- Also via Heyman, Eduardo Nunez is seeing his market “heat up” a bit. There are as many as eight teams that have shown interest in Nunez of late, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Giants, Braves, Brewers and Royals. (Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area recently suggested that a reunion with San Francisco wasn’t likely, implying that Nunez can receive superior offers elsewhere.) Heyman joins others that have recently reported that Nunez is on the Mets’ radar as a second base option. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Brewers all make varying degrees of sense as well, though it’s tougher to see a clear fit with the Jays, Giants and Royals for various reasons. Toronto has already added Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte this winter (with Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis both still on board as well), while the Giants picked up Evan Longoria and are reportedly striving to remain under the luxury tax threshold. Nunez would almost certainly put them over, as they’re within less than $5MM of that point at present. As for the Royals, they could use a versatile infielder, but they’re also gearing up for a rebuild.
The market for top Cuban free agent Julio Pablo Martinez has begun to take shape, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Martinez has yet to receive signing clearance, but Badler notes it’s anticipated he will be officially named a free agent before the conclusion of the current July 2nd period.
If Martinez does indeed become eligible to sign before June 15th, he’ll have the open of signing either in the current or the ensuing period. That will help open up his options a bit.
Of the three teams that Badler tabs the leaders, one — the Rangers — might utilize its 2017-18 pool money to make a deal with Martinez. (As Badler explains, Texas will need to use or lose its remaining spending availability, which at last glance sat at about $3.53MM.) The others — the Yankees and Marlins — would almost certainly view Martinez as a major part of the 2018-19 signing class.
Martinez, 21, is considered one of the best young talents from his baseball-loving home nation. Badler provides all the necessary details about his profile in the above link. In brief, Martinez is a fleet-footed center fielder with some pop. Notwithstanding an eye-popping 30:52 K/BB ratio in his last 264 plate appearances in Cuba’s top league, Martinez is said to possess more palatable than great plate discipline abilities.
All said, Martinez seems to be a legitimately interesting prospect asset. Unlike many of the more youthful Latin American players that sign as bonus-limited international amateurs, he may actually not be that far off from the majors. Of course, he’ll still need to refine his skills and prove he’s worthy of a crack at the game’s highest level. Regardless, Martinez ought to represent an intriguing new addition for whatever organization signs him.
The Yankees have agreed to a minor-league deal with lefty Wade LeBlanc, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). He’ll receive an invitation to MLB Spring Training and an opt-out opportunity just before the start of the season, per Crasnick, who notes that the deal comes with a potential $1MM base rate of pay in the Majors. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale adds that LeBlanc also has an opt-out on June 15 and would earn a monthly salary of $32K in the minors. LeBlanc is represented by agent Joe Rosen.
LeBlanc, 33, engineered a return to the majors after spending a season in Japan in 2015 (and then appearing on the MLBTR Podcast). After spending some time as a swingman for the Mariners in 2016, he landed with the Pirates and threw well enough to earn a major-league contract in the following offseason.
Things didn’t go quite as hoped in 2017, as LeBlanc managed only a 4.50 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in his 68 innings in Pittsburgh. He did carry a personal-best 9.6% swinging-strike rate, though, and fielding-independent pitching metrics valued his output as better than the results (e.g. 3.97 SIERA).
As has long been the case, LeBlanc was much more effective last year against righties than when pitching against same-handed batters. It seems he’ll join a camp battle to earn a place as a long man for the Yankees.
The Yankees were reportedly willing to part with outfield prospect Clint Frazier in a trade for then-Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole earlier this offseason, but no deal come together between the teams. Although Pittsburgh ended up trading Cole to Houston on Saturday for a four-player package, the Pirates valued Frazier over everyone they got back from the Astros, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. However, the Pirates liked the package they got from the Astros better than the offers the Yankees made, including a final pitch from the Bombers that consisted of three prospects, per Bowden (Twitter link).
The Astros and Pirates swung a major trade yesterday, with the World Series champions acquiring Gerrit Cole in exchange for a package of four players (Joe Musgrove, Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, Jason Martin). We’ve already published one batch of reactions to the deal, and now here are some additional details about the trade talks and further analysis about what this deal means for Houston, Pittsburgh, and other clubs…
- The Astros were able to land Cole without giving up any of their top prospects, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Houston wasn’t willing to offer Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker, Derek Fisher, or Yordan Alvarez. Musgrove and Moran were seen as the top two pieces of the trade by the Pirates, and they pulled the trigger on the deal since Pittsburgh felt no other team was offering two top prospects of better quality in exchange for Cole. Musgrove, Feliz, and Moran give the Bucs 15 years of controllable talent, which was also a factor in their decision.
- Also from Crasnick, the Yankees were willing to include one of Clint Frazier or Chance Adams in a potential Cole trade, but not both. New York was also intent on holding onto its top minor leaguers, as Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, and Estevan Florial were considered off-limits in trade talks.
- The Yankees’ unwillingness to move its best prospects could be due to a belief that Yu Darvish could be signed for a “reasonable” price, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. This could be a contract in the range of five years and $80MM-90MM, which would represent a stunning discount from the six-year, $160MM deal MLBTR predicted for Darvish at the start of the offseason. Even with the unprecedentedly slow nature of this winter’s free agent market, it’s hard to believe Darvish would settle for such a relatively small deal, especially with at least five other teams known to be vying for his services. Harper also notes that even a five-year/$80MM pact would put the Yankees over the luxury tax limit, unless they were to move another big contract to create payroll space.
- The Pirates’ return was “more one of quantity than of impact,” ESPN.com’s Keith Law writes, though Cole may only be “a soft upgrade” for the Astros rotation if he replicates his 2017 numbers. Law feels that Cole’s 2016-17 performance curtailed some of his trade value, and while Houston is obviously hoping that Cole returns to his 2015 form, the trade also could’ve been a way of keeping him away from a chief AL rival like the Yankees.
While Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required/highly recommended) doesn’t necessarily expect the Orioles to trade Manny Machado prior to the season, he reports that the Diamondbacks are still pushing to acquire the infielder. D-backs second baseman Brandon Drury continues to be one of the players involved in Machado trade discussions, as Rosenthal first reported last month, and left-handed pitching prospect Anthony Banda has also been part of the teams’ talks. Machado would play shortstop in Arizona, potentially pushing Ketel Marte to second base and Chris Owings to a super-utility/outfield role, Rosenthal adds.
A few other items stemming from baseball organizations on the East coast…
- Though the Yankees were in on Cole at one point, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the two sides never actually came close to a deal. The Pirates wanted at least one of Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier, which may have (in my perspective) provided a reasonable framework to get a deal done. However, the hangup was over the other players involved in the package for Cole; the inability to agree on supplemental players proved an obstacle in getting a deal done.
- The latest on the Mets’ infield comes from Rosenthal, who writes that they’re more interested in acquiring a second base than a third baseman. However, it doesn’t seem they’ve made any headway with the Pirates regarding Josh Harrison, Rosenthal suggests, while free agent Eduardo Nunez may be too pricey at the moment. A reunion with free agent and ex-Met Neil Walker is possible, but there’s competition from the Brewers and other teams, per Rosenthal. Interestingly, even after signing Jay Bruce this week, the Mets are considering bringing back free agent first baseman Lucas Duda, Rosenthal relays.
- Elsewhere on the Mets front, suspended reliever Jenrry Mejia is expected to apply for reinstatement “in the near future,” Matt Ehalt of The Record writes. Major League Baseball hit Mejia with a lifetime ban for performance-enhancing drugs back in 2016, but he’s allowed to appeal after two years. That two-year window will expire in February, which will enable Mejia to vie for reinstatement and get a hearing with commissioner Rob Manfred within 30 days of submitting his application, per Ehalt. If Manfred doesn’t rule in Mejia’s favor, he’d have the ability to appeal to an arbitration panel, Ehalt reports. Regardless, odds continue to be against Mejia ever pitching in MLB again, Ehalt suggests.
- Chicago is said to be among a handful or more of teams still in the hunt for top free agent starter Yu Darvish, who has himself added intrigue to the market with some comments from his Twitter account. After musing recently on a mystery team, Darvish again took to the airwaves today to address the interest of the Yankees. After first suggesting the team had not made him an offer, the veteran righty then tweeted he had received one — but that “the numbers are not correct.” That said, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports (via Twitter) that New York has not, in fact, put together a contract proposal for Darvish. The Yanks have long seemed a lurking but less-than-perfect potential suitor, given the team’s interest in staying below the luxury tax line this year.
The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)
Note that you can keep an eye on all of today’s deals using MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, which can be filtered to show only the results of the team you follow and is also sortable by service time and dollar value of the agreement. All projections that are referenced come from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s annual compilation of projected arbitration salarie
American League West
- The Astros and Evan Gattis agreed to a $6.7MM deal for 2018, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). A free agent next season, Gattis lands within $100K of his $6.6MM projection. The club also has deals (for values unknown) with starters Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Brad Peacock, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
- The Rangers agreed to a $1.05MM deal with infielder Jurickson Profar, tweets Murray. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, meanwhile, tweets that lefty Jake Diekman landed a $2.7125MM deal and righty Keone Kela will earn $1.2MM. Profar had been projected at $1.1MM and is controllable another three seasons. Diekman, a free agent next winter, was projected at $2.8MM. And Kela, still controlled for three more years, matched his $1.2MM projection on the dot.
- The Athletics and closer Blake Treinen agreed to a $2.15MM deal for next year, tweets Murray. The A’s can control Treinen for another three years. He was projected at $2.3MM. Shortstop Marcus Semien has settled for $3.125MM, Heyman tweets; his $3.2MM projection was nearly spot-on. Oakland has announced that it has avoided arbitration with Liam Hendriks and Josh Phegley as well, but their salaries have yet to be reported.
- The Angels have a one-year, $7.3MM agreement in place with right-hander Garrett Richards, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link). Richards, a free agent next offseason, tops his $7MM projection by a margin of $300K. The Halos have also avoided arb with first baseman C.J. Cron ($2.3MM) and left-hander Tyler Skaggs ($1.875MM), tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Cron’s total falls a ways shy of his $2.8MM projection, while Skaggs comes in just $25K south of his $1.9MM projection. Both are controllable through the 2020 season. Lastly, Murray tweets that Matt Shoemaker agreed to a $4.125MM deal. He’s controlled through 2020 and projected at $4.4MM. Fletcher also tweets that the club has agreed with righty J.C. Ramirez ($1.9MM salary vs. $2.6MM projection) and lefty Jose Alvarez ($1.05MM salary vs. $1.1MM projection). Finally, righty Cam Bedrosian has agreed at $1.1MM, Flecher tweets, which represents a payday close to his projection of $1.2MM.
- Left-hander James Paxton will earn $4.9MM with the Mariners in 2018, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Murray tweets that the Mariners and David Phelps agreed to a $5.55MM deal. Paxton, controlled through 2020, projected to earn $5.6MM, while Phelps was pegged at $5.8MM. He’s a free agent next winter. Righty Erasmo Ramirez took a $4.2MM deal, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. That’s half a million shy of what the model suggested. Fellow right-hander Nick Vincent also has an agreement, but the terms aren’t yet known.
American League Central
- New lefty Luis Avilan has agreed to a $2.45MM deal with the White Sox, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports via Twitter. The recent trade acquisition came with a projected $2.3MM price tag. Fellow southpaw Carlos Rodon will receive $2.3MM, a bit of a bump over the $2MM he projected to receive. Also, utilityman Leury Garcia gets $1.175MM, which is just $25K short of his projected value.
- The Royals and righty Nate Karns agreed to a $1.375MM deal for 2018, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports (on Twitter). That lands within $25K of his $1.4MM projection for the coming season. Kansas City controls Karns through 2020. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports (via Twitter) that Kelvin Herrera will earn $7.9375MM in 2018, landing a bit shy of his $8.3MM projection. Herrera is a free agent next winter.
- The Indians have a $5MM agreement with righty Danny Salazar, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets. He had projected to earn just $200K more, this falls right in line with expectations. Cleveland also agreed with Lonnie Chisenhall on a $5.5875MM deal, tweets Nightengale. The third baseman-turned-outfielder, who was projected to earn $5.8MM, will be a free agent following the 2018 season.
- Trevor May has a $650K agreement with the Twins for the 2018 season, according to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. May, who missed the entire season due to Tommy John surgery (and did some writing for MLBTR during his rehab process), had been projected at $600K. The Twins also agreed to a $1MM deal with infielder Ehire Adrianza, per La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, righty Ryan Pressly has agreed to a $1.6MM deal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Both deals are identical matches with their projections. Adrianza has three years of team control remaining, while Pressly has two. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that outfielder Robbie Grossman settled at $2MM, leaving him $400K shy of his projection. Grossman is controlled for another three seasons.
- Tigers third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos will earn $6.05MM, per Heyman (via Twitter). He had projected at a much heftier $7.6MM in his second-to-last season of arb eligibility. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports (Twitter links) that the Tigers and right-handed reliever Alex Wilson settled at $1.925MM, while fellow righty Shane Greene will earn $1.95MM. Wilson was projected to earn $2.1MM, while Greene was at $1.7MM. Wilson is controlled through 2019, while Greene is under control through 2020.
American League East
- The Yankees have knocked out some of their biggest arb cases, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (Twitter links). Shortstop Didi Gregorius receives $8.25MM and righty Sonny Gray checks in at $6.5MM. The former had projected to earn $9.0MM while the algorithm was just $100K high on the latter.Backstop Austin Romine will earn $1.1MM, Heyman also tweets, which is also $100K below the projection. Righty Adam Warren and the Yankees have a $3.315MM deal, per Murray (Twitter link). This is Warren’s final season of eligibility before hitting the open market next winter. He’d been projected at $3.1MM. Meanwhile, fellow right-hander Dellin Betances has agreed to a $5.1MM deal, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). That’s just $100K more than Betances had sought last year, when he took his case to a hearing that he ultimately lost. But it’s quite a bit more than the $4.4MM he projected to receive after a subpar season in which he played at a $3MM salary.
- The Red Sox have agreed to pay $8.5MM to southpaw Drew Pomeranz, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). That’s short of the $9.1MM that had been projected after Pomeranz turned in a productive 2017 season. Boston and Jackie Bradley Jr. settled at $6.1MM, tweets Murray. That’s a bit north of the $5.9MM at which he’d been projected for the upcoming season. Bradley Jr., a Super Two player, has another three seasons of club control remaining. Nightengale tweets that righty Joe Kelly ($3.6MM projection) agreed to a $3.825MM deal. He’ll be a free agent next winter. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez ($2.375MM salary vs. $2.7MM projection) and righty Brandon Workman ($835K salary vs. $900K projection) are two other Sox hurlers that have agreed to terms, Speier reports (Twitter links). On the position player side, catcher Sandy Leon falls a bit under his projection $1.95MM (via Speier, on Twitter) while utilityman Brock Holt just beats expectations at $2.225MM (per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, on Twitter). The team also agreed with shortstop Xander Bogaerts for $7.05MM, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston tweets, which comes in a bit shy of his $7.6MM projection. Boston also announced agreement with backstop Christian Vazquez, who’ll earn $1.425MM, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne (via Twitter). That’s just under the projection of $1.5MM.
- The Blue Jays and righty Aaron Sanchez agreed to a $2.7MM deal for 2018, according to Nightengale (Twitter link). That crushes his $1.9MM projection, which was likely suppressed due Sanchez’s lack of innings (just 36) in 2017. He’s under Jays control through 2020. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, meanwhile, tweets that second baseman Devon Travis will make $1.45MM next year, falling a bit shy of his $1.7MM forecast. Other Toronto players agreeing to terms include Kevin Pillar ($3.25MM vs. $4.0MM projection) and Dominic Leone ($1.085MM vs. $1.2MM projection), MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm tweets.
- The Rays and closer Alex Colome settled at $5.3M, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (on Twitter). He’d been projected at $5.5MM and is controllable for three more years. They also settled at $5.95MM with outfielder/DH Corey Dickerson ($6.4MM projection) and $4.5MM with infielder Brad Miller ($4.4MM projection), per Murray (all Twitter links). Steven Souza, according to Murray will earn $3.55MM, placing him right in line with his $3.6MM projection. Dickerson and Miller are controlled through 2019. Souza is controlled through 2020.
- ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Yankees and Aaron Hicks have settled on a one-year deal worth $2.825MM, placing him $75K shy of his $2.9MM projection. Hicks enjoyed a breakout 2017 season and heads into 2018 as the favorite to play center field on a daily basis in the Bronx. He’s controlled through 2019.
- Meanwhile, FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that hard-throwing right-hander Tommy Kahnle and the Yankees agreed to a one-year, $1.3125MM pact for the upcoming season. Kahnle and his triple-digit fastball will be under team control through 2020. He was projected at $1.3MM.
Yu Darvish is widely considered to be the top starting pitcher available in free agency, and while his market — like the market of nearly every other top free agent this winter — has been slow to progress, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Darvish has whittled the decision down to a handful of teams: the Rangers, Cubs, Astros, Twins and Yankees. Darvish himself has hardly been shy about stirring the pot on social media this winter, though, and he created an additional layer of intrigue tonight when he responded to the report by tweeting: “I know one more team is in.” The Dodgers may very well be the sixth team to which Darvish alluded, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times tweeted tonight that Los Angeles “remains in the mix” to bring Darvish back to L.A.
In his column, Wilson once again cautions that the Rangers aren’t a prime suitor for Darvish. The right-hander, according to Wilson, would prefer to return to Arlington were all things equal, but the Rangers aren’t expected to pursue top-tier free agents, as has reportedly been the case for the entire winter. Wilson reported three months ago that Texas was aiming to trim payroll by about $10MM for the coming season, which would leave them around $155MM overall. A backloaded contract for Darvish could technically still make that goal possible, but Wilson strongly suggests that the Rangers won’t be making any moves of the “all-in” variety this winter. The Rangers’ payroll projects to check in around $144MM as things presently stand.
Both the Yankees and Astros have been prominently linked to another high-end rotation candidate recently, as both have been said in recent weeks to be in talks for Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow earlier today shot down a report that his team had struck an agreement to acquire Cole, but both New York and Houston appear to have some level of interest more cost-effective trade candidates.
The Yankees, of course, have been hard at work trying to bolster their 2018 roster while simultaneously remaining south of the luxury tax barrier (to great success thus far), while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported just yesterday (subscription required and recommended) that Houston prefers to trade for a pitcher like Cole rather than shell out a massive contract to Darvish or another free-agent starter. If the Yankees can find a way to shed a significant portion of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract (which seems unlikely) or if the Astros ultimately deem all of their trade targets too expensive in terms of prospects, then perhaps on of those clubs will take a more serious look at Darvish.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has long been reported to be one of the more aggressive teams on Darvish, who knows Twins GM Thad Levine quite well from the pair’s time with the Rangers. Of all the teams in the mix, the Twins’ payroll outlook is by far the most open (zero dollars on the books beyond the 2019 season). As for the Cubs, they’ve been tied to Darvish, Jake Arrieta and fellow righty Alex Cobb as they seek to round out their rotation and remain atop a competitive NL Central division.
The Dodgers, like the Yankees, are facing some self-imposed financial restrictions. Both clubs are trying to reset their luxury tax penalty level, and the Dodgers look to have done so in the Adrian Gonzalez/Scott Kazmir/Brandon McCarthy/Matt Kemp trade. Bringing Darvish back into the fold would once again push them north of the tax line, L.A. is also looking for ways in which to shed Kemp’s contract. As is the case with the Yankees and Ellsbury, finding a taker for a notable portion of that deal could create additional flexibility.