- The Dodgers are still in “active dialogue” with Yu Darvish, GM Farhan Zaidi told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other reporters. Andrew Friedman said yesterday that the team was more focused on relievers than starters due to the number of depth rotation options already in the organization, though with Darvish’s market yet to fully develop, it only makes sense that L.A. would continue to check in with the ace righty. In regards to the Dodgers’ bullpen search, Zaidi noted that the team is looking for value additions rather than at the top of the market.
- It is “fair to say” that the Dodgers’ 2018 payroll will be lower than $237MM, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick and other media. Exceeding that figure would balloon the team’s luxury tax rate to 95 percent and drop their position in the June amateur draft back by 10 spots. Counting arbitration projections and money owed to players no longer on the roster, the Dodgers’ payroll stands at over $208MM for next season, so they do have some room to make upgrades though it seems unlikely that they’d take on any major salary commitments without first unloading some of their existing big contracts.
- Also from Friedman, the Dodgers are prioritizing bullpen additions. Starting pitching doesn’t seem to be a need, as Friedman likes their current rotation depth and wants to give younger pitchers “a soft landing spot in the big leagues to go through their acclimation process. We have a talented enough group to ride that out a little bit.” As Gurnick notes, this makes it seem unlikely that L.A. would re-sign Yu Darvish. Of course, the Dodgers did make a push for one very notable starter in Shohei Ohtani, though that was a unique circumstance due to Ohtani’s minimal costs.
- The Dodgers have agreed to sign Colombian right-hander Guillermo Zuniga to a deal with a $205K bonus, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (Twitter link). Zuniga was one of the 12 former Braves prospects who were declared free agents in the wake of MLB’s investigation into signing improprieties within Atlanta’s front office. Each of the other 29 teams received an extra $200K in international bonus pool funds to sign any of these players, so the Dodgers only slightly dipped into their pre-existing pool money for Zuniga. The Braves originally signed Zuniga, 19, to a $350K bonus.
The Yankees shook the baseball world early Saturday when they agreed to acquire 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. As you’d expect, the deal has elicited no shortage of media reactions, many of which we’ve rounded up here:
- While the Los Angeles-born Stanton would have preferred to go to the Dodgers, they didn’t make an offer that “intrigued” the Marlins, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. Sending Stanton to the Dodgers would have required the Marlins to take on more bad contracts than they were “comfortable with,” according to Sherman, who reports that LA wanted Miami to accept one or both of Adrian Gonzalez or Scott Kazmir and absorb $30MM of Stanton’s contract. The Marlins found acquiring Starlin Castro from the Yankees much more appealing, as he’s someone they could slot in at second base or flip elsewhere.
- The Dodgers’ wariness toward a more aggressive Stanton pursuit stemmed from the back-loaded nature of his 10-year, $295MM commitment, per Buster Olney of ESPN (subscription required and recommended). If he doesn’t opt out of his contract after 2020, Stanton will rake in $96MM over the final three years of his pact, when he’ll be in his late 30s. The Yankees will be able to slot him in at designated hitter then if his work in the field sharply declines with age, whereas the Dodgers would have had to continue running him out as a defender.
- Adding Stanton gives the Yankees as many as six major league-caliber outfielders, thereby making Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier potential trade candidates. The Yankees will work to rid themselves of Ellsbury, even if it means eating “a lot” of the $68.3MM left on his contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Ellsbury was reportedly uninterested in leaving the Yankees as of earlier this week, but that was before the acquisition of Stanton relegated him to the role of a fifth outfielder. While Ellsbury, who has a full no-trade clause, would be a salary dump, the 23-year-old Frazier would likely bring back a quality return – perhaps a starter, King suggests. Additionally, the Yankees “would certainly listen on offers” for third baseman Chase Headley, per King. Headley is entering the last year of his contract, in which he’ll make $13MM.
- With new Marlins owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman on a mission to continue paring down payroll to the $90MM range, Castro looks like their most obvious trade chip, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. By parting with Castro – who has two years and $22MM left on his pact – and not taking back another guaranteed contract, Miami would still be about $15MM above its spending goal, Jackson notes. Further payroll slashing could come from deals involving some combination of Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Martin Prado, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa. Moving Castro, Ozuna, Ziegler and Tazawa would likely obviate any need to trade Yelich, Jackson suggests.
- Prior to the Yankees’ Stanton acquisition, they looked poised to go after Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper in free agency a year from now. That may be out the window now, leading Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post to posit that the trade probably helps the Nationals to some degree because it appears to erase a would-be Harper suitor. However, several other teams will make big offers to Harper, Janes points out, so retaining him on what should be a record contract still figures to be a tall order for the Nats.
- Harper is among the losers in this trade, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic opines (subscription required and recommended). Unsurprisingly, Harper’s agent, the always colorful Scott Boras, disagrees. “A Bronx opera . . . The Three Tenors . . . Hal’s genius, vision,” Boras told Rosenthal via email, referencing Harper, Stanton, Aaron Judge and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner. Boras added that the Harper-Stanton-Judge trio would be “a galaxy of international popularity” on the same team. While Boras clearly isn’t ruling out a Yankees-Harper union, Rosenthal sees Manny Machado as a more likely target for the club in free agency next year.
- The fact that Stanton is set to join a Yankees team that was just one win from securing a World Series trip last season is a major blow to parity in the AL, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs argues. Cameron classifies the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox and Indians as potential “super teams” heading into next season, and the Angels could be on their way to the playoffs after winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. As impressive as those clubs look, there’s now less incentive for others to play for the last wild-card spot, Cameron contends, which could lead certain fringe teams to rebuild.
After seven years of stardom in Japan, Darvish came to North American baseball with great fanfare in the 2011-12 offseason, and he has since lived up to the hype. In 832 1/3 Major League innings, Darvish has a 3.42 ERA, 11.04 K/9, 3.33 K/BB rate, and 19 fWAR, firmly establishing himself as a front-of-the-rotation arm.
Tommy John surgery sidelined Darvish for all of 2015 and limited him to 100 1/3 innings in 2016, though he looked healthy in a full season of work last year plus an extended postseason run with the Dodgers. Darvish tossed a combined 201 1/3 innings between the regular season and playoffs, the second-highest total of his MLB career. Beyond just the workload, Darvish also set a new career best by averaging 94.2 mph on his fastball.
It’s worth noting that Darvish’s numbers with the Rangers prior to his deadline trade to L.A. were somewhat below his usual standard, thanks in part to a career-high 1.3 HR/9. While those home run issues continued after Darvish went from Texas to Los Angeles, he took quite well to pitching in the NL, posting better strikeout and walk rates as a Dodger than he did in 137 IP with the Rangers before the deal. His cumulative 10.08 K/9 for the season was the lowest of his career, though Darvish balanced that minor dip in punchouts with a 2.8 BB/9, continuing his trend of exhibiting better control throughout his big league career.
Since Darvish was dealt during the season, he wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer, and thus a team doesn’t have to give up any draft picks or international bonus money in order to sign him. This gives Darvish a slight edge over his top competition in free agency, as Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb all have QO compensation attached to their services.
Beyond the obvious red flag of the Tommy John surgery, Darvish has made five other trips to the disabled list during his MLB career, ranging from minor neck and back stiffness to rather lengthier DL stints for elbow and shoulder issues. Though Darvish just turned 31 last August, he has 2127 2/3 regular-season innings on his arm between both Japan and North America, not to mention extensive postseason work. While he hasn’t really exhibited any signs of slowing down, it’s easy to see how a team could be worried about committing nine figures to Darvish into his mid-30’s.
The spike in home runs allowed isn’t completely out of the blue (Darvish had a 14.4% homer rate in 2013), and clearly he was far from the only pitcher who ran into trouble with the long ball during a record-setting season for homers. Darvish’s 33.1% hard-hit ball rate was also a career-high, however, and his curveball was a below-average pitch in 2017 after previously being one of the most devastating weapons in his seven-pitch arsenal.
No discussion of Darvish is complete with mentioning his awful World Series performance, though that could just be chalked up to the Astros having his number. Darvish was very effective in his two starts earlier in the playoffs, and given the small-sample size factor of all postseason numbers, it’s hard to imagine any team wouldn’t be eager to give Darvish the ball this October.
Darvish has been dealing with the media spotlight since he was a teenager, rising from a highly-touted high school prospect into instant stardom with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. His move to Major League Baseball drew intense interest from several teams, with the Rangers making the high bid (under the old posting system) of $51.7MM just for the rights to talk terms with Darvish, eventually signing him to a six-year, $56MM deal.
While Darvish has drawn significant interest from at least six teams, there haven’t been too many rumblings about Darvish or other top free agent hurlers given that the Shohei Ohtani chase has so dominated the offseason pitching market. Now that Ohtani has agreed to join the Angels, you can expect a least a few of the finalists in the Ohtani sweepstakes to turn their attention to Darvish, even though the veteran pitcher comes at a vastly higher price. Interest should be robust.
The Cubs have already made one notable rotation signing in Tyler Chatwood, though adding Darvish would further bolster an already-strong rotation. The Dodgers are also deep in pitching options, though they could explore a reunion with Darvish to guard against further rotation injuries. A return to the Rangers doesn’t seem very likely, while San Diego, San Francisco or Seattle are also longer shots based on costs, though the Mariners seem to be taking such an aggressive approach to this offseason that they can’t be totally ruled out.
Let’s not overlook the Angels themselves as possible candidates, as there has been some light speculation that Darvish and Ohtani could aim to be on the same team; the two are friends and Darvish is one of Ohtani’s idols. Anaheim has some payroll room even after extending Justin Upton, and with Darvish added to the promising but injury-riddled rotation, the Halos could even look to trade one of their excess starters in their attempts to add second base help.
The Twins and Cardinals have been linked to Darvish this winter, though St. Louis has already made one notable rotation addition and could be more focused on adding a big bat. Minnesota is something of a surprise suitor for Darvish on paper, though the club has enough open payroll space in future seasons that signing Darvish is actually feasible. (The Brewers are also a possible fit for the same reason.) The Orioles and Phillies badly need arms but the former won’t meet Darvish’s price and the Phillies may be a year away from augmenting their rebuild with big-ticket free agents. The Astros may prefer to earmark future money on extending their core players, though they make some sense for Darvish if they wanted to safeguard their rotation against Dallas Keuchel possibly leaving for free agency after 2018.
MLBTR projected Darvish to land a six-year, $160MM contract this winter, which would work out to the fifth-highest average annual value given to any pitcher in baseball history. It’s a big investment given Darvish’s age and the miles already on his arm, though it also looks to be market value for such an ace-level hurler that reaches free agency.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
The market for Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton has been stagnant for a few days now. That could change at any moment, if Stanton green-lights one of the deal structures currently in place. And we’ve heard there’s some anticipation of some kind of resolution by the end of the week. But the longer things drag out, the more time and space there is for the existing top suitors to waver — and, perhaps, for others to enter the picture more clearly. It’s still not evident how this will all turn out, but there are some hints that the situation is not necessarily nearing resolution:
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic offers an updated look at the market in a subscription piece, with some interesting tweaks on what has become the status quo. It’s well worth a full read. There seems to be a split of opinion among Rosenthal’s sources as to just where things stand with regard to the Giants and Cardinals, with some saying Stanton is disinclined to approve a trade to either organization and others insisting his “thinking is fluid.” Regardless, those two clubs likely won’t linger around waiting forever, particularly if they come to believe they aren’t going to be able to convince the star to approve a deal. Should that come to pass, says Rosenthal, the Fish will be in a tough spot. If there’s a way out (beyond hoping Stanton says yes to one of the existing suitors), it may come from engaging both the Dodgers and — yes — the Yankees, each of whom Rosenthal says are still “on the periphery.” And Rosenthal adds that Stanton is open to a move to the Bronx. Of course, both of those mega-market clubs are in the process of reining in long-burdened balance sheets; Rosenthal writes that Miami would need to hang onto some significant cash (or take on pricey veterans in return) to get something done and perhaps entice real prospect value.
- Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio hears similarly to Rosenthal regarding the Los Angeles and New York organizations (via Twitter). And his colleague Craig Mish even suggests (links to Twitter) that Stanton has now given the Marlins more clarity than had previously been known, with a list of four teams to which he’d approve a deal. The Astros and Cubs — neither of whom have been linked substantially to Stanton — are said to be on this list along with the Dodgers and Yankees. While the Giants and Cardinals are not on this “preferred list,” as Mish terms it, Stanton was at least willing to hear their pitches. Ultimately, this leaves it unknown whether Stanton has been swayed in his initial thinking and does not really conflict with prior reporting that has indicated Stanton would maintain an open mind entering the process.
- Jon Heyman of Fan Rag painted at least a somewhat different picture earlier today, writing that the Dodgers are a “long shot” for Stanton if a move is to happen in the near future, as their limited engagement to date would leave them with quite a bit of work to do to sort out an agreement. With some indication that Stanton could make some kind of decision on interest from the Giants and Cardinals by the end of the week, it does not seem as if the Dodgers are likely to swoop in — but, perhaps, could still enter the picture if Stanton declines to go to San Francisco or St. Louis. It’s worth noting, too, that Heyman recently broached the topic of the Yankees’ ongoing interest in Stanton.
- Speaking of the Giants’ interest in Stanton, Heyman writes that chief executive officer Larry Baer was among those to meet with the reigning MLB home run king. The CEO was previously reported to have met with Ohtani, too, so he’s clearly getting involved personally in these highly significant decisions for the organization. Baer “loves” the reigning NL MVP, according to Heyman, who adds that a free-agent pursuit of J.D. Martinez is viewed as the Giants’ primary alternative to Stanton.
4:05pm: John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke to Evans about the Giants’ recent meeting with Stanton. The GM states to Shea that Stanton “had a good feel for what he wanted to hear from us” and acknowledged that AT&T Park is one of his favorite places to play. Stanton was complimentary of the Giants’ fans and the way in which they support the team.
Though the process has dragged on for quite some time now, Evans reminds of the human side of what is a life-altering decision for Stanton: “There’s a lot of personal factors people don’t know about. We don’t necessarily know those personal factors as well.” Evans also, once again, confirmed that the two sides did reach an agreement, with contingencies, one of which (of course) is Stanton waiving his no-trade clause.
2:44pm: The Giants anticipate that Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton will decide whether to waive his no-trade clause by the end of the week, according to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area (via Twitter), who does also note that the timeline is hardly set in stone.
Pavlovic also notes that San Francisco views the Dodgers as a bigger “threat” to land Stanton, not the Cardinals — the other team that has been most involved in trade talks to this point. Along those same lines, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that the Dodgers and Marlins were in contact as recently as Tuesday, though their Stanton discussions are still not advanced.
Giants GM Bobby Evans also acknowledged earlier today that the organization had a sit-down with Stanton, in an interview with KNBR (via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Twitter). He also said that the team did put the terms of a deal in place with Miami in advance. Evans’ surprisingly candid comments run counter to yesterday’s comments from Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, who said in an appearance on WINZ-AM radio (link via the Associated Press) that his team is still “gathering information” and that “anything up to this point has been speculation.”
Whether or not a deal will come together in that time frame remains to be seen, of course. It’s conceivable that Stanton could simply decide he is not interested in waiving his no-trade clause at this point. But the report does hint that we could see resolution on the situation before the Winter Meetings, potentially freeing up other market movement — including the Marlins’ potential efforts to market other players and subsequent pivots to other targets for the Giants and Cardinals.
As young Japanese star Shohei Ohtani moves toward a decision on where he’ll sign, it seems he will sit down in person with representatives from each of the seven MLB organizations that have been selected to continue on in his unique posting/signing process. Those seven teams are the Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Padres, Mariners, Rangers, and Cubs. Ohtani will have to make his selection no later than December 22nd under the new posting rules established between Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball.
Those that wish to learn more about the exciting two-way performer may want to visit some of these prior posts:
We’ll track the latest updates on meetings in this post:
- The Padres met with Ohtani on Tuesday night, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. While that stage of the process is completed, the remaining steps and timeline are not yet known.
- Ohtani also held court with the Angels on Monday night, Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group reports, meaning that he held at least three meetings on each of the past two days.
- The Mariners had their meeting with Ohtani this morning (Tuesday the 5th), Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Their delegation has yet to be identified. Likewise, the Cubs had a slot today, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link), with no other details known of their presentation.
- Ohtani and his representatives also met with the Dodgers on Monday the 4th, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). Rosenthal notes that Ohtani’s camp is moving through the courtship process quickly and will have some days on which he meets with two prospective suitors in the same day.
- Officials from the Rangers went to L.A. for their turn to pitch Ohtani, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, with the meeting taking place on Tuesday evening. Texas has long coveted Ohtani, like many clubs, and sent GM Jon Daniels to Japan earlier this year as part of an early play to draw his interest. As Wilson notes, the organization has $3.53MM available in pool space for a bonus; while that may not be a very telling factor, it’s the most that any of the seven teams will be able to promise Ohtani.
- The Giants are the first known team to have met with Ohtani, and perhaps also the first actually to do so. According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the San Francisco organization sent representatives to meet with Ohtani and his representatives today (December 4). All of the team’s top brass was on hand, with CEO Larry Baer heading to Los Angeles along with president of baseball operations Brian Sabean, GM Bobby Evans, and skipper Bruce Bochy. And the Giants had at least one top player attend, with superstar catcher Buster Posey joining the delegation. Pavlovic has more details on the team’s longstanding interest in Ohtani and its plans for him in the event he signs there. While the team can’t offer DH at-bats, Bochy has indicated that Ohtani would stand to see time in the corner outfield. (You can find Pavlovic’s full article on that subject here.)
Shohei Ohtani has already narrowed his list of potential landing spots to seven team, according to multiple reporters (with Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM the first to tweet the final seven). Only the Dodgers, Giants, Angels, Padres, Mariners, Rangers and Cubs will receive meetings with Ohtani. While Ohtani has three weeks to negotiate with teams, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Ohtani could make a decision well before that point, noting that he could be introduced by his new club at next week’s Winter Meetings.
Of the remaining teams in the fold, the Rangers still have the most money to offer Ohtani, at $3.535MM, though his signing bonus seems increasingly to be a secondary consideration in where he ultimately signs, especially after last week’s reports that Ohtani could top $20MM in annual earnings in marketing endorsements. Certainly, his list of finalists reflects a preference for West Coast teams and a proximity to Japan, though the presence of the Rangers and Cubs indicates that he’s not quite locked into that mindset just yet.
11:40pm: The Angels are indeed one of the finalists, as per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).
10:39pm: The Angels are thought by “multiple sources” to be one of the finalists, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The Tigers are out of the running, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.
8:59pm: The Rangers and Cubs will both meet with Ohtani, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link), and they’re also the only two non-West Coast teams who appear to still be alive in the candidate process. The Rangers, Grant notes, have yet to comment on their status one way or the other.
7:22pm: The Nationals won’t be receiving a meeting, the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (Twitter link).
6:58pm: The Braves are out, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter).
6:50pm: The Padres will receive a meeting with Ohtani, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). The Dodgers are also thought to still be active in the Ohtani sweepstakes though Heyman doesn’t have confirmation; regardless, the Dodgers aren’t thought to be favorites to land Ohtani.
6:15pm: The Diamondbacks won’t receive a meeting, Ken Rosenthal tweets.
6:12pm: The Blue Jays, Pirates, and Brewers are all out, as respectively reported by Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi, MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt (all Twitter links).
5:48pm: The Mets are also out, as per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
5:38pm: Ohtani’s list is “heavy” on West Coast teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, though the Cubs may still be involved. Not every west-based team is included, however, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the A’s aren’t involved.
5:28pm: The Red Sox are also out of the running, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The Twins also won’t be getting a meeting with Ohtani, Heyman tweets.
5:16pm: The Giants and Mariners are among the teams that will receive meetings with Shohei Ohtani and his representatives next week, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). It isn’t known who the other finalists are in the Ohtani sweepstakes, though the Yankees are one of the teams that didn’t make the cut, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty and MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch).
According to Cashman, Ohtani seems to be leaning towards West Coast teams in smaller markets. This ties to a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman saying that Ohtani’s reps are informing teams that the two-way star would prefer to play in a smaller market.
The news adds another fascinating layer to the Ohtani sweepstakes, which was already one of the more intriguing free agent pursuits in recent memory. Given the seeming lack of immediate financial motive that inspired Ohtani’s move to Major League Baseball, it opened the door for every team in baseball (regardless of market or payroll size) to make a push for the 23-year-old. There had been speculation that Ohtani might look to avoid playing in a larger market, so this apparent confirmation creates a realistic possibility that he will land with a team that wouldn’t normally be considered a favorite to land such a coveted free agent.
Of course, San Francisco isn’t exactly a small market, though Ohtani wouldn’t necessarily be the center of attention on a club with such established stars as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner (and maybe even Giancarlo Stanton in the near future). Playing for an NL team, however, would force Ohtani into a pinch-hitting or even a part-time outfield role for the at-bats he seeks in his attempt to be a two-way player in the big leagues. The Mariners do have such a DH spot available (in a timeshare with Nelson Cruz), and were considered to be a contender for Ohtani given their long history of Japanese players.
The Yankees also have had several significant Japanese players on their past and current rosters, and were widely seen as one of the major favorites for Ohtani’s services from a financial (in terms of available international bonus money) and positional (openings at DH and in the rotation) standpoint, not to mention their international fame and their young core of talent ready to make a World Series push. With Ohtani now out of the picture, the Yankees could move to signing more pitching depth — a reunion with C.C. Sabathia has been widely speculated as a possibility — or a veteran bat to serve as designated hitter, if the club doesn’t just rotate its DH days to find plate appearances for everyone on the current roster.