- Anibal Sanchez and Julio Teheran will be throwing in front of scouts during a showcase today, and several teams will have personnel on hand. The list of confirmed attendees includes the Rays (as per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times), Twins (SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson), Marlins (MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola), and Mets (the New York Post’s Mike Puma).
The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is today at 1pm ET. As of this morning, there were 125 arbitration-eligible players who’d yet to agree to terms on their contract for the upcoming 2021 season. Arbitration is muddier than ever before thanks to the shortened 2020 schedule, which most believe will lead to record number of arb hearings this winter. Be that as it may, it’s still reasonable to expect dozens of contractual agreements to filter in over the next couple of hours.
We’ll highlight some of the more high-profile cases in separate posts with more in-depth breakdowns, but the majority of today’s dealings will be smaller-scale increases that don’t radically alter a team’s payroll or a player’s trade candidacy. As such, we’ll just run through most of today’s agreements in this post.
I’ve embedded MLBTR’s 2021 Arbitration Tracker in the post (those in the mobile app or viewing on mobile web will want to turn their phones sideways). Our tracker can be sorted by team, by service time and/or by Super Two status, allowing users to check the status on whichever groups of players they like. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s projected arbitration salaries for this year’s class, and we’ll do a quick sentence on each player’s agreement at the bottom of this post as well, with the most recent agreements sitting atop the list.
Today’s Agreements (chronologically, newest to oldest)
- Rockies outfielder Raimel Tapia avoided arbitration with a $1.95MM deal, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. The team also reached an agreement for $805K with reliever Robert Stephenson, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The Tigers have deals with infielder Jeimer Candelario ($2.85MM), outfielder JaCoby Jones ($2.65MM) and righty Jose Cisnero ($970K), Chris McCosky of the Detroit News relays.
- The Yankees and reliever Chad Green settled for $2.15MM, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports.
- The Marlins and lefty Richard Bleier have a deal for $1.425MM, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets.
- The Dodgers reached a $3.6MM settlement with lefty Julio Urias, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The Angels announced a deal with righty Dylan Bundy for $8.325MM.
- The Tigers and southpaw Matthew Boyd have settled for $6.5MM, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets.
- The Yankees have deals with catcher Gary Sanchez ($6.35MM), first baseman Luke Voit ($4.7MM), third baseman Gio Urshela ($4.65MM), shortstop Gleyber Torres ($4MM) and outfielder Clint Frazier ($2.1MM), per Jon Heyman of MLB Network and Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
- The Rays and outfielder Manuel Margot avoided arbitration with a $3.4MM agreement, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
- The Padres and outfielder Tommy Pham have a deal for $8.9MM, according to Robert Murray of FanSided. Reliever Dan Altavilla settled for $850K, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com tweets.
- The Angels and righty Felix Pena have come to terms for $1.1MM, Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers have reached a $4.575MM agreement, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
- The Mets and outfielder Brandon Nimmo have come to a $4.7MM agreement, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com tweets.
- The Reds and righty Luis Castillo have settled for $4.2MM, Robert Murray of FanSided relays.
- The Rays reached a $2.25MM agreement with infielder Joey Wendle and a $1.175MM settlement with righty Yonny Chirinos, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
- The Cardinals and flamethrowing reliever Jordan Hicks have an agreement for $862,500, according to Heyman.
- The White Sox and ace Lucas Giolito avoided arbitration with a $4.15MM agreement, James Fegan of The Athletic reports.
- The Pirates and righty Joe Musgrove have reached an agreement for $4.45MM, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. They also made deals with second/baseman outfielder Adam Frazier ($4.3MM), third baseman Colin Moran ($2.8MM) righty Chad Kuhl ($2.13MM) and lefty Steven Brault ($2.05MM), per reports from Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Adam Berry of MLB.com.
- Hard-throwing right-hander Reyes Moronta agreed to a $695K deal with the Giants after missing the 2020 season due to shoulder surgery, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided.
- The Tigers agreed to a $2.1MM deal with infielder Niko Goodrum, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided. They also inked lefty Daniel Norris for a $3.475MM salary, tweets Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Pirates agreed to a $1.3MM deal with catcher Jacob Stallings and a $1.1MM deal with righty Chris Stratton, per Robert Murray of Fansided (Twitter links).
- Athletics right-hander Lou Trivino agreed to a $912,500 salary for the 2021 season, tweets Robert Murray of Fansided.
- Right-hander Richard Rodriguez and the Pirates agreed to a $1.7MM deal, tweets Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Catcher Jorge Alfaro and the Marlins agreed to a $2.05MM deal, tweets Craig Mish of SportsGrid.
- The Reds agreed to a $2.2MM deal with right-hander Tyler Mahle, tweets Fansided’s Robert Murray. Cincinnati also signed lefty Amir Garrett for $1.5MM, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
- The Indians agreed to a $2.4MM deal with newly acquired shortstop Amed Rosario and a $975K deal with righty Phil Maton, tweets Zack Meisel of The Athletic.
- The Tigers and righty Buck Farmer settled at $1.85MM, tweets Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Marlins agreed to a $1.9MM deal with right-handed reliever Yimi Garcia, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Jan. 14: ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that Kluber’s market could come together rather quickly with one throwing session for teams in the books. He’s not expected to require a second showcase to further demonstrate his health.
Jan. 13: Free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber held a showcase for interested teams today, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that relievers Anthony Swarzak and Steve Cishek both threw for teams as well. (All three are clients of Jet Sports Management, so it’s natural that they’d host the workout together.) As many as 25 teams were present, per The Atheltic’s Britt Ghiroli (Twitter link).
ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes that Kluber’s velocity topped out at 90 mph, though given where he is in the rehab process from last year’s injuries, it wasn’t expected that he’d be up to peak velocity just yet. Eric Cressey, whose strength and conditioning facility hosted the showcase, told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers yesterday that Kluber was at 87-89 mph in the prior session. Cressey suggested that Kluber is already ahead of many pitchers who’ve not yet ramped up their throwing to this point. Kluber averaged 92 mph on his heater back during his excellent 2018 campaign.
The full list of teams in attendance isn’t known, although given that this was an open look at a two-time Cy Young winner and a pair of relievers with considerable late-inning MLB experience, it’d be more notable to learn which few teams weren’t in attendance than to know which clubs were. Still, it’s at least worth noting that each of the Mets, Yankees, Nationals, Red Sox, Rays, Twins, Cubs, Rangers, Marlins, Tigers, Pirates, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Indians were all reported to be attending the showcase. Obviously, it’s not an all-encompassing list.
Broadly speaking, if Kluber is indeed at a point in his rehab that inspires confidence, one would imagine the market for him will be robust. The extent to which clubs are willing to bet on a guaranteed contract on the two-time Cy Young winner will vary, but he should easily command a big league deal with plenty of incentives on top of whatever base the highest bidder will commit.
Kluber may be something of a lottery ticket at this point, but few gambles come with such pronounced upside. From 2014-18, the right-hander was one of the game’s premier pitchers, working to a combined 2.85 ERA while striking out 28.5 percent of the hitters he faced against just a 5.2 percent walk rate. Only three of the 179 qualified starting pitchers in that time period — Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer — topped Kluber’s 23.3 K-BB%.
Since that time, however, he’s been limited to 36 2/3 innings by a fractured forearm (sustained when he was hit by a line drive), an oblique strain and a teres major strain. Traded from Cleveland to Texas last winter, Kluber pitched just one inning for the Rangers in 2020.
While most of the focus is understandably on Kluber, the presence of Swarzak and Cishek is certainly notable as well. Both righties are looking for rebounds of their own. Swarzak signed with the Phillies last winter but was released at the end of summer camp and didn’t sign with another club. A two-year, $14MM deal he signed with the Mets prior to the 2018 season proved regrettable, as shoulder issues torpedoed both of those seasons. However, back in 2017 Swarzak tossed 77 1/3 frames with a 2.33 ERA with 91 punchouts against just 22 walks.
Cishek, meanwhile, rattled off four straight seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA from 2016-19, leading to a $6MM deal with the White Sox last winter. He didn’t last on Chicago’s South Side, however, as he was roughed up for a 5.40 ERA in just 20 innings. Cishek’s control has been trending in the wrong direction the past couple of seasons, but he missed bats at his typical levels and didn’t see a velocity dip in 2020.
JANUARY 12, 7:23pm: A rival executive told Mark Feinsand of MLB.com that he will be “shocked” if the Red Sox don’t trade Benintendi before the end of the weekend.
4:26pm: The Red Sox have discussed Benintendi with more teams than the ones mentioned below, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports. One of those clubs “has discussed trading big-league pitching depth for Benintendi,” Speier writes.
1:51PM: “Another American League team not mentioned has had deeper discussions” about Benintendi, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets. A source also tells Bradford that the Rangers aren’t in on Benintendi.
12:35PM: The Astros, Athletics, and Rangers have all been in touch with the Red Sox about Benintendi, Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal reports (Twitter link). A source tells McAdam that Benintendi could be on the move soon, though it won’t be to the Marlins, another club previously linked to the outfielder in reports.
JANUARY 9: The Red Sox have been in “serious trade talks” about the possibility of moving left fielder Andrew Benintendi, writes The Athletic’s Jim Bowden (via Twitter). The Red Sox have a particular interest in pitcher and outfielder prospects, notes Bowden, but that’s likely a starting point more than a mandate. However serious discussions have been thus far, there is no deal pending.
There may be some bombast to Bowden’s report, which is only to say that there is a wide range of interpretations for “serious trade talks.” That could speak to an earnestness on Boston’s part in terms of their willingness to deal Benintendi, or it could reference a specific exchange of names, or something else entirely. Regardless, it’s not a shocking development for Benintendi’s name to emerge on the hot stove. Boston would be selling low on their 26-year-old outfielder, however, who is coming off a 43 wRC+ showing in 14 games in an injury-shortened 2020. Interested teams, however, are paying more attention to his 2019 production (100 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR) than 2020, adds Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (via Twitter).
His 2020 performance aside, there is some concern that Benintendi has declined in foot speed, which could have major repercussions on his game. He has not yet boasted the explosive power traditionally associated with a corner outfielder (.162 career ISO). Per Statcast, Benintendi’s sprint speed has slowed from 28.6 feet per second as a 22-year-old in 2016 to 27.7 ft/s as a 24-year-old in 2018 to 26.6 ft/s as a 26-year-old in the short sample of 2020. That’s a rather stunning fall from the 89th percentile to the 43rd percentile.
If anything, the decline in speed could threaten his viability as a centerfielder. Benintendi hasn’t played much center in his career, but he hasn’t needed to with Jackie Bradley Jr. manning the middle in Boston. With Bradley a free agent, the Red Sox are looking at a starting outfield of Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe. All three have traditionally fit better in the corner. Hypothetically, if Boston didn’t think Benintendi was a good fit in center, they could look to move him to give more playing time to Verdugo and Renfroe. At the same time, Renfroe was a part-time player with the Rays last season, and he could continue in that capacity this season. Jarren Duran could make the Major League team at some point, and he might fit better in center than anyone else currently on the Boston roster. All of which merely speaks to why Boston might view Benintendi as an expendable asset, not necessarily why they would or should desire to move him.
As a prospect, Benintendi possessed a monster hit tool with the possibility for big power, and his game hardly predicated solely on his foot speed (though he was viewed more as a gap-to-gap hitter than a home run leader). Remember, he was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the game as recently as 2017 per Baseball America, who wrote in their prospect report after he made his debut in 2016: “Multiple evaluators believe that Benintendi has a chance to be a perennial all-star who competes for batting titles. ’He’s a once-in-a-decade hitter,’ one said. Benintendi combines excellent hand-eye coordination with the pitch recognition to avoid strike zone expansion. His precisely-tuned swing, with his strong forearms and core along with a rare knack for putting the bat on the ball, allow him to drive the ball with surprising authority given his diminutive stature.” Those skills at peak development still play even if he doesn’t run as well as before. Certainly, a team that sees even a portion of that upside would have more than enough cause to make a run at Benintendi, depending on Boston’s asking price.
The Marlins have had discussions with the Cubs about catcher Willson Contreras, according to SportsGrid’s Craig Mish (Twitter link). There isn’t any sense that a trade might be close, as Mish describes the situation as “very fluid” considering how “the Cubs have big decisions to make across the board” (namely, trade talks involving several of their veteran players).
As you might expect, Contreras has been a key figure in these talks, as the Angels and multiple other teams have inquired about the backstop’s services. It stands to reason that pretty much any team with a need behind the plate has at least checked in on Contreras, and Miami’s interest hints that even teams who seemed to have a catching option in place are interested in Contreras as an upgrade.
2020 was a tough season for Jorge Alfaro, acquired as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade package in February 2019 and immediately tabbed as Miami’s next catcher of the future. After hitting decently well in 2019, Alfaro’s numbers took a significant step backwards in the shortened 2020 season, to the point that the Marlins turned to Chad Wallach as their regular catcher in the playoffs so the club could at least get some defensive stability out of the position.
The Marlins also recently signed Sandy Leon to a minor league deal and re-signed Brian Navarreto for further depth, indicating some desire on Miami’s part to address its catching mix. Acquiring Contreras would obviously be a much more seismic move, and it seems possible that Alfaro could be part of a hypothetical trade package heading to Chicago. Catcher Miguel Amaya is one of the Cubs’ top prospects but has yet to play above high-A ball, so Alfaro wouldn’t necessarily be blocking Amaya’s progress. Alfaro is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is controlled through the 2023 season.
Contreras, meanwhile, has two arbitration seasons left and is projected to earn between $5MM-$7.4MM for the 2021 season. It’s a very reasonable price for one of the sport’s better overall catchers, a two-time All-Star who continued to post solid (.243/.356/.407 in 225 PA) hitting and framing numbers last season. Landing such a productive player on short-term control would be a fit for any team, but particularly a Marlins organization that is starting to stretch its payroll a bit as the Fish have become competitive. After acquiring Starling Marte at the trade deadline and exercising his $12.5MM option for 2021, Miami has yet to swing any major moves this winter, mostly focusing on lower-level bullpen additions.
- The Marlins are among the teams that have discussed outfielder Andrew Benintendi with the Red Sox, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. To this point, though, the two clubs have not been able to agree on compensation. Benintendi would fit the Marlins’ desire to add a corner outfield, having played the majority of his career in left since he debuted in 2016, though he would be a reclamation project for Miami. Once a superstar prospect and effective big leaguer, Benintendi posted average production in 2019 and then endured a nightmarish, injury-shortened campaign last season.
Tarpley entered the majors as a third-round pick of the Orioles in 2013, but he never suited up for them. Instead, Tarpley has pitched for the Yankees and Marlins, with whom he has combined for a 6.65 ERA with a 27.2 percent strikeout rate and a 13.6 percent walk rate over 44 2/3 frames. He struggled mightily last year during his lone season as a Marlin, allowing 11 earned runs in as many innings and issuing eight walks. The 27-year-old has, however, managed a stingy 2.88 ERA across 65 2/3 Triple-A innings.
While Tarpley hasn’t exactly thrived at the game’s highest level, the Mets are taking a low-risk chance that he’ll at least provide useful depth. Notably, the club has an obvious need for left-handers relievers, as Daniel Zamora is the only southpaw bullpen option on its 40-man roster.
Free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig hasn’t played in the majors since 2019, but the league hasn’t forgotten about him. Several clubs – the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Marlins and Orioles – “appear to have varying levels of interest” in Puig, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets.
After a largely successful career with the Dodgers, Reds and Cleveland from 2013-19, Puig looked like a surefire bet to land a guaranteed contract last offseason. But the former All-Star didn’t encounter as much serious interest as expected, and he didn’t find a deal until the Braves agreed to sign him in the middle of July – shortly before the truncated season was set to begin. However, the contract never became official because Puig tested positive for COVID-19 just a few days later. Considering how long it would have taken Puig to recover and get up to speed, it was seemingly too late for the Braves or another big league club to sign him before the year ended.
Although last year was a lost season for Puig, he does appear to be an appealing buy-low type for MLB teams that aren’t necessarily looking to spend big on outfield help in free agency or via trade. Puig, who turned 30 last month, is the owner of a .277/.348/.475 line with 132 home runs and 79 stolen bases across 3,376 plate appearances. That history of above-average production should help Puig land a reasonably priced contract before next season starts.
- The Marlins are interested in outfielder Adam Duvall, Craig Mish of Sportsnet tweets. The 32-year-old ex-Red spent the previous two-plus seasons in Atlanta, where he batted .231/.290/488 with 26 home runs in 396 plate appearances. As a Brave, Duvall was a powerful league-average hitter (100 wRC+), but that wasn’t enough for the team to tender him a contract earlier this winter, when it non-tendered him in lieu of paying him $4MM-plus in arbitration.
- Speaking of the Marlins, they offered Yasiel Puig a $2MM base salary with “tons of incentives” during free agency a winter ago, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Puig didn’t end up signing with them or any other team in 2020. He did agree to a deal with the Braves in July, but that deal fell apart thanks to a positive COVID-19 test. Now that he’s healthy, though, Puig is back on MLB teams’ radars – including Miami’s.
JANUARY 4: Leon’s deal comes with a $1.25MM base salary if he makes the MLB roster, with additional incentives available, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
JANUARY 3: The Marlins have signed catcher Sandy Leon to a minor league deal. The contract contains an invitation for Leon to attend Miami’s big league Spring Training camp. In addition to Leon, the Marlins also officially announced six other players (infielder Eddy Alvarez, catcher Brian Navarreto, and right-handers Zach Thompson, Alexander Guillen, Anthony Bender, and Luis Madero) received spring invites on minor league contracts.
A veteran of nine big league seasons, Leon is best known for his five seasons with the Red Sox from 2015-19, a stint that saw him collect a World Series ring in 2018 and unexpectedly step up as an offensive threat (.845 OPS in 283 plate appearances) in 2016. That 2016 campaign stands out as a big outlier amidst Leon’s overall career numbers, however, as he has a .216/.284/.327 slash line over 1379 career PA.
Leon didn’t even reach that modest level of production in 2020, as he hit .136/.296/.242 in 81 PA with the Indians. It’s pretty clear Miami isn’t signing Leon for his bat, but rather his well-documented defensive skill — Leon is well-respected as a game-caller and he was an above-average pitch-framer in both 2018 and 2019. Leon also has some impressive caught-stealing numbers over his career, though those totals have dipped over the last two years.
The signings of both Leon and Navarreto add some depth to a Marlins catching mix that consists of Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach. Alfaro is coming off a tough season at the plate, but as a former top prospect, he’ll be given plenty more chances to firmly establish himself as a regular backstop. Wallach is another defense-first catcher, so with Leon now in the mix, Wallach will need a solid showing in Spring Training to retain his job on the active roster.
Navarreto is back in Miami after making his MLB debut with the team last season, appearing in two games. Originally a sixth-round pick for the Twins in the 2013 draft, Navarreto has hit .214/.264/.307 over 1753 career PA in the minors (in the Twins and Yankees farm systems) without ever reaching Triple-A ball. He signed a minor league deal with the Marlins last winter but naturally never appeared in the minors due to the cancellation of the minor league season.
Alvarez is the only other member of the group to appear in the majors, as he hit .189/.268/.216 for the Marlins last season in the first 41 Major League plate appearances of his career. Alvarez’s MLB debut made headlines, as the former Olympic silver medal-winning speed skater became the first former Olympian (in a sport besides baseball, of course) to appear in the majors since the legendary Jim Thorpe. Beginning his career as an undrafted free agent, Alvarez has hit .278/.375/.413 with 40 homers over 2430 minor league PA, working mostly as a shortstop but also playing a significant amount of second and third base.