Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Will the Mets deal Ike?
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The New York Mets formally introduced Curtis Granderson Tuesday at the winter meetings, hoping that the four-year $60 million investment in their new left fielder will help snap their stretch of five straight losing seasons.
The contract is the largest awarded to a free agent by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson in four offseasons leading the club, easily topping a two-year, $12 million contract to closer Frank Francisco.
According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Alderson “acknowledged Granderson's deal is expected to be the largest the Mets will award this offseason.”
The Mets could still go the trade route, with the names of Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy popping up in recent weeks. Davis saw his production nosedive following a 32-homer season in 2013, and the Mets' worst nightmare would be for Davis to become a reincarnation of Chris Davis and find his stroke in a new home.
One possibility could be the Rays, who appear unable to afford free agent James Loney.
Tags:Curtis Granderson, New York Mets, Ike Davis
Angels targeting Matt Garza
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
ESPN Insider Jim Bowden has learned that adding a top starting pitcher remains a top priority for the Los Angeles Angels, and free agent right-hander Matt Garza is their primary target.
The Angels already made a bold move Tuesday to acquire pitching, landing Hector Santiago from the White Sox and Tyler Skaggs from the Diamondbacks in a three-way deal that sent slugging first baseman Mark Trumbo to Arizona.
But the Halos are still looking to bolster a rotation that already includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards. According to Bowden, GM Jerry Dipoto has his sights on the 30-year-old Garza, who posted a combined 10-6 record with a 3.82 ERA in 24 starts for the Cubs and Rangers.
Tags:Los Angeles Angels, Matt Garza
D-backs offer Joba $3 million
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Arizona Diamondbacks have offered righthander Joba Chamberlain a one-year deal worth $3 million, tweets our own Buster Olney.
Chamberlain never fulfilled the lofty expectations expected of him during his turbulent tenure with the New York Yankees, and his ERA was a career-worst 4.93 in 45 appearances in 2013. He does have experience as both a starter and reliever, and a change of scenery should do him well.
The Royals and Phillies also have been linked to Joba in recent weeks.
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Joba Chamberlain
What's next for Shin-Soo Choo?
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The dominoes that have fallen before and during the MLB winter meetings have left Shin-Soo Choo, the top free agent outfielder left on the market, still searching for a job.
There was some talk earlier Tuesday that the Arizona Diamondbacks were interested in the 31-year-old who spent last season in Cincinnati, but that is likely not an option now that the Snakes have acquired Mark Trumbo from the Angels in a three-team deal.
The New York Yankees were believed to be interested in Choo, but they went off the board following last week's deals for free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran.
The Texas Rangers have publicly expressed interest, but our Buster Olney tweets this: "Teams that have talked with the Rangers in the last 24 hours say TEX feels Shin-Soo Choo is going to be far too expensive for them.” Texas also is interested in re-signing Nelson Cruz, and could go that route instead.
Another potential home may have been crossed off Tuesday morning when the Detroit Tigers reportedly agreed to a deal with left fielder Rajai Davis.
So what's left? ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick analyzes Choo’s options, and asks if agent Scott Boras might be forced to lower his price tag.
One thing to remember: Boras was in a similar bind a few winters ago with Prince Fielder, but found him a $214 million deal in Detroit after Victor Martinez was injured. We’re not saying Boras and Choo are rooting for an injury, but things happen.
The market for Choo
"It doesn't necessarily bode well for Choo to land a deal of $130 million-plus for six or seven years. But feel free to stop us if you've heard that one before. If the first month of the Hot Stove season is any indication, we should probably expect the unexpected."
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Shin-Soo Choo
O's closing in on Balfour?
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Baltimore Orioles have explored several options in their search for a closer to replace the departed Jim Johnson, and they appear to be zeroing in on free agent Grant Balfour.
Baltimore remains interested in the Australian righthander and is trying to get a deal done, says MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli.
Manager Buck Showalter confirmed Tuesday that the club hasn't extended a formal offer to Balfour, but Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports says the offer is expected to come later today. The 35-year-old Balfour Balfour had a 2.59 ERA and 38 saves in 65 games for the A's last season.
The Orioles also have interest in both John Axford, who finished the year in St. Louis, and Chris Perez, who was not welcomed back by the Indians.
D-Backs Make Headlines While Angels, White Sox Make Gains.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When Kevin Towers took over the Diamondbacks as general manager, one of the first things he did was make a trade. In Mark Reynolds, he had a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty had clear strikeout problems, and he wasn’t known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what made Reynolds was his power. Strength was his defining characteristic, and to that point Reynolds owned a career 108 wRC+ while being worth about eight WAR. In short, he was simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers gave him up to the Orioles in exchange for a couple relievers. One of them is all right.
Towers is still in charge of the Diamondbacks as general manager, and the most recent thing he’s done is make a trade. As had been rumored for a good while, Towers pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in Mark Trumbo. Trumbo is a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty has clear strikeout problems, and he’s not known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what makes Trumbo is his power. Strength is his defining characteristic, and to this point Trumbo owns a career 111 wRC+ while having been worth about seven WAR. In short, he’s simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers got him from the Angels in exchange for Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs. Both of them could be quality young players.
The situation, naturally, is different for the Diamondbacks organization. And general managers and all people are always welcome to change their minds about things based on new information. But Monday night, on MLB Network, Towers went on and emphasized that he wanted to add some power to his lineup. Comparing the moves makes for an interesting parallel, because while Reynolds and Trumbo aren’t identical, they are different brands of the same thing. Towers sold one of them low, and he bought one of them high.
I guess I should lay out all of the details, because this is actually a three-way trade between the Diamondbacks, Angels, and White Sox. In sum:
Arizona gets: Mark Trumbo, PTBNL from Chicago, PTBNL from Los Angeles
Arizona gives: Tyler Skaggs, Adam Eaton
Los Angeles gets: Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago
Los Angeles gives: Mark Trumbo, PTBNL
Chicago gets: Adam Eaton
Chicago gives: Hector Santiago, PTBNL
The first remark is the harshest. While Trumbo’s a fairly well-known player, and while three-way trades are always good for intrigue, it might well work out that this trade doesn’t include any star players. It might not even include any good players, if good means at least above-average. Towers claims that the players to be named later are good, but rumor has it they’re both eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and they’re coming out of empty systems, so it’s not like they’re going to sway things more in Arizona’s favor. The way I see it, it’s an overall overrated exchange, where the White Sox do best, the Angels do fine, and the Diamondbacks confuse.
For the Sox, it’s basically a swap of Santiago for Eaton. The player to be named isn’t valueless, but he’s probably not a prospect of note, so it keeps things cleaner to think of this as a one-for-one. Santiago is a cost-controlled starter who can eat up some innings in the back of a rotation. Eaton, though, is a different kind of cost-controlled starter, and there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play a regular center field going forward. He even comes with an extra year before free agency.
Santiago’s strength is that he can miss some bats. The rest of his reality is that he doesn’t throw enough strikes or generate a high number of grounders, and you can see where this is going — his peripherals don’t come close to matching his sub-4 ERA, and in cases like this we always side with the peripherals. As a starter, Santiago looks below-average, with limited room for improvement. There’s some chance he ends up a reliever, which he was in 2012. He’s a potential long-term player who’s not a real long-term asset.
Eaton’s coming off a year of reduced stock, thanks in large part to an elbow injury that cost him playing time. There exist some questions about his defensive capability, and he’s a groundball guy more than he’s a power guy. What he does is make contact, run well, and mostly swing at the right pitches, which seems to establish something of a modest floor with limited upside. Of course, players like Eaton have failed before, but for a long time, for low prices, he could be average or a little better than that. That’s better than Santiago, which is the only thing that matters here.
Shifting to the Angels, they lose Trumbo, but they were prepared for that. They lose a player to be named, but presumably they’re always prepared for that. The deal addresses their lack of rotation depth, and while I’ve already said what I have to say on Santiago, he can at least be a functional sixth or seventh starter. Skaggs is the get, and he should work out of the rotation right away. He’s theirs through 2019 if they want him.
You can’t talk about Skaggs without talking about what he used to be. Two years ago, Baseball America considered him baseball’s 13th-best prospect. One year ago, they considered him baseball’s 12th-best prospect. Now he’s coming off a disappointing year that saw him pitch with reduced velocity. He didn’t pitch anywhere in September, the Diamondbacks preferring to give him the month off. As the problem, they identified some mechanical flaws, but it’s never been a secret that Skaggs was available for the right price.
Now he’s back in the organization that gave him up for Dan Haren. He’s 22 years old, and though he was throwing more in the high-80s than the low-90s, his secondary stuff was intact and Skaggs was still able to miss bats. It’s easy to see how Skaggs could be on the way to busting, but he still has promising statistical indicators, and of course there’s the history. As his diminished self, Skaggs can pitch out of a rotation. If he bounces back some, he can pitch toward the front of one. Buying low on young pitchers is a sure-fire way to end up with a lot of disappointing young pitchers, but Skaggs has clear promise and is the best gamble here to end up legitimately great.
One also can’t ignore that, this year, the Angels will save about $4 million. They’re a team that’s been hard up for money, so that’s not insignificant. They’ll save money next year and the year after that, too, presuming they would’ve otherwise just kept Trumbo. There’s a decent chance the Angels get nothing out of this. There’s a decent chance they get a good young starter.
Finally, the Diamondbacks. As Dave Cameron wrote earlier, Trumbo is simultaneously underrated and overrated. He’s not as good as his dingers and he’s not as bad as his OBP, and with his relatively low projected salaries, he stands to have some surplus value. It was worth trading something to get Mark Trumbo. But for three years of Trumbo getting paid many millions, Towers gave up six years of Skaggs and five years of Eaton. You’re not going to convince me that a couple players to be named later make this look good.
The easiest thing is to look at the projections. Steamer projects Trumbo for a 2.2 WAR, and it projects Eaton for a 1.7 WAR. However, that’s 1.7 WAR in 200 fewer plate appearances, so just on that alone, Eaton at least looks equivalent. Based on the projections, Arizona acquired an outfielder for a cheaper, equivalent outfielder and a talented young starting pitcher to boot. What Arizona gained, certainly, is a lot of power, which is exactly what Kevin Towers wanted. What Arizona didn’t gain, or at least what Arizona didn’t gain much of, is overall value. Even if you figure Trumbo will be better than Eaton in 2014, the gap can be only so big because Trumbo is only so good, and then there’s Skaggs being included in addition.
Trumbo might have as much raw strength as anyone else, but it doesn’t look like he’s on the verge of improving. He swings and misses too often, and he chases too often. He’s experienced in the outfield, but he’s not an asset there and now he’s clearly blocked at first base. Arizona will make for a much more hitter-friendly environment, but that doesn’t make Trumbo more valuable — that’s why we have park-adjusted statistics. Trumbo will be a pure power hitter slightly out of position, and though Eaton doesn’t share his handedness, it’s hard to see how Trumbo makes Arizona that much better.
It might be a very incremental, short-term upgrade. It probably doesn’t help the Diamondbacks catch the Dodgers, and it cost more than incremental short-term upgrades ought to. Maybe, Eaton just hangs around as a fourth outfielder, and maybe Skaggs busts completely, but it’s not just about their futures. It’s about what else Arizona might’ve been able to do instead, and it seems to me like they could’ve done more than this. Trumbo is exactly what Kevin Towers wanted, but what Kevin Towers wanted isn’t enough of an improvement to warrant the return.
Arizona gets the most visible player in the deal, and the player most likely to deliver the most highlights. Los Angeles gets the top pitching prospect, who could go in any number of directions. And the worst team involved makes the best deal involved, turning a mediocre young starter into a potential everyday center fielder who could stick around for years. It’s not going to be easy to turn the White Sox into winners, but these kinds of fairly quiet moves can help a whole lot more than they hurt.
Oakland Sends Lottery Ticket Brett Anderson To Colorado.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If it’s possible to both buy low and sell low simultaneously, then that might be just what the Rockies and Athletics did by swapping 25-year-old lefty starters Drew Pomeranz and Brett Anderson on Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. (The A’s are reportedly also sending $2 million; Colorado sends 23-year-old righty starting prospect Christopher Jensen, who has has yet to make it out of A-ball and is on no one’s top prospect list.)
It’s a gamble on both sides, and it’s not all that difficult to see why. For Colorado, it’s an opportunity to pick up a pitcher with plus talent who keeps the ball on the ground. You hardly need me to tell you that the Rockies can never get enough pitching, but that’s especially true when you look at their current depth chart. There’s Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge de la Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood, who were all various levels of useful in 2013, and Juan Nicasio, who was somewhat less so, and then…. well, a big mess of Pomeranz or Collin McHugh or Jordan Lyles, while waiting for Jonathan Gray to arrive.
But of course, the giant, gimpy elephant on crutches in the room is Anderson’s near-total inability to stay healthy. In five big league seasons, he’s pitched 450.2 innings total, not having cracked even the 100-inning mark since 2010. That’ll happen when you miss months with a sore left elbow (2010), get Tommy John surgery (2011-12), strain your oblique (late 2012), and then miss four months with a severely sprained right ankle (2013).
Anderson made five starts of varying quality last April, then came back as a reliever in late August after recovering from the ankle injury. He was reasonably effective enough out of the pen (17/6 K/BB in 15.2 innings, though with difficulty keeping runs off the board) that there was at least some talk of keeping him there long term, especially since the addition of Scott Kazmir gave the A’s at least seven different starting options.
If we cross our fingers and tap our shoes and squint hard enough to imagine Anderson actually staying healthy enough to remain in the rotation, then the Rockies just picked themselves up a very talented young pitcher. Though he doesn’t usually miss a ton of bats, his control is good, and as you can see at right, he’s increased his groundball rate each year of his career (with a few different levels of ‘small sample size,’ of course), which is a big appeal for Coors Field.
Even his supposed “home run problem” in 2013 isn’t really indicative of anything. Yes, his HR/FB jumped to 17.9%, a huge increase from any other year. But then again, when you’re pitching so rarely that you barely have the time to allow any fly balls at all, perhaps we shouldn’t read too heavily into that stat — of the five homers he allowed all season, three came in the span of six batters in Detroit on April 13. So while it’s almost criminally insane to expect that this is the year Anderson magically stays healthy, he’s the kind of high risk / high reward pitcher a team like Colorado ought to be going after. A Jason Vargas type here just wasn’t going to move the needle.
So what’s in it for the A’s? Team control and freed-up salary, mainly. Oakland saves $7.5m at the least by passing off Anderson’s $8m 2014 contract (minus the $2m they are sending) and a $1.5m buyout of a $12m 2015 option. Pomeranz, meanwhile, can’t be a free agent until after the 2018 season at the earliest.
Depending on how you view Oakland’s budget, they can either put that savings to use to make another move, or they’ve already done so by acquiring Kazmir and Jim Johnson. Either way, Billy Beane is making a simple gamble: that the certainty of the financial savings and the potential for Pomeranz to get his act together over the next few years is higher than the chance that Anderson stays healthy and productive simultaneously before his option decision must be made.
It’s not a bad risk, really. Pomeranz was once a highly-touted prospect when he was shipped to Denver from Cleveland in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal, but he was never really able to put it together for the Rockies.
You can put some share of the blame there on Colorado, if you like, because they never exactly made it easy on him. After being the #5 overall pick in the 2011 draft, he was put in an awkward position as the player to be named later in the Jimenez deal, unable to be officially moved for several weeks after the trade until the one-year waiting period had passed from the time he’d signed his contract, even though everyone knew it would be him. After just two minor league starts in the organization, they rushed him to the bigs in September, then put him through the “four-man rotation with low pitch limit” shenanigans that they experimented with in 2012.
In 2013, he spent most of the year in Triple-A along with missing six weeks with left shoulder inflammation, and made just four big-league starts. His main problem at this point is that he’s really a two-pitch pitcher while also fighting with mechanics troubles, and so his future might be in the bullpen. Then again, it’s barely been two years since he was such a highly touted prospect, and getting out of Coors Field and away from the Colorado organization hardly seems like a bad thing for him.
If you strictly adhere to the rule of “the team getting the best player wins the trade,” well, then that’s probably Colorado. It’s a lot easier to see Anderson adding value then Pomeranz; of course, it’s a lot easier to see Anderson spending months at a time on the disabled list too.
It’s difficult to think the A’s were ever getting a huge return for a guy who has made 24 starts over the last three seasons, so both sides can count this as a win. Colorado gets the lottery ticket pitcher they needed; Oakland gets a less likely lottery ticket along with team control and cost savings. In the end, both sides made reasonable gambles on swapping two young lefties who each carry large amounts of risk.
Indians Right To Shop Cabrera, Masterson.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In the past 24 hours, we have learned that the Indians are open to at least listening to offers for both Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson. We can debate the merits of trading Masterson, but moving Cabrera is a slam dunk decision. On the whole though, the willingness to listen on two players who are nearing free agency and may fetch something juicy on the trade market shows that Cleveland is very much conducting their offseason properly.
During the course of the offseason, the market can change drastically. With the free-agent pitching market brought to a near-standstill at the moment, the trade market is blooming. Since the Winter Meetings started, we have heard a number of trade rumors, be they credible or not. That is somewhat the nature of the beast at this time of year, but with last week’s flurry of transactions taking a number of “sexy” options off the board, it seems that trade rumors are all we have until Masahiro Tanaka either is concretely posted or not posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles. As such, putting it out there that the Indians are happy to listen on Cabrera and Masterson is a great idea.
With Cabrera and Masterson both only a year away from free agency, trading them both now would make a lot of sense from an organizational perspective. You don’t need me to tell you that. Soon they may lose them for nothing. But there is a difference between a team on the cusp of contention actually taking the steps to balance short-term and long-term goals and actually seeing it first-hand. And with the free-agent market what is right now, perhaps they could fetch something nice in return.
Let’s start with Cabrera. Putting Cabrera on the block is a pretty easy call to make. For one, Cabrera’s skills have declined since his breakout in 2011. He’s solid offensively for a shortstop, but he’s nothing special. He also is very much not special defensively. And that’s where the Indians are in prime position. The defense of prospect Francisco Lindor is so well regarded that if he is everything he is projected to be, the Indians might not have much drop off at all, holistically speaking. If you examined Cleveland’s 2014 ZiPS projections yesterday, you saw this:
Cabrera: 609 PA, 2.8 WAR
Lindor: 539 PA, 1.8 WAR
And that is with a very conservative .281 wOBA projection for Lindor. Steamer has him at a .293 wOBA, so they are both in the same ballpark. But if Lindor hits even close to the mark that he has in the minors, he will blow away those projections. Lindor has progressed from LoW-A, to A, to High-A and then Double-A, and his wOBA has increased at each stop: .323, .328, .363 and .376, respectively. Also, he was 19 when he reached Double-A. Here’s a list of players to reach Double-A at the age of 19 (or younger) in the last three seasons: Lindor, Rougned Odor, Xander Bogaerts, Jurickson Profar, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Obviously being in that company doesn’t guarantee that Lindor will hit well when he reaches the majors, but I like his chances. Cleveland could probably call him up for Opening Day and not miss Cabrera one bit. If they wanted to let Mike Aviles keep his seat warm for a little bit, they’re probably not going to lose a ton of value that way either.
There’s also the matter to consider that Cabrera may have a pretty decent market. At this time, the only starting shortstop still on the market is Stephen Drew, and he has a draft pick attached to him. And there are likely a few teams who will see the combination of not having to give up a draft pick plus Cabrera’s past success and see him as more desirable than Drew. Cabrera is also three years younger, and might be seen as a more durable player than Drew as well. I suppose you could squint and see Clint Barmes as a starting shortstop, but the Pirates started platooning him last year, and there is little reason to think his status around the game has somehow elevated in the interim. In other words, the market may be lining up just right for the Indians to take advantage of that one team still desperate for a shortstop.
Trading Masterson is a different animal altogether. For one thing, he was the best pitcher on what was technically a playoff team a season ago. For another, he’d likely be that same pitcher again this season, depending on how bullish you are about Danny Salazar. For a third, he’s also still pretty young, at least relatively speaking. Of the potential free-agent pitchers who don’t have a club option for 2015, the only three pitchers younger than Masterson are Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey and Clayton Kershaw. Anderson is a giant question mark, and I’ll be pretty surprised if Kershaw pitches for anyone other than the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. That leaves Bailey. There are actually some pretty good options on the market next season aside from those guys, but age is always a big factor, and Masterson has that on his side. He’s also been pretty durable, and pretty consistent. In his four full seasons in Cleveland, only 25 starting pitchers have tossed more innings than has Masterson. And while Masterson isn’t the best pitcher alive, he compares pretty favorably to those currently on the market.
Take a look at this custom table I customized all by myself. What, you don’t want to? Fine, I’ll simplify it and pop it right here for you:
Name ’14 Age IP ERA- FIP- xFIP- RA9-WAR WAR
Bartolo Colon 41 495.2 82 91 97 10.5 8.9
Ubaldo Jimenez 30 769.1 97 92 99 10.7 13.1
Scott Baker 32 317.0 96 94 93 5.3 5.2
Justin Masterson 29 780.0 104 94 92 8.0 11.1
Matt Garza 30 661.0 93 95 94 9.3 9.9
Paul Maholm 32 688.2 110 106 104 4.6 6.0
Ervin Santana 31 840.1 98 111 100 11.4 6.5
Bronson Arroyo 37 818.2 104 120 110 9.8 3.3
Now, to be fair, if you’re using ERA- and RA9-WAR to evaluate, Masterson doesn’t come out looking all that great here. But if you are of the belief that Masterson has generally pitched better than his ERA, it’s hard to see much separation between him and the rest of the remaining-non-Tanaka-free-agent pack. Masterson is projected to make $9.7 million this year in arbitration, and in a world where Phil Hughes is making $8 million a year, Masterson’s arbitration salary figures to be lower than what these guys will get in free agency. Of course, you’ll have to part with some prospects to get him, but for a team that wants to contend this year and is skittish about handing four-plus years one of the free agents, parting with a prospect or two for Masterson might seem a lot more palatable. Especially since teams will have to part with a draft pick in order to sign Garza or Jimenez.
Either way, it’s in the Indians’ best interest to find out. Trading Masterson without getting a major league starting pitcher in return would leave them pretty thin in the rotation, but it probably wouldn’t be a disaster. Salazar, Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister are going to keep the team in a lot of games, and they may be able to take the money saved from dealing Masterson and re-invest it back in the market. Perhaps they will be able to wait out Jimenez and get him at a bargain because no one else wants to give up a draft pick. If they could turn Masterson into Jimenez and a prospect or two, that’d be a pretty nice trade. Especially if Jimenez continues to be the pitcher we saw in the second half.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson, as things currently stand, figure to be an important part of the Indians in 2014. In 2015 though, they may be long gone — in Cabrera’s case, almost certainly so. And since the Indians expect to contend, parting with them in July is less likely to happen. But shopping them around now — when they could get more value for them, especially given the state of the free-agent market — could end up netting them some nice pieces. Trading them could set the Indians back a touch in the short-term, but whether they do or not, in the long-term this type of strategic thinking should keep the Indians in good position.