- The Mariners have signed catcher Joe Hudson to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Hudson entered the pro ranks as a sixth-round pick of Cincinnati in 2012, and he ended up appearing in the majors with the Angels in 2018 and the Cardinals last season. The 28-year-old collected just 13 plate appearances during that span, though. Hudson spent most of last year at the Triple-A level, where he hit .223/.293/.411 with 10 home runs in 222 PA.
It was on this date a year ago that the Reds made one of their best pickups in recent memory. Then desperate for rotation help, the Reds took a flier on former standout right-hander Sonny Gray, acquiring him and young reliever Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in a three-team trade that also included the Mariners. The Yankees received middle infielder/outfielder Shed Long and a Competitive Balance Round A draft pick in the swap, though they quickly flipped Long to the Mariners for outfield prospect Josh Stowers.
It was obvious entering last offseason that the Yankees would try to trade Gray, whose tenure in their uniform was a letdown. The Yankees paid what was then a high price to acquire Gray, who was coming off a strong run in Oakland, back in July 2017. But Gray wasn’t the same pitcher in New York, particularly struggling at Yankee Stadium, and the club left him off its playoff roster in 2018. After that, general manager Brian Cashman admitted that “it’s probably best to try somewhere else” for Gray.
Twelve months later, the change of scenery has been a godsend for Gray and Reds. For the team, not only has the trade paid off, but the three-year, $30MM contract Cincy gave Gray the moment it acquired him looks like a bargain.
In his first season as a Red, the 30-year-old Gray performed like one of the premier starters in the sport and earned his second All-Star nod in the process. Gray tossed 175 1/3 innings, his most since 2015, and turned in the third-lowest ERA of his career (2.87). He also notched a 3.42 FIP with a 50.8 percent groundball rate and fanned more hitters than ever. Gray’s 10.52 K/9 was easily a personal best, while he also posted his second-highest swinging-strike percentage (11.3). When batters did make contact, they seldom did much damage, as Gray ranked near the top of the league in hard-hit rate, exit velocity and expected weighted on-base average against.
Despite Gray’s efforts, the Reds endured yet another sub-.500 season in 2019. However, he’s still among the reasons they now look like a team on the upswing. Gray, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani and Wade Miley now make up one of the game’s most formidable-looking rotations on paper. That’s a drastic 180 for a club whose starting staff was among baseball’s worst the season before it hauled in Gray.
The Gray-less Yankees, for their part, appear to have an even better rotation than the Reds at this point. That said, no one knows whether they’ll get anything from the players they landed for Gray. Both Stowers and lefty TJ Sikkema, whom the Yankees chose with the pick they received in the trade, are still a ways off from the majors. The 22-year-old Stowers isn’t far removed from going in Round 2 of the 2018 draft, though, and he was plenty productive at the Single-A level last season, hitting .273/.386/.400 with 35 steals across 460 plate appearances. Sikkema, 21, had a very brief but very dominant showing in low-A ball after the Yankees drafted him.
As for the rebuilding Mariners, it looks as if they did well to insert themselves into this swap. Long joined the team as a promising prospect and then lived up to the billing in his first major league action last season. The 24-year-old amassed 168 PA and batted .263/.333/.454, also gaining a solid amount of experience at second base and in the outfield. Long figures to see even more time in Seattle this year, when the team no doubt hopes he’ll further demonstrate that he’s capable of serving as a core member of its roster.
Thanks to this trade, the Reds have a core piece for their rotation in Gray. A year into Gray’s time in Cincinnati, he and the team are surely thrilled with how their union has worked out.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Right-hander Jimmy Nelson inked a one-year, $1.25MM contract with the Dodgers earlier in the week, but they had competition from Seattle. Nelson was someone the Mariners targeted, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. He fit the profile of the low-risk, potentially high-reward type of starter the rebuilding Mariners seem to be seeking this offseason. They already landed Kendall Graveman several weeks ago, and have since shown interest in old friend Taijuan Walker. Johns highlights more possible options for the M’s in his piece.
Entering the day, there were more than 150 players on the clock to exchange arbitration figures with their respective teams prior to a noon ET deadline. As one would expect, there’ll be an utter landslide of arbitration agreements in advance of that deadline. We already ran through some key facts and reminders on the arbitration process earlier this morning for those who are unfamiliar or simply need a refresher on one of MLB’s most complex idiosyncrasies, which will hopefully clear up many questions readers might have.
We’ll track the majority of the American League’s settlements in this post and split off a separate one for NL settlements as well. Note that all projections referenced come courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:
- Newly acquired Angels righty Dylan Bundy receives a $5MM salary, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter links). He had projected at a $5.7MM price tag. Teammate Hansel Robles gets $3.85MM, per Heyman, just shy of his $4MM projection.
- The Yankees have worked out deals with all of their eligible players. The team has a hefty $8.5MM pact with Aaron Judge, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Backstop Gary Sanchez settled for $5MM, per Feinsand (via Twitter). The New York org will pay righty Luis Cessa $895K and Jonathan Holder $750K, Murray reports (Twitter links). Fellow reliever Tommy Kahnle will earn $2.65MM, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). And star lefty James Paxton has settled at $12.5MM, Heyman adds via Twitter. Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery have also agreed to terms, the former at $1.275MM and the latter at $805K, per Heyman (Twitter links).
- The Twins announced that they struck deals with Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton. Jon Heyman of MLB Network followed up with salary terms (all links to Twitter). May earns $2,205,000; Rogers takes home $4.45MM; Rosario lands at $7.75MM; and Buxton receives $3.075MM. While the first and last of those land rather close to the projected amount, Rogers got $550K more and Rosario got $1.15MM less than the calculators predicted.
- Shortstop Carlos Correa settled with the Astros for $8MM, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart (via Twitter). Righty Brad Peacock lands at a $3.9MM salary, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The former went for more than his $7.4MM projection, while the latter ended up shy of the $4.6MM mark produced by the computers. The ’Stros also have agreed with closer Roberto Osuna as well, per an announcement. It’s a $10MM deal, slotting in just $200K shy of his projection, per Rome (via Twitter).
- The Orioles have a deal with outfielder/first baseman Trey Mancini, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. It’s for $4.75MM, per Dan Connolly of The Athletic (via Twitter), well south of the $5.7MM projection.
- Outfielder Jorge Soler has agreed to a $7.3MM deal with the Royals, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets. That’s well off of the $11.2MM that MLBTR’s model projected, though it is likely that the cause of the gulf lies in the interpretation of the correct baseline to start from in building Soler’s salary. He’s in the 4+ service class but had been playing on the original deal he signed out of Cuba.
- The Tigers have a deal in place with southpaw Matthew Boyd, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). It’ll pay him $5.3MM, per Chris McCosky of the Detroit News (Twitter link). That falls comfortably below the $6.4MM, suggesting that Boyd’s camp was concerned with the way his suboptimal ERA would play in the arb process. Fellow lefty starter Daniel Norris will earn $2.96MM, McCosky tweets.
The Mariners have claimed utilityman Sam Haggerty off waivers from the Mets, the Seattle club announced. He had recently been designated for assignment.
Haggerty has only minimal MLB experience and has actually only played in 19 games at the highest level of the minors. Through 643 plate appearances at Double-A over the past two campaigns, he owns a .250/.371/.378 batting line.
- Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto did not let a blood clot scare keep him from swinging trades at last year’s winter meetings, but a year after the fact, those close to him do see changes in the man known as “Trader Jerry,” as told in this story from The Athletic’s Corey Brock. Since his stint in a Las Vegas hospital, Dipoto is taking better care of himself, sleeping more and better regulating a once-vigorous workout routine. He’s also been more collaborative with his assistant GMs, trusting them with more of the day-to-day trade discussions with other clubs. As when Jim Hendry signed Ted Lilly from his hospital bed, Dipoto’s bedside dealing has entered Mariners’ lore – but the reality is that Dipoto’s life was in danger, and without his co-workers there to help him to the hospital, there could have been a much more harrowing tale coming out of last year’s winter meetings.
With the offseason almost two months old, MLBTR is going through all 30 teams’ remaining needs by division. We started with the NL East. Now let’s move to the AL West, a division the Astros have won three years in a row. This has been a somewhat rocky offseason for the reigning pennant winners, which could create opportunities for at least one or two of the other teams in their division…
Houston Astros [Offseason Outlook]
The Astros’ nigh-invincible rotation has taken a couple serious hits since free agency opened, as all-world right-hander Gerrit Cole left to sign a record-high contract with the rival Yankees and back-end southpaw Wade Miley departed for the Reds. With Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke returning to man the top two spots, the front end of the Astros’ starting staff remains in better shape than most teams’. They’ll also get Lance McCullers Jr. back from Tommy John surgery, though the remainder of their rotation is decidedly less proven.
Jose Urquidy, Forrest Whitley, Rogelio Armenteros, Cionel Perez and Josh James are just a few in-house options who could start for Astros sometime in 2020, but there’s nothing resembling an established option after the Verlander-Greinke-McCullers trio. So, it would make sense for the Astros to seek a veteran from outside, though their desire to avoid the second level of the luxury tax ($228MM) could limit their options. As things stand, the Astros’ tax payroll’s already projected to check in at $237MM-plus, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. From that standpoint, the good news is that there’s no free agent remaining who’d cost an exorbitant amount to sign. However, that also means there’s no sure bet left on the open market. What about upgrading via trade? Two lefties – the Tigers’ Matthew Boyd and the Diamondbacks’ Robbie Ray – are among those who could be available, and both hurlers have drawn the Astros’ interest in the not-so-distant past.
Aside from the back end of its rotation, most of Houston’s roster looks as if it’ll once again enter next season in enviable shape. An exception could be at catcher, where the Astros probably won’t get much offense from Martin Maldonado, Dustin Garneau and Garrett Stubbs. Nevertheless, having re-signed the defensive specialist Maldonado for a two-year, $7MM guarantee, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Astros go into 2020 with their current behind-the-plate cast.
For Houston, the biggest question of all is whether it’ll face discipline in the near future for a scandal centering on alleged sign-stealing during its World Series-winning campaign in 2017. That’ll continue to be a major story to watch going forward, as it could have negative effects on president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and the organization as a whole.
Oakland Athletics [Offseason Outlook]
There may be no greater need in Oakland that at second base, a position Jurickson Profar failed to solidify last season (the A’s dealt him to the Padres earlier this winter as a result). For now, the A’s have several fairly untested in-house possibilities in Franklin Barreto, Sheldon Neuse, Chad Pinder and Jorge Mateo, but they’ve shown interest in addressing the spot from elsewhere. Former Athletic Jed Lowrie, now a Met, has come up as a potential trade acquisition. If healthy (no sure thing after an injury-ruined 2019), the switch-hitting Lowrie would at least offer some variety to a righty-heavy lineup. But if the A’s don’t pick up Lowrie or someone else via trade, they can still choose from several free agents, including Starlin Castro, Brock Holt, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Scooter Gennett and ex-A Ben Zobrist, to name some players left on the market.
Elsewhere, the Athletics have at least considered adding a veteran backup catcher and more relief help. Matt Wieters has been on the radar as a possible reserve behind highly promising young backstop Sean Murphy. In the bullpen, the A’s had interest in a reunion with Blake Treinen before he signed a one-year, $10MM deal with the Dodgers. They also eyed Sergio Romo prior to his re-signing with the Twins, and have looked at Royals lefty Tim Hill.
Texas Rangers [Offseason Outlook]
Credit to the Rangers for remaking their rotation this winter. What was previously a weakness now looks like a strength with new faces Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles following the terrific Mike Minor–Lance Lynn tandem. But where are the offensive reinforcements? The Rangers came into the offseason at least expected to take steps forward at third base, where Anthony Rendon was available and Josh Donaldson is still without a deal. They watched Rendon sign with the Angels for seven years and $245MM,however, and it doesn’t seem they’re serious players for Donaldson. Therefore, barring a trade for someone like Kris Bryant of the Cubs or Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, it doesn’t appear the Rangers will be making a blockbuster addition at the hot corner. Other than Donaldson, free-agent options (Todd Frazier?) don’t inspire a great deal of confidence.
Meanwhile, the Rangers’ offensive production from the catcher position was catastrophically low last season. Jeff Mathis put up a wRC+ of 2 (yes, you read that correctly), while Jose Trevino wasn’t a world-beater in his own right. But the Rangers are currently poised to enter next year with those two as their primary backstops yet again. Robinson Chirinos, a former Ranger they’ve shown interest in re-signing, is still out there. So is Jason Castro. On paper, either would give the team a much more credible starting catcher than it has at the moment.
Not to be forgotten, the Rangers aren’t in the best shape at first base, where Ronald Guzman fell flat for the second straight year. The 25-year-old Guzman still has a minor league option remaining, so the Rangers could sign a veteran (Eric Thames? Old friend Mitch Moreland?), demote Guzman and still keep him in the org.
Los Angeles Angels [Offseason Outlook]
As mentioned above, the Angels made one of the offseason’s most noteworthy splashes when they signed Rendon. Many expected the Angels to hand out a $200MM-plus contract this winter, but the popular belief was that money would go to a pitcher (Cole or Stephen Strasburg). The Angels struck out on Cole, Strasburg and $100MM-plus man Zack Wheeler (now a Phillie), but with Rendon in tow, they boast arguably baseball’s premier one-two punch of position players in him and the transcendent Mike Trout. The supporting cast behind those two isn’t bad, either, with DH Shohei Ohtani, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, second baseman David Fletcher and left fielder Justin Upton as quality complements. Furthermore, star outfield prospect Jo Adell gaining on a major league spot.
If there’s one serious issue among the Angels’ cast of hitters, it’s behind the plate. The only catchers on the Angels’ 40-man roster are Max Stassi and Anthony Bemboom, and that probably isn’t going to cut it. They have, however, shown interest in boosting their cause from outside. Either Chirinos or Castro (or, although it’s less likely, a trade for the Cubs’ Willson Contreras) would go a long way toward giving them one of the most formidable groups of position players in baseball.
Of course, as was the case when the offseason began, the Angels still need front-of-the-rotation help. Sure, they’ve done well to land Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran as competent innings eaters, and Ohtani will factor in again after missing all of 2019 (as a pitcher) while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning are still in the mix, which is a plus, but there’s no proven ace in the fold. Problem is that it may be too late to find one. Boyd, Ray, Chris Archer (whom new manager Joe Maddon knows from their time in Tampa Bay) and David Price (who still has three years and $96MM left on his contract) are among the top options on the trade market, but all come with question marks.
Fortunately for the Angels, they’re still more than $20MM under the luxury tax, so there’s room for them to make further upgrades even after grabbing Rendon, Bundy and Teheran.
Seattle Mariners [Offseason Outlook]
Unlike the other teams in their division, the rebuilding Mariners have very little chance to vie for a playoff spot next season. As such, one of their only real “needs” is to find a way to jettison more veterans and keep building for the future. The Mariners already got rid of one prominent player in catcher Omar Narvaez, whom they traded to the Brewers earlier this month, and third baseman Kyle Seager, outfielder Mitch Haniger and second baseman Dee Gordon are among those who could also find themselves on the outs in the coming months.
Meantime, general manager Jerry Dipoto has said the Mariners won’t be adding to their position player group before next season, but it would at least make sense to buy low on a pitcher or two, hope for a rebound(s) and try to flip him or them by the July trade deadline. Old pal Taijuan Walker has come up as a possible starting addition via free agency, and would join free-agent signing Kendall Graveman as a bounce-back candidate for the Mariners. Those are the type of arms they should be on the hunt for right now.
Right-hander Taijuan Walker entered the professionals as the 43rd overall pick of the Mariners in 2010. Walker didn’t realize his vast potential with the Mariners, nor has he since they traded him a few years ago, but a reunion between the two could be in the offing. Walker’s now a free agent, and Seattle’s “definitely interested” in bringing him back, Greg Johns of MLB.com writes.
Walker, once among the game’s premier prospects, left the Mariners in a blockbuster trade just over three years ago. That deal sent Walker and now-star second baseman/outfielder Ketel Marte to Arizona and delivered middle infielder Jean Segura (now a Phillie) and outfielder Mitch Haniger to Seattle. Walker was then coming off his second straight reasonably productive season in the majors, and the 6-foot-4 starter debuted well with the Diamondbacks in his first year with the club before injury troubles cut him down.
During his initial campaign with the Diamondbacks, Walker pitched to a 3.49 ERA/4.04 FIP with 8.35 K/9, 3.49 BB/9 and a 48.9 percent groundball rate across 157 1/3 innings. But Walker totaled a mere 14 frames over the next two years (just one last season) on account of arm problems. Walker underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018, which is one of the reasons Arizona decided to jettison him earlier this winter instead of paying him a projected $5.025MM in his final run through arbitration.
While the D-backs didn’t want to take a chance on Walker in 2020, he does look like an intriguing free agent in an ever-dwindling marketplace. A rebuilding team like Seattle, which has few to no established arms in its rotation after Marco Gonzales, looks like a good fit.
The Brewers announced a one-year deal with corner infielder Ryon Healy. Financial terms aren’t known. Healy had been cut loose by the Mariners at the outset of the offseason.
Healy will presumably be given a shot at earning a role in camp — if he can show he’s at full health. He’s still working back to full health after an injury-wrecked 2019 season that ended with hip surgery in August. Just when he’ll be fully able to contribute remains to be seen.
28 in January, Healy offers plenty of pop. He swatted 31 home runs in his 711 total plate appearances with the Mariners and might well have delivered more had he been able to participate more fully in the offensively charged 2019 environment. But Healy maintained a miserable .280 on-base percentage in Seattle.
The Brewers will surely hope that Healy can find a way to gain in the OBP department. He has never drawn many walks but also doesn’t strike out a ton. Healy carried lofty BABIP numbers on his way up the farm and in his early career with the Athletics, but fell off upon moving up the coast to the M’s. Statcast figures indicate that Healy may have been a bit unfortunate of late, perhaps bolstering the idea of taking a shot on him.
Defense isn’t seen as a strong suit for Healy, who has graded poorly at both first and third base to this point in his career. To what extend he’s seen as an option at the hot corner remains to be seen. The Brewers have shown a willingness to take chances on defensively suspect sluggers in recent years, relying in part upon advanced shifting to help cover for less-than-elite glovework.
Seattle Times beat writer Ryan Divish cites a source close to the situation in saying that there is a “small chance but definitely a chance” that the Mariners deal Kyle Seager this offseason (link). Any time a club does anything short of unequivocally ruling out a player as “untouchable”, it means a trade is a possibility — not as if we would be inclined to believe that anyone on the Mariners roster is untouchable from the unsentimental hand of GM Jerry Dipoto, least of all a well-compensated, past-30 player like Seager. We heard this week that multiple clubs were in on the third sacker, although his $15MM club option for 2022 would convert to a player option if he’s traded. Seager could be open to amending that clause, perhaps in an effort to play for a contending team in 2020, but Seattle vet is still due $37MM over the next two seasons. Seager launched 23 home runs in Seattle’s difficult hitting environment last year while slashing .239/.321/.468 (110 wRC+), which is generally in line with career averages for the 32-year-old.