Now is the time for the Cubs to try to sign ace Jake Arrieta to a long-term deal, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago writes. Arrieta and the Cubs recently agreed on a one-year, $10.7MM contract to avoid arbitration in Arrieta’s second year of eligibility. Arrieta can currently become a free agent after the 2017 season. Of course, Arrieta’s agent Scott Boras would surely agree that an extension for Arrieta shouldn’t be cheap after his Cy Young award-winning 2015 season, and since Arrieta turns 30 next month, he might only have one shot at a big free agent deal, meaning he might not be inclined to sign now unless the deal is quite long. Also, Arrieta’s incredible stretch run changed the landscape since we last closely considered his extension candidacy. Levine proposes a four-year deal at an average of $23MM per season, with two club options. While it’s true that Arrieta’s salaries for the next two seasons are essentially set via the arbitration process, a $92MM deal with options would, in my opinion, be unlikely to bring Boras and Arrieta to the table. Recent history suggests Arrieta has a shot at a deal in the $200MM range if he waits until after 2017. Here’s more from the National League.

  • The Pirates won 98 games last season and have a strong core in place, but many of their top competitors in the National League have improved, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Cubs have had a busy and productive offseason, and while the Cardinals have lost talent (some of it to their rivals in Chicago), they should benefit somewhat from better luck with injuries. The rest of the league, too, has become increasingly polarized, with several very bad teams, but lots of potentially strong ones, including the Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks. The Bucs, however, continue to believe in themselves. “There’s no question the Cubs did a fantastic job on balancing amateur player acquisition and timing it with those young players being ready to hit the major league level and then pouring a ton of money into free agency,” says Pirates GM Neal Huntington. “They are going to be good going forward. The Cardinals are going to be good going forward. Our belief is, with this core that we have, that we are going to continue to be good going forward.”
  • The Phillies don’t figure to be one of the NL contenders in 2016. They should, however, be fun, as FanGraphs’ Paul Swydan writes. They suddenly have only a handful of over-30 players, and the younger ones offer a mix of power (Maikel Franco), defensive ability (Odubel Herrera), speed (Cesar Hernandez) and, among the Phillies’ young pitchers, control (Aaron Nola). Then there’s top prospect J.P. Crawford, who could make his debut in 2016, along with a number of other very interesting minor leaguers, including Nick Williams, Andrew Knapp, Dylan Cozens, Jake Thompson, Vincent Velasquez and Mark Appel.

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Larry Reynolds, the agent whose client list includes Justin Upton and Howie Kendrick, spoke to MLB Network Radio Sunday. Here are the highlights (links to SoundCloud).

  • Upton ended up with a robust six-year, $132.75MM deal with the Tigers this winter, Reynolds says that Upton’s search for a new team hit a snag this offseason before he ultimately signed. Some teams’ potential interest in Upton was muted by their desire to avoid exceeding the luxury tax threshold. (Reynolds doesn’t say who, but it’s easy to imagine the Angels, for example, worrying about that issue.) Also, a robust trade market held up potential free agent signings, with some teams wanting to explore that market before making a commitment to a free agent. Reynolds also says that many teams were offering Upton short-term deals. The agent understandably notes that he found such deals unappealing, given that Upton is highly talented and just 28. Of course, Detroit ultimately came through with a long-term offer.
  • It was, perhaps, a rough winter for Kendrick, who lingered on the free agent market before officially signing a seemingly disappointing two-year, $20MM deal to stay with the Dodgers. The qualifying offer had a strong impact on Kendrick, Reynolds says, since he didn’t have the “star power” of some other free agents who rejected the QO. For Kendrick, the effect of the qualifying offer on his market wasn’t purely about the amount of money he could get, but about the way it restricted his ability to choose what team (what manager, what front office, and so on) he wanted to play for. Reynolds says that it “wasn’t a slam dunk to jump out into the market” rather than accepting the qualifying offer, but Kendrick felt, and Reynolds agreed, that Kendrick had earned the right to choose his next team via free agency.

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MLBTR Originals

Posted: February 7, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:

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Here’s a look back at the past week at MLBTR.

Key Moves

Arbitration

Signings / Re-signings

Trades

Claimed

Designated For Assignment

Outrighted

Released

Retired

Key Minor League Signings

Other

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The 2015-16 offseason may be remembered as the qualifying offer’s watershed.  A record 20 qualifying offers were issued in November, and for the first time in the four years since the QO system was instituted, three players (Brett Anderson, Colby Rasmus, Matt Wieters) actually accepted the one-year offer rather than test free agency.

As we approach Spring Training, I suspect at least some of the other 17 players may be wishing they had also taken that one-year, $15.8MM deal.  (Howie Kendrick and Hisashi Iwakuma come to mind.)  The qualifying offer also may have impacted a couple of names in the upper tier of the free agent market, though Chris Davis and Justin Upton did end up landing huge multi-year contracts in the end.

The three players still facing uncertainty, however, are Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler and Yovani Gallardo.  It looks as if this trio will join Kendrick, Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana and others on the list of players whose markets were drastically affected by the QO, perhaps to the point of them eventually accepting a contract that would’ve seemed like a major bargain only a few months ago.  At this point in the offseason, no team has been willing to meet the asking price and/or give up the first round draft pick necessary to sign any of three players.

While none of the trio have signed, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding each player.  A recap…

Gallardo: The Orioles, Rockies and Astros have been the clubs most recently linked to the righty, with the Blue Jays, Royals and Rangers also reportedly interested at earlier points in the offseason.  We can probably cross off Kansas City and Houston in the wake of their signings of Ian Kennedy and Doug Fister, while Toronto likely doesn’t have the payroll space.

The O’s are very hesitant to give up their first-rounder (the 14th overall pick) to sign Gallardo.  Colorado’s first-rounder is protected so they would only have to give up a second-round pick, though GM Jeff Bridich has downplayed his team’s interest.  The Rangers, of course, are the only team that can sign Gallardo without having to surrender a pick, though they may also be tapped out payroll-wise and they already have several rotation options on hand, albeit with question marks.

Fowler: The Cubs (his former team), White Sox and Rangers have all been rumored to be monitoring the outfielder’s market, with teams like the Indians, Angels, Giants and Cardinals also mentioned as speculative fits.  In our last MLBTR poll, readers had the two Chicago teams as the clear favorites in predicting Fowler’s landing spot.  In my view, the White Sox seem like the best fit for Fowler since thanks to their protected first-rounder, the only pick they’d have to surrender is the bonus compensation selection they received from Jeff Samardzija signing with the Giants.  The Sox heavily value their draft picks, however, and their low-rated farm system needs reinforcements.

Re-signing Fowler makes some sense for the Cubs but it would create an awkward time-share between Fowler, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber (Jason Heyward, obviously, would play every day in either right or center field).  I wonder if the Rangers’ interest in Fowler could be tied to Gallardo’s situation; if Gallardo signs elsewhere and Texas gets a compensation pick, the team could then be more willing to give up its first-rounder (the 20th overall pick) to bring Fowler into the fold.

Desmond: The former National’s situation is at once both seemingly the most muddled yet possibly the most flexible of the trio.  If reports of Desmond’s ability and willingness to play elsewhere than shortstop are still accurate, then his market could be opened up to teams looking for help at second, third or even the outfield.  In a recent edition of the MLBTR Newsletter, Tim Dierkes speculated that Desmond could be a good candidate for a contract with an opt-out after the first year, or perhaps even a flat one-year “pillow contract” to minimize the risk for teams uninterested in giving up a draft pick for a player coming off a tough season.

Dierkes cited the A’s, Braves, White Sox and Tigers as a few of the teams who could be fits for Desmond, with the Rockies also a maybe depending on Jose Reyes’ situation.  The Rays have also been mentioned as a dark horse candidate to sign Desmond on a semi-hometown deal, though given how Tampa is so reliant on developing young talent, it would be a big surprise to see them give up their first-rounder, the 13th overall pick of June’s draft.

Let’s open the debate up to you, the MLBTR audience.  Who do you think will be the last qualifying offer free agent available this offseason?  (MLBTR app users can weigh in here)

Take Our Poll
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Russell Wilson’s history with baseball is well-documented, though the Orioles were the first team to make a play for the future Seahawks quarterback out of high school when they made him a 41st-round pick in the 2007 amateur draft.  As O’s scout Dean Albany tells MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski, Baltimore had Wilson graded as good enough to be picked within the top 10 rounds, and he only fell due to his commitment to play football at NC State.  The Orioles were impressed enough with Wilson that they offered him $350K to sign, a higher bonus than the O’s offered any draft pick that year except for Matt Wieters and Jake Arrieta.  Here’s more from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles are still weighing whether or not to sign Yovani Gallardo and surrender their first-round draft pick, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko writes.  Another “shift in thinking” has taken place within Baltimore’s front office, and now the club may no longer be as hesitant to give up its pick, though “plenty of folks in the industry say Gallardo isn’t worth the 14th selection” in June’s draft.  If Gallardo’s price tag has indeed fallen to a large extent, however, there could be enough value added to make the signing.  “It could be argued that [Gallardo] carries more value with them than other teams who still may be in the running,” Kubatko writes, due to Baltimore’s need for reliable starting pitching.  Kubatko also opines that he would be willing to give up the 14th overall pick, since the O’s have five other picks within the first 100 selections of the coming draft.
  • The Red Sox made a bet on Clay Buchholz’s high ceiling rather than Wade Miley’s durability, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes.  Buchholz has battled injuries and several ups-and-downs in performance over his career, though he’s looked like an elite starter when at his best.  Miley, by contrast, has been more consistent than brilliant over his four full seasons as a big league starter.  Speier points out that Miley’s reliability might’ve given him more trade value than Buchholz, which could’ve been the reason Miley was the one dealt, though choosing Buchholz over the lefty could prove to be a key choice of the Red Sox season.
  • It couldn’t hurt the Red Sox or David Ortiz if the two sides firmly outlined the star slugger’s role in his final season, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (subscription required).  This would allow both parties to avoid a potentially awkward situation if Ortiz experienced a sudden decline and the Sox then had to consider benching the franchise legend in his farewell season in order to better help the team win games.  Olney uses Derek Jeter’s final season as a cautionary tale, as the Yankees still used Jeter as a starting shortstop and number-two hitter throughout the year despite his sub-replacement performance.
  • Several Yankees topics are discussed in a mailbag piece by Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog, including the team’s second base situation.  Axisa would’ve preferred the Yankees had Howie Kendrick on a two-year, $20MM deal and Adam Warren still in the pitching mix rather than Starlin Castro and the first-rounder it would’ve cost New York to sign Kendrick.  That said, Axisa doesn’t blame the Yankees for making the move to acquire Castro earlier in the offseason since two months ago, it would’ve seemed far-fetched that Kendrick could’ve been had at such a relatively low cost.

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Freddy Garcia To Retire

Posted: February 7, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia will call it a career after today’s Caribbean Series final, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports.  Garcia will start for Venezuela’s Tigres de Aragua against Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan in the deciding game of the annual competition that pits championship teams from the top Venezuelan, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Dominican leagues against each other in a round-robin tournament.

Garcia, who turned 39 in October, is retiring after a 21-year professional career that included 15 years in Major League Baseball.  He signed an amateur contract with the Astros in 1993 as a 17-year-old but was part of a very notable trade before making it to Houston — Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama were sent to the Mariners in July 1998 in the deal that brought Randy Johnson to the Astros.

The righty made his MLB debut the next season and quickly found success, finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting and ninth in Cy Young Award voting for a season that saw him post a 4.07 ERA over 201 1/3 innings.  It was the first of seven seasons of 200+ innings that Garcia would post in his career, establishing a reputation for durability until injuries contributed to his shift into more of a swingman and long relief role later in his career.

Garcia was a two-time All-Star in Seattle, though he may best be remembered for his stint with the White Sox that included a big role in their 2005 World Series title.  He threw seven shutout innings in Game Four to help Chicago complete its sweep of the Astros and clinch the franchise’s first championship since 1917.  Garcia had a 3.26 ERA over 11 career postseason starts, including a quality outing for the Braves in what ended up being their elimination game in a 2013 NLDS matchup against the Dodgers.  That start was Garcia’s last appearance in a Major League uniform.

Over 2264 innings, Garcia posted a career 4.15 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.24 K/BB rate.  He pitched for seven teams (Mariners, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Tigers and Orioles) at the big league level and also with the Mets and Dodgers in the minors, as well as stints in Venezuela, Mexico and Taiwan.

According to Baseball Reference, Garcia made $53.5MM over his career.  We at MLB Trade Rumors tip our caps to Garcia on a fine career and we wish him all the best in his post-playing career.

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