- Cardinals outfielder/infielder Rangel Ravelo drew interest from a Korea Baseball Organization club earlier this offseason, but he’s staying put, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. The 27-year-old Ravelo debuted in the majors last season, though he only collected 43 plate appearances and batted an unimposing .205/.256/.410. Nevertheless, the Cardinals are bullish enough on Ravelo that he has a legitimate chance to crack their 26-man roster this year, Goold suggests.
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 National League’s settlements in this post and are maintaining a separate one for American League settlements as well. Note that all projections referenced come courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:
- The Rockies have an agreement in place with righty Jon Gray, per Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post (via Twitter). It’s a $5.6MM deal, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
- Outfielder Tommy Pham has struck a $7.9MM pact with the Padres, who acquired him at the outset of the offseason, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Other Friars striking deals, per an update from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, include Zach Davies ($5.25MM) and Matt Strahm ($1.4MM).
- The Nationals announced that they’ve avoided arbitration with Trea Turner. It’s a $7.45MM agreement, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (via Twitter), right in range of the $7.5MM projection.
- The Mets are in agreement with a laundry list of players. Right-handers Marcus Stroman ($12MM) and Noah Syndergaard ($9.7MM) were the top earners, per reports from MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter) and MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (via Twitter). Both come in close to their projected values of $11.8M and $9.9MM, respectively. The Mets also have a $5.1MM deal with reliever Edwin Diaz, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports (Twitter links). He entered the offseason projected at the $7.0MM level but will fall well shy of that. Despite an outstanding overall track record, Diaz’s platform season was a dud and obviously created some risk in a hearing for his side. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo will play for $2.175MM in his first season of arb eligibility, landing well over the $1.7MM that the model projected. Southpaw Steven Matz, meanwhile, lands a $5MM deal, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter). That’s $300K shy of his projected amount. Relievers Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo will earn $1.225MM and $2MM, respectively, per Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter links). Slugger Michael Conforto will earn $8.0MM, per SNY.tv’s Andy Martino (via Twitter), which is notably south of the $9.2MM that we projected. And fellow outfielder Jake Marisnick checks in a just over 10% north of his projection at $3,312,500, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets.
- Star reliever Kirby Yates receiveds a $7,062,500 salary from the Padres, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. He tops the $6.5MM that MLBTR projected by a solid margin, reflecting just how exceptional he was in 2019.
- The Marlins will pay recently acquired infielder Jonathan Villar a $8.2MM salary, per MLB.com’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). That’s a far sight shy of the $10.4MM that the MLBTR system projected, perhaps reflecting a more difficult path to the bigger number through recent comparables. The club also had some added leverage here since Villar would likely not fare terribly well on the open market if cut loose at this stage or later. (Unless this is a guaranteed deal, Villar could still be jettisoned, with the club paying just a fraction of the settled amount.) The Fish also have also agreed to terms with lefty Adam Conley (for $1.525MM, per MLB Network Radio’s Craig Mish, via Twitter) and righty Jose Urena (for $3.75MM, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, on Twitter).
- Righty Vince Velasquez will pitch for $3.6MM this year with the Phillies, per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philly (via Twitter). Fellow hurler Jose Alvarez will earn $2.95MM, per Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer (via Twitter).
- The Rockies have an agreement with lefty Kyle Freeland, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). He’ll earn $2.875MM. Outfielder David Dahl takes home $2.475MM, Heyman adds on Twitter. The former had projected at $2.4MM and the latter at $3.0MM.
- Pirates hurler Joe Musgrove will receive $2.8MM, per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter links). Fellow righty Keone Kela will earn a reported $3.725MM. Both players had projected at $3.4MM, but land well to either side of that number. Infielder Adam Frazier also has a deal at $2.8MM, per Mackey (via Twitter).
- Righty Anthony DeSclafani will earn $5.9MM from the Reds, according to Robert Murray (via Twitter). He had projected at $5.2MM. Backstop Curt Casali will earn $1.4625MM, per Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). And reliever Matt Bowman takes down $865K, Murray adds on Twitter.
- The Dodgers have worked out a non-typical deal with righty Ross Stripling, Heyman tweets. He’ll get an up-front signing bonus of $1.5MM, which he’ll receive in the next week, and then earn $600K for the campaign to come. Stripling had projected to earn $2.3MM on the year.
- Cardinals righty John Gant will earn $1.3MM after settling with the club. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first tweeted that a deal was in place, while Murray had the number on Twitter. That comes in just under his $1.4MM projection.
Free-agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna has seemingly identified his top two remaining suitors. Ozuna suggested to Hector Gomez of Deportivo Z 101 (hat tip to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale) that he’s deciding between his latest team, the Cardinals, and the Rangers. He indicated that the Cardinals are his preferred choice.
The 29-year-old Ozuna is coming off a solid two-season run in St. Louis, which acquired him from Miami entering 2018. Ozuna was then fresh off a 5.0-fWAR season with the Marlins. He wasn’t as effective as a Cardinal, but he did post a pair of productive years with the club. Ozuna put up 2.6 fWAR in 2019, when he slashed .243/.330/.474 with 29 home runs and a career-high 12 stolen bases over 549 plate appearances.
On the heels of Ozuna’s quality showing last season, the Cardinals began the winter by issuing him a $17.8MM qualifying offer, which he rejected. But it has been difficult to find another obvious suitor since then for Ozuna, and the Cardinals did just weaken their outfield depth by trading Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to the Rays.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have recently been connected to Ozuna and the other most prominent free-agent outfielder, Nicholas Castellanos. It seems the club has some leeriness in regards to the long-maligned defensive abilities of Castellanos, whom it apparently views as more of an infielder than an outfielder. But there’s no doubt that Ozuna’s an outfielder, and he’d fill the Rangers’ need in the grass in the wake of their Nomar Mazara trade with the White Sox. However, one of the big questions is whether the Rangers will pony up for Ozuna, who – along with forcing the team to cough up a substantial amount of money – would cost them their second-highest draft pick in 2020 because he turned down a QO.
The Rays have acquired first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez, outfielder Randy Arozarena, and the Cardinals’ Competitive Balance Round A draft pick in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, the Rays’ pick in Competitive Balance Round B, and a catching prospect from the lower levels of the minors, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). Edgardo Rodriguez is the catcher going to the Cardinals, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets. Passan reported earlier today that Liberatore was headed to St. Louis, with Rosenthal adding that the trade involved six assets and at least two draft picks.
Tampa Bay was known to be looking outfield depth beyond its starting trio of Austin Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier, and Hunter Renfroe, especially after the club non-tendered Guillermo Heredia, its primary fourth outfielder from 2019. Heredia’s role will be filled by Arozarena, who also brings added potential and some strong hitting numbers in his native Cuba, in the minor leagues, and even in his brief 23-plate appearance cameo with the Cardinals last season.
An international signing in the summer of 2016, Arozarena has a .292/.377/.477 slash line and 38 homers over 1302 minor league PA. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the tenth-best prospect in the St. Louis farm system, with a scouting report that expressed some concerns about Arozarena’s aggressiveness at the plate and on the bases, as well as his ability at “making swift adjustments at the plate.” Nonetheless, Arozarena’s hitting approach has only delivered good results thus far, and his speed makes him a solid center field option at least in the near future, if he might be better suited for the corners down the road.
Martinez is also technically a depth option for the Rays in the corner outfield, but given Martinez’s longstanding defensive issues, he has long been tabbed as an ideal candidate to play for an American League team with DH at-bats on offer. The right-handed hitting Martinez will now join three left-handed hitters (Nate Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, and the newly-signed Yoshitomo Tsutsugo) in the first base/DH mix, though Tampa expects Tsutsugo to see some action at third base.
While it remains to be seen how the Rays will fully shuffle and adjust their lineups, Martinez’s primary role seems pretty simple — he’ll be called upon to mash southpaws. The 31-year-old late bloomer has hit .331/.405/.570 with 15 homers over 298 career PA against left-handed pitching, and also solid career numbers against righties, though Martinez’s same-sided productivity declined last season. With fielding no longer a concern, however, the Rays (who have been linked to Martinez on the rumor mill for well over a year) are hoping that Martinez can concentrate fully on being a force at the plate.
The Cardinals entered the offseason with a clear goal of reducing their surplus in the outfield, and between today’s trade and dealing Adolis Garcia to the Rangers last month, St. Louis has achieved that goal without making any significant impact on its 2020 roster. Perhaps most importantly, the Cards were able to move their excess parts while picking up one of baseball’s more promising pitching prospects in Liberatore, whose credentials we detailed earlier today.
Dexter Fowler, Harrison Bader, Lane Thomas, Tyler O’Neill, and utilityman Tommy Edman all figure to play notable roles in the Cardinals’ outfield next season, with top prospect Dylan Carlson on the cusp of his MLB debut and utilitymen Rangel Ravelo and Yairo Munoz also capable of playing on the grass in a pinch. It’s still possible St. Louis could further trade from this collection….or, perhaps, add to it. The Cards have been linked to free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna all winter long, and re-signing Ozuna would allow the club to put a proven everyday performer in the midst of an outfield group that, besides Fowler, is young and pretty inexperienced at the big league level.
The draft pick swap is also a major component of this deal, as Tampa Bay will now have the 38th overall selection in the 2020 draft and St. Louis moves to 66th overall. (Here is the current draft order, as well as the outline of the Competitive Balance Round selection process.) The Competitive Balance Round picks are the only types of draft selections that can be traded, and the Rays have now boosted their standing next June by almost a full round’s worth of picks. The Cards may see their 28-slot drop as the cost of acquiring a major prospect like Liberatore, who likely wasn’t available for only Martinez and Arozarena.
The 19-year-old Rodriguez has hit .338/.389/.495 with six home runs over his first 244 PA as a professional, two seasons with the Rays’ teams in the Dominican Summer League and rookie-ball Gulf Coast League (though he missed over six weeks this season due to injury). Signed out of Venezuela during the 2017-18 international signing period, Rodriguez was ranked prior to the 2019 season as the 53rd-best prospect in Tampa Bay’s system, as per Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen. It remains to be seen if Rodriguez can remain as a catcher, though Longenhagen/McDaniels were impressed by his hitting ability.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
6:16PM: Harrison Bader and Lane Thomas aren’t expected to be part of the trade, Passan reports. Fowler also isn’t thought to be part of this deal, though he could eventually be on the move elsewhere since the Cardinals have been discussing him in other trade negotiations.
5:37PM: The trade is shaping up as a multi-player blockbuster, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter links) reports that the Cardinals and Rays are each sending three “pieces” to the other in the deal. “At least two of those pieces are draft picks,” Rosenthal notes, indicating that Competitive Balance Round selections (the only type of draft picks that can be traded) are in play. The Cards are slated to pick in Competitive Balance Round A following the first round of the draft, whereas the Rays draw after the second round in Competitive Balance Round B, so there is roughly a 30-slot gap between the two picks.
4:57PM: The Cardinals have discussed Tyler O’Neill with the Rays and other teams this offseason, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, though there isn’t yet any indication that O’Neill could be involved in the Liberatore trade.
3:53PM: The Cardinals have acquired left-hander Matthew Liberatore from the Rays, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). The return headed back to Tampa Bay is expected to include at least one player from the Cards’ Major League roster, and hints at a very notable trade given Liberatore’s status as one of the top prospects in the Rays’ system.
Picked 16th overall in the 2018, Liberatore has gotten off to a solid start in his young career, with a 2.59 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and 2.57 K/BB rate over his first 111 professional innings. That includes a 3.10 ERA over 78 1/3 IP at the A-ball level in 2019, though Liberatore missed a bit of time with a minor back injury.
It was a performance that did nothing to dim Liberatore’s stock in the eyes of evaluators, as the most recent prospect rankings from Baseball America (31st), Baseball Prospectus (37th), MLB.com (41st), and Fangraphs (63rd) all place Liberatore solidly among the sport’s top minor leaguers. MLB Pipeline ranks Liberatore fourth on its list of the best left-handed pitching prospects, with a scouting report touting his potential for as many as three 60-grade pitches on the 20-80 scouting scale. In fact, Liberatore’s fastball, changeup, and slider all earned a 55 grade from Pipeline, while his “swing-and-miss hammer” of a curveball gets a 60 grade.
Liberatore is only 20 years old, and at 6’5″ and 200 pounds, might still need to add some bulk to withstand the workload of a Major League starting pitcher. He’ll now immediately become the most promising young arm in the St. Louis farm system, now that the likes of Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson have graduated to the big leagues, and Alex Reyes’ injury concerns continues to cloud his future. Many of the Cardinals’ current top youngsters are position players, which could be addressed by whatever player or players are sent back to Tampa Bay.
As Passan notes, the Rays have been looking for outfield help, so it’s logical to guess that the outfielder-heavy Cards could be dealing from their logjam on the grass. It’s probably safe to assume that the Rays aren’t taking on Dexter Fowler’s big contract (unless this is part of a much larger trade), but St. Louis has a wealth of younger outfielders that could be fits for Tampa Bay — Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Lane Thomas, Randy Arozarena, Jose Martinez, or utilityman Tommy Edman could all be part of this trade. One can’t even rule out top prospect Dylan Carlson, as while the Cardinals have been resistant to offers, it would take a promising young arm like Liberatore to even get the Cards’ attention on a Carlson deal. Still, St. Louis is probably less likely to deal a player who could help their team as early as 2020 in order to land a pitcher who is still at least a couple of years away.
It has been a fairly quiet winter for the Cardinals, who are looking to defend a triumphant return to the top of the NL Central heap. In the latest edition of the Best Podcast In Baseball (audio link), Derrick Goold and St. Louis Post-Dispatch colleague Ben Frederickson examine the question whether the organization can still plug a big new bat into its lineup. There’s ongoing contact with Marcell Ozuna and interest in Nolan Arenado, but it’s still largely unclear whether either player — or some alternative — will end up with the Redbirds in 2020.
The Cardinals have agreed to a minor league contract with catcher Oscar Hernandez, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The former D-backs and Red Sox backstop will head to Major League camp on a non-roster invite.
Hernandez, 26, was the top pick in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, when the D-backs selected him out of the Rays organization. Touted for his defensive skills behind the dish, Hernandez looked decidedly overmatched in two seasons with Arizona, hitting a combined .167/.239/.262 in a tiny sample of 47 plate appearances. He hasn’t appeared in a big league game since 2016, although he was on the Red Sox’ Major League roster briefly this past season. However, Hernandez was called up as a depth option and designated for assignment without ever appearing in a game for Boston.
In parts of 10 minor league seasons, Hernandez is a .246/.323/.417 hitter — although he’s managed just a .210/.276/.336 output at the Triple-A level. He’s thrown out 42 percent of runners who attempt to steal against him in the minors, though (plus one of two in the Majors), and he routinely draws strong framing marks in the minors.
Matt Wieters was the primary backup to ironman Yadier Molina in 2019 but is currently a free agent. Well-regarded prospect Andrew Knizner is the only other catcher on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, so Hernandez will add a glove-first depth option.
It seems that the situation of free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna is beginning to achieve some clarity. The Reds, Cardinals, and Rangers are not only still interested but “appear to be the frontrunners” for his services, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter).
While some market segments have already been deprived of their top options, the best right-handed-hitting corner outfielders remain available. Indeed, the group only expanded at the non-tender deadline, when Domingo Santana and Steven Souza were added to a slate that already included Yasiel Puig, Nicholas Castellanos, and Marcell Ozuna. Somewhat older veterans Cameron Maybin and Hunter Pence are also available for teams interested in righty bats.
The Brewers have inked Avisail Garcia to a $20MM contract, which set down a fairly strong market marker. But the demand situation isn’t quite as strong as might’ve been hoped for by this group. It has remained difficult to ascertain whether there’ll be a major bidding push, even for a group that features youth and established hitting ability.
The trio that Feinsand names on Ozuna has been tied to him previously, so in that sense it’s no surprise. But it’s interesting to see those teams involved at this stage. The Cards have laid low this winter but have said all along they won’t rule out a move to retain Ozuna. The Rangers have funds available to bolster their outfield unit and add some pop to the lineup after missing on Anthony Rendon.
Most interesting of all is the Reds. The Cincinnati organization reportedly agreed to terms with left-handed-hitting center fielder Shogo Akiyama recently, though that’s not yet official. If that contract goes through, it’d give them a ton of options in finishing off their roster. Adding Akiyama already sets the stage for at least a few minor moves for the Reds. Going on to pick up Ozuna or another corner piece would have even more significant implications for the remainder of the team’s winter — and the rest of the market.
- The Cardinals remain in the market for an outfielder, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explored in his holiday chat with readers this week. Corey Dickerson is at least under consideration, and the team hasn’t bowed out of the Marcell Ozuna bidding yet, either. The Cards’ preference is to have bring in an everyday outfielder as opposed to a platoon bat like Joc Pederson, whom the Dodgers have discussed in trades for a second straight offseason.
- Saturday’s trade between the Cardinals and Rangers that sent Adolis Garcia to Texas had roots at the Winter Meetings, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, as the Cards were known to be shopping their surplus of right-handed hitting outfielders. With this “head start on talks” about Garcia, the Cardinals expected Texas or another club to step up with a suitable trade offer when Garcia was designated for assignment earlier this week. Moving Garcia eliminated one name from a still-crowded Cardinals outfield, so more moves could still be in the offing for St. Louis. One player who doesn’t seem likely to be moved is top prospect Dylan Carlson, as the Cardinals unsurprisingly “have had near zero interest in including” Carlson in any trade talks this winter.