- Fowler says he never discussed a long-term deal with the Astros, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. “We didn’t really talk about contract stuff — more going through the arbitration process and that whole thing,” says Fowler. “Obviously I’m going to be a free agent next year so I guess that (topic) would have been a little bit more down the road.”
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer says the two teams had been discussing a Fowler trade since last month, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago tweets.
- The Cubs and Astros are suddenly looking to be competitive in 2015, and the Fowler trade was about making each of their rosters more complete, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs writes. The Cubs had plenty of infield talent but were thin in the outfield, and sending Valbuena to the Cubs gives them more flexibility to figure out what to do with Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez while giving them a veteran outfielder who they might also be able to extend a qualifying offer after the season. Meanwhile, Valbuena improves the Astros at third base while clearing space for some combination of Jake Marisnick and Robbie Grossman in the outfield.
- Valbuena’s departure assures that Kris Bryant will begin his big-league career at a third baseman and not as an outfielder, Rogers writes. Meanwhile, the Cubs will have Alcantara play a number of positions, remaining open to the idea that he could emerge as a starter at one of them.
The Astros and Cubs have officially announced that the Astros have traded outfielder Dexter Fowler to Chicago for infielder Luis Valbuena and righty Dan Straily. It’s a win-now move for both teams, with the Cubs trading from depth to upgrade their outfield and the Astros getting a new third baseman and adding rotation insurance.
Fowler, 28, hit .276/.375/.399 in 505 plate appearances in his first season in Houston in 2014. He posted poor defensive numbers in center, but he’s relatively young and has a long track record of posting high on-base percentages, with a career .366 mark. He’s in his final season of arbitration eligibility and is seeking $10.8MM, with the Astros filing at $8.5MM.
The Cubs had reportedly been seeking an outfielder, and Fowler will take over in center and join an outfield mix that also includes Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia and Arismendy Alcantara. Alcantara is just 23 and struggled in his first big league season in 2014, so perhaps the Cubs will have him start the season in the minors, or maybe they’ll also have him play infield, perhaps using him at third base until Kris Bryant arrives. (Mike Olt and Tommy La Stella could also be in the short-term mix at third.)
It’s not surprising that the Astros sought big-leaguers in return for Fowler, since their offseason has been oriented around improving their 2015 club. They’ve added Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek to a team that finished 70-92 last season. With Fowler gone, the Astros could have Jake Marisnick, a strong defender, take over center field, although Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that George Springer could also be an option there.
Valbuena, 29, hit a solid .249/.341/.435 while playing third and occasionally filling in at second in 2014, but the Cubs have a wealth of young infield talent (including Bryant), making Valbuena expendable. Incumbent Astros third baseman Matt Dominguez had an awful .215/.256/.330 season in 2014, so Valbuena provides a dramatic upgrade. Valbuena will make $4.2MM in 2015 and will be eligible for arbitration for the last time next winter.
Straily was not needed in Chicago, which has plenty of interesting rotation options after adding Jon Lester and Jason Hammel this offseason. In Houston, he’ll likely provide depth for a rotation picture that will also include Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock (with Peacock potentially missing the start of the season after having hip surgery). The 26-year-old Straily struggled in 2014, posting a 6.75 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 52 big-league innings, but he had a solid season in Oakland in 2013. He has five years of control remaining before he’s eligible for free agency and can be optioned to the minors if needed.
Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com was the first to tweet that the Cubs were close to acquiring Fowler. Rosenthal tweeted that the Astros would receive big league players in return. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle noted (on Twitter) that Straily was involved in the deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that Valbuena was involved.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
- The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes, MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
- Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
- Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
- The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
- ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
- Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
- Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
- Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
- Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
- Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
- Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.
While the Cubs are among the most clear-cut sellers at this year’s deadline, the team may hang onto Justin Ruggiano and Luis Valbuena, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Both are enjoying solid seasons and both are controlled through 2016. While the team wants to get as much young talent in the door as possible, each provides a veteran presence to help with the club’s impending influx of young talent.
Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…
- Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that it was difficult to designate Matt Guerrier for assignment, given the right-hander’s history with the club. “That’s not the way you like to see things go,” said Ryan. “He’s a class guy. He’s been a great member of this organization for about a decade.” The GM added that it’s too soon to tell if Guerrier will accept an outright assignment, but Berardino gets the impression that Guerrier’s time with the Twins organization is done.
- Berardino also asked Ryan if he expected more moves for the Twins in the coming week after trading Kendrys Morales to Seattle for righty Stephen Pryor yesterday (Tout link). Ryan replied: “It’s always active, Mike, at this time of year. You’re going to have activity, especially if you’re in a situation that the Twins are in right now. We’re going to have active calls, whether you place them or field them, it’s going to be a little busy. … We’ve got some people here that there will be interest in.”
- One more from Berardino, who spoke with Twins backstop Kurt Suzuki about the possibility of being traded. Suzuki says he’s not focusing on rumors circulating his name because it’s out of his control but admitted that it’s not always easy to do and can be tough for families. Berardino wonders if the Minnesota would reignite its interest in former Twin A.J. Pierzynski, should Suzuki be dealt. Minnesota made a two-year offer to Pierzynski in the offseason.
- The Pirates sit atop Jim Callis of MLB.com’s list of five contenders that are best-positioned to make trades due to young talent. He lists Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, Harold Ramirez, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, Alen Hanson and Reese McGuire as appealing chips, noting that, “No contender can match the Bucs’ combination of prospect quality and quantity.” The Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners and Royals round out Callis’ list.
- Jim Margalus of SB Nation’s South Side Sox wonders why the White Sox (and teams around the league in general) have been so hesitant to trade within their own division and opines that this stigma shouldn’t prevent a deal sending Dayan Viciedo to the Royals, who reportedly have interest. Margalus runs down the list of previous intra-division trades and sees no catastrophes to speak of.
In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki ask for a trade this offseason. One friend of Tulo told Rosenthal, “I think the guy is going to lose his mind,” due to Colorado’s consistently poor results. He adds that this offseason will be a better time to deal Tulo or Carlos Gonzalez (with an eye on a larger rebuild), and while owner Dick Monfort may prefer to move CarGo, plenty of teams would make sense as a landing spot for Tulowitzki.
Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s newest work…
- One reason that Tulo could be particularly frustrated is with the Rockies’ inability to build a competitive pitching staff at Coors Field. That’s no easy task, as Rosenthal notes, but it isn’t helped by the fact that free-agent pitchers simply don’t want to go there. While Jon Gray and Eddie Butler are promising, Butler joins a long list of currently injured Rockies starters. Additionally, rival scouts opined to Rosenthal that Colorado pitchers are poorly prepared: “They pitch not to hitters’ weaknesses but hitters strengths,” one scout told Rosenthal.
- The Dodgers talked with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija before he was dealt to Oakland, but talks never got serious, as Los Angeles didn’t want to part with Joc Pederson or Corey Seager.
- Speaking of the Samardzija trade, Rosenthal hears that the deal was almost larger, as the Athletics at one point were trying to get Chicago to include Luis Valbuena in the deal as well. The A’s like Valbuena as a potential second-base upgrade and could rekindle talks for him later this month, but Chicago is reluctant to deal him, as he’s controlled through 2016, according to Rosenthal.
- The Cubs are receiving interest in lefty relievers James Russell and Wesley Wright, both of whom are more likely to be traded than Valbuena.
- Multiple reports today have indicated that the Cardinals have interest in Jake Peavy of the Red Sox, and Rosenthal reports that the two sides spoke a month ago, though not necessarily about Peavy. Boston has interest in the Cardinals’ young outfielders, and while St. Louis won’t deal Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty for Peavy, the teams could expand the deal to include other players and make something work. Rosenthal floats the idea of a scenario in which Allen Craig heads to Boston, though that appears to be speculation.
- In other Red Sox rumors, he writes that the Sox don’t necessarily want to move free agents they would like to re-sign after the season even if they end up as sellers. In other words, Jon Lester and Koji Uehara may stay put regardless of the team’s approach. Beyond that, the team’s chips are largely underwhelming, as Jonny Gomes, Burke Badenhop, Stephen Drew and A.J. Pierzynski either don’t have huge appeal to buyers or would net marginal returns at best.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
The Dodgers have a thrown a wrench into the free agent outfield market by listening to trade offers for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, writes Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio in an Insider post (subscription required). Scott Boras is also a complicating factor, according to Bowden, because he represents the two top free agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo (#2 and #3, respectively, on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list). Bowden theorizes the other top-tier free agent outfielders may wait to sign in order to see how Boras sets the market for Ellsbury and Choo. In today's news and notes from the National League:
- Rockies owner Dick Monfort provided Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post with a detailed line-by-line budget for his franchise. Monfort explains how revenue from the new national TV contract is absorbed by payments on the club's MLB credit line, player raises, and projected revenue losses for not having home dates with the Yankees and Red Sox. Monfort estimates being able to reinvest only $4-5MM of the new TV money into the on-the-field product.
- Renck, via Sulia, agrees with the assessment of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes that the Ricky Nolasco contract resembles Edwin Jackson's. Renck believes the Rockies would have been paralyzed under their self-imposed budget constraints had they signed Nolasco, so their best option for a rotation upgrade is through a trade.
- The Mets will have interest in catcher Tyler Flowers, if he is non-tendered by the White Sox, tweets the New York Post's Mike Puma. Mets executives have liked Flowers in the past and see him as a potential backup to Travis d'Arnaud. Flowers, however, told Scott Merkin of MLB.com "(t)here have been a couple of conversations" with the White Sox about reaching an agreement to avoid arbitration. "I put it at 51-49 in favor of staying because of the contractual conversation we've had before," Flowers said. "They've reached out to me to try to see where each other is at. If they didn't care at all, they would have done nothing and non-tendered me."
- It would be a surprise if the Diamondbacks non-tender left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher because free agent bullpen arms aren't cheap, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. Thatcher struggled after Arizona acquired him from San Diego in the Ian Kennedy trade to the tune of a 6.75 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 5.8 BB/9, and 11.6 H/9 in 9 1/3 innings (22 appearances).
- The Cubs will likely tender second baseman Darwin Barney, despite a career-worst season at the plate (.208/.266/.303 in 501 plate appearances), because the only realistic in-house replacement is Luis Valbuena, reasons MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.1MM arbitration salary for Barney and $1.5MM for Valbuena, who is playing second base in the Venezuelan Winter League.
- The Cardinals made the right move in signing Jhonny Peralta because they were able to upgrade a position of need while retaining their prized young arms, opines MLB.com's Richard Justice.
St. Patrick's Day is as much of a baseball holiday as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day thanks to former Reds GM Dick Wagner. Tom Singer of MLB.com chronicles how the baseball tradition of wearing the green came about 35 years ago. Elsewhere from the Reds and the rest of the National League:
- Reds GM Walt Jocketty expects a decision in the next few days on whether Aroldis Chapman will pitch out of the bullpen or be moved into the starting rotatation, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Chapman stated publicly he wants to close, which didn't sit well with Jocketty. "We don’t let every player tell us how they want to be used," the GM told MLB.com.
- Ian Stewart's lingering left quad injury could affect his chances at making the roster and how the Cubs build their bench, writes MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Brent Lillibridge, Luis Valbuena, Edwin Maysonet, and Alberto Gonzalez are competing to fill that void while manager Dale Sveum mentioned Steve Clevenger could be an interesting option and added the team is watching all the waiver wires.
- The Rockies are giving serious consideration to making Nolan Arenado their starting third baseman with one club official telling Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com "it’s a tough call." If Arenado receives the nod, Rosenthal believes incumbent third baseman Chris Nelson could be used to acquire a veteran starting pitcher.
- Within the same piece, sources tell Rosenthal the Rockies want to move Ramon Hernandez and are willing to assume some of his $3.2MM salary to facilitate a trade.
- Don't expect the Braves to have any interest in the recently released Matt Diaz because there isn't a need right now, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- The Marlins have returned Rule 5 selection Braulio Lara to the Rays, reports Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post. The left-hander appeared in four games for the Marlins this spring throwing four innings allowing two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Much-maligned outfielder Jeff Francoeur doesn't blame Royals fans for their criticism of the James Shields / Wil Myers deal, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports, even though Myers would likely have taken playing time away from Francoeur himself. “[W]hen we traded Wil — why the heck did we do that? — I sit there and say, ‘As a fan, looking from the outside, I’d lead that criticism.’ For fans, looking from the outside, I don’t blame them," Francoeur says. “I had a terrible year." Francoeur hit .235/.287/.378 in 2012 as the Royals' starter in right field. Here are more notes from throughout the AL Central.
- Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony admits the Twins have made mistakes in their attempts to find middle infielders, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Antony laments the trade of J.J. Hardy to the Orioles and describes Alexi Casilla's tenure with the Twins as "so frustrating." Antony also says the Twins "failed" with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Shortstop Pedro Florimon and second baseman Brian Dozier are next in line to try to stabilize the Twins' middle infield. If Florimon wins the job, he will be the Twins' eighth 2013 Opening Day shortstop in eight years. Minnesota's Opening Day second baseman will be its sixth in seven years.
- After spending 2012 as a reliever, Brett Myers is happy to be part of the Indians' rotation, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Myers, who pitched at least 216 innings in both 2010 and 2011, isn't sure why the Astros used him out of the bullpen. “I still don’t know why. They asked me to do it, and I didn’t want to fight them about it. It was one of those things where you do what’s best for the team,” he says. The Indians signed Myers to a one-year, $7MM deal with a club option, and he's assured a job as a starter.
- Ian Stewart's injured quad complicates his pursuit of the Cubs' third base job, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Stewart will be out for ten to 14 days. His contract isn't guaranteed, and the Cubs could save $1.67MM by cutting Stewart by March 16 and $1.5MM by cutting him prior to Opening Day. Luis Valbuena would likely be in line for Stewart's starting job in such a scenario, and could win playing time over Stewart even if Stewart is healthy.
Valbuena hit .219/.310/.340 in 303 plate appearances with Chicago this past season while playing second base and third base. The 27-year-old was first time arbitration eligible as a super two player this winter and had been projected to earn $900K by MLBTR's Matt Swartz. As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, the Cubs have three remaining arbitration eligible players: Matt Garza, James Russell and Jeff Samardzija.