- Brewers GM David Stearns chatted with the team’s beat writers, including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, in advance of the Winter Meetings. Regarding the team’s rotation needs, Stearns says that the organization’s “market and history” under his stewardship are “a better indicator of the types of moves we’re seeking than some of the external speculation.” That seemingly hints that the organization won’t be chasing high-end free agents, though perhaps some of the top pitchers could still be considered in the right circumstances. He noted that lefty Josh Hader could yet end up “in a multi-inning relief role, similar to last year, or a more conventional starter role.” While the team wants to ensure Hader is able to “accumulate innings,” its winter moves could dictate his precise usage. Generally, Stearns said the club has many talks at various stages of development, though nothing that is nearing completion as of this particular moment.
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.
The deadline to tender 2018 contracts to players is tonight at 8pm EST. We’ll keep track of the day’s non-tenders in this post (all referenced arbitration projections courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) …
- The Giants non-tendered righty Albert Suarez, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. Suarez, 28, was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Righty Tom Koehler and infielder Ryan Goins are heading to the open market after being non-tendered by the Blue Jays, per a team announcement.
- The Rays announced that lefty Xavier Cedeno has been non-tendered, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
- The Cubs non-tendered catcher Taylor Davis, per a team announcement. He was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Four Rangers players have not been tendered contracts, per a club announcement. Righties Chi Chi Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin, and Nick Martinez have been cut loose along with infielder Hanser Alberto. Griffin ($3.0MM projection) and Martinez ($2.0MM) were both noted as non-tender candidates by MLBTR. The other two players were not yet eligible for arbitration. Gonzalez was a former first-round pick who had struggled of late and underwent Tommy John surgery in July.
- The Diamondbacks have also non-tendered lefty T.J. McFarland, who had projected at a $1.0MM salary.
- The Reds non-tendered lefty Kyle Crockett, a pre-arb lefty who was only recently claimed on waivers, per a club announcement.
- Per a club announcement, the Brewers have non-tendered veteran righty Jared Hughes. He will end up being the only 40-man player not to receive a contract from Milwaukee. Hughes had projected at a $2.2MM arbitration value. The 32-year-old is a master at inducing grounders and has turned in repeatedly excellent results. He also averaged a career-best 93.9 mph on his sinker in 2017.
- The Mariners have non-tendered lefty Drew Smyly and righty Shae Simmons, per a club announcement. While the former was expected, due to Smyly’s Tommy John surgery, the latter rates as something of a surprise given his cheap $700K projection. Of course, it’s possible the club is not optimistic of his chances of bouncing back from arm troubles.
- The White Sox will not tender a contract to reliever Jake Petricka, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). He had projected to take home $1.1MM in his second trip through the arb process. Also non-tendered, per a club announcement, were righties Zach Putnam and Al Alburquerque as well as infielder Alan Hanson.
- It seems that righty Bruce Rondon will wind up his tenure with the Tigers, as the organization is set to non-tender him, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free-Press (via Twitter). Rondon was long viewed as a potential late-inning arm for the Tigers, but had some notable run-ins with the organization, struggled with control, and never consistently produced at the MLB level. Though he projected to earn just $1.2MM, Rondon will be allowed to find a new organization. He will turn 26 later this month.
- The Diamondbacks will non-tender righty J.J. Hoover, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Hoover projected at just $1.6MM, but Arizona is watching every penny as it seeks to return to the postseason with a tight payroll situation. The 30-year-old turned in 41 1/3 innings of 3.92 ERA ball in 2017 with 11.8 K/9 but also 5.7 BB/9 on the year.
- The Royals announced that they have non-tendered outfielder Terrance Gore. Though Gore was not eligible for arbitration, teams occasionally utilize today’s deadline to prune their 40-man rosters. Gore had quite an interesting run with Kansas City, scarcely playing at all during the regular season and then appearing as a speed-and-defense asset in the team’s two storied postseason runs. Now, though the fleet-footed 26-year-old is out of options. With an upper minors OPS that hovers just over .600, Gore just was not going to break camp with the club. It seems reasonable to think there’s a chance he’ll return to the organization on a minors deal, though Gore will also have a shot at exploring the broader market.
With the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players set for 8pm tonight, there should be several agreements over the next few hours — particularly among players that were considered to be potential non-tender candidates. Many non-tender candidates will be presented with offers that are lower than what they’d project to earn via arbitration in a “take it or leave it” manner; some will agree to the lesser deal (as Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt did earlier this morning) while others will reject and likely hit the open market.
Here’s today’s slate of players that have avoided the arb process and locked in at least a partial guarantee for the upcoming season (arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed, but each of these players will be guaranteed one sixth of the agreed-upon sum unless specifically negotiated otherwise). All projections are via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- The Padres announced that lefty Robbie Erlin has agreed to a contract for 2018. The 27-year-old missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery and was projected to earn $700K through arbitration. Terms of his deal have not yet been reported.
- The Braves appear to have agreed to terms with just-claimed righty Chase Whitley, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Whitley, who was projected to earn $1.0MM in his first season of arb eligibility, is said to be in line for an opportunity to work as a starter. It’s a split deal that would pay Whitley $800K in the majors, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets.
- The Mariners agreed with Andrew Romine on a $1.05MM contract, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Romine, a versatile infielder, was claimed off waivers after the end of the 2017 season.
- Outfielder Abraham Almonte has reached a deal to avoid arbitration with the Indians, per a club announcement. He had featured as a possible non-tender candidate but instead found common ground with the organization. Almonte, 28, slashed just .233/.314/.366 in his 195 trips to the plate in 2017. He had projected to earn a $1.1MM payday in his first season of arbitration eligibility but will take home $825K, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).
- The Royals have agreed to terms with righty Mike Morin to avoid arbitration, the club announced. He’ll receive a split contract, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets, with a $750K annual earning rate in the majors and $250K in the minors. Morin, who projected at $700K, drew a mention on MLBTR’s non-tender candidates list. Indeed, his contract reflects the middling season that he turned in. Morin allowed 16 earned runs in twenty MLB frames, though he was more effective at Triple-A.
- Yimi Garcia and the Dodgers have avoided arbitration, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (via Twitter). Garia projected to command only a $700K salary after missing all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery; he’ll end up taking home $630K, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Now 27, Garcia had established himself as a significant member of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2015, when he compiled a 3.34 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 over 56 2/3 innings. But injuries limited him in the ensuing season and ultimately culminated in a UCL replacement.
- Per a club announcement, the Indians have agreed to a contract with righty Dan Otero. Otero will take home $1.3MM, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). He was projected to command $1.4MM. The 32-year-old Otero has been an unmitigated bargain for Cleveland over the past two years, turning in 130 2/3 total innings of 2.14 ERA pitching despite averaging just 6.5 K/9 in that span. Otero has succeeded with unfailing command (just 19 walks since joining the Indians) and a hefty groundball rate (over 60% in each of the past two seasons).
- The Angels and righty Blake Wood agreed to a one-year, $1.45MM deal that falls well shy of his $2.2MM projection, as FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first to report (via Twitter). Wood struggled mightily in Cincinnati before being picked up by the Halos late in the year and turning his season around a bit. In 17 innings with the Angels, he posted a 4.76 ERA with a much more promising 22-to-4 K/BB ratio. Heyman notes that he can earn up to $50K worth of incentives as well.
- The White Sox announced that they’ve signed right-hander Danny Farquhar to a one-year deal worth $1.05MM — a pact that falls shy of his $1.5MM projection. In 49 1/3 innings between the Rays and ChiSox, the 30-year-old logged a 4.20 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 41.7 percent ground-ball rate.
The Brewers have struck a deal with righty Jeremy Jeffress, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy first reported (Twitter link). While the contract will promise the second-time arb-eligible reliever just one more season worth of salary, it also comes with two club options, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link).
The 30-year-old Jeffress will play for $1.75MM in 2017, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. The options are valued at $3.175MM and $4.3MM. He’ll also have up to $2.2MM in available incentives for each year of the deal, tied to innings pitched and games finished, McCalvy tweets.
Jeffress had projected to command $2.6MM in his second season of arbitration eligibility. Instead, he’ll take a fairly interesting contract that will allow him to continue pitching with Milwaukee while giving up control over one potential free agent campaign.
There have been some ups and downs through the years for Jeffress, who emerged as the team’s closer with a strong 2016 season before being shipped at the deadline to the Rangers. Things did not go well in Texas, as Jeffress was arrested for driving while intoxicated and struggled out of the gates in 2017.
Still, Jeffress rebounded upon being shipped back to Milwaukee, turning in 24 2/3 innings of 3.65 ERA pitching with 8.0 K/9 and 5.5 BB/9. He has also managed to induce grounders at a 60% clip, giving cause to think he could still be a quality contributor.
The Brewers have avoided arbitration with catcher Stephen Vogt by agreeing to a $3.065MM salary for the 2018 campaign, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). Vogt had been mentioned as a potential non-tender candidate but will remain with the Brew Crew in 2018 and has one more year of arbitration eligibility beyond that.
That Vogt received a minimal $100K raise on last year’s $2.965MM salary — MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected him at $3.9MM — suggests that the Brewers did indeed weigh a non-tender of the 33-year-old. Many clubs figure to offer deals with extremely modest raises (or, in some instances, salary cuts) to their borderline tender candidates between now and tonight’s 8pm ET deadline. Final offers may effectively be presented in “take it or leave it” fashion, with the “leave it” option resulting in a non-tender.
Vogt figures to head into 2018 as the backup to Manny Pina after the 30-year-old Pina cemented himself as Milwaukee’s top catching option. Pina comes with a limited track record, though, and Vogt was a steady regular with the A’s for a few years, so it’s possible he could eventually step into a larger role.
This past season, Vogt hit just .217/.287/.357 in 174 plate appearances with the A’s, ultimately leading Oakland to designate the fan favorite and clubhouse leader for assignment. He stepped up his power game in a brief sample with the Brewers upon being claimed off waivers, hitting .254/.281/.508 with seven big flies in 129 trips to the plate. Overall, Vogt’s .233/.285/.423 slash and 12 homers were passable for a catcher, though he also struggled with just a 13 percent caught-stealing rate. Baseball Prospectus did credit him with the best framing marks of his career, grading him decidedly above average in that regard.
With Vogt’s situation resolved, the Brewers now have six other players eligible for arbitration in the form of Jared Hughes, Jeremy Jeffress, Jonathan Villar, Jimmy Nelson, Hernan Perez and Corey Knebel. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggested last night that Jeffress and Hughes are the team’s remaining non-tender candidates.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel similarly examines the choices facing the Brewers. Two players that MLBTR identified as plausible non-tender candidates, reliever Jeremy Jeffress and catcher Stephen Vogt, receive similar billing from Haudricourt, as does righty Jared Hughes. Per the article, Milwaukee has “probably been trying to do pre-deadline deals” with the two pen pieces, while Vogt could simply be sent onto the open market.
The Brewers announced that they’ve claimed righty Dylan Baker off waivers from the Indians. Baker was designated for assignment last week as part of Cleveland’s slew of moves in advance of the deadline to set 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.
The 25-year-old Baker hasn’t pitched much since the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and other injuries. The 2012 fifth-rounder has tossed just 21 1/3 innings across three levels in the past three minor league seasons combined, though he’s posted a 3.58 ERA in 241 2/3 innings in his minor league career when healthy. With Baker’s addition, the Brewers now have a full 40-man roster.
Brewers infield prospect Javier Betancourt was shot in the arm in the wake of an argument on Friday in his native Venezuela, according to reporter Andriw Sanchez Ruiz (hat tip to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Betancourt is headed to Milwaukee to recover and surgery may be required, though Brewers GM David Stearns told Haudricourt (Twitter link) that the club is still considering treatment options. “Javier’s injuries are not life threatening and he is resting comfortably,” Stearns said. MLB security is currently investigating the incident. Betancourt, 22, joined the Brewers from the Tigers in November 2015 as part of the return in the Francisco Rodriguez trade. The infielder has hit .265/.311/.357 over 2231 career plate appearances in the minors, with the last two seasons coming at Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate. All of us at MLBTR wish Betancourt the best in a full recovery.
The 30-year-old Brady hit the open market earlier this month after declining an outright assignment to Triple-A from the Athletics. Last year was Brady’s only season as a member of the Oakland organization, with which he made his major league debut and tossed 31 2/3 relief innings of 5.68 ERA ball, with 6.82 K/9, 1.71 BB/9 and a 33.7 percent groundball rate. He was much more successful as a swingman with the A’s top minors affiliate, logging a 3.21 ERA, 8.61 K/9, 1.01 BB/9 and a 39.3 grounder percentage across 53 1/3 frames (17 appearances, eight starts).
Brady entered the pro ranks in 2009 as a 24th-round pick of the Marlins, who drafted him as a shortstop. He transferred to the mound in 2010 and has since pitched to a stingy 3.07 ERA, with 9.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9, over 513 2/3 minor league innings with the Marlins, Angels, Nationals and A’s.