This won’t light up the news wire, but it’s a savvy depth move for the Phils. Without the possibility of adding players on MLB deals in the month of August, options are limited for picking up needed gap-fillers. Straily was one of several players that fit into a narrow niche of readily stashable players, as we covered last week.
Even as they consider further acquisitions, the Phillies are dealing with a few health issues involving existing players. None seem particularly worrisome, but a few are worthy of note as the roster takes shape:
- Second baseman Cesar Hernandez has been diagnosed with a grade 1 hip flexor strain, Matt Breen of Philly.com was among those to report on Twitter. It’s not known at this point how long the injury will keep him sidelined, though it’s surely promising that the diagnosis is of the lowest grade. Hernandez has been plenty durable in recent seasons, though he is already working to return from offseason foot surgery.
- There’s also some worry surrounding the outfield health. Roman Quinn is dealing with a “mild” oblique strain, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. That’s a tricky area of the body, but the real red flag here is Quinn’s own track record. Since he reached the professional ranks in 2012, the former second-round draft pick has yet to appear in 100 games in a single season. Quinn says he has done everything possible to “put my body in position to work at a high level,” making for a “really frustrating” situation. The Phils will hope that this latest malady heals up quickly, as Quinn had been slated to battle for a job on the MLB roster.
- Reliever Tommy Hunter, meanwhile, says he’s not terribly concerned with the status of his forearm. While he has been diagnosed with a grade 1 flexor strain, Hunter says the injury is one he has experienced “pretty much every year.” This one was significant enough to require a pause, but it seems he expects to come through just fine. Even if that means missing some time early on in the season, Hunter says he’s confident in the organization’s relief depth.
The deadline for players and teams to exchange arbitration figures passed yesterday at 1pm ET, and there has been a landslide of settlements on one-year deals to avoid an arbitration hearing. We’ll track those settlements from the National League in this post. Once all of the day’s settlements have filtered in, I’ll organize them by division to make them a bit easier to parse.
It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of teams have adopted a “file and trial” approach to arbitration, meaning that once arbitration figures are exchanged with a player, negotiations on a one-year deal will cease. The two parties may still discuss a multi-year deal after that point, but the majority of players who exchange figures with their team today will head to an arbitration hearing.
- Rounding out contract numbers for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dominic Leone will take home $1.26MM, Chasen Shreve will make $900K, and outfielder Marcell Ozuna will earn $12.25MM in his last season before free agency, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Ozuna has the most high-impact potential as he looks to rebound from a still-productive season in 2018 that saw his power output hindered at times by a balky shoulder. He still managed 23 home runs and a .280/.325/.433 slash line while playing just about every day outside of a 10-day DL stint late in August.
- The Diamondbacks came to terms with a slew of players, per Feinsand (via Twitter), including Matt Andriese for $920K, Steven Souza Jr. for $4.125MM, shortstop Nick Ahmed for $3.6625MM, and potential closer Archie Bradley for $1.83MM.
- The Rockies and starting pitcher Jon Gray have come to an agreement on a $2.935MM deal, per Feinsand (via Twitter). Gray had an up-and-down 2018 that is generally considered to be more promising than the optics of his 5.12 ERA make it seem.
- The Pirates have come to terms on one-year deals with both of their arbitration eligible players, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Left fielder Corey Dickerson signs for $8.5MM, and reliever Keone Kela takes home $3.175MM. It’s a small arb class for the Pirates, whose list will grow next season as players like Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, and Joe Musgrove, among others, reach their first season of eligibility.
- The Dodgers signed a couple of their remaining arbitration-eligible players yesterday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links). Utility man Chris Taylor has a $3.5MM deal, while outfield Joc Pederson settled at $5MM.
The Phillies have done a good job of avoiding toxic contracts, but they also don’t have much in the way of homegrown stars in the upper levels of the minors, Matt Gelb of the Athletic notes. It seems obvious, then, that the route to improve this offseason is the free agent market, and they have been one of the teams with assumed interest in free agency’s biggest fishes, to wit, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. That said, owner John Middleton once balked at a perceived lack of on-field hustle from former Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis, which would seem at odds with a willingness to go all-in on Machado, given his growing reputation. Generational talents or not, it’s Middleton’s money, and it’ll ultimately be his decision whether or not Machado and Harper are worth the long-term investment.
- Regardless of what happens with Machado and Harper, the Phillies do not appear inclined to overreach in the secondary market, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, specifically as it pertains to their outfield, where in-house options Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Aaron Altherr are comparable-to and cheaper-than the middle class of talent available in free agency. GM Matt Klentak also says the Phillies are unlikely to explore the starting pitching market, despite potential interest in upgrading in that area. They are hypothetically interested in a left-handed starter, but Patrick Corbin, the top name on the market, figures to command more money than the Phillies are willing to spend on him.
- Cole Hamels is open to signing an extension with the Cubs, or at least that’s the impression 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine came away with after speaking with his agent, John Boggs. The Cubs have until Thursday to decide whether to pick up Hamels’ $20MM option for the 2019 season or let the Texas Rangers pay his $6MM buyout. His impressive turnaround with the Cubs (12 starts, 2.36 ERA, 3.59 xFIP) leads many to believe the team option will be exercised, but nothing official has come down from Chicago yet. If the Cubs do pick up the option, they could begin negotiating an extension as early as Friday with the soon-to-be 35-year-old lefty. In theory, the Cubs could decline their option and negotiate a new contract with Hamels from there. This is unlikely, however, as the Rangers would be on the hook for the $6MM buyout, and they’d have grounds to file a grievance in that circumstance. However it happens, we should know by Thursday if Hamels will play his 2019 home games at Wrigley Field.
- The Marlins are open to being active in free agency this offseason, albeit for moderately-priced, low-risk veterans, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. With six arbitration cases and only three hefty contracts on the books, the Marlins are better positioned than in recent seasons to bring in some reinforcements from the outside to help build culture and mentor their younger players. One of those arbitration cases, last year’s Opening Day starter Jose Urena, has been rumored to be available via trade, but according to Frisaro he is much more likely to be the Opening Day starter in Miami for the second consecutive season.
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 salaries.
Onto today’s landslide of deals…
National League West
- The Rockies have agreed to a $2MM salary with righty Chad Bettis, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link). That’s a fair sight more than his $1.5MM projection. Bettis surely would have had an opportunity to set a bigger platform for himself, but had to battle through testicular cancer before returning to the hill in 2017. Meanwhile, second baseman DJ LeMahieu has settled for a $8.5MM payday in his final year of arbitration, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. That’s just a hair short of the $8.8MM he was pegged for in MLBTR’s projections.
- Giants second baseman Joe Panik is slated to earn $3.45MM in his first season of arb eligibility, Devan Fink of SB Nation was first to tweet. That’s just a hair shy of the $3.5MM that MLBTR projected. Lefty Will Smith has settled at $2.5MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The club has also announced deals with its remaining arb-eligible players, right-handed relievers Sam Dyson ($4.6MM projection), Hunter Strickland ($1.7MM projection), and Cory Gearrin ($1.6MM projection). (H/t John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Twitter). Strickland earns $1.55MM, Nightengale tweets.
- The Padres and Freddy Galvis agreed to a $6.825MM deal for his lone season of team control in San Diego, tweets Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. Galvis, who spent the first several seasons of his career in Philadelphia before being traded this winter, had been projected to make $7.4MM. Infielder Cory Spangenberg settled at $1.7MM, Heyman tweets, falling below a $2.0MM projection. San Diego has also reached agreements with righty Kirby Yates and outfielder Matt Szczur, the team announced. Yates will earn $1,062,500, Heyman tweets, which is just shy of his $1.1MM projection. Szczur, meanwhile, will get $950K, a healthy boost over his $800K projection, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link).
- The Diamondbacks agreed to a $7.75MM deal with center fielder A.J. Pollock, Murray tweets. Pollock was projected to earn $8.4MM in his final year of eligibility before free agency. Murray also notes that Brad Boxberger is set to earn $1.85MM next year (Twitter link). Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic adds that lefty Andrew Chafin ($1.2MM projection) and the D-backs have a $1.195MM deal in place. Third baseman Jake Lamb, meanwhile, agreed to a $4.275MM deal with the Diamondbacks, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link). Lamb, eligible for arbitration for the first time, was projected to earn $4.7MM. He’s controllable through 2020. And ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that Chris Herrmann ($1.4MM projection) landed a $1.3MM deal. Righty Taijuan Walker has settled for $4.825MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which is within range but shy of the $5.0MM he projected for. Lefty Robbie Ray has settled at $3.95MM, per Nightengale (Twitter link), which falls short of his $4.2MM projection. Infielder Nick Ahmed will $1.275MM, per Heyman (via Twitter), which tops the projected figure of $1.1MM. Arizona has also announced that Chris Owings and David Peralta have agreed to terms.
- The Dodgers are in agreement on a $6MM deal with lefty Alex Wood, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He had projected at $6.4MM. Meanwhile, righty Josh Fields agreed to a $2.2MM deal, tweets Murray. Heyman tweets that Enrique Hernandez will earn $1.6MM. Fields’ projection of $2.2MM was on the money, whereas Hernandez topped his mark by $300K. Fields is controlled through 2019, while Hernandez is controllable through 2020. Southpaw Tony Cingrani gets $2.3MM, Murray tweets, which is just a shade over his $2.2MM projection. Outfielder Joc Pederson has also settled, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (via Twitter), with Beth Harris of the Associated Press reporting a $2.6MM salary that rather handily tops the $2.0MM that MLBTR projected.
National League Central
- All three remaining Cardinals arb-eligibles have agreed to deals, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. Marcell Ozuna will earn $9MM after drawin a much larger $10.9MM projection, Heyman tweets. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained that Ozuna likely wouldn’t quite reach the amount the algorithm suggested, though the actual salary still comes in a bit shy of expectations. Lefty Tyler Lyons ($1.3MM projection) receives $1.2MM, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). The Cards have also reached agreement with Michael Wacha for $5.3MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter); he was projected to earn $5.9MM.
- The Reds agreed to a $860K salary with Anthony DeSclafani, tweets Murray. DeSclafani missed the 2017 season due to arm troubles and had been projected to earn $1.1MM. He’ll remain under Reds control through 2020. Billy Hamilton and the Reds have settled on a one-year deal worth $4.6MM, tweets Murray. A popular trade candidate this offseason, Hamilton was projected to earn $5MM and comes with another two seasons of team control. Murray also conveys that Michael Lorenzen agreed to a $1.3125MM deal, which lines up fairly well with his $1.4MM projection.
- The Cubs have struck a deal with lefty Justin Wilson, agreeing to a one-year, $4.25MM pact, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). Wilson, who had been projected at $4.3MM, will be a free agent next winter. The Cubs alsoagreed to a $950K salary with infielder Tommy La Stella, tweets MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. La Stella was projected to make $1MM in his first offseason of arbitration eligiblity and can be controlled through 2020. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs have agreed to a $4.175MM salary, per Nightengale (on Twitter). That sum comes in a fair bit shy of his projected $4.9MM projection as a first-time eligible player. The Cubs control Hendricks through the 2020 season. Chicago also agreed with Addison Russell, per Wittenmyer (Twitter link). The shortstop will receive $3.2MM for the coming season.
- Nightengale reports (on Twitter) that the Brewers and breakout closer Corey Knebel settled at $3.65MM. As a Super Two player, Knebel can be controlled through the 2021 season and will be arb-eligible thrice more. He was projected at $4.1MM. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets that the Brewers and right-hander Jimmy Nelson settled at $3.7MM, which falls $1MM shy of his $4.7MM projection (though some of that discrepancy may be due to Nelson’s shoulder injury). Milwaukee also announced a deal for infielders Jonathan Villar (projected at $3MM) and Hernan Perez (projected at $2.2MM). McCalvy reports that Villar will earn $2.55MM, while terms of Perez’s deal are not yet available.
- The Pirates have avoided arbitration with shortstop Jordy Mercer by settling on a $6.75MM salary for 2018, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Mercer, who’d been projected to earn $6.5MM, is entering his final year of team control and will be a free agent next winter. Biertempfel also reports that Gerrit Cole will earn that same $6.75MM salary in 2018 — a $3MM raise over last year (Twitter link). He has two years of control remaining and had been projected to earn $7.4MM. Righty George Kontos has also agreed to terms, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter). He had projected for $2.7MM and will receive a smidge more, at $2,725,000, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).
National League East
- The Braves reached a $3.4MM deal with righty Arodys Vizcaino, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). He’d been projected at $3.7MM. The Braves and righty Dan Winkler agreed to a $610K salary for the upcoming season, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Winkler tossed just 14 1/3 innings in the Majors this year as he made his way back from elbow surgery. He’d projected at $800K.
- The Marlins and Miguel Rojas agreed to a $1.18MM deal for 2018, Heyman tweets, placing him north of his $1.1MM projection. Rojas should see additional playing time following the Marlins’ wave of trades this offseason. He’s controlled through 2020. Miami also has a deal in place with infielder Derek Dietrich for $2.9MM, Heyman tweets, after projecting at $3.2MM.
- The Mets were able to settle perhaps their most notable arb case, agreeing to a $7.4MM deal with righty Jacob deGrom, per James Wagner of the New York Times (via Twitter). That’s well shy of his $9.2MM projection, though MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained the formula likely overestimated deGrom’s earning power by quite a wide margin. Fellow top righty Noah Syndergaard gets $2.975MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which goes a fair sight past the $1.9MM projection for the outstanding young starter, whose 2017 season was limited by injury. And reliever AJ Ramos will take home $9.225MM, according to Wagner (via Twitter). That’s just barely past the $9.2MM projection. Wilmer Flores has also avoided arbitration with the Mets, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (on Twitter). He’ll receive a $3.4MM salary, which falls within $300K of his projected rate. The Mets control Flores through the 2019 campaign. The Mets and right-hander Matt Harvey agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.625MM, tweets Nightengale. Harvey, who is a free agent next winter, had been projected to earn $5.9MM. Meanwhile, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets that Jeurys Familia will earn $7.925MM for the upcoming year, while Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that catcher Travis d’Arnaud will earn $3.475MM in 2018 (Twitter link). Familia, a free agent next winter, was projected at $7.4MM. The Mets control d’Arnaud through 2019, and his projection was $3.4MM. Righty Hansel Robles gets $900K, Heyman tweets.
- Also via Nightengale (Twitter link), the Nationals agreed to a $6.475MM salary for 2018 with right-hander Tanner Roark. That falls about $1MM shy of his $7.5MM projection but still represents a noted raise of $4.315MM for Roark, whom the Nats control through 2019. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post adds that Michael Taylor will earn $2.525MM next year. Taylor is controlled through 2020 and was projected at $2.3MM.
- The Phillies and Maikel Franco settled on a $2.95MM salary for the 2018 season, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (Twitter link). Franco, a Super Two player who’d been projected at $3.6MM, remains under club control with the Phils through the 2021 season. Second bagger Cesar Hernandez will earn at a $5.1MM rate in 2018, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki (via Twitter). That beats his $4.7MM projection and wraps up this year’s arb business for the Phillies.
As the Braves remake their player personnel asset base, the team continues to make changes in other areas. Atlanta recently announced the hiring of Ted Simmons, Matt Kinzer, and Leon Wurth as MLB scouts. Simmons, an outstanding catcher in his playing days, recently served as a special assistant to the GM with the Mariners. Kinzer was an important Marlins scout, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes on Twitter, while Wurth recently finished a 13-year run with the Brewers. Also joining the Braves is former Fangraphs prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel, who’ll become the team’s assistant director of baseball operations.
Here are more notes from the eastern divisions:
- The Phillies are working hard as they approach a key draft for the organization, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. Philly holds the top pick in next year’s draft, and amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz is continuing to canvas the crop of talent that will be making the leap to the professional ranks. Almaraz says that the team will be patient and allow players to develop before reaching a final decision. He added that the Phils will also look to be “creative” to take full advantage of their draft position and overall pool money.
- The Red Sox announced a series of front office promotions today in the scouting arena. Most notably, perhaps, was the bump up of Eddie Romero to VP of international scouting. The team says that the 35-year-old Puerto Rican native has been with the Boston organization since 2006. Romero most recently played an important role in the team’s efforts to sign highly-regarded Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. And as Ben Badler of Baseball America notes on Twitter, Romero has had a hand in adding several other key prospects as well.
- While signing a second baseman is an obvious route for the Yankees to take in bolstering their chances in 2016, Chad Jennings of the Lohud Yankees Blog writes that it isn’t quite that simple. If the organization’s recent history is an indication, says Jennings, an in-house route could be more likely than a new signing, and the recently-acquired Dustin Ackley could pair with homegrown Rob Refsnyder, with Jose Pirela also on hand. “I think we have at least some comfort knowing that I have Ref [and] I maybe have Ackley if we get a better feel for what he can provide on the defensive standpoint,” explained GM Brian Cashman. “We have Pirela who had a hell of a year at Triple-A (but) has not really shown that yet at the Major League level. I think we have some candidates here that as we move forward, we can say we have something, unless something presents themselves as being better.”
2:44pm: Talks between the Nationals and Phillies are “very complicated” and the sides still have plenty to work out, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweets. Papelbon is still likely to be sent to D.C., but there are “hurdles” to be dealt with, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets.
11:53am: A source tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Papelbon “will be traded” at the deadline.
10:31am: The Nationals are making progress on a deal that would bring closer Jonathan Papelbon to D.C. from the rival Phillies, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. It’s unclear how far off the teams are from reaching agreement, let alone what kind of return is under contemplation.
There had been indications that Papelbon’s market was cooling, but it seems that action has kicked back into gear in recent days. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that he’s been left with the impression that the team is confident in getting some kind of deal done involving the controversial closer.
With Philadelphia reportedly amenable to covering some of Papelbon’s costs — which include a $13MM salary this year and a $13MM option for 2016 that will soon vest — he’s a good fit for a Nationals team that is said to be disinclined to absorb salary in the middle of the year. But Philly’s willingness to pay down some obligations also makes Papelbon palatable to other clubs. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki noted yesterday that the Blue Jays and Cubs have also expressed keen interest in the veteran righty.
Former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins viewed the Dodgers as his number one choice for a new club, writes Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. But if a deal hadn’t been reached, Rollins would have considered a trade to the division rival Mets. Rollins said, “I considered the Mets to be No. 2. They have some arms over there.” Rollins clarified that he’s unsure if he would have ultimately accepted a trade to New York. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that the Mets inquired about Rollins in November but were told he would not accept a trade.
- The Phillies are working quickly to evaluate Rule 5 picks Odubel Herrera and Andy Oliver, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com writes. Herrera will start in the outfield and Oliver will pitch an inning of relief as the Phillies take on the University of Tampa in an exhibition Sunday. Neither Herrera, who posted good on-base percentages in the Rangers system, nor Oliver, a hard-throwing but wild lefty from the Pirates organization, expected to wind up with the Phillies. “This is a good opportunity for me,” says Oliver. “I feel like I’m in a better place than where I came from.”
- In addition to Oliver, Phillippe Aumont and non-roster invitee Jeanmar Gomez could make the opening day bullpen due to transactional reasons, writes Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. The Phillies acquired Aumont in 2009 as part of the haul from the Mariners for Cliff Lee. He’s the lone remaining asset from that trade and is out of options. If he does not make the club, he’ll be subject to waivers. Gomez, 27, would have to earn a spot on the 40-man roster, but the club isn’t in a position to pass on viable major league pitchers. He has a 3.28 ERA in 78 appearances over the last two seasons, although his peripherals suggest we should expect something closer to a 4.00 ERA.
Todd Zolecki is our Rumor Royalty recipient for the Phillies. Todd covers the team for the Philadelphia Inquirer and also keeps a blog, the soon-to-be-renamed Zo Zone. Todd has kindly agreed to answer a handful of reader questions for the series.
MLBTR: Does signing Ryan Howard to a long term contract make sense for the Phils?
Zolecki: It depends what price we’re talking about. Before and after winning $10 million in arbitration, Howard is seeking major money. Maybe in the $200 million range. The Phillies are not the Yankees or Red Sox, so if they commit that type of money to one player, it almost certainly would cost them elsewhere. That could mean Cole Hamels going elsewhere. Or Brett Myers. Or others. I’m not sure the Phillies want to do that, and get stuck in a contract they hate like the Rangers and A-Rod.
MLBTR: For many years, the Phillies’ farm system has been lackluster with respect to pitching. Why is this the case, and do you think the farm system is improving in this respect?
Zolecki: There’s no question it’s been a source of frustration. The Phillies haven’t had a homegrown 20-game winner since Chris Short in 1966. That’s remarkable. There are millions of theories out there, but lately it seems like they’ve had better success. Hamels. Myers. Kendrick. They like Carlos Carrasco, Joe Savery, Josh Outman and Kyle Drabek (who’s recovering from Tommy John) in the minors. Will these guys pan out? We’ll see. But it seems like they are turning some things around. Of course, things would be easier if they spent a little more money to sign players in the draft.
MLBTR: Do the Phillies have the goods to acquire Joe Blanton without hurting the ’08 team?
Zolecki: I don’t think so. The Phillies are very hesitant to give up some of their top talent because they don’t have much at the moment.
MLBTR: What was your opinion of the Brad Lidge trade? Do you think he can handle Philly?
Zolecki: I like it. They got him relatively cheaply — Geoff Geary, Michael Bourn and Mike Costanzo. If Lidge pitches like they think they can, the Phillies improved their bullpen and rotation with one move. That’s tough do. Fortunately for them, Myers is versatile and should transition back into the rotation.
Todd has kindly agreed to answer a handful of reader questions for the series. Please leave your Phillies hot stove queries in the comments and I’ll choose the best three or four.