, the 3.00 ERA and 24-to-9 K/BB ratio that he logged with their Triple-A affiliate was enough to draw the interest of the Rangers.

Frieri did log seven innings out of the Rangers’ bullpen last season, though that was his lone big league action in 2017. He spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A with the Yanks, Rangers and also the Mariners, pitching to a 3.43 ERA with 11.9 K/9 against 4.8 BB/9.

Overall, Frieri has a lifetime 3.59 ERA in 303 1/3 innings at the Major League level. He’s averaged a healthy 11.5 K/9 in the Majors against 4.2 BB/9 but just a 26.4 percent ground-ball rate. Frieri relies heavily on a four-seam fastball that he’ll often throw up in the zone, generating to plenty of whiffs above the zone and a sky-high 15.5 percent infield-fly rate (one of the best in the Majors over the past decade). However, home runs became an increasing problem for Frieri over the course of his career, as he averaged 1.7 HR/9 from 2012-15 before sitting out the 2016 campaign.

Mets Designate Chasen Bradford For Assignment Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:11:27 +0000 The Mets announced on Thursday that they’ve designated right-hander Chasen Bradford for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, whose one-year deal with the team has now been formally announced.

Bradford, 28, made his big league debut with the Mets this past season and racked up a fair amount of time in the bullpen, appearing in 28 games and tallying 33 2/3 innings of work. In that time, the former 35th-round pick posted a solid 3.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a hefty 55.9 percent ground-ball rate.

While Bradford doesn’t throw hard — he averaged just 90.6 mph on his fastball in that rookie season — he has a history of limiting walks (1.6 BB/9 in parts of four Triple-A seasons) and has routinely turned in ground-ball rates north of 50 percent in the minor leagues.

Mets Sign Adrian Gonzalez Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:05:05 +0000 Jan. 18: Gonzalez has passed his physical, and the Mets have formally announced his signing via press release.

Jan. 13: The Mets have agreed to sign first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pending a physical. Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported the news via Twitter. Nightengale reported earlier tonight that discussions between the two sides were serious, with Jon Heyman of FanRag confirming shortly thereafter.

As we noted earlier in the evening, Gonzalez was recently traded from the Dodgers to the Braves in a deal heavily driven by luxury tax considerations. By sending the 35-year-old first baseman to Atlanta (along with Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson) in exchange for former Dodger Matt Kemp, Los Angeles will be able to stay under the tax cap for 2018. The Braves granted him his release the following Monday, leaving Gonzalez free to sign with any team willing to pay him the MLB minimum salary. Atlanta, of course, is still on the hook for just under $17MM of his guaranteed 2018 salary.

"<strongPresumably, Gonzalez will compete with 22-year-old Dominic Smith for the Mets’ first base job in spring training. GM Sandy Alderson has gone on record saying that the Mets wouldn’t make any moves that eliminate Smith as a possibility at first base, but the presence of a five-time All Star with a chance to bounce back to above-average offensive production leaves the Mets some room to give their first baseman of the future some more seasoning at the Triple-A level. That’s now a much more viable contingency plan if Smith struggles to produce offensively the way he did last season. Indeed, as Heyman notes, there are questions about whether Smith is ready for the majors and in good enough shape to reach his potential.

The deal clearly carries very little risk for the Mets, as they’re only obligated to pay Gonzalez the $545K MLB minimum salary in 2018. And yet the upside of this signing should not be taken lightly. As recently as 2015, the former number one overall pick slashed .275/.350/.480 with 28 homers, good for a 129 wRC+ and 3.0 fWAR. His performance has declined in recent seasons, possibly due to age and absolutely due to injuries, but if he can stay healthy, there’s a chance Gonzalez could bounce back from a -1.1 fWAR 2017 campaign and reward the Mets for bringing him into the fold. As we already noted today, he also carries a lifetime 138 wRC+ against right-handed pitching, making him a potentially great asset even in a part-time role.

The Florida Marlins selected Gonzalez out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, CA with the number one overall pick in the 2000 draft. His MLB debut came with the Rangers on April 18th, 2004, but he didn’t truly catch fire until then-Padres-GM Kevin Towers acquired him (along with Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge) for the 2006 season. Gonzalez went on to post ten consecutive seasons of at least 2.9 fWAR between the Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers (38.3 fWAR total from 206-2015), homering 283 times during that span. All told, his .288/.359/.488 lifetime batting line paints a picture of a very impressive career.

Photo Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Blue Jays, Al Alburquerque Agree To Minor League Deal Thu, 18 Jan 2018 14:36:31 +0000 The Blue Jays are in agreement with veteran right-hander Al Alburquerque on a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Alburquerque is represented by the MVP Sports Group.

The 31-year-old Alburquerque was a fixture in the Tigers’ bullpen from 2011-15, appearing in a total of 241 games and totaling 225 innings of 3.20 ERA ball. Alburquerque has long shown a knack for missing bats thanks in large part to an excellent slider that he throws more often than his fastball (60.2 percent usage rate in his career).

Alburquerque averaged 11.0 K/9 and just 0.6 HR/9 in his run with the Tigers, but his control was also a persistent issue. Alburquerque averaged 5.0 walks per nine innings in that span, hit eight batters and uncorked 20 wild pitches. By the time he reached his fifth season in Detroit, his strikeout rate and swinging-strike rates had dropped off considerably from their peak levels (8.5 K/9, 11.1 swinging-strike rate in ’15).

Since that time, Alburquerque has bounced around the American League, spending time in the Angels, Mariners, Royals and White Sox organizations. (He did not pitch in the Majors with Seattle.) Alburquerque has totaled 20 innings in the Majors across the past two seasons, working to a 2.70 ERA with a less-encouraging 15-to-10 K/BB ratio in that time. He did post a strong 2.87 ERA with 10.3 K/9 against just 2.4 BB/9 in 37 1/3 Triple-A frames last season, though he was ultimately non-tendered by the White Sox in December.

Mets Designate Kevin McGowan For Assignment Thu, 18 Jan 2018 13:35:35 +0000 The Mets have designated right-hander Kevin McGowan for assignment as one of the two necessary 40-man roster moves to create space for the signings of Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez, tweets Anthony DiComo of The move has yet to be formally announced by the team, though it’s listed on the Transactions page at

McGowan, 26, made his big league debut with the Mets in 2017 and tallied 8 2/3 innings out of the team’s bullpen. In that time, he yielded five runs on the strength of eight hits (two homers) and five walks to go along with eight strikeouts. McGowan showed rather strong fly-ball tendencies both in his brief MLB tenure and in Triple-A Las Vegas last season, and he averaged 92.6 mph on his fastball in the Majors.

[Related: Updated New York Mets depth chart]

The former 13th-round pick (Mets, 2013) out of Division-II Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire has a career 4.19 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level. Because his contract was only just selected to the big league roster in 2017, he has multiple minor league options remaining in the event that another club wants to take a shot on him via the waiver wire. If not, he’ll be assigned outright back to Triple-A and vie for a spot with the big league club once again at some point in 2018.

NL East Notes: Yelich, Mets, Arrieta, Rizzo Thu, 18 Jan 2018 05:27:12 +0000 Despite Christian Yelich’s unhappiness with the Marlins’ direction and the recent comments from his agent to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick indicating that the relationship between team and player is “irretrievably broken,” the Marlins maintain an understandably high asking price on the 26-year-old. MLB Network’s Peter Gammons uses the Braves as an example of that lofty asking price (video link), reporting that the Marlins at one point informed Atlanta that they’d be willing to talk about a multi-player package that would send Yelich to the Braves if and only if top prospect Ronald Acuna was the headliner of the deal. (Braves fans will undoubtedly scoff at the very notion, though it’s hardly a surprise to see the Marlins pushing for any team’s top-ranked prospect when peddling five years of Yelich at a maximum total of $58.25MM.)

Unsurprisingly, Gammons quickly adds, “That’s one guy the Braves are not going to trade,” in reference to Acuna. Despite the drama surrounding Yelich and teammate J.T. Realmuto, Gammons notes that the Marlins aren’t locks to deal the pair, with Yelich being especially difficult to pry away given the affordable half-decade of control he has on his contract.

More from the division…

  • At today’s press conference to reintroduce Jay Bruce, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson suggested to reporters that his team likely has the budget to make one more notable addition (link via Ken Davidoff of the New York Post). Alderson confirmed recent reports that his preference would be to sign a free agent rather than make a trade. “If we were to try to improve in that area, I think we prefer to sign a free agent, only because it doesn’t require us to give up talent,” the GM said. Alderson acknowledged a trade as a possibility, adding that while his farm isn’t as strong as it once was, the Mets do still have players that have drawn interest from other clubs. There have been suggestions that young outfielder Brandon Nimmo could be on the table if the Mets and Pirates discuss a Josh Harrison trade, though the Post’s Mike Puma tweeted today that the Mets “aren’t particularly enthusiastic” about the idea of trading Nimmo for Harrison.
  • Nick Williams has been working out alongside free agent Jake Arrieta for much of the offseason in Austin, he tells Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, and the young outfielder has talked up Philadelphia in an effort to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies“He has told me he likes working with young guys,” said Williams. “I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.” While Williams’ pitch to his workout buddy should hardly be characterized as a legitimate connection between the Phils and Arrieta, Salisbury notes that the team is still actively trying to add to the rotation. If the price tag for Arrieta or another top starter comes down to a shorter length — Salisbury suggests three years, though it’s tough to see Arrieta dropping to that point — the Phillies’ interest could be piqued.
  • Though much of the attention in Washington D.C. is placed on the fact that 2018 is Bryce Harper’s final year before free agency, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale points out that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo is also entering the last year of his deal. The two sides haven’t spoken about an extension yet, per Nightengale — owner Mark Lerner tells Nightengale a new deal will be discussed “in the normal course of business” — but Rizzo hopes to remain beyond the ’18 season. Rizzo is wrapping up a five-year, $10MM deal, per Nightengale, and the GM somewhat candidly suggested that he feels he’s earned a deal more commensurate with the top executives in the league. “I just think I deserve to be treated like some of the best GMs in the game are, too,” he said.
Royals Agree To Minor League Deal With Tyler Collins Thu, 18 Jan 2018 02:54:33 +0000 The Royals and outfielder Tyler Collins are in agreement on a minor league pact, tweets SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. He’s represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

Collins, 28 in June, is no stranger to the AL Central after spending parts of the past four seasons with the Tigers. The former sixth-round pick (2011) at times looked like he could lock down a fairly significant role in Detroit. The 2015 campaign saw Collins take 207 plate appearances with the big league club and post a solid, if unspectacular .266/.316/.417 slash. At the very least, the Tigers’ confidence in his ability to play all three outfield spots made him a candidate to stick around as a fourth outfielder.

From 2016-17, though, Collins’ offensive production tumbled in significant fashion (.213/.291/.357) — a decline that prompted the Tigers to designate him for assignment midway through the 2017 campaign. Collins cleared waivers and stuck with the organization, returning later in the year only to be outrighted once again in October, at which point he filed for minor league free agency.

[Related: Updated Kansas City Royals depth chart]

While Collins clearly doesn’t have much in the way of MLB success under his belt, he did hit .288/.358/.462 in Triple-A this past season. At the very least, he’ll give the Royals a depth option for an outfield that looks anything but settled. With Lorenzo Cain’s likely departure via free agency, the Royals will deploy Alex Gordon in left field (in hopes of a significant rebound), while Paulo Orlando, Billy Burns, Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler split up the remaining outfield reps.

The 2017-18 Offseason: Trend or Anomaly? Thu, 18 Jan 2018 01:31:43 +0000 In his latest column, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports takes a lengthy, thought-provoking look at what has been a downright glacial free-agent market unlike any seen in MLB history. To date, no free agent has agreed to a contract guaranteeing more than three guaranteed seasons, and the vast majority of top-tier free agents remain unsigned with roughly a month to go until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps that’s because Passan tackled the general issue months back, when a slow-down was already apparent. Of course, the plot has thickened in many ways since, even as some free agents have signed in the interim. We took our own look at his arguments at the time, and will do so again here.

So, is there evidence of collusion? Is the luxury tax line effectively creating a salary cap of sorts? Are factors unique to the 2017-18 market really an explanation? What’s really at play here? In many ways, it’s all still uncertain, but Passan argues that the slow market primarily about broader structural changes that have redounded to the benefit of teams — particularly, perhaps, a system of player compensation that no longer aligns with the realities of the game.

Let’s start with the concept of collusion. Unsurprisingly, Major League Baseball issued a staunch denial of any such notion in a statement to Passan that interestingly targets one very notable agent (more on that further below):

“There are a variety of factors that could explain the operation of the market. We can say that without a doubt collusion is not one of them. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause, but it certainly is relevant that an agent who has a long track record of going late into the market controls many of the top players.”

Certainly, there’s no clear evidence of collusion that has been cited to this point. As Matthew Trueblood of Baseball Prospectus argues, there are a few questionable data points on the market, but still no definitive proof of price fixing — in large part because we don’t yet have the full context necessary for interpreting what has occurred to date. As Passan has explained previously, uniformity in team valuations can perhaps create a fairly consistent line in the sand at a certain number of years or dollars for a given free agent. Really, who’s to say whether that — standing alone — represents active collusion, some kind of passive collusion, or simply standardized analytical processes?

It isn’t as if we have yet observed bunches of players settling for contracts far below their market values. To the contrary, while years have been on the light side — no deals have gone past three guaranteed — the overall earnings have been as robust as MLBTR generally expected for those players that have signed to this point. While Addison Reed recently fell well shy of his predicted value (we don’t really yet know why), others, such as Tyler Chatwood and Tommy Hunter (to take but two examples), have received quite a lot more than expected.

As for the still-unsigned players, we just don’t know yet, and what little information we have seems inconclusive. Passan says that “one of the best free agents” feels the offers he has received are “so incompatible with his production” that he might wait until mid-season to sign. Without more information — who? how much? what would he deem fair and is that supportable? — that example really can’t even be assessed. An assistant GM tells Passan he’d rather pay Lorenzo Cain at a big rate ($24MM) for one season than promise him a longer-term deal. That’s an interesting and somewhat curious position, as Cain projects as a quality asset for a few years into the future, though it’s tough to assess without knowing the full context. More to the point, that view from one executive on one team hardly establishes the absence of a reasonable market for Cain.

Asking prices and expectations don’t always coincide with results in free agency. For every surprisingly large contract, there’s typically a supposed bargain. There was perhaps more talk than ever about lofty asking prices for free agents entering this offseason. Over the last several months, there have been reports of asking prices of $200MM or more for J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and even Jake Arrieta — rates that hardly seemed achievable at the outset of free agency. Players like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn were both said (at some point, at least) to be seeking nine-figure commitments and/or $20MM annual salaries. We recently addressed just this subject with regard to Cobb, who never seemed likely to command that sort of deal and appears to be receiving some interest within range of what might reasonably have been anticipated entering the winter. Some have suggested that outfielder Jay Bruce was forced to settle for his three-year, $39MM deal, but that’s exactly the contract we predicted back in November.

Passan identifies ten teams that will or may sit out this free-agent period, suggesting that “players are panicking” in the face of the situation. But it isn’t exactly unusual for a variety of teams to forgo significant open-market spending in a given year — for instance, as of February 1, 2016, ten teams had spent $12.25MM or less — and few of the listed clubs seemed to be in position to go for broke in free agency before things got underway. Further, some of the organizations he lists (the White Sox, Tigers, and Athletics, for instance) have already spent at least some money on mid-level free agents. Others (the Royals and Padres) have reportedly offered nine-figure contracts that have helped establish the market for Hosmer. Still more (the Braves seem like a possibility) could still dangle multi-year deals in the right circumstances.

On the whole, while the market hasn’t yet produced nearly as many contracts as is typical at this point on the calendar, it seems premature to presume that this is the beginning of a lasting trend. There’s little question that this is a highly unusual market environment, but just how that’ll shake out simply cannot be known. Even if the result is a lesser overall outlay for the current crop of free agents, moreover, there’ll still be room for interpretation and ongoing developments regarding what it all means going forward. None of that is to say that all players or all agents are setting unrealistic starting points or targets — or that, in fact we aren’t about to see a massive shortfall in anticipated free agent spending. That could yet come to pass.

Even without the benefit of knowing how the market will line up, though, there’s plenty more to chew on here. Passan focuses particular ire on the concept that the new CBA’s luxury tax provisions have created a de facto spending cap. He argues that the actual penalties embodied in the CBA spending provisions aren’t that significant, calling the tax “a well-branded pretext for teams not to spend.”

The point is well-taken, on the one hand: it serves as a comfortable reference point when teams need to explain why they’re suddenly clamming up. For many organizations, though, that level of spending is so far from actual payroll levels that it doesn’t even enter the picture. And it isn’t as if the biggest spenders can’t afford to pay some taxes, as they have in the past.

Still, is there legitimacy to teams wanting to dip beneath the line? If so, what does that tell us? Passan says that limboing under the luxury tax for one year and then jumping back to a $246MM payroll would save the Yankees and Dodgers “only $12 million in luxury-tax penalties.” But his approach — simply comparing the hypothetical 2019 tax rate between scenarios in which these organizations do or do not end up over the luxury line in the prior year — seemingly ignores a few other factors. Since the tax rate rises with each consecutive year in which the line is passed, there’s more than one future season of payroll to consider. Plus, the new CBA includes a surcharge on exceeding the tax by more than $20MM (12%) and exceeding it by $40MM or more (a whopping 42.5% plus a loss of ten places in the first-round draft order; 45% on the second consecutive time). As’s Buster Olney notes on Twitter, the Dodgers and Yankees “might have a $100+ [million] incentive to get under” for one year, all things considered.

Still, the general point regarding the luxury tax seems to be correct: it isn’t the sole or even a major cause here. But it is a factor, especially as a part of several other somewhat one-off considerations that may be lining up to make this a unique offseason. Given the history of spending from the Yankees and Dodgers (to say nothing of the Giants, who are engaged in their own staredown with the CBT threshold and reportedly prefer to remain south of that $197MM mark), it could be this really is mostly a one-year dip. Taking those teams out of the top-level market-driving position, perhaps in part as they anticipate chasing younger, better free agents next winter, could have a major short-term impact without necessarily indicating that the balance of power has shifted for good against players.

How about that other factor that’s popularly mentioned and which the league itself (rather remarkably) suggested in its statement? On the one hand, it’s probably too neat an explanation to say simply that the Boras Corporation is holding things up. While Scott Boras is notoriously willing to run the clock, he doesn’t exactly make a habit of negotiating well into January and February; to the contrary, he usually isn’t forced to drag things out, as Passan notes. And he does represent a huge number of this year’s free agents, including top-tier names like Hosmer, Martinez, Arrieta, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland in addition to second- and third-tier free agents such as Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Tony Watson, Matt Holliday and Jayson Werth.

While it seems hard to believe he’s single-handedly responsible, Boras is reportedly sitting on big offers for Hosmer and Martinez that seem at least to approach the bounds of expectations when the winter started. Those players are well within their rights to wait and seek more, but the figures they seemingly have in hand to this point aren’t unexpected. And the fact they haven’t taken deals yet does hint at the influence of Boras to some extent. For his part, true to form, Boras provided Passan with a cheeky analogy to express his position: “I wouldn’t blame the baker if the flour doesn’t show up.”

In mixing the free agent batter, Boras and his compatriots on the agency side do seem to be running into some unexpected interference, too. But what’s the root? Another somewhat unique circumstance that may be impacting this year’s market is that identified by Dave Cameron (formerly) of Fangraphs: with fewer than ten teams currently projected to run roughshod over the remainder of the league, there’s a lack of incentive for win-now spending from mid-level organizations. That, in turn, helps decrease the need for the top teams to maintain their edge through spending. It’s a phenomenon that is not entirely dissimilar from what we’ve seen at the non-waiver deadline, where Wild Card contenders are at times reluctant to make significant splashes knowing the endgame to be a one-game playoff.

Passan does recognize a few of these factors, but perhaps views them in a different light. He says that “33 percent of baseball teams declare themselves unwilling to spend and others still pronounce themselves unfit yet to win,” suggesting that modern baseball’s emphasis on wise spending also serves as an excuse not to try to win. He contends that the preference to trade, rather than to sign mid-level free agents, has “almost destroyed baseball’s so-called middle class of veteran non-stars.” (Counterpoints come in the form of Chatwood and Bruce, among others.) One GM told Passan: “Why would I pay a guy now when I can trade for one every bit as good in July and give up almost nothing?”

While there’s likely some structural element to all this, it’s difficult to simply reject the unique circumstances of this winter out of hand. We don’t always have an abundance of what Cameron calls “super teams” — at least, that is, not until some big-market bullies have gone out and bought up the best veterans. With so many teams entering the winter with already impressive arrays of talent, along with the other circumstances discussed above, the stage was perhaps set for a slow-down that could stand apart from any broader forces.

As we suggested back in November, if there is indeed a broader force at play that strongly explains what we’re currently seeing, perhaps it’s the ongoing youth movement that has occurred since the steroid era. The fact that more on-field value is coming from younger players suggests a reason that older, mid-level players are encountering a market that isn’t interested in promising many years. After all, as more teams are able to find equivalent production from within at a cheaper rate, future roster spots may be increasingly anticipated to be occupied by current prospects.

Many of the points Passan makes touch upon this very factor. Sources on both the league and union sides tell him that the free agent model (six years of service before the open market) is simply outdated. He spends considerable time discussing the union’s blind spot on this subject in recent CBA talks. The MLBPA focused on lifestyle changes while letting the league have a hard cap on international amateur spending, doing nothing to boost spending (some would argue the contrary) in setting luxury tax rules, and (we’d add) failing to do anything to boost significantly the earning capacity of pre- and mid-arbitration players (save for some nominal increased to the league’s minimum rate of pay).

Of course, it’s also worth emphasizing that the union went to great lengths to revamp the qualifying offer system in an effort to scale back the reluctance teams had expressed when weighing the pursuit of players who’d rejected the QO under the previous CBA. That was a significant talking point both in the media and at the negotiation table as the MLBPA sought to eliminate instances of players being “forced” to settle for short-term deals due to the burden of draft-pick compensation. Just how well that worked is not yet fully clear thanks to lack of data the slow-moving offseason has provided, though Carlos Santana and Wade Davis had no issues finding healthy contracts that beat most expectations — at least in terms of average annual value.

The union’s assumption, presumably, was that open-market spending would continue to support the size of the players’ pie slice, particularly with lesser penalization issued to teams seeking to sign players that had performed well enough to receive a QO. In turn, the MLBPA undoubtedly hoped that said slice would continue to be allocated to the best veteran players (even if their more youthful brethren will be expected to produce more value on the field in the years to come). While the offseason has clearly not played out in that fashion, current calls for wholesale changes to the arbitration system and service time requirements for free agency weren’t pushed as hot-button topics on which the MLBPA needed to focus — at least not to the extent that changes to the QO system were underscored as a critical need.

While the general situation could set the stage for a labor conflict over the coming years if these trends continue, as Passan suggests, there’s probably also room for developments to push back in the other direction. The union might press back before it reaches the point of labor unrest. Some of the unique circumstances on this year’s market may ameliorate the situation. Of greatest interest, perhaps, is the possibility that the inefficiencies created by aging curve trends will begin to resolve. The market has already shown some means of adaptation, as with the advent and increasingly frequent use of opt-out clauses. Some very youthful free agents are expected to hit the open market in the seasons to come, with age still well on their side in no small part because they were promoted early and were able to resist extensions by locking up plenty of money through arbitration and endorsement deals. These players will still have ample opportunity to land massive contracts.

There could be a trickle-down effect for extension scenarios, too. If teams forgo mid-level free agents, they’ll be giving more time and opportunity to younger players, who’ll in turn reach arbitration eligibility and free agency sooner. Teams will continue to search for extension bargains, as ever, but there’s no particular reason at this point to think that’ll be a problem so much as a further opportunity. Passan says in a somewhat accusatory manner that “every team tries to sweet-talk its young players into under-market long-term contracts that delay their free agency, leading to a paucity of 26- and 27-year-olds in free agency.” That’s a hardly a new trend, of course, as John Hart-led Indians largely pioneered that practice roughly a quarter century ago.

While the examples like Jose Altuve, Christian Yelich, Paul Goldschmidt and Madison Bumgarner are among the many team-friendly deals, there are also plenty of examples that turned into largely sunk costs. Jon Singleton, Cory Luebke, Jose Tabata, Allen Craig and Devin Mesoraco all provided little in the way of long-term value on their respective early deals, whether due to poor performance or persistent injuries. And let’s not forget that Houston reportedly tried and failed to give money to players such as Matt Dominguez and Robbie Grossman.

Other top stars have, to date, resisted the urge to take money in exchange for giving up their rights to the open market. If players like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant and Mookie Betts won’t rush into extensions, then they’ll hit the market at young ages with huge earning potential — as, of course, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will next winter. If those players continue on year-to-year paths, teams hoping to find value through extensions may need to promise more money and years than they’d prefer to mid-level players, which ought to be beneficial to players in such uncertain situations.

Furthermore, younger stars that do ultimately accept long-term extension offers could very well see those markets move forward if teams do indeed begin to cut back on investments in aging free agents; Lindor reportedly received and rejected a nine-figure extension offer last winter. That would’ve crushed Andrelton Simmons’ $58MM pre-arbitration record for a player between one and two years of service time.

Turning back to the immediate market, though, it does still seem possible that some of this winter’s free agents will be caught in the middle of these broader forces. But it should not yet be assumed that there’ll be a far-reaching spending drop in the form of a permanently changed free-agent market (even if this year’s overall market falls well shy of reasonable expectations). The market for baseball players is highly susceptible to change from nuanced, often uncertain variables. We ought to see how they all play out before passing final judgment.

MLBTR Chat Transcript: Hosmer, JDM, McCutchen, Projections Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:27:37 +0000 Click here to view the transcript for MLBTR Chat With Jason Martinez: January 17, 2018

Tigers, Jose Iglesias Avoid Arbitration Wed, 17 Jan 2018 23:57:54 +0000 The Tigers announced that they’ve agreed to a one-year deal with shortstop Jose Iglesias for the 2018 season, thus avoiding arbitration. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, though Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Iglesias will earn $6.275MM on the deal (Twitter link). That rather handily tops the $5.6MM projected arbitration salary from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Iglesias is represented by Magnus Sports.

Iglesias, 28, is entering his final year of team control and will be a free agent next winter. He’s coming off his worst season at the plate, having batted just .255/.288/.369 as Detroit’s primary shortstop in 2017. That continued a troubling trend for Iglesias at the plate; the defensive standout batted .302/.348/.377 from 2013-15 (he missed the 2014 season due to injury), but has seen his bat deteriorate considerably since Opening Day 2016. Since that time, he’s logged a combined .255/.297/.353 slash.

As can be seen in MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, Iglesias had filed for a $6.8MM salary, while the Tigers countered at $5.6MM. The two sides, then, settled just north of the $6.2MM midpoint. With Iglesias’ case resolved, the Tigers will avoid an arbitration hearing entirely in 2018, as they’ve now come to terms with all of their eligible players.

NL Central Rumors: Hamilton, Holland, Grichuk, Pirates Wed, 17 Jan 2018 23:26:03 +0000 While Billy Hamilton’s name has been oft-mentioned in trade rumblings this offseason, a deal involving the Reds’ fleet-footed center fielder may not be all that likely, writes Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer. San Francisco’s acquisition of Andrew McCutchen doesn’t have much of an impact on the Giants’ chances of swinging a deal for Hamilton as they look to add a strong defender with their (limited) remaining financial resources. But, Buchanan reports after speaking with multiple sources, a deal was looking “unlikely” anyhow. Talks between the Giants and Reds regarding Hamilton have gone “dormant,” per Buchanan, adding that one source expects Hamilton to be in Cincinnati come Opening Day.

More from the division…

  • Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. wouldn’t comment on the chances of his team signing Greg Holland, writes Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but DeWitt generally expressed some trepidation about the notion of spending heavily (in either dollars or prospects) to acquire a “proven” closer. “[C]losers are not guarantees,” DeWitt said. “…It’s a hard job. You go over the history of closers, and it’s not particularly guaranteed that you’re going to get longevity, which you think you’ll get out of a starting pitcher.” DeWitt did acknowledge that he’d “rather give up dollars than players” in a general sense, but DeWitt’s full comments certainly don’t convey the sense that adding a high-profile arm for the ninth-inning is a top priority.
  • Frederickson also writes that outfielder Randal Grichuk is “not thrilled” about the notion of being a reserve option in 2018, though that’ll be the case barring an injury to one of Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham or Dexter Fowler. Grichuk didn’t complain about his role so much as voice a desire to prove that he can still be a significant asset and factor prominently into the Cardinals’ success. “I hope they feel confident in themselves, and you don’t want anyone doubting themselves, but hopefully they know I’m there,” said the outfielder. “And if I get an opportunity, I’m going to try to make the best of it and not look back.” Frederickson’s column features quotes from roughly a half-dozen Cardinals players as well as manager Mike Matheny and DeWitt.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review runs down some potential candidates for the Pirates’ outfield — both external and internal — in the wake of the Andrew McCutchen trade. Pittsburgh will likely be on the lookout for a right fielder, with Starling Marte headed to center field and Gregory Polanco shifting to left. Austin Meadows, according to Biertempfel, will head to Triple-A to open the year regardless of how well he plays in Spring Training. (One club source indicated to Biertempfel that Meadows could “hit .900 in Spring Training” and still be ticketed for the minors.) That’s not especially surprising when considering that Meadows posted an ugly .250/.311/.359 slash in his first exposure to Triple-A last year.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law offers his opinion (subscription required and recommended) on the Pirates’ trade for McCutchen, whom he calls a “great” pickup for the Giants, given the putrid output they received from their outfield in 2017 and the low bar that McCutchen has to clear. While neither Kyle Crick nor outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds is an elite young talent, Law opines, Crick offers a potential long-term option in the bullpen and is the type of arm that can “sometimes turn to gold via the alchemy of baseball” despite his history of below-average command (a trait that he did improve in 2017). He calls Reynolds “very interesting,” adding that he considered Reynolds’ to be San Francisco’s second-best prospect at the time of the trade.
Braves Acquire Shane Carle Wed, 17 Jan 2018 21:25:03 +0000 The Braves announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Shane Carle from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Pittsburgh had designated the 26-year-old Carle for assignment over the weekend in order to clear space on the roster for the players acquired from Houston in the Gerrit Cole trade.

Carle made his Major League debut with the Rockies in 2017, tossing four innings and surrendering three runs on six hits and no walks with four strikeouts. It’s not a lengthy sample, to be sure, but Carle’s fastball averaged a healthy 93.6 mph in that short time. The 2013 10th-round pick (by the Pirates) spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A in Colorado, where he struggled to a 5.37 ERA in a hitter-friendly setting. Carle averaged 7.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 with a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in Albuquerque — his second go-around at that level.

Though the Pirates were the team to initially draft Carle, this is the second time they’ll trade him away to another organization. Pittsburgh traded him to Colorado in exchange for righty Rob Scahill about 18 months after he was drafted, only to pluck him back off waivers earlier this winter when the Rockies cut him loose. Carle has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Braves can send him to Triple-A this spring without needing to expose him to waivers. Atlanta already had an open spot on its 40-man roster, so no corresponding move was necessary in order to accommodate Carle. The Braves’ 40-man roster is now at capacity.

AL Notes: Rangers, Ramirez, Betts, Orioles Wed, 17 Jan 2018 17:50:04 +0000 Rangers GM Jon Daniels cast doubt on the idea of the team making any marquee additions in comments yesterday to the media, including’s TR Sullivan. Daniels called it “unlikely” that the club would end up with a top starter, though he said he also wouldn’t “close the door” on a market that includes former ace Yu Darvish. More likely, it seems, would be a depth addition of some kind, though Daniels also emphasized that the organization is not close to any new deals. Broadly, the organization remains steadfast in its “realistic” assessment of its abilities and needs. While the anticipated roster mix is likely “to create some challenges,” says Daniels, that doesn’t mean it will vary from its strategy entering the winter. The Rangers, he says, were “not going to go all-in, spending big dollars this year, nor were we going to be looking to trade all of our young players.”

More from the American League:

  • The Angels received some promising news on righty J.C. Ramirez, GM Billy Eppler tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Ramirez is continuing to show healing in his right elbow, where he suffered a season-ending partial UCL tear. Stem cell treatment has been promising to this point, giving the team some renewed confidence that it will receive a contribution again from Ramirez, who agreed to a $1.9MM arbitration salary after turning in 147 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball in 2017.
  • As the Red Sox prepare for an arbitration show-down with star outfielder Mookie Betts, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald argues the team never should have put itself in this position. The sides have a $3MM gap at present ($10.5MM vs. $7.5MM) and indications are they’ll resolve it in a hearing, meaning the Sox will be put in the position of presenting Betts in a less-than-positive light before an arb panel. With a prior disagreement over his 2017 pre-arb salary, the financial relationship between the sides isn’t exactly off to the most promising start. For what it’s worth, MLBTR contributor and arbitration guru Matt Swartz argued before numbers were exchanged that Betts is likelier to command a first-time arb payday on the lower side of the existing gulf.
  • Speaking of arbitration, the Orioles will evidently not commit to going to trial over their remaining cases, per Roch Kubatko of Rather the club is still willing to engage in negotiations with both infielder Jonathan Schoop ($9MM filing versus $7.5MM counter) and righty Kevin Gausman ($6.225MM filing versus $5.3MM counter). Whether that’ll mean avoiding a hearing isn’t yet known, but the seeming strategic shift will at least leave remaining room for talks on a few players of quite a bit of importance to the organization’s future.
Cubs To Re-Sign Brian Duensing Wed, 17 Jan 2018 14:44:23 +0000 The Cubs have agreed to a two-year deal to bring back lefty Brian Duensing, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). If finalized, it’ll guarantee the southpaw $7MM, per the report. Duensing is a client of the Legacy Agency.

Aug 9, 2017; San Francisco, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Brian Duensing (32) in a game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Duensing, who’ll turn 35 years of age before the start of the 2018 season, was targeted by the Cubs last winter. He justified the team’s faith, turning in a quality season on a $2MM salary. Evidently, Duensing also enjoyed his time at Wrigley; per Heyman (via Twitter), Duensing had the chance to earn “significantly more” with other organizations this winter but chose instead to return.

Despite his encroaching age, the results certainly justify the contract. Duensing is fresh off of a 62 1/3-inning campaign in which he carried a 2.74 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. He also allowed just one earned run on one hit in his five postseason appearances.

In many ways, Duensing’s 2017 work represented a continuation of his typical efforts, as he sat in his usual range of fastball velocity (92 to 93 mph) and continued to bring a starter’s arsenal to bear in the bullpen. He continued a trend in pitch usage, utilizing his offspeed mix (slider/curve/change) more than half the time for the first time in his career, but generally continued down a path he had already embarked upon.

Duensing has generally been tough to square up as a reliever, holding opposing hitters to a .254/.322/.372 slash when he enters from the pen. He was reliable against both lefties and righties in 2017, but he has done that at times previously. Duensing’s 10.3% swinging-strike rate last year was the second highest mark in his career, though that fell mostly in line with prior output. And he carried a solid 48.6% groundball rate in 2017 that doesn’t stand out from his career average, either.

In large part, then, credit is due to the Cubs for recognizing Duensing as an under-appreciated hurler, rather than tweaking his approach. The team will hope that the success can continue even as he continues to age. While the expectation will presumably remain that Duensing will work in a relief role, perhaps it doesn’t hurt that he has a background as (and, as noted, continues to use the pitch mix of) a starter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Profile: Greg Holland Wed, 17 Jan 2018 14:32:10 +0000 After missing all of the 2016 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, right-hander Greg Holland enjoyed somewhat of a bounceback 2017 while closing for the Rockies. After a 41-save campaign, he turned down both a player option and a qualifying offer in search of a more lucrative, multi-year pact.


During Holland’s heyday with the Royals from 2012-2014, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman were the only qualifying relievers with a better FIP than Holland’s 1.83. He also carried the majors’ 5th-highest strikeout rate (13.02 K/9) and ranked 2nd among relievers in Win Probability Added (8.38). I could list a hailstorm of other statistics that prove Holland’s dominance, but the above rankings should paint a clear enough picture: he was long one of the game’s preeminent closers. That experience in high leverage situations may also prove a plus, including the seven late-inning leads he converted to saves during the 2014 postseason.

Even during an up-and-down 2017 season, Holland managed to strike out 10.99 batters per nine innings. While that’s not quite to the elite level he achieved during the window mentioned above, it’s still earned him a spot in MLB’s top-30 relievers in that regard. There’s no reason to expect he won’t continue to rack up the K’s.

Among the Colorado free agent’s pitch arsenal is an absolutely lethal slider. He threw the pitch even more often than his fastball in 2017, and with great results; opposing hitters managed a wRC+ of just 10 in plate appearances ending with that pitch. Fangraphs’ pitch value estimators suggest that Holland’s slider was worth 2.77 runs per 100 uses. The opposition hit just .139/.173/.230 against it while striking out a whopping 58 times.


The most prominent risk to signing Holland is that he’s no sure bet to stay healthy. While he proved durable during his peak with the Royals, his 2015 campaign began with an April DL stint due to a pectoral strain, and ended with a UCL tear in September. Holland managed to stay healthy for a vast majority of the 2017 season, but his peripheral stats overall weren’t indicative of the dominance he boasted during his healthy years. While some may point may point to the fact that he played his home games in Coors Field, his ERA in away games was actually higher than it was in Denver.

Even if he can avoid the disabled list, Holland is three years removed from elite reliever status. Yes, he collected 41 saves last season, but his overall performance on the mound was decidedly average. That’s not hyperbole; out of 155 qualified relievers in 2017, Holland ranked middle-of-the-pack in ERA (87th), FIP (76th) and xFIP (86th). Judging by reports that he turned down a strong offer from the Rockies already this winter, it’s fair to infer that the 32-year-old wants to be paid in part for his past reputation, which he’s far from a lock to live up to given that it’s quite distant in the rearview mirror, and that his average fastball last season was nearly 3 MPH lower than it was over the course of the 2014 campaign .

There’s another glaring weakness worth noting… Holland has struggled mightily with control in each of his last two seasons. His BB/9 marks were 5.24 and 4.08 in 2015 and 2017, respectively. It’s not the first time he’s had walk issues, either; the righty’s 2012 campaign was stained by a 4.57 BB/9 as well. It’s fair to be skeptical about whether he’ll be able to hold ninth-inning leads if he can’t control the free passes. One additional fun fact: batters who are able to work a 3-0 count on Holland have reached base over 84% of the time over the course of his career.


The Royals selected Gregory Scott Holland out of West Carolina University in the 10th round of the 2007 draft. He was utilized as a reliever from the get-go, and made his major league debut with a one-inning appearance in 2010.

It didn’t take him long to make an impact. Holland posted fantastic results out of Kansas City’s bullpen from April 2011 through July 2012, prompting the Royals to make him their closer following a midseason trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Reds. As discussed above, he enjoyed a lengthy run as one of the top relievers in the game up through the 2014 playoffs, during which he led a late-inning trio of Royals relievers (which also included Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera) that proved one of the most formidable of all time.


At the outset of the 2017-2018 offseason, MLBTR ranked Holland as the 10th-best free agent available on our list of the winter’s top 50. He’s now one of just two relievers remaining on that list (#44 Tony Watson is the other), including the honorable mentions. To see him still available in January of an offseason where relievers have flown off the shelves at unexpectedly high prices is somewhat surprising, although his agent Scott Boras has certainly been patient in the past.

There’s no denying that said patience has paid off more than once. One need not look any further than Prince Fielder and Max Scherzer for examples of Boras clients who’ve signed lucrative deals in late January. That being said, Holland seems to be in a very unfavorable position at present. The Cardinals, who were thought to be one of his chief suitors back in November (and our predicted destination for the righty), pivoted to Luke Gregerson; while they are still a potential landing spot for a closer, the team is said to have “at most, tempered” interest in Holland. The Rockies, too, are seemingly no longer a realistic landing spot for him following their signings of Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw and Davis to three-year guarantees. Typically high-spending teams like the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants now sit quite close to the luxury tax threshold and seem determined to remain beneath it for 2018, while the Red Sox are already above that $197MM figure headed into 2018. Given that those organizations already control top-end closers, they aren’t likely to splurge on Holland. The Nationals, too, are already in a position to exceed that ceiling due to complexities in the tax rules; more importantly, in that case, the team likely feels comfortable with its existing late-inning mix.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still practical fits for Holland. The Astros, Cubs, Rangers and Brewers stand out as potential contenders with both a clear need for a reliever and the capacity to add some payroll (indeed, the Astros in particular are said to be looking for a high-leverage arm). But judging by the lack of rumors surrounding Holland over the past month or so, it’s fair to wonder whether he’s engaged in a metaphorical staring contest with one or more teams in relation to the type of contract he’s seeking.

Expected Contract

It’s been reported that Holland began the offseason seeking a five-year deal, which seemed unlikely from the start and is even harder to imagine now. Frankly, it would be quite a shock if Boras was able to find Holland a deal of that length at this point; such a contract would last through his age-37 season and has significant downside considering the health and durability concerns stemming from his 2015 elbow surgery and up-and-down second half in 2017, respectively. At the same time, Holland was able to prove that he’s still a talented strikeout artist, even if he hasn’t bounced back quite to his pre-injury capability in that regard. Considering that even Wade Davis, a superior option, ended up settling for three years, I think Holland’s likely to end up doing the same. A three-year contract with a $39MM guarantee seems like a plausible estimate at this point in the offseason, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up with some performance incentives or a Shaw-esque vesting option for a fourth season.

Padres’ Chairman On Hosmer, Team Direction, Mitchell, Galvis Wed, 17 Jan 2018 04:04:05 +0000 The Padres’ pursuit of Eric Hosmer has been one of the more surprising storylines of the 2017-18 offseason, and executive chairman Ron Fowler directly acknowledged his team’s pursuit of the longtime Royals star in an interview on the Mighty 1090 Morning Show in San Diego (link with full audio of the interview).

“We’ve had a lot of dialogue on it — [GM A.J. Preller, manager Andy Green and assistant GM Josh Stein] obviously lead the discussions as it relates to players,” said Fowler. “They talked to me probably six months or so ago when they looked at who the free agents would be for 2018. They like him. They like his makeup, they like his leadership in the clubhouse, and obviously they like him as an athlete. We met with him, and he’s a very impressive individual.”

The Padres are reported to have made a seven-year offer to Hosmer and agent Scott Boras, and while word of that offer came in earlier this month, Fowler didn’t suggest that there’ve been any changes to what has been proposed. Moreover, he implied that he’s not exactly comfortable stretching the deal much further. Asked about concerns of paying for too much of a player’s decline phase, Fowler indicated that Boras may have a hard time selling him on a lengthier deal.

“I think you’re taking my side of the discussions I’ve had with [Green, Preller and Stein],” Fowler replied. “They feel that this guy is so focused, he has all of the exercise stuff, all of the elements in place to take care of himself like few players have. He would be 28 in the first year, obviously 34 would be his last year if it’s seven, but I can’t really get into it more than that. But I think we were pretty creative in the way we put a contract proposal together. We like it. I don’t know if Mr. Boras likes it, but that’s probably another story.”

The pursuit of Hosmer is just one of the many elements of the Padres’ offseason that some feel have clashed with the team’s rebuilding direction. In addition to putting forth a (presumed) nine-figure offer to Hosmer, San Diego has also traded a fairly well-regarded pitching prospect (right-hander Enyel De Los Santos) for a one-year rental of Freddy Galvis and taken on the final year of Chase Headley’s contract as a means of landing Bryan Mitchell from the Yankees. Fowler confirmed that Headley trade was almost entirely about Mitchell and stressed that the team is still focused on the development of young talent.

“We still are looking for the young guys to get up here that we either picked through the draft or signed internationally,” he explained. “But A.J. looked at who the pitchers were out there, and some of the guys were getting three-year contracts … [H]e felt that Bryan Mitchell, the guy we got from the Yankees, was worth taking the last year of the contract for Chase. We’re happy that Chase will be here — we think he’ll be here — but it was really for Mitchell that we paid that money, it wasn’t for Chase.”

Fowler went on to add that the team’s preference was to add players that will remain under control for several seasons. While Galvis, of course, does not match that description — he’ll be a free agent next winter — Fowler revealed that he hopes the switch-hitting shortstop can be retained beyond 2018.

“I’m hoping Galvis will be here for more than a year, take some pressure off some of the young guys coming up,” he stated. “…We’re feeling very good about that trade and what he might be able to do for us over the next few years.”

Of course, Fernando Tatis Jr. is widely expected to be the Padres’ shortstop of the future, though the vaunted top prospect isn’t yet ready for the Majors after spending most of 2017 in A-ball. If the team were able to retain Galvis beyond the upcoming season, it wouldn’t necessarily indicate a change of plans as pertains to Tatis, however; Galvis could provide some reasonably priced insurance and could potentially see time at other positions. That could further a current “problem” the organization is facing, which Fowler described as having “too many people at second and third right now” before noting that the logjam would likely work itself out.

The Padres have already traded Yangervis Solarte to the Blue Jays, but they still have Carlos Asuaje, Cory Spangenberg and Headley as options that figure to be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day, while Allen Cordoba, Tatis and Luis Urias loom in the minors.

The interview with Fowler covers considerably more topics, ranging from the team’s recent hiring of former Fangraphs managing editor Dave Cameron, to the team’s uniforms and their failed pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. (Fowler reveals that Preller began the team’s presentation to Ohtani by speaking in Japanese for the first five minutes or so and expresses immense pride for the work his team put into that pursuit.) The San Diego chairman also weighs in on the stalled free agent market, suggesting a belief that the luxury tax and a number of players whose asking prices are simply “really beyond their value” have combined to grind free agency to a halt.

Suffice it to say, the 16-minute interview is packed with topics that’ll be of interest not only to Padres fans but to baseball and hot stove fans in general. It’s well worth a full listen.

Mets Rumors: Gonzalez, Infield, Nimmo, Harrison Wed, 17 Jan 2018 03:04:05 +0000 Veteran Adrian Gonzalez will have the inside track to be named the Mets’ primary first baseman in 2018, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. The 35-year-old first baseman (36 in May) reportedly agreed to a deal with the Mets over the weekend, though that agreement is still pending a physical. That shouldn’t be considered a formality, given the back issues that Gonzalez has had in recent years. The Mets still view young Dominic Smith as a piece of the future, per Puma, but the organization is not convinced that he’s ready for the big leagues just yet. While Gonzalez comes with virtually no risk — the Mets will only pay him the league minimum, with Atlanta on the hook for the remainder of his $22.35MM salary — he’s coming off a woeful season in which be batted just .242/.287/.355 with three homers and multiple DL stints due to persistent back injuries.

A few more notes on the Mets…

  • Puma also tweets that the Mets, even after adding Jay Bruce on a three-year, $39MM contract, are focused on infield additions. New York could conceivably upgrade at either third base or second base (with Asdrubal Cabrera playing the other spot), though the team’s preference is to add a second baseman, according to Puma. He also notes that a free-agent signing is likelier than trade. There are a number of veteran options available in free agency both at second base and at third base (links via MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker). Options range from Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes and Neil Walker to Yunel Escobar, Todd Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, with several other veterans that could be had on minor league contracts also available.
  • Prior to being traded to the Giants, Andrew McCutchen was a known target of the Mets in trade talks. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic shines some more light on the matter (subscription required and strongly recommended), reporting that New York wouldn’t part with outfielder Brandon Nimmo for a one-year rental of McCutchen. New York still believes Nimmo will develop into a quality big leaguer, though Rosenthal adds that the team believes he could be part of a package in talks with the Pirates regarding Josh Harrison. The 24-year-old Nimmo, who was selected 13th overall in the 2011 draft, hit .260/.379/.418 with five homers and a pair of steals in 215 plate appearances as a rookie last season. It would seem that if the Mets are to entertain the notion of moving him, they’d prefer multiple years of control over whichever more established asset they acquire in his place.
  • Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears the same as Rosenthal, reporting that the Mets would indeed be willing to include Nimmo in a trade that would pry Harrison away from the Pirates. However, she adds that the Mets would not part with Dominic Smith in order to obtain Harrison, even with Gonzalez in the fold for 2018 and Bruce (who figures to see some time at first base) locked up through 2020. Ackert adds that the Mets were approached about Smith in multiple trade negotiations this winter but weren’t inclined to include him in any of the proposed scenarios. She also notes that Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes are among the team’s potential infield targets in free agency.