- The Astros and Mariners both had interest in left-hander Martin Perez before Perez agreed to join the Twins yesterday. Perez picked Minnesota since he wanted to be a starting pitcher next season, which likely gave the Twins the edge over the Mets, though the other suitors might have had more room in their rotation. The Astros are thin on pitching, though since Houston plans to contend next season, it might have been a taller order to assign a starting spot to a pitcher who struggled as Perez did in 2018. The Mariners have a full rotation plus Justus Sheffield waiting in the wings at Triple-A, though more room could have made for Perez — Felix Hernandez’s health and future as a starting pitcher is questionable, and Mike Leake has been the subject of trade rumors this winter.
The deadline for players and teams to exchange arbitration figures passed at 1pm ET yesterday, meaning over the next few hours, there will be a landslide of settlements on one-year deals to avoid an arbitration hearing. We’ll track today’s minor settlements from the American League in this post. Once all of the day’s settlements have filtered in, I’ll organize them by division to make them a bit easier to parse.
It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of teams have adopted a “file and trial” approach to arbitration, meaning that once arbitration figures are exchanged with a player, negotiations on a one-year deal will cease. The two parties may still discuss a multi-year deal after that point, but the majority of players who exchange figures with their team today will head to an arbitration hearing.
- Yankees 1B Greg Bird will make $1.2 MM next season, per Bob Nightengale on Twitter.
- The controversial Roberto Osuna will make $6.5MM next season, per Feinsand. Teammate Jake Marisnick, who again scuffled in ’18 after a promising 2017, will make $2.2125MM.
- Per Mark Feinsand on Twitter, A’s lefty Sean Manaea $3.15MM in what’s sure to be an injury-marred 2019.
- Hard-throwing reliever Mychal Givens will make $2.15MM, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter), with additional incentives for making the All-Star team or placing in the Top-3 for the Rivera/Hoffman Reliever of the Year Awards, added MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter).
- The Mariners agreed on a $1.95MM deal with outfielder Domingo Santana, per MLB.com’s Greg Johns (via Twitter). Santana is the second and last of the Mariners’ arbitration-eligible players.
- The Angels agreed to contracts with a pair of players yesterday, per Maria Torres of the LA Times (via Twitter). Reliever Hansel Robles signed for $1.4MM. Robles threw 36 1/3 innings of 2.97 ERA baseball after the Angels claimed him off waivers from the Mets in June. Luis Garcia, acquired via trade from the Phillies this winter, signed for $1.675MM.
- The Tigers and reliever Shane Greene settled on $4MM, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter).
- The Yankees reached an agreement with Sonny Gray for $7.5MM, per Nightengale. Gray, of course, has been involved trade rumors most of the winter, but for the time being, he stands to play a role in the Yankee pen while providing insurance for the rotation.
- Didi Gregorius has also come to an agreement with the Yankees on a one-year, $11.75MM deal in his final season before free agency, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links).
- New Yankee James Paxton signed for $8.575, per Nightengale (via Twitter). Paxton is under contract for the 2020 season as well.
- The Houston Astros came to an agreement with Collin McHugh for $5.8MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter). McHugh could be moving back into the rotation after a stellar season in the pen, either way this will be his final season of arb eligibility before hitting the open market.
- Jonathan Villar comes away with $4.825MM for what will be his first full season in Baltimore, per Nightengale (via Twitter).
The Houston Astros submitted their arbitration bids yesterday after signing fellow arb-eligibles Lance McCullers Jr., Will Harris and Brad Peacock to one-year deals. Houston failed to reach agreements with shortstop Carlos Correa, starter Gerrit Cole and swingman Chris Devenski. All three, at least for the time being, will head towards arbitration hearings to determine their 2019 salaries.
Correa is coming off a bit of a down year, while injuries have kept him to no more than 110 games in each of the last two seasons. He filed for a $5MM salary for 2019, while the Astros countered at $4.25MM. MLBTR projected a $4.625MM contract for Correa in this, his first year of arbitration. Both sides are surely hoping for a healthy bounceback campaign from Correa, a core piece of their championship winning club of 2017 who struggled to the tune of .239/.323/.405 last season. Of course, most clubs would be pretty thrilled to get a 101 wRC+ from a 23-year-old shortstop.
Devenski, meanwhile, filed for $1.65MM, with Houston countering at $1.4MM – the same number MLBTR projected for the righty. Devenski has primarily come out of the pen for Houston, pitching to a 2.74 ERA over his three major-league seasons. Last year was the worst campaign of Devenski’s three in the majors, though he was still serviceable in 47 1/3 innings, which included one start (4.18 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 4.01 xFIP). Like Correa, Devenski has two further seasons of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency after 2021.
As reported yesterday, Cole filed at $13.5MM, while the Astros countered at $11.425MM. The rather large difference of $2.075MM is understandable given this will be Cole’s last time through arbitration before hitting free agency. He had a stellar 2018 in his first year with the Astros, 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 12.4 K/9, a rather ridiculous number across 200 1/3 innings. No doubt it was a tremendous season, good for 5.3 rWAR, a far cry better than the 2.3 rWAR he accrued per season in Pittsburgh, which definitely complicates the valuation process for all parties.
There is, of course, still time for Houston to forego arbitration with Correa/Cole/Devenski, though the common “file and trial” practice means teams typically stop negotiating one-year deals at this juncture. It is not uncommon for parties to negotiate long-term deals during this period.
Yesterday’s arbitration deadline wasn’t a firm date for agreeing to terms. Rather, it was the end of the period to negotiate before submitting numbers for possible hearings. Negotiations can continue thereafter, but teams and players will now have to defend their submission numbers if they can’t bridge the gap before a hearing. Baseball arb panels simply pick one side’s number; that aspect of the process is designed to force the parties to the bargaining table.
Here’s what we know thus far about the still-unresolved cases:
- The Yankees have yet to come to a deal with ace starter Luis Severino, and they may be heading to arbitration. The Yanks have submitted their bid at $4.4MM, while Severino has asked for $5.25MM, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter).
- Tommy Pham and the Rays have submitted their numbers for arbitration, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (via Twitter). Pham filed at $4.1MM while the Rays submitted a bid of $3.5MM. Pham has had no problem expressing his honest opinion about the Rays fanbase of late, and it will be interesting to see if he gets an equal portion of honest feedback in return in his arbitration hearing.
- The Oakland A’s and their closer Blake Treinen have both submitted their numbers, with the team coming in at $5.6MM while Treinen files for $6.4MM, per Fancred’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). It’s not a shock to see these sides far apart, given Treinen’s remarkable 2018 and how far above his usual standard of production last season’s numbers fell.
- Washington Nationals filed at $1.725MM for newcomer Kyle Barraclough, who counters at $2MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter). The former Marlin was acquired in an uncommonly early offseason trade that sent international bonus pool money the Marlins’ way.
- The Diamondbacks have only one player they did not reach an agreement with, lefty reliever T.J. McFarland. The Dbacks submitted a bid of $1.275MM, while McFarland is asking for $1.675MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter).
- Alex Wood submitted $9.65MM for his 2019 salary, while his new club the Cincinnati Reds countered at $8.7MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter). Wood will be a free agent at season’s end.
- The Detroit Tigers reached agreements with all of their arbitration eligible players except for right-handed starter Michael Fulmer. Fulmer comes in at $3.4MM with the team countering at $2.8MM, the difference being 600K, per Nightengale (via Twitter).
- Ryan Tepera has filed for $1.8MM while the Blue Jays submitted their bid at $1.525MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter). Tepera has been a reliable bullpen arm for the Jays through his first four seasons. He has two more seasons of arbitration remaining, set to reach free agency in advance of the 2022 season.
- Reserve outfielder Michael A. Taylor and the Washington Nationals are a 250K apart, per Nightengale (via Twitter). Seems like a rather small sum to quibble over in the grand scheme of things, but every cent counts right now in Washington, it seems. Taylor submitted a bid of $3.5MM, with the Nats countering at $3.25MM.
- Rockies star Nolan Arenado is headed for a record arb salary, unsurprisingly. The question is by how much. He has filed at a whopping $30MM, with the club countering at $24MM, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Even the lower figure would represent a record. It doesn’t seem as if the sides will go to a high-stakes hearing on this one; Jeff Passan of ESPN.com tweets that the odds are good they’ll find common ground. MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz projected Arenado to earn $26.1MM, though he also explained that it’s not hard to see that number swaying in either direction based upon a close examination of the (few relevant) comps.
- Despite a monster 2018 season, Phillies righty Aaron Nola isn’t seeking to set a record first-year arb starter salary. (That belongs to Dallas Keuchel, at $7.25MM, when he was coming off of a Cy Young season.) Nola did file at a hefty $6.75MM, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia (via Twitter), while the club entered just $4.5MM. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out. The Keuchel salary represented a sea change for young starters, but few others have tested the process since. MLBTR’s projection system spit out a $6.6MM figure for Nola.
- Righty Gerrit Cole filed at $13.5MM, while the Astros countered at $11.425MM, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred (Twitter link). Teammates Carlos Correa and Chris Devenski have also yet to agree to terms. MLBTR projected Cole to earn $13.1MM in his final arb season, Correa to check in at $5.1MM in his first arb year, and Devenski to take home $1.4MM his first time through the process.
- Indians righty Trevor Bauer is seeking a $13MM payday, while the club will argue instead for $11MM, per Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (via Twitter). The Cleveland org has long utilized a file-and-trial approach on a case-by-case basis. It’s not totally clear whether that’ll be the approach here, but as Hoynes notes, the sides did go to a hearing already last year. (Bauer won.) MLBTR projected a $11.6MM payday; Swartz also explained why he thought the model was likely in the right ballpark for Bauer in a detailed post.
- Passan provides a list of other players who have yet to agree to terms and who could therefore still end up before a panel. There are fifteen in total, including those already noted above as well as Kyle Barraclough and Michael Taylor (Nationals), Michael Fulmer (Tigers), T.J. McFarland (Diamondbacks), Tommy Pham (Rays), Luis Severino (Yankees), Ryan Tepera (Blue Jays), Blake Treinen (Athletics), and Alex Wood (Reds).
The Astros announced Friday that third baseman Alex Bregman underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow earlier today. Bregman is expected to be limited at the start of Spring Training but ready for full duty by Opening Day.
Bregman, 24, made his first All-Star team in 2018 and finished fifth in American League MVP voting after hitting .286/.394/.532 with 31 home runs in 705 plate appearances for the Astros. The former No. 2 overall draft pick walked more often (96 times) than he struck out (85) — a rare and remarkable feat in today’s game.
In the event of an unexpected setback in Bregman’s recovery, the Astros do have Tyler White as an option to fill in at the hot corner. The 28-year-old White has more than 2000 innings of minor league experience at third base, so while he’s appeared in just three games there at the MLB level, the ’Stros would presumably feel comfortable playing him there on a short-term basis. First baseman Yuli Gurriel is no stranger to third base, either.
Still, with Marwin Gonzalez hitting free agency and the recent trade of J.D. Davis to the Mets, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Astros add a veteran capable of playing third base on a minor league contract in the coming weeks, just to create a bit of additional depth at the position.
Now that Yasmani Grandal has agreed to terms with the Brewers, the Marlins are ramping up trade talks surrounding J.T. Realmuto and are in “substantive discussions” with six teams, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Frisaro pegs the Dodgers, Braves, Astros, Rays, Padres and Reds as the six teams still in the mix for Realmuto. Frisaro further tweets that the Dodgers “may be [the] most motivated” to land Realmuto of the six current suitors.
As one would expect, the report indicates that Miami’s asking price remains extremely high — at least one elite prospect and, in some cases, a big league catcher with some MLB experience already under his belt. For the six clubs in question, the Dodgers (Austin Barnes), Astros (Max Stassi), Padres (Austin Hedges) and Rays (Michael Perez) would best fit that billing. The Reds, too, have Tucker Barnhart as a catcher with MLB experience, though he’s signed through 2021 (plus a 2022 option) as part of a $16MM extension. He’s previously been rumored as a potential piece in talks with the Marlins, but while his salary isn’t exactly prohibitive, it’d be more logical to see Miami pursue younger, pre-arbitration options who are not yet eligible for arbitration. None of the aforementioned catchers, of course, would be a centerpiece to the deal but could give the Marlins a near-term replacement while they hope for higher-end talent to emerge from their system.
When and whether anything more significant comes to fruition remains to be seen, but the timing of the report certainly makes sense. Now that Grandal is no longer an option for teams around the league who are in the market for a catcher, the Marlins can legitimately pitch Realmuto as the primary difference-maker available. As shown in MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker, light-hitting defensive specialist Martin Maldonado is the top remaining free agent. Pirates backstop Francisco Cervelli is an option on the trade market, but he’s earning north of $11MM next season, would be a one-year rental and has some concerning recent issues with concussions.
All six of the rumored suitors have deep farm systems that also feature high-end talent, with each of the bunch possessing multiple prospects currently ranked among the game’s 50 best minor leaguers (per both MLB.com and Fangraphs). However, teams throughout the league are increasingly reluctant to part with top-tier minor league talent — particularly when the prospective trade partner is also seeking a controllable MLB-level asset in return, as the Marlins appear to be doing in Realmuto discussions.
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow spoke to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links) and other reporters about today’s five-player trade with the Mets, noting that New York “was aggressive” in asking about J.D. Davis. The Astros weren’t originally thinking of moving Davis, but Luhnow explained that “there was enough of a market for him that we decided to go ahead and explore it because there’s no obvious spot for him on our 25-man roster next year, at this point.” The Mets’ inclusion of catching prospect Scott Manea as part of the return going back to Houston “was a big part of it for us,” Luhnow said, due to the Astros’ lack of catching depth. In terms of future moves, Luhnow also said that the Astros are still considering the starting pitching and bullpen markets.
The Mets and Astros have swung a five-player trade centering on corner infielder/outfielder J.D. Davis, according to both teams. New York has acquired Davis and minor league infielder Cody Bohanek in exchange for three minor leaguers – second baseman Luis Santana, outfielder Ross Adolph and catcher Scott Manea.
A third-round pick of the Astros in 2014, Davis ranked among the team’s top-15 prospects at Baseball America through the 2017 campaign. Davis has shown plenty of promise by raking in the minors, particularly at the Triple-A level, where he debuted in 2017 and has slashed .335/.400/.589 with 22 home runs in 450 plate appearances. He has also picked up experience at all four corner positions at Triple-A, though most of his professional work has come at third base.
While Davis held his own in Houston’s system, he wasn’t much of a factor in the majors for the club. The right-handed batter performed decently across 68 PAs in 2017, the year the Astros won the World Series, but was ineffective across 113 trips last season. Thus far, Davis is just a .194/.260/.321 hitter with five homers in 181 major league PAs. Thanks in part to Davis’ big league struggles, not to mention the Astros’ collection of talent at the corners, they deemed him expendable.
In New York, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Davis will provide depth behind third baseman Todd Frazier, whichever first baseman the Mets choose (be it Peter Alonso, Dominic Smith or Jeff McNeil) and corner outfielders Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto. With two minor league options remaining, the Mets won’t be under pressure to place Davis on their Opening Day roster. Bohanek, meanwhile, will surely start in the Mets’ minor league system, as the 23-year-old has totaled just 43 PAs above the High-A level since the Astros chose him in the 30th round of the 2017 draft.
Of the players going to Houston, only Santana, 19, ranked among New York’s top 30 prospects at MLB.com. The 5-foot-8 Santana placed 24th, with the outlet lauding his “very advanced approach at the plate” and his makeup. Santana was dominant last season in rookie ball, where he hit .348/.446/.471 with more walks (27) than strikeouts (23) over 242 PAs. He’s a “shrewd” addition for the Astros, Keith Law of ESPN observes.
Adolph, 22, joined the Mets in the 12th round of last summer’s draft. He then proceeded to slash .276/.348/.509 with seven homers and 14 steals in 264 PAs at the Low-A level. The 23-year-old Manea had been with the Mets since they grabbed him in the 40th round of the 2014 draft. He hasn’t yet gotten past Single-A, though Astros president Jeff Luhnow said Sunday (via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle) that the team believes Manea “can move pretty quickly and has a chance to be a big league catcher.”
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports first reported the Mets were close to acquiring Davis. Andy Martino of SNY tweeted the Mets would get Davis and that the Astros would receive minor leaguers in the swap. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Southpaw Dallas Keuchel stands as the most decorated starter remaining on the open market, but if the Astros had their way, he wouldn’t be available. The Astros offered Keuchel a five-year, $90MM extension early in the 2016 campaign, but he turned it down, according to Rosenthal. At that point, Keuchel was a 28-year-old coming off an AL Cy Young-winning season. Now 31, Keuchel hasn’t been quite as effective since his career-best campaign, though he remains an above-average starter and should rake in a high-paying multiyear deal before the offseason is out. Having made $22.35MM in salaries since he rejected the Astros’ offer, Keuchel will need to sign for $67.65MM as a free agent in order to match what Houston offered him, Rosenthal notes.
- Though the Astros have been linked to several first base/designated hitter types this winter, The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan (subscription required) notes that the team could be in good shape as it stands by having Tyler White get a regular share of DH at-bats. White posted a .276/.354/.533 slash line over 237 PA last season, and he could join with the Astros’ left-handed outfielders (Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, or Tony Kemp) in a timeshare at DH to keep everyone fresh. However, Kaplan also feels Houston will need to move an outfielder before Opening Day to alleviate a playing time crunch, which means that Kemp, Jake Marisnick, or possibly top prospect Kyle Tucker could all be trade candidates. There were also some rumblings about Josh Reddick on the trade market last month, so it could be that Brantley and George Springer are the only two untouchable outfielders on Houston’s roster. Kaplan’s mailbag piece is well worth a full read, as it covers several other topics about the Astros’ offseason and potential long-term moves for the club.