- In an interview with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (partial audio link), agent Dave Stewart said he had spoken to “four or five teams” about client Chris Carter, including the Rangers and Orioles. The Athletics haven’t been in touch with Stewart, as the A’s gave the impression that they have moved on from Carter, who played in Oakland from 2010-12. Stewart doesn’t anticipate Carter signing within the next week or so, as the market for first base/DH types is still rather unsettled, even a few weeks after Edwin Encarnacion signed with the Indians.
- The Rangers’ $110K signing of Cuban infielder Luis Yander La O could end up being a bargain, Baseball America’s Ben Badler opines. La O spent almost a full year in free agency before “signing for far less money than other Cuban players who have received bigger bonuses despite having less talent,” Badler writes. Multiple changes in representation could be one reason for La O’s longer-than-expected stint on the open market, though Badler notes that many scouts see him as a utilityman rather than a potential everyday player. Still, at the cost of just a $110K bonus, the Rangers are taking little risk in La O’s future.
- The Rangers have announced agreement on a deal to avoid arbitration with lefty Jake Diekman. With today’s deadline having passed, the sides did exchange figures — $3.1MM versus $1.9MM — but obviously were already nearing a number. The high-powered southpaw projected at $2.6MM, and will receive $2.55MM, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (via Twitter).
- Jeremy Jeffress and Jurickson Profar have each avoided arbitration with the Rangers, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegarm (via Twitter). Jeffress receives $2.1MM, while Profar will receive $1.005MM. Also of note, the Jeffress deal includes incentives that can add up to $250K in incentives, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). He’ll get $50K apiece upon reaching 55, 60, 65, and 70 innings. He had projected for a $2.9MM salary, but his legal issues late last year certainly dented his bargaining power.
- The Rangers announced that they’ve avoided arb with Tanner Scheppers and Robinson Chirinos. Slated to be the backup catcher in 2017, Chirinos will earn $1.95MM according to the Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson (Twitter link). That falls just shy of his $2.1MM projection. Wilson adds that Scheppers will earn $975K — a bit lighter than his $1.1MM projection. Both are controlled through 2018.
- A.J. Griffin has agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, the Rangers announced. Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram tweets that Griffin will earn $2MM on the new pact. Griffin, 28, signed a minor league deal last winter and made the club after coming back from Tommy John surgery with the A’s. He logged a 5.07 ERA in 119 innings and could be either the team’s fifth starter or a swingman, depending on how the rest of the offseason and Spring Training play out. He can be controlled through 2018.
- The Rangers announced that right-hander Sam Dyson agreed to a one-year deal, and Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that he received a $3.52MM contract. Dyson, who emerged as the closer in Texas this season, falls shy of his $3.9MM projection but still lands a nice payday for a first-year reliever that has achieved Super Two status. He saved 38 games with a 2.43 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 70 innings and is controllable through 2020.
5:04pm: The deal guarantees Ross $6MM and also comes with available incentives, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.
3:42pm: The Rangers have agreed with free-agent starter Tyson Ross, as Jeff Wade of 105.3 The FAN in Dallas/Fort Worth first reported. Ross’ contract is a one-year deal, per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (Twitter link). Salary terms are not yet reported.
[Related: Updated Texas Rangers Depth Chart]
Ross is set to turn 30 in April and is coming off a season in which shoulder troubles limited him to one lone appearance — that which he made on Opening Day. Ross attempted to rehab the injury all season without success, ultimately undergoing surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome.
The Padres, not wishing to pay him a repeat of last year’s $9.6MM salary, non-tendered Ross last month. Nearly two-third of the league showed some level of interest in Ross as a free agent, but in recent weeks it’s been reported that the Rangers and Cubd were his two likeliest landing spots, with the Nats also floating on the periphery of his market.
Because of the aforementioned TOS surgery, Ross isn’t a lock to be ready for Opening Day. Durability concerns have long accompanied Ross, but prior to the 2016 season he’d been a largely healthy and effective starter atop the San Diego rotation. From 2013-15, Ross tossed 516 2/3 innings for the Padres, logging to a 3.07 earned run average with 9.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 to go along with a superlative 58.2 percent ground-ball rate.
That level of upside is what led to the widespread interest in Ross and is what will likely lead the Rangers to plug him directly into their rotation once he’s healthy enough to take the hill. As it stands, A.J. Griffin is slotted in as the Rangers’ fifth starter behind Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and fellow offseason signee Andrew Cashner. However, Griffin tossed 119 innings with a 5.07 ERA last year and seems the likeliest to be ousted from the starting five once Ross completes his rehab. (Alternatively, the Rangers could deploy a six-man unit as a means of keeping everyone in the rotation healthy, though that’s simply speculation.)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
This arrangement finally brings an end to La O’s lengthy time on the open market. Though he has always been free of any international signing limitations, it has been nearly a year since he was cleared to sign. It surely did not help that he was originally represented by Bart Hernandez, who has since been indicted on federal trafficking charges.
Now 25, La O once drew praise as one of his home island’s best prospects. Last we checked in, though, he had failed to impress scouts in a workout. Still, La O has a solid track record of high-contact hitting in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, where he owns a .329/.388/.406 slash over 1,338 plate appearances.
It seems likely, given his age and experience, that La O will report to the upper levels of the Texas farm. There, he’ll need to prove that he can reach base enough to offset a notable lack of power, as Baseball America’s Ben Badler explained in a full writeup when La O left Cuba. While he typically lines up at third base, where he’s said to be a quality defender, it’s also possible that he might be able to transition to second with more dedicated time at that position.
Texas had been said to be the favorite to add Mike Napoli, another right-handed power hitter who’d presumably step in at first base and/or DH. But those talks haven’t proceeded as quickly as had seemed likely; per Heyman, the Rangers and Napoli aren’t quite seeing eye to eye on a deal.
That seems to have opened up at least some space for the Rangers to consider alternatives. Trumbo, who’ll turn 31 in a few days, is significantly younger than the 35-year-old Napoli. That had led to expectations that he’d be able to land a lengthier contract, though at present there’s no indication of long-term interest on the market. Of course, despite his prodigious power output — including a league-leading 47 bombs in 2016 — Trumbo also lags Napoli in on-base ability with a career .303 mark. And while the former is theoretically capable of playing the outfield, he has never drawn strong reviews for his glovework on the grass.
Trumbo remains the top unsigned player on MLBTR’s top 50 free agent list. But it’s fair to wonder whether the Rangers are looking mostly for a chance at a relative bargain by opening up a dialogue with his representatives. That’s the course the team pursued last year with Ian Desmond — who required the sacrifice of a draft choice, as would Trumbo — and Texas has shown little inclination to hand out major, long-term contracts this winter. The Rangers hold what’s currently the 26th choice in the 2017 draft.
The market has finally seen some movement, both via trades and free-agent signings, in recent days, and there’s plenty more to come with Spring Training just six weeks away. Here’s the latest chatter on various potential player movements, all via Jon Morosi of MLB Network (all links below are to his Twitter feed).
- Though Jason Hammel has seemingly had trouble finding active pursuers, the Rangers are now in the mix for the righty. That’s certainly promising news for Hammel, who may no longer be under consideration for the Mariners now that they’ve added Yovani Gallardo. Of course, Seattle also just parted with Nate Karns, and GM Jerry Dipoto says he’s still amenable to bolstering his staff (via Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, on Twitter). As for Texas, the level of interest remains unclear, though it’s certainly plausible to imagine the team deciding that Hammel would be a worthwile bet to provide some solid innings. The biggest question, perhaps, is whether they’ll instead land Tyson Ross first.
- As the White Sox continue to discuss trade arrangements involving Jose Quintana, the Astros remain one of the rival organizations most fervently in pursuit. That’s hardly surprising, as Houston has long been said to be engaged on the talented lefty. Certainly, it still seems there’s sufficient momentum towards a deal for something to get done, though it remains to be seen whether the ’Stros or another club will come up with the best offer.
- The Giants are not actively pursuing Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. And though the Dodgers still remain a possible match with Milwaukee, the Los Angeles organization is currently still focused on trying to work out a trade for second baseman Brian Dozier. It’s not known whether the Dodgers would embark upon a pursuit of Braun if they’re able to add Dozier. While they obviously play different positions, Dozier would accomplish the goal of adding right-handed pop while occupying a position of greater need for L.A., which has a rather lengthy list of potential outfielders.
- Meanwhile, the Dodgers are on the hunt for a righty set-up man. One possibility, per Morosi, is live-armed 28-year-old Neftali Feliz, who is arguably the best-remaining relief pitcher. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently took a look at Feliz’s free-agent case.
The Rangers and outfielder Travis Snider have agreed to a minor league contract, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Snider’s deal will pay him a base salary of $1MM if he makes the big league roster in Texas.
Snider, a CAA Sports client, spent the 2016 season with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate and batted a disappointing .245/.340/.350 in 322 plate appearances. The former first-round pick once rated among the game’s top 10 prospects, per both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, but that potential was never fulfilled. Snider debuted as a 20-year-old back in 2008 and held his own through parts of three seasons from ages 20-22, hitting .255/.318/.446 with 25 homers in 675 plate appearances.
While Snider’s production tailed off in the coming years, he did enjoy a very nice 2014 campaign in Pittsburgh, hitting .264/.338/.438 with 13 home runs in 359 plate appearances. But, a trade to the Orioles that offseason yielded more struggles, and Snider didn’t appear in the Majors at all last year.
For the Rangers, Snider provides a depth option with MLB experience that can compete for a bench job in Spring Training or head to Triple-A and wait in the wings in the event of an injury. At present, the Rangers project to utilize Nomar Mazara, Carlos Gomez and Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield, though the possibility of adding an outfielder and shifting Choo to the DH slot does exist. Texas is also likely to bring Josh Hamilton back on a minor league contract, so Snider will presumably be competing with him this spring as well.
- It’s unlikely that the Rangers will bring back veteran righty Colby Lewis, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Though “the door’s open,” per GM Jon Daniels, he adds that he doesn’t “foresee anything happening at this point” with Lewis. Texas would be interested only in a minor-league arrangement, it seems, due in part to questions over Lewis’s health outlook.
- The Rangers have added catcher Steven Lerud on a minor-league deal, per a club announcement. He’ll receive an invitation to MLB camp this spring. Lerud, 32, saw very brief MLB action in both 2012 and 2013, but has plied his trade in the upper minors almost exclusively since 2009. Last year, playing in the Giants organization, he hit .229/.385/.288 over his 214 plate appearances, drawing 38 walks against 50 strikeouts but launching just one home run.
11:30am: FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Nationals, too, covet Ross but are considered a “long shot” to land his services. Joe Ross, Tyson’s younger brother, is currently penciled into the Nationals’ rotation, so there’s some appeal beyond financial incentive for Tyson to ponder a match with the Nats. Then again, Washington also lacks a clear spot in the rotation for him. In addition to the younger Ross brother, the Nats project to utilize Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez in their starting five next season (though Gonzalez has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate at various times this winter).
10:25am: A deal between the Rangers and Ross was not close as of last night, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Ross did meet with the Rangers yesterday, and the team considers him the best available starting pitcher in free agency, per Wilson. However, the Rangers aren’t expecting Ross to be ready to open the season and aren’t likely to offer anything beyond a one-year deal.
JAN. 5, 7:20am: Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports that Ross also met with the Cubs shortly before yesterday’s meeting with Texas (Twitter link). The Rangers and Cubs are considered the two favorites to sign the right-hander, according to Passan.
Presumably, once Ross is healthy enough to take the mound, he would push left-hander Mike Montgomery from the fifth spot in the rotation back to the bullpen. That’d give the Cubs a rotation consisting of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Ross, with Montgomery standing as the first line of defense in the event of an injury.
While there’s certainly plenty about Montgomery that makes him an intriguing rotation candidate, he’s undeniably had more success in the bullpen to this point in his career. In 125 2/3 innings out of the rotation, the former top prospect has a 4.23 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 52.8 percent ground-ball rate. In 65 2/3 innings of relief work, though, he’s logged a pristine 2.10 earned run average to go along with 8.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 58.9 percent ground-ball rate.
Looking beyond the pure numbers, the Cubs also have a clear need for some additional left-handed relief. As it stands, Brian Duensing, Caleb Smith and Rob Zastryzny are the top candidates to serve as southpaw options out of manager Joe Maddon’s bullpen.
JAN. 4, 4:00pm: Ross is visiting the Rangers today, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Per Heyman, Ross is still choosing among six potential suitors, though he’s getting closer to making a decision.
3:54pm: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets that Ross’ asking price has dropped since the Winter Meetings, and talks are indeed advancing between Ross’ camp and the Rangers.
3:50pm: The Rangers are being aggressive in their pursuit of free-agent righty Tyson Ross as they try to strike up a deal, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan (on Twitter). Talks between the two sides “are definitely heating up,” Sullivan adds, further noting that the Rangers “really like” Ross.
[Related: Texas Rangers Depth Chart]
Ross, 30 in April, didn’t pitch last season after Opening Day as he battled ongoing shoulder problems that culminated in surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Not wishing to pay him a repeat of last year’s $9.6MM salary, the Padres cut bait on Ross and non-tendered him, though they were said to be amenable to negotiating a return with a lower guarantee. Ross, however, has reportedly been seeking a comparable $9-11MM on a one-year deal in free agency (before incentives), and roughly two-thirds of the league has expressed some level of interest.
The reason for that widespread interest isn’t difficult to see. While Ross undoubtedly represents a roll of the metaphorical dice given his recent surgery, he’s expected to be ready at or near the beginning of the season and was one of the National League’s better all-around performers on the mound in the years leading up to his injury. From 2013-15, Ross totaled 516 2/3 innings for the Padres, working to a 3.07 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a gaudy 58.2 percent ground-ball rate.
The Rangers, as it stands, project to trot out Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Andrew Cashner and A.J. Griffin in their 2017 rotation. However, Cashner is coming off a dismal season split between the Padres and Marlins, while Griffin was a non-tender candidate himself (5.07 ERA in 119 innings in 2016) but was retained quite possibly due to what is expected to be a low price tag in arbitration. There’s no guarantee, of course, that Ross will be ready to begin the season, though it stands to reason that he’d bump Griffin out of the starting mix when he’s ultimately ready to pitch at the Major League level. That could push Griffin to long relief, though his projected $1.9MM salary is perfectly reasonable for a pitcher in that role.
In addition to the Rangers and Padres, the Cubs, Pirates, Twins, Mariners, Giants and Indians have all been connected to Ross to varying extents over the course of the winter thus far.