Here are the day’s minor moves from around the league…

  • The Brewers announced that they’ve re-signed right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen to a minor league contract and invited him to Major League Spring Training. The 28-year-old spent the 2016 season with Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate and logged a 2.54 ERA with strong rates of 12.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 49 2/3 innings of work. The former Mariners farmhand found himself traded from Seattle to San Diego alongside Abraham Almonte back in July 2014 — a trade that netted the M’s outfielder Chris Denorfia. Kohlscheen latched on with the Brewers after being cut loose by the Padres last March, and he’ll look to build off this past season’s impressive work and force his way into a Brewers bullpen picture that lacks certainty following the trades of established relief arms Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith.

from MLB Trade Rumors

Mariners center fielder Leonys Martin has changed agencies and will now be represented by Wasserman, according to a tweet from his new representation.

Martin, 29 next March, slumped badly over the final two months of the 2016 season but still enjoyed a nice all-around year in his debut campaign with the Mariners. Acquired from the division-rival Rangers in a trade that sent Tom Wilhelmsen to Texas (Wilhelmsen would return to Seattle after being designated for assignment mid-season by the Rangers), Martin hit .247/.306/.378 in 576 plate appearances. That slash is below the league average overall, but Martin clubbed a career-best 15 home runs despite moving to a pitcher-friendly ball park and also swiped 24 bags while making strong overall contributions on the basepaths (4.6 runs above average, per Fangraphs). His typically outstanding defense took a step back, per Ultimate Zone Rating and especially according to Defensive Runs Saved, but he was still a serviceable defender out there that comes with a strong enough reputation that a rebound in those metrics next season wouldn’t be a surprise.

The agency switch for Martin will come on the brink of his second trip through the arbitration process. The Cuban defector played the final season of his initial five-year, $15.5MM contract in 2015 but remained arbitration eligible and signed for a salary of $4.15MM. He now stands to earn a raise over that figure for the ’17 season, as MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him to earn $6.3MM next year. The Mariners can control him through the 2018 season.

Martin will now join an agency that, as can be seen in MLBTR’s Agency Database, represents a large number of notable clients. Kendrys Morales, Bartolo Colon, Mark Trumbo and Edinson Volquez are among Wasserman’s free agents this offseason, and the agency also reps the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, among others. Martin’s shift is already reflected in our database, which features representation information on more than 2,500 Major League and Minor League players. If you see any errors or omissions, please let us know via email:

from MLB Trade Rumors

The Twins are likely to hire Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine as their new GM, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Though he’d be receiving a promotion in terms of title, Levine would still serve as second in command to newly tabbed executive vice president/chief baseball officer Derek Falvey in the Twins’ baseball operations hierarchy. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears the same, calling Neal’s report “dead-on” and more definitively stating that Levine will be the new Twins GM (Twitter link).

Levine, 45 next month, has been in his current role with the Rangers since the 2005 season. His responsibilities in Texas include assisting GM Jon Daniels with player acquisition, roster composition, contract negotiations and statistical/financial analysis. He also oversees the team’s international scouting operations. The veteran baseball executive has also served as the senior director of baseball operations with the Rockies. He’ll bring to the Twins an executive with a long background in scouting but also one who is quite familiar with more modern trends in statistical analysis.

According to Neal, the Twins did indeed have interest in now-former Red Sox vice president of international scouting Amiel Sawdaye before he followed colleague Mike Hazen to Arizona, as MLB Network’s Peter Gammons reported over the weekend. However, it’ll be Levine who joins the Twins as the new right-hand man for Falvey. The specifics of the hire are somewhat unique, as Falvey remains with Cleveland as the team tries to secure its first World Series victory in nearly 70 years. Per Neal, there’s been contact between Falvey and the Twins over the past three weeks since he was announced as the Twins’ selection for their new top baseball ops position, but it’s been somewhat limited due to his ongoing presence with the Indians. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to imagine that Falvey wasn’t intimately involved in the selection process, as he’ll be working closely with Levine on a daily basis and their ability to forge a rapport is paramount to the organization’s success.

from MLB Trade Rumors

MLBTR is publishing Offseason Outlooks for all 30 teams.  Click here for the other entries in this series.

After a pair of World Series appearances in 2014-15, the 2016 Royals fell shy of a postseason berth and now face considerable payroll questions as the core of their championship-winning roster stands one year from free agency.

Guaranteed Contracts

  • Ian Kennedy, RHP: $62.5MM through 2020 (can opt out of contract after 2017)
  • Alex Gordon, LF: $60MM through 2020 (including buyout of 2021 mutual option)
  • Salvador Perez, C: $46.5MM through 2021
  • Yordano Ventura, RHP: $20.25MM through 2019 (including buyout of 2020 club option)
  • Joakim Soria, RHP: $18MM through 2018 (including buyout of 2019 mutual option)
  • Lorenzo Cain, CF: $11MM through 2017
  • Mike Moustakas, 3B; $8.7MM through 2017
  • Jason Vargas, LHP: $8MM through 2017
  • Chris Young, RHP: $7.25MM through 2017 (including buyout of 2018 mutual option)
  • Mike Minor, LHP: $5.25MM through 2017 (including buyout of 2018 mutual option)

Arbitration-Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections by MLB Trade Rumors)

Contract Options

  • Kendrys Morales, DH/1B: $11MM mutual option ($1.5MM buyout)
  • Wade Davis, RHP: $10MM club option ($2.5MM buyout)
  • Edinson Volquez, RHP: $10MM mutual option ($3MM buyout)
  • Kris Medlen, RHP: $10MM mutual option ($1MM buyout)
  • Luke Hochevar, RHP: $7MM mutual option ($500K buyout)
  • Alcides Escobar, SS: $6.5MM club option ($500K buyout)
  • Predictions: Team exercises option on Morales, but Morales declines; team exercises option on Davis; team declines option on Volquez; team declines option on Medlen; team declines option on Hochevar; team exercises option on Escobar

Other Financial Commitments

  • Omar Infante, 2B: $10MM through 2017 (was released in 2016)

Free Agents

Royals Depth Chart; Royals Payroll Information

The Royals’ back-to-back World Series appearances revitalized Kansas City baseball, but as is often the case, success proved difficult to sustain. With an 81-81 finish on the season and players like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis and Alcides Escobar all set to hit free agency following the 2017 season, the Royals have a plethora of questions on their hands.

First and foremost is whether the team can afford to make any significant additions this winter. General manager Dayton Moore flatly said that his expectation was that the team’s payroll would “regress” in 2017 after opening the 2016 campaign with a franchise-record mark of nearly $132MM. Meanwhile, team owner David Glass was less definitive when asked about reducing payroll, somewhat nebulously suggesting that it’s impossible to know where the 2017 payroll will sit because no one yet knows what opportunities will be presented in the coming offseason. As noted in the above-linked payroll breakdown at Roster Resource, though, the Royals already project to have a $139MM payroll to open next season. The notion of adding any significant pieces is somewhat difficult to anticipate, then, unless Glass is comfortable with the ledger rising into the $140MMs and possibly the $150MMs.

As such, the question becomes one of whether the Royals will actually subtract some pieces from the 2016 roster. Davis’ name was mentioned frequently in July before a forearm strain shelved him through the non-waiver trade deadline, and Kansas City has reportedly already received some early interest in its closer. Late-inning relief help is one of the few commodities that is in relatively large supply this winter — Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon are all free agents, and the market also bears some quality setup options as well — but Davis’ contractual status is likely an attractive feature. Many teams will be reluctant to pay the record-breaking prices that the top names will command. Acquiring Davis would yield a premium relief arm with only a one-year, $10MM commitment required. Of the core pieces that could potentially leave after the 2017 season, Davis arguably has the most trade appeal if Moore and his staff do shed some big league talent/payroll.

Wade Davis

Certainly, teams would have interest in Cain, Moustakas, Hosmer and Escobar, but there are concerns across the board with that quartet. Cain missed more than two months of the season and ended the year on the shelf with a wrist strain. Moustakas didn’t play the final four months due to a torn ACL. Hosmer’s productivity tanked in the second half, and he’s projected to earn a hefty $13.3MM next year. Escobar continued to impress with the glove and on the bases, but he’s a defense-first player with no power and sub-.300 OBP skills. Looking elsewhere, Ian Kennedy had a strong finish but is on a contract that is teeming with downside (he can opt out after the 2017 season if he performs well but would be owed a total of $62.5MM over the next four years if he struggles and forgoes that opportunity). Jason Vargas’ $8MM salary is fairly manageable, but he missed the majority of 2016 recovering from 2015 Tommy John surgery.

Those names could all come up in trade talks this winter, but it’s also important to note that a full-on fire sale doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the Royals. After all, improved performance from Alex Gordon and returns to health for any combination of Cain, Davis, Moustakas and Vargas would represent an immediate means of improvement in Kansas City. And with the Tigers suggesting that they’ll trim payroll while the White Sox and Twins continue to struggle to put contending teams on the field, there’s certainly reason for Moore and his staff to believe that this core is capable of a final push for the division in 2017. If it doesn’t go as planned, plenty of those names would make appealing deadline chips, after all.

On that note, there’s no more obvious area of need for the 2017 Royals than in the rotation. Breakout star Danny Duffy figures to lead that group, and he’ll be joined by Yordano Ventura, Kennedy, Vargas and one of Chris Young, Mike Minor or sophomore Matt Strahm, who wowed in the bullpen but is viewed as a starter in the long haul. Dillon Gee, too, could factor into the mix, but he’s coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and could be a non-tender candidate.

Unfortunately for the Royals, they’re faced with the same dilemma that is facing most other clubs; everyone needs starting pitching, but the free-agent market is relatively barren. Despite that fact, Kansas City reportedly plans to opt against investing an additional $7MM into Edinson Volquez and will elect a $3MM buyout over exercising his $10MM option. That may indicate that the team doesn’t plan to spend big money on starting pitching, so minor league deals or lower-cost targets like Tommy Milone, Bud Norris or Jhoulys Chacin could be in order. Alternatively, the Royals could look to sign a pitcher to a two-year pact but heavily backload the deal so as to only commit a few million in 2017 while saving the bulk of the payout for the 2018 season, when the books clear up.

The other half of the pitching staff will need some work, too — especially if the Royals do ultimately find an offer for Davis that is to their liking. Kelvin Herrera is a dominant late-inning arm, but Joakim Soria’s return to the team has been somewhat of a flop so far. Strahm could reprise his role if the Royals feel they have ample rotation depth, and the Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd recently highlighted fast-rising prospect Josh Staumont as a potential midseason factor from the right side. Brian Flynn proved a useful southpaw (2.60 ERA in 55 1/3 innings), but the Royals are going to need to find some arms either within their system or late in the offseason. From Kansas City’s vantage point, there’s merit to the idea of waiting out the market and snatching up one or even two of the middle relievers/setup men that fall through the cracks while waiting for bigger deals that never materialize. It’s also worth noting that there’s reportedly been mutual interest between the Royals and righty Peter Moylan about a new contract, so he could return on a one-year deal.

Looking around the diamond, the Royals are more set. Salvador Perez remains one of the best catchers in baseball, Hosmer is locked in at first base despite his second-half collapse, Moustakas will return to the hot corner and Escobar is penciled in at shortstop (once his option is exercised). Gordon will hope for better results at the plate in the second season of his now-troublesome-looking four-year, $72MM deal, and Cain will continue to hold down the fort in center field (though there’s been some talk of occasional time in right to help keep his hamstring healthier). With Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando representing options for the remaining outfield spot, the Royals don’t necessarily need to look there, although an upgrade wouldn’t hurt. Orlando is one baseball’s least disciplined hitters and posted a solid batting line thanks almost entirely to a .380 BABIP that he can’t be expected to repeat. Dyson, meanwhile, has never hit much, though he’s a defensive whiz and provides huge value on the bases.

Second base and DH are the other two potential spots to add some talent, but the Royals do have options at second in Christian Colon, Whit Merrifield and Raul Mondesi Jr. (though the latter of that group seems likely to head to Triple-A for continued work at shortstop so he can prepare to take over for Escobar at shortstop in 2018). Like Orlando, Merrifield got by with some significant BABIP fortune (.361) but showed little plate discipline and virtually no power. Colon’s glove can handle the job, but his bat looked an awful lot like that of Omar Infante last season, whom the Royals released midway through his ill-fated four-year deal. Kansas City would be a nice fit for Chase Utley on a one-year deal, but the Royals could also hope to snatch a veteran second baseman late in the winter on a minor league deal or a lower-cost one-year pact.

As for the DH slot, the first question facing the Royals will be whether to tender a qualifying offer to Kendrys Morales. Given the financial uncertainties surrounding the roster, that seems unlikely, as adding a $17.2MM commitment for a strict DH would shoot the team’s estimated 2017 payroll to nearly $160MM. The free-agent market does feature a number of somewhat redundant first base/DH types; Brandon Moss, Pedro Alvarez, Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, Logan Morrison and even Ryan Howard are all available, and it’s unlikely that they’ll all find lucrative deals. Grabbing one of those players on an affordable one-year pact makes some sense, but the DH spot could simply be kept open to help Moustakas and others get some days off from fielding. That would not only help to keep them healthier and also give the Royals a means by which Cheslor Cuthbert could get into the lineup, though the 24-year-old did fade down the stretch.

Ultimately, the Royals are in a somewhat unenviable spot — stuck in the middle between contention and a need to rebuild. They probably feel this is their last shot at contending with this core, but there are myriad holes throughout the lineup and few ways to patch them without sending payroll soaring into uncharted and unsustainable territory. The Royals reportedly operated at a loss this season, so tacking on tens of millions more to the payroll isn’t a sound business decision. But, their means of plugging holes with homegrown talent took a hit when they used a solid-but-not-overly-deep farm system to acquire Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist in 2015. Those trades subtracted four pitchers — Sean Manaea, Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and John Lamb — that could otherwise be immediate rotation options for a club that now finds itself with an unreliable mix of starters. You’ll never hear the Royals or their fans complain about it, of course, as the 2015 World Series outweighs any long-term troubles for the franchise. Nonetheless, a poor start to the 2017 season could be the precursor for a summer sale, and even if the Royals are able to contend in the AL Central next year, this is a franchise that is destined for a significant amount of turnover beginning next winter, at the latest, when its core hits the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

from MLB Trade Rumors

As the Cubs kick off their first World Series game in 71 years, here’s a look around the division at some of the teams that will be chasing them next season…

  • Scott Schebler appears to have the inside track on the Reds’ right field job next year, Mark Sheldon of writes. The 26-year-old bounced back after some early struggles and showed enough promise to think he’s deserving of a larger opportunity. Acquired in last winter’s Todd Frazier trade, Schebler hit .265/.330/.432 in 282 plate appearances with the Reds, tallying nine homers and a dozen doubles in that limited exposure. MLBTR’s Jason Martinez looked at the subject in his recent piece previewing the Cincinnati offseason, suggesting that the organization give him a shot while also looking to bring in some competition. Top prospect Jesse Winker could eventually push for a corner outfield spot in the Majors as well, although the 23-year-old’s power numbers dipped in Triple-A this season.
  • The Pirates are set to name Joey Cora as their new third base coach, reports Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirror (Twitter link). Cora managed Pittsburgh’s Double-A affiliate in Altoona this season and has several years of experience as a Major League bench coach and third base coach. He’ll replace Rick Sofield, who served as Pittsburgh’s third base coach from 2013-16 but was fired over the weekend, according to a club announcement. Cora, like his younger brother Alex, enjoyed a lengthy Major League career as an infielder and has previously been considered for managerial vacancies at the Major League level.
  •’s Jenifer Langosch tackles a number of offseason questions in her latest Cardinals inbox piece, noting that despite a lackluster performance from the pitching staff this season, a significant addition seems unlikely. The free-agent market is, as has been well-documented, stunningly thin in terms of quality arms. And as far as the trade market is concerned, the team likely feels satisfied enough with its depth that it won’t feel compelled to meet the escalated asking prices that will perpetuate the trade market for rotation help. Langosch also looks at how the Cards stack up with the Rockies in potential trades and again emphasizes that the team is likely to focus on upgrading its up-the-middle defense this winter.

from MLB Trade Rumors

Angels first baseman/designated hitter C.J. Cron will undergo an arthroscopic debridement to address an impingement in his left thumb, the team announced today. Cron has been experiencing pain in the base of his thumb recently according to the team, and as Pedro Moura of the L.A. Times points out (Twitter link), the 26-year-old slugger did suffer a broken left hand back in July. The recovery time on the operation was announced as six to eight weeks, so Cron should be fully ready to go once Spring Training arrives.

Cron landed on the disabled list on July 9 and was sidelined through Aug. 20 with the hand fracture referenced by Moura. His offense upon his return was largely similar to his pre-injury production — though he did experience a mild dip in power — and he finished out the year with a strong .278/.325/.467 slash in a career-high 445 plate appearances. Perhaps more importantly, he continued to make strides in his plate discipline; while his walk rate was still a below-average 5.4 percent, that mark was up from 4.1 percent over his first two big league seasons. And, by cutting back on the number of out-of-zone pitches he chased, Cron was able to drop his strikeout rate from 20.3 percent to 16.9 percent.

While Cron isn’t an elite bat, it seems clear that he posses 20- to 25-homer pop in his bat if he can stay healthy over the life of a full season. To date, the 116 games he tallied in 2016 are a career-high, though, so he’ll hope for a healthier campaign in 2017, which will be the platform year for his first season of arbitration eligibility. Cron can be controlled through the 2020 season via that arbitration process.

from MLB Trade Rumors

The Indians are at least opening the door to the possibility of utilizing Carlos Santana in left field when the World Series moves to Wrigley Field and takes the DH off of the table, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. It doesn’t seem as if there are any clear plans to play him there — he hasn’t roamed the outfield grass since the minors — but the team is getting him some reps just in case. Even if Cleveland won’t start Santana in left just in order to get his and Mike Napoli’s bats into the same lineup, it’s not impossible to imagine a late-game substitution scenario that calls for such a bold move.

Here’s more from Cleveland with the fall classic set to get underway:

  • How exactly did World Series Game 1 starter Corey Kluber end up with the Indians? Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch compiles something of an oral history of the 2010 trade that brought the relatively unknown righty to Cleveland. With the Padres and Cardinals each looking for veteran assets, the Indians were able to facilitate their needs by taking Kluber. Then-Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti said at the time that he preferred not to be on the prospect end of such trades, though certainly that move helped set up the team’s current run — which included a deal that sent young talent out for the player who’s the subject of the next bullet.
  • We’ve increasingly heard chatter — as is typical this time of year — about how postseason teams can serve as a model for other organizations in the ensuing winter. While I’d argue that the value of premium relief arms seems worth paying attention to, it does seem curious to hear discussion of whether teams could look to emulate the specific pen usage of roving Indians out-machine Andrew Miller. That approach isn’t likely to carry over into the regular season, Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus suggests (subscription required — and recommended) in a detailed and interesting analysis. Relievers are simply not as effective when they re-appear for a second inning of work, Carleton finds, and managers rightly need to be more judicious in deploying their most valuable relief-pitching-innings — those handled by their best relievers — over the course of a long season. Unless and until some team decides to really push the boundaries of how much of an innings workload a reliever can handle, he says, we’ll likely continue to see a lot of one-inning relievers in relatively well-defined roles (for the bulk of the year, at least).
  • When the Indians went and got Miller, it sent a meaningful message to the team’s players, second baseman Jason Kipnis tells’s Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). But it came at a real price that could end up hurting down the line — as is the nature of deadline deals (see Kluber, Corey). Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports that Cleveland offered much more than any other team to grab Miller. But that was what it took to pry him loose, since the Yankees were under no obligation to swing a deal for a player with two more seasons of control remaining. With the Giants unwilling to move Joe Panik and the Nationals not interested in boosting their offer of young pitching talent, New York would’ve held pat had the Indians not offered up a prospect package made up of outfielder Clint Frazier, southpaw Justus Sheffield, and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.
  • Before getting that deal done, of course, the Indians had a pact in place for catcher Jonathan Lucroy that only fell through when he exercised his no-trade protection to nix it. As’s Jerry Crasnick reports, Lucroy doesn’t regret utilizing the clause — even with the Indians now in the World Series. The veteran receiver landed in a good spot, helping the Rangers lock up an AL West title, and he’s not interested in revisiting things now. “I’m not worried about it at all,” he said. “It’s over with and in the past.”

from MLB Trade Rumors