There’s some unrest in the Pittsburgh fan base regarding the team’s recent trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Madasyn Czebiniak of TribLIVE.com highlights the story of lifelong Pirates fan Jason Kaufman, who started a change.org petition to force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team. The following excerpt gives a pretty good feel for the petition’s tone: “Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better.” As of 9:00am on Saturday, the petition had over 52,000 signatures; well over the seating capacity of PNC Park. Kaufman is gaining plenty of social media attention with his movement, and has even been interviewed by local radio station WTAE. “We’re tired of the ’same-old, same-old’ saying: ’We’re in this for a championship’ when you’re really not,” Kaufman said. “Don’t tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you’re not doing anything to improve the team.”

While Kaufman acknowledges that there’s almost zero chance the petition could ever actually prompt Nutting to sell the team, the 43-year-old Kaufman believes the petition is to show the front office that there’s a collective anger towards the front office. He even goes so far as to compare the McCutchen trade to a “death in the family,” saying that the five-time All-Star’s value isn’t just about how he performs on the field, but what he does for the community.

A few other recent items out of Pittsburgh…

  • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some insightful quotes from Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in regards to his recent extension. He signed the contract at least in part for his level of comfort in the clubhouse and his interest in being relaxed for the next few years. In the reliever’s own words, “It’s not about the money.” Apparently, his sister Prescilla was heavily involved in the negotiations, reportedly even more so than his agent. And it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the McCutchen and Cole trades did not have any effect on the negotiations between he and the Bucs. Rivero came to the Pirates in July of 2016 as part of the return for Mark Melancon. Last season, the left-hander turned in a 1.67 ERA and a 3.03 xFIP. He collected 21 saves following his takeover of Pittsburgh’s closer role in June.
  • In a late response to Josh Harrison’s comments revealing a desire to be traded, Pirates GM Neal Huntington expressed that he wants the team to win “sooner than later” (via Adam Berry of MLB.com). “We love Josh’s passion, love the fire and what he’s done for this team and this organization,” Huntington said. “We want what’s best for this organization.” Yet although he attempts to differentiate the team’s moves from a rebuild, it’s interesting that he describes the 2018 club as “a group of players that’s going to show up every day to defy the odds.” It’s hard to imagine that these comments will ease Harrison’s mind about the Pirates’ ability to compete in the coming season. The 30-year-old infielder can be controlled through the 2020 season.
  • Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports offers a defense of the Pirates’ blockbuster trades, offering some praise for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. In discussing Moran’s value, Heyman adds that he was slated to be a key piece in a trade for Zach Britton before the Orioles cancelled the deal. However, it seems as though the Bucs could have landed a better return for McCutchen had they traded him last offseason, as they reportedly had an offer from the Nationals that included Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito.
  • Jung Ho Kang is making another push to return to MLB, Sung Min Kim of Sporting News tweets. The former Pirates infielder has allegedly arrived in the Dominican Republic in order to apply for a work visa. Kang last played in the majors in 2016, when he collected 21 homers in 370 plate appearances while posting a .255/.354/.513 slash line while playing third base for the Bucs.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2mVo6hI
via IFTTT

Advertisements

The Giants’ acquisitions of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria have added a pair of offensive upgrades to their lineup, but the team is still facing a glaring hole in center field. Improving the outfield, both offensively and defensively, has been a long-stated goal of GM Bobby Evans and executive vice president Brian Sabean. However, the Giants are also said to be aiming to remain underneath the luxury tax threshold, which is calculated based on the average annual value of their players’ contracts and is set at $197MM for the 2018 season.

As presently constructed, the Giants don’t have much flexibility with regard to those self-imposed restrictions. (They’ve exceeded the luxury tax four years running now, so they certainly have the resources to do so if they change course. Various observers have given different indications of the team’s willingness to do so.) The exact amount of wiggle room the Giants have is difficult to pin down, but most projections give them about $4.5MM to spend. Cot’s Contracts, more specifically, gives the Giants $4.462MM before pushing up against that mark. Of course, it’s also important to bear in mind that salary additions and subtractions during the course of the season factor into whether or not a team ultimately enters the luxury tax space.

The Giants could certainly still trade a veteran player in order to clear some payroll and open up their options a bit more. However, the Giants’ highest-paid players are either core pieces (Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt) or expensive veterans coming off poor seasons that San Francisco would be hard-pressed to trade even if the team is inclined to do so (Hunter Pence, Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto). The Giants could move a reliever such as Sam Dyson, who’s set to earn $4.425MM in 2018, which would roughly double their current level of spending room. Cory Gearrin ($1.675MM) and Hunter Strickland ($1.55MM) are both movable assets that could create some additional wiggle room, albeit at the cost of major league production.

Suffice it to say, a pricey addition along the lines of Lorenzo Cain — free agency’s top center fielder — seems decidedly unlikely unless the Giants decide to zip past the luxury tax line. Another open-market center field option, Carlos Gomez, also seems well beyond their current price range. A trade for Jacoby Ellsbury — an oft-suggested scenario from optimistic Yankees fans — certainly doesn’t fit into their budget, even if the Yankees eat half of the remaining money on Ellsbury’s deal. Christian Yelich? Giants fans would love to have him, but their thin farm isn’t going to produce the top offer the Marlins receive for one of the game’s more alluring trade chips.

The Giants have been connected to second-tier free agents since trading for Andrew McCutchen and announcing that he’ll move to right field, and there are myriad avenues that they could pursue while ever so narrowly sidestepping that $197MM roadblock. A few speculative options to consider, bearing in mind that the goal is to add someone who could conceivably had within a tight budget and can at least play average defense in center…

Free Agents

Jarrod Dyson | Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrod Dyson: The 33-year-old veteran is tops on the Giants’ list of targets, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, and it’s not hard to see why. Giants outfielders, in addition to posting a dismal .253/.311/.374 as a collective unit last season, also turned in a ghastly -32 DRS and -5.3 UZR. Their defensive, on the whole, was dreadful. Enter Dyson. At some point, it’s fair to worry that his speed and defense will decline, but his UZR/150 of 13.8 over the past three seasons (min. 1000 innings in the field) ranks 12th among all Major Leaguers at any position. He’d require a platoon partner given his career .215/.293/.259 slash against lefties (Austin Slater, perhaps).

It seems unlikely, though, that Dyson could be had for under $5MM annually. Signing him might require the Giants to move a reliever such as Dyson, as previously speculated.

Jon Jay: Crasnick listed Jay second among the Giants’ center-field targets in free agency, so it’s clear that San Francisco has some degree of interest. Jay would bring more offense to the position than Dyson, having posted roughly league-average (or better) offense in seven of his eight Major League seasons, by measure of OPS+ and wRC+. Jay is a left-handed hitter but has only a minimal platoon split in his career. He’s hit righties at a .289/.354/.392 clip and lefties at a .288/.359/.353 pace.

Jay, however, doesn’t have anywhere close to Dyson’s defensive skill set. He has rated as an above-average center fielder at times in the past, but he spent more time in the corners than in center with the Cubs last season and had below-average defensive ratings in center in consecutive seasons. Granted, even below-average would be an improvement for the Giants, who saw the since-traded Denard Span struggle considerably there in 2017. Jay, like Dyson, figures to cost more than $5MM annually, so signing him might require a corresponding trade if the Giants want to remain under the tax threshold.

Cameron Maybin / Rajai Davis: Maybin and Davis are similar in that each hits from the short side of the platoon, provides superlative baserunning skills and can generally be relied on in center field (despite lackluster ratings there in recent years). As the younger of the two, Maybin would be the pricier option, though Crasnick listed him third on the Giants’ list of center field targets in free agency.

The rest of the market is fairly light on players that could be reasonably expected to hold down a regular role in the outfield. Ben Revere could be a theoretical platoon pairing with Gorkys Hernandez in center, or if the Giants are looking more at reserve types, they could add a defensive-minded veteran like Peter Bourjos to the mix. But, if they’re looking to at a cost-effective center fielder, Dyson is perhaps the best bet. More options would present themselves on the trade market, however. (Although, today’s trade of Randal Grichuk to the Blue Jays eliminated one of the more logical options for San Francisco.)

Trade Options

Billy Hamilton, Reds ($4.6MM salary, controlled through 2019): Hamilton is the most frequently linked center field target to the Giants, and he’d fit their needs both in terms of budget and improving the defense. Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, though, recently reported that talks between the two teams have gone “dormant,” adding that Hamilton may very well open the year in Cincinnati.

Keon Broxton | Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Keon Broxton (pre-arb, controlled through 2022) / Brett Phillips (pre-arb, controlled through 2023), Brewers: The Brewers have reportedly been shopping some outfielders around, and Broxton’s league minimum salary and power/speed blend would figure to intrigue the Giants. Broxton has 29 homers and 45 steals in just 709 MLB plate appearances, but he’s whiffed in a stunning 37.2 percent of his plate appearances. His defense rated excellently in 2016 but poorly in 2017. Phillips has less big league experience and similar strikeout issues, though he’s not far removed from grading out as one of the game’s best overall prospects. Milwaukee has also reportedly taken offers on Domingo Santana, but he’s more of a corner option and would have a higher asking price on the heels of a 30-homer season.

Juan Lagares, Mets ($6.5MM in 2018, $9MM in 2019): Lagares’ remaining salaries are part of a four-year, $23MM deal that the Giants could manage to fit into their payroll by shedding one other player with a relatively modest contract (perhaps sending a big leaguer back to the Mets in return). Lagares hasn’t hit much in the past two seasons as he’s been slowed by hand injuries, but he has a sterling defensive reputation; he notched a +15 DRS mark and +10.4 UZR in just 556 innings in center this past season. Lagares has been connected to the Giants already this winter, though New York doesn’t have a great center field alternative (defensively speaking) on its roster. Brandon Nimmo’s name has also come up in trade talks, though the Mets don’t seem keen to move him unless they’re getting an MLB piece back. (Fire away with your Joe Panik speculation, though such a move would open another hole in San Francisco.)

Tyler Naquin, Indians (pre-arb, controlled through 2022): With Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer and Lonnie Chisenhall set to line up in Cleveland’s outfield, there’s no obvious spot for Naquin, who was an odd man out for much of the 2017 campaign as well (40 MLB plate appearances). Naquin hit well (.298/.359/.475) in Triple-A, though, and had a big, albeit BABIP-inflated, rookie season with the Indians in 2016. Both Brantley and Chisenhall are injury-prone and are free agents next winter, however, so perhaps Cleveland isn’t too keen on depleting its infield depth all that much.

Odubel Herrera ($3.35MM in 2018, owed $28.9MM through 2021, plus two club options) / Aaron Altherr (pre-arb, controlled through 2021) / Nick Williams (pre-arb, controlled through 2023), Phillies: With Rhys Hoskins moving to left field to accommodate Carlos Santana, there are only two spots for these three in Philadelphia. Herrera is the only true center fielder here, though all three have experience there in the minors. The Philadelphia organization may simply share time between those three players while allowing performance to dictate its future decisions. Even if they’re willing to deal from this group, the Phils would likely be on the lookout for MLB-ready rotation help, which makes the Giants a tough match in a deal. Feel free to dream up three-team trade scenarios accordingly, if you’re so inclined.

Michael Taylor, Nationals ($2.525MM, controlled through 2020): It’s hard to see the Nats parting with Taylor unless they received some definitive MLB help back in exchange — likely behind the plate or in the form of someone that’s a clear upgrade at the fifth spot in their rotation. The Giants don’t really have either of those things to offer, but the fit otherwise works on paper, especially with top prospect Victor Robles looming after briefly reaching the majors late in 2017.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2FXhzLx
via IFTTT

Super-agent Scott Boras is no stranger to the spotlight, but his unique role in the sport is in some respects more visible now than ever before. With free agency continuing to move at a remarkably slow pace, Boras provided some interesting comments on the matter to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag.

As the most recognizable agent to MLB fans, and the advisor to many of this winter’s best free agents, Boras is one of the most notable characters in the hot stove world. He has also long drawn ire for his non-apologetic efforts at maximizing the earnings of his clients. Most recently, in a rather surprising turn, a league statement even took a passive-aggressive swap at Boras (via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports).

So, is Boras to blame for the slow pace of free-agent signings? Not in his own view. In addition to repeating his clever line to Passan — “I wouldn’t blame the baker if the flour doesn’t show up” — Boras says the pace of signings “has little to do” with him. Neither does Boras seem to believe the players are simply asking for too much in negotiations. MLB revenue has skyrocketed, he notes, and free agents are “just seeking what owners have done before.”

Rather, Boras suggests, this is about whether — or, really, when — MLB teams recognize they need to add pieces to win. Despite the worry in many quarters that a rush of contracts could come with reduced paydays for free agents, Boras says he is not concerned. Once the rest of the league realizes it has work to do to in keeping pace with the Astros — the most compete team in baseball, in his view — they’ll come calling.

This, perhaps, is the key quote to understand his view of things:

Time is not a function of the market; ability to pay and demand are. The timing is not disturbing because the demand and the ability to pay are still evident.”

Of course, Boras is mindful of the need for a contingency plan. If teams “do not compete” — for free agents and, inextricably in Boras’s presentation, the World Series — “and instead choose to profit,” he says, then the player’s side “will have to address the system.” That comment is open to interpretation, but it surely does suggest that Boras feels he has potential avenues of redress if his clients are not able to find contracts at what he deems a market rate.

Perhaps what’s most notable about the viewpoint here is the fact that Boras continues to counsel patience while maintaining focus on the market fundamentals. Anxiety isn’t a problem for his clients, says Boras, who perhaps in some sense is advising other players and their representatives not to panic. Drawing attention to the leaguewide cash position is no doubt also an important element of a nascent PR strategy, should it be needed.

As Passan argues, there may well be some broader forces shifting the ground under foot. But as Boras suggests, we don’t yet know whether the market results will suggest a cause for broader concern. For the time being, timing aside, “demand and the ability to pay are still evident.” And regardless, surely, the players will be served best by holding the line as best they can.

In any event, the stage is set for a fascinating few weeks as we wait to see when and how the standoff is resolved. Boras, no doubt, will be at the center of the proceedings. There’s plenty more to absorb in Heyman’s post, including Boras’s thoughts on player aging and the oft-noted fact that some of his clients have signed late. You’ll want to read it in its entirety for the full effect.

 

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2DxTvQW
via IFTTT

We have twice discussed infielder Eduardo Nunez today, as his free agent market kicks into action now that he’s on the mend from knee problems. Now we’ll check in on a few other injury situations from around the game:

  • Rangers lefty Martin Perez says he does not expect to miss any time stemming from the fractured right elbow he suffered in mid-December, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. At the time of Perez’s ill-fated encounter with one of the bulls on his ranch — yes, that story is covered in the link — it seemed he’d likely be sidelined for a decent stretch to open the year. But the 26-year-old, who was fortunate not to have injured his pitching arm, painted a different picture. “I am not going to miss any time,” said Perez. “I have conviction I will be ready the first day.” Whether or not that opinion will be shared by relevant medical personnel isn’t immediately clear, but his positive attitude seems to bode well regardless.
  • Twins righty Trevor May is on track to throw from a mound as soon as the end of the month, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press writes as one of several notes out of TwinsFest. May is currently throwing from 120 feet; he further explains his hopeful schedule for ramping back from from Tommy John surgery in this video clip. May, who has also written about his TJ recovery here at MLBTR, has agreed to a $650K contract for the coming season. The 28-year-old has had some ups and downs early in his career but certainly remains an interesting arm to watch for a Minnesota organization that is hoping to repeat its surprising 2017 postseason trip.
  • Of course, the Twins have a few other pitchers whose injury situations bear watching. Among them is Michael Pineda, who is also working back after receiving a fresh ulnar collateral ligament. Minnesota placed a $10MM bet on his ability to get back to the mound and provide value late this year and (mostly) in 2018. Pineda, Berardino writes, has just begun a throwing program. He says it “feels great” to be throwing again, though of course this is just one step in a laborious process. Pineda’s surgery took place in the middle of July of last year, so he’s well behind May in the process.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2mWHV8j
via IFTTT

After acquiring Randal Grichuk earlier today, the Blue Jays appear slated to utilize him as the primary option in right field, GM Ross Atkins tells Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). That said, the team believes it can play Grichuk in any of the three spots, with that versatility increasing his appeal. What’s of greater interest, perhaps, is what the move means for the rest of the unit. It’s possible, Atkins suggests, that the Jays will entertain negotiations with other organizations regarding Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera, though the team is also open to sporting a five-outfielder mix on the Opening Day roster.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Red Sox chairman Tom Werner acknowledged today that the organization is engaged in active talks with free agent slugger J.D. Martinez, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal was among those to report on Twitter. While noting that “it takes two” sides to get a deal done, Werner certainly gave plenty of reason to believe that the Boston organization isn’t done adding to its roster. Of course, the interest in Martinez is longstanding and well known; earlier today, it emerged that the Sox have made an offer of $25MM annually over a five-year term.
  • Infielder Eduardo Nunez has worked out for the Red Sox, per Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald. We learned earlier today about developing interest in the utilityman, who thrived in a brief, injury-shortened stretch in Boston in 2017. Nunez has long seemed likely to draw wide interest after three straight seasons of average or better production at the plate, but understandably has seen a quiet market to this point while recovering from a knee injury. Now that he has been cleared for activity, Nunez can try to max out his value. Entering the winter, MLBTR predicted that Nunez would command two years and $14MM.
  • The Rays are far from done with their own winter tinkering, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Trimming payroll and accounting for a few open spots on the roster will still take place, says Topkin, even if it has been quiet of late in Tampa Bay. There are still quite a few potential moving pieces for the Rays, whether or not the team ends up pulling off deals involving some of its best remaining veteran trade assets.
  • This one won’t exactly boil the tea kettle sitting atop the hot stove, but it’s worth noting nevertheless. The Orioles are still looking for veteran catching after agreeing to bring back Audry Perez on a minors deal, says Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). As things stand, top youngster Chance Sisco will enter camp as the favorite to share time with Caleb Joseph. But there’s time yet for the team to address its overall depth situation — perhaps, in a manner that creates real competition for Sisco, who did not exactly dominate offensively at Triple-A in 2017 (.267/.340/.395 in 388 plate appearances).

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2rlqK4Z
via IFTTT

The Blue Jays have agreed to acquire outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals, per a Toronto announcement. Righties Dominic Leone and Conner Greene will go to St. Louis in return.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2rlYteL
via IFTTT

The Mariners announced that they’ve claimed right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford off waivers from the Mets, who had designated him for assignment yesterday. Seattle’s 40-man roster is now full.

The 28-year-old Bradford reached the Majors for the first time this past season and racked up a fair amount of time in the Mets’ bullpen. Bradford appeared in 28 games with New York and tallied 33 2/3 innings of work. In that time, the former 35th-round pick posted a solid 3.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9 and a hefty 55.9 percent ground-ball rate.

Bradford averaged just 90.6 mph on his fastball in that rookie season, but he has a history of limiting walks (1.6 BB/9 in parts of four Triple-A seasons) and has routinely turned in ground-ball rates north of 50 percent in the minor leagues. He also has multiple minor league options remaining, so the Mariners will be able to shuttle him back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma throughout the year, if needed.

from MLB Trade Rumors http://ift.tt/2BeMKhC
via IFTTT