Posts Tagged ‘MLB Trade Rumors’

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

Despite making a number of additions prior to the July 31 trade deadline, the Rays faded down the stretch, falling short of both a wild card berth and even a winning record.  The club now faces another offseason of adding low-cost pieces while facing hard decisions about trading pricier talent.

Guaranteed Contracts

  • Evan Longoria, 3B: $81MM through 2022 ($13MM club option for 2023, $5MM buyout)
  • Kevin Kiermaier, CF: $47MM through 2022 ($13MM club option for 2023, $2.5MM buyout)
  • Chris Archer, SP: $13.75MM through 2019 (plus club options for 2020-21)
  • Wilson Ramos, C: $10.5MM through 2018

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

Contract Options

Free Agents

[Tampa Bay Rays depth chart | Tampa Bay Rays payroll outlook]

The Rays haven’t had a winning record since 2013, but with Evan Longoria, Chris Archer and (most recently) Kevin Kiermaier locked up on long-term deals, it seems as though the club will continue to try and contend rather than explore a full teardown and rebuilding process.  That being said, Tampa could very well duplicate its approach from last offseason — aiming to add, but prepared to shift course and start selling if an offer too good to refuse comes in for Archer or Jake Odorizzi.

These are the financial realities for the small-market Rays, whose quest for a new ballpark isn’t any closer to resolution, and whose revenues took an extra hit in 2017.  While owner Stuart Sternberg recently stated that a total payroll slash wasn’t likely to happen, “the first move is down” for the 2018 payroll.

Salaries for Longoria, Archer, Kiermaier and Wilson Ramos total $36.25MM next year, while the Rays are projected to spend $41.4MM on a large arbitration class of 13 players.  Even with a couple of obvious non-tenders, those modest savings would be wiped out by Nathan Eovaldi’s $2MM club option, which is likely to be picked up as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery.  That works out to a payroll north of the $77MM mark, which is already higher than any Opening Day payroll figure in franchise history.

The most obvious candidates for trades are the more expensive names within that arbitration class — Odorizzi ($6.5MM), Corey Dickerson ($6.4MM), Alex Colome ($5.5MM), Adeiny Hechavarria ($5MM) and Brad Miller ($4.4MM).  It would be surprising if all five of these players were wearing Rays uniforms in April, though they also carry their share of warning signs for potential trade suitors.  Hechavarria has an excellent glove but is not a very productive hitter; Colome saw his strikeout rate drop and both his contact and hard-hit ball rates rise; injuries contributed to Odorizzi and Miller delivering replacement-level seasons; and Dickerson’s bat went ice-cold after a strong first half.

Odorizzi’s down year is the biggest concern, as it both lowered his asking price in trades and also gave the Rays a question mark heading into next year’s rotation if the righty is kept.  Alex Cobb is a virtual certainty to leave in free agency, whether or not the team issues him a qualifying offer. (There are indications that’s the intention, though putting $17.4MM on the table for one year of Cobb may just be too great a risk, particularly after Jeremy Hellickson took the Phillies’ QO last year.)  Cobb’s departure would increase Odorizzi’s importance in next year’s rotation.  The starting four looks to be Archer, Odorizzi, Blake Snell and Jake Faria, with Matt Andriese, Eovaldi and top prospect Brent Honeywell all in the mix for the fifth starter’s job.  Jose De Leon and Taylor Guerrieri will be at Triple-A but are coming off injury-plagued 2017 seasons, so Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos are currently the top minor league depth options.

There’s enough depth here that the Rays could feel comfortable about their pitching even in the event of an Odorizzi trade, provided they get some injury luck and Snell/Faria both continue to develop as reliable-or-better big league arms.  Andriese could also be shopped, though a hip injury limited him to 86 IP last year, and the Rays likely aren’t keen on selling low on a pitcher with four years of team control.

The biggest move, of course, would be an Archer trade.  The ace right-hander also comes with up to four years of his control via the club options on his team-friendly contract, and he only reinforced his credentials by delivering more strong numbers in 2017.  Teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Braves and Astros have all been linked to Archer in the past and they (and others) are sure to check in with Tampa’s front office about the righty’s availability.  It would take a major blockbuster of a trade package to actually trigger a deal, however, as Archer’s contract makes him particularly important to a low-payroll club like the Rays.

Colome’s asking price wouldn’t be nearly as hefty after a tepid 2017, though his experience as a closer, past dominance, and remaining control would still hold appeal to other organizations. That said, he is another pitcher the Rays would likely prefer to keep since Tommy Hunter, Sergio Romo and Steve Cishek could all leave the bullpen in free agency.  The Rays don’t have a clear heir apparent at closer if Colome is dealt, unless they feel Brad Boxberger is ready to reclaim his old job after two injury-plagued seasons.  After Colome and Boxberger, Tampa Bay probably has enough young arms on hand that they won’t make any hugely notable moves to their relief corps, aside from adding a left-handed pitcher to the mix.  Xavier Cedeno missed much of 2017 with forearm problems and advanced metrics didn’t love Dan Jennings’ work, so the Rays could use some extra southpaw depth in the pen.

Consistent offense continued to be a problem for the Rays in 2017, though full seasons from Ramos and Kiermaier should provide an internal boost to the lineup.  Logan Morrison’s one-year, $2.5MM deal ended up being a terrific bargain for the Rays, but with Morrison’s 38-homer season likely set to land him a multi-year contract elsewhere, the Rays now have a big hole to fill at first base.

This position could also be addressed from within, should Tampa feel that prospect Jake Bauers is ready for the big leagues.  Entrusting a starting role to a rookie who only posted good but not great (.263/.368/.412 over 575 PA) Triple-A numbers would be a bold move, so the Rays could sign a veteran right-handed hitting first baseman like Mike Napoli, Danny Valencia or perhaps even Jose Bautista as a platoon partner.

Alternatively, the Rays could shift Miller back to first base if they feel Bauers needs more seasoning.  All of Miller’s 303 career innings as a first baseman came in 2016, when he also enjoyed a breakout year at the plate, and it’s at least possible that playing a less-demanding defensive position contributed to Miller’s performance.  Metrics such as UZR/150 and Defensive Runs Saved indicated that Miller was also a below-average defender at first base, though that would be less of a problem than his subpar glovework at second base.

Then again, it’s a question as to whether Miller is in the Rays’ plans at all given his -0.1 fWAR performance last season.  A non-tender doesn’t seem likely (it would be hard for the offense-starved Rays to walk away from a player who hit 30 homers in 2016) but Miller is likely to be shopped this winter thanks to his significant arbitration number.

The Rays could again use Miller at second base if they can live with his defense, though options abound in the middle infield.  Unlike with Miller, the Rays know what they’re getting in Hechavarria, whose $5MM projected salary comes with the promise of an outstanding shortstop glove.  Retaining Hechavarria is probably the safest bet since star prospect Willy Adames has yet to debut in the majors and former shortstop-of-the-future Matt Duffy is a wild card after missing all of 2017 due to complications from heel surgery.  Adames and Duffy could factor into the second base picture, however, if Miller is traded or shifted to first.

Dickerson has provided the Rays with capable defense over his two seasons with the team, though he’ll need enough DH time that left field looks like an area of need.  Mallex Smith will return as the fourth outfielder but doesn’t have the bat for such a significant role, so Tampa will likely explore veteran outfielders that could be had on a short-term deal, akin to the one-year, $5MM contract with Colby Rasmus from last winter.  If the Rays were willing to spend a bit more, a versatile player like Howie Kendrick could be a nice fit as a right-handed bat capable of spot duty in left field, second and first base.

Speaking of versatility, it’s worth noting that the Rays have a “sincere” interest in Shohei Otani, which perhaps implies more than the standard due diligence that every team is undoubtedly doing on the 23-year-old two-way star.  Otani’s apparent disinterest in immediate salary riches helps the Rays’ case, though they almost surely wouldn’t be able to offer him a truly massive extension after he has spent enough time in North America for such a deal to pass muster with the league.  It can’t be understated what a franchise-altering addition Otani would be, though it’s safe to call the Rays a longshot suitor at best.

After four straight losing seasons, the Rays are still looking for those missing pieces to their roster puzzle, as well as hoping that they can finally get a year where all their key players are both healthy and productive at the same time.  The emergence of players like Snell, Faria, Duffy, Honeywell, Adames and Bauers as productive regulars would be an enormous boost for a Rays team that relies on young talent, though some type of proven veteran additions will be necessary to get the club back over the .500 mark.

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The indispensable Matt Eddy of Baseball America provides an overview of a vast number of players electing free agency following the 2017 season in his latest Minor Transactions roundup. Eddy largely focuses on players with big league service time (significant service time, in some cases) that were outrighted off the roster that are now hitting the open market for the first time. (Players with three-plus years of service that are not on the 40-man roster at season’s end can elect free agency, as can any player that has been outrighted on multiple occasions in his career.)

While the vast majority of these players seem likely to sign minor league pacts this winter — they did, after all, go unclaimed by 29 other teams on waivers — a number of them are still intriguing with recent success in their past and/or multiple years of arbitration eligibility remaining. Eddy’s rundown also contains a number of re-signed minor leaguers and released minor leaguers without big league experience as well as Arizona Fall League assignments on a per-team basis, so it’s well worth a full look.

We’ve updated our list of 2017-18 MLB free agents accordingly, and here are some of the new names now checking in on the list…

Depth options in the rotation

Josh Collmenter, Asher Wojciechowski, Drew Hutchison, Jeff Locke, Kyle Kendrick, Mike Bolsinger, Christian Bergman, David Holmberg

Collmenter is just two seasons removed from being the D-backs Opening Day starter but hasn’t had much success of late. Hutchison had solid Triple-A numbers and once looked like a long-term rotation piece in Toronto before Tommy John surgery. He can be controlled for another three seasons in arbitration. Locke was injured for most of an ugly first (and likely only) season in Miami, and Kendrick made just two starts for the Red Sox.

Wojciechowski (6.50 ERA in 62 1/3 innings with the Reds), Bolsinger (6.31 ERA in 41 1/3 innings with the Jays), Bergman (5.00 ERA in 54 innings with the Mariners) and Holmberg (4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings with the White Sox) all soaked up innings for injury-plagued pitching staffs. Bolsinger has had the most MLB experience of the bunch.

Corner Bats

Scott Van Slyke, Tyler Moore, Cody Asche, Conor Gillaspie, Jaff Decker

Van Slyke has long been a solid bat against left-handed pitching but appeared in just 29 games with the Dodgers and didn’t hit well with their Triple-A affiliate or with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate. (He was included in the Tony Cingrani trade to balance out the financial side of the deal.) Moore, also a right-handed bat, showed power but struggled to get on base.

Once one of the Phillies’ top prospects, Asche hit well in Triple-A Charlotte but flopped in a brief stint with the ChiSox. Gillaspie was unable to replicate his 2016 rebound with the Giants, while Decker showed some on-base skills in the Majors and minors but didn’t hit much overall. (He can play center but hasn’t graded well there in the Majors.)

Utility Infielders

Ruben Tejada, Phil Gosselin, Dusty Coleman, Chase d’Arnaud

Each of the four can play all over the diamond, but none provided offensive value in 2017. Tejada has the most big league experience but hasn’t received much playing time since 2015 (and hasn’t performed well when he has gotten opportunities). Gosselin has a solid defensive reputation but a light bat through 551 MLB PAs. Coleman hit four homers in 71 PAs in his MLB debut this year but logged a .268 OBP. d’Arnaud saw his fair share of 2016 action with the Braves but has never produced much at the plate.

Bullpen options

Kevin Siegrist (L), Josh Edgin (L), Seth Maness, Kevin Quackenbush

Siegrist and Edgin are intriguing names for clubs in need of left-handed bullpen help. Both have recent success on their track records, though Edgin wasn’t as sharp in 2017 as he was prior to 2015 Tommy John surgery. Siegrist’s control eroded in 2017 as he missed time due to a back/spinal injury and tendinitis in his left forearm, but he was one of the Cardinals’ top setup options in both 2015 and 2016. Both lefties are controllable through 2019.

Maness drew headlines for returning from a torn UCL in roughly seven months thanks to an experimental new “primary repair” procedure, but while he stayed healthy in 2017, the results weren’t great in the Majors and especially not in Triple-A (6.13 ERA in 47 innings). Quackenbush was excellent as a rookie in 2014 and solid in 2015-16 before imploding in 2017 (7.86 ERA in 26 1/3 innings). He was better but not great in Triple-A (3.90 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9). Maness could be controlled through 2019, while Quackenbush would have three more years of control.

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The Angels announced today that they’ve hired former big league slugger Eric Hinske as their new hitting coach. Hinske, 40, has spent the past three seasons serving as the Cubs’ assistant hitting coach.

A former 17th-round draft pick (Cubs, 1998), Hinske broke out as the 2002 American League Rookie of the Year with the Blue Jays and went on to enjoy a 12-year Major League career. In 4310 plate appearances as a big leaguer, Hinske hit .249/.332/.430. Hinske appeared in four straight postseasons from 2007-10 with the Red Sox, Yankees and Braves, taking home a pair of World Series rings during that stretch (2007 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees). The Halos had already announced that former hitting coach Dave Hansen would not be returning to the team.

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The Nationals became the latest team with a managerial vacancy last Friday when they announced that skipper Dusty Baker would not return for a third season with the team. The Nats have traditionally shown little penchant for hesitation when it comes to shuffling the dugout mix, as evidenced by the fact that they’re now seeking their fourth manager since the 2011 season. No manager has lasted more than three years at the helm in D.C. since the franchise moved there from Montreal.

It’s not yet clear how many candidates the Nats plan on interviewing, but we’ll track the candidates and update accordingly here in this post as they come to light.

Will Interview/Have Interviewed

  • The Nats will interview Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, reports Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. The 53-year-old Martinez has previously interviewed for the position in 2013, Castillo notes, before the Nats elected to go with Matt Williams. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times further reports that Martinez came quite close to being named Nationals manager after Williams was dismissed, but ownership decided late in the process that a candidate with prior MLB managerial experience was needed. Wittenmyer writes that some within the industry consider Martinez the favorite this time around. Martinez has spent a decade as Joe Maddon’s bench coach, dating back to 2008 with the Rays. Martinez spent parts of 16 seasons in the Majors as an outfielder, including four with the Expos before the franchise moved to Washington, D.C.

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The Braves announced on Monday that they’ve exercised their $4MM club option on catcher Tyler Flowers and declined their $8MM club option over R.A. Dickey in favor of a $500K buyout. Dickey will receive that $500K payout even if he decides to retire, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets.

Atlanta also announced that Flowers underwent an arthroscopic debridement surgery on his left wrist on Oct. 9, though the press release states that he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training 2018.

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More typically known for their aggressive spending on the free-agent market, the Tigers appear likely to take a very reserved approach to free agency for a second consecutive offseason, reports MLive.com’s Evan Woodbery. General manager Al Avila tells Woodbery that he’ll be “looking for Major League free agents that are maybe bargains” and suggests that Detroit might not make any additions until January or later.

[Related: Detroit Tigers Offseason Outlook | Detroit Tigers Payroll]

A quiet offseason for the Tigers on the free-agent front has long looked likely with the team embarking on an aggressive rebuild and working to pare back its payroll. Detroit has already parted ways with Cameron Maybin, Justin Wilson, Justin Upton and Justin Verlander in the past calendar year, and it seems extremely likely that longtime second baseman Ian Kinsler and the final year of his contract will be on the move this offseason as well. In making those moves, the Tigers have seen their total of guaranteed contracts owed in 2018 fall from $138MM to $97MM — a number that will fall to $86MM if Kinsler is indeed traded.

As Woodbery points out, the fact that the Tigers are looking to be opportunistic doesn’t mean they won’t spend at all. Detroit will have needs in the outfield, the bullpen and at the back of the rotation, after all, and the asking prices of remaining free agents often begin to come down after the New Year. While many Tigers fans will bristle at the notion of a bargain-bin approach after years of contending atop the AL Central, it’d be virtually impossible to patch the holes that permeate the team’s roster in a single trip through free agency.

While the Tigers’ record doesn’t reflect this, they actually had a fair amount of success with a similar approach last winter. Alex Avila was the team’s lone MLB signing, and he was flipped alongside Wilson to the Cubs in the trade that netted a potential cornerstone piece in Jeimer Candelario. The Detroit front office also eschewed free agency entirely when pursuing a center field addition, ultimately acquiring Mikie Mahtook from the Rays for right-hander Drew Smith (now with the Mets following another trade). Mahtook hit .276/.330/.457 with a dozen homers in 379 PAs and can be controlled for another four seasons. The Tigers also received a solid year at the plate from minor league signee Alex Presley in 2017.

There will likely be a dozen or so starting pitchers that sign one-year commitments this offseason, giving the Tigers a number of options to pursue. Some speculative one-year candidates on the 2017-18 free agent market include Chris Tillman, Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson, Hector Santiago, Francisco Liriano and old friend Doug Fister. The bullpen market contains even more options for Detroit to pursue, and that market, in particular, seems to net several late-offseason bargains on an annual basis.

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Happy birthday to Ichiro Suzuki, as the future Hall-of-Famer turns 44 years old today.  Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald takes a look at Ichiro’s offseason training regimen, though “offseason” may not be the correct term since the outfielder has continued to work out at Marlins Park almost every day since the season ended.  Near-daily training has been a staple of almost every offseason for Suzuki — he took a month off in 2005 but tells Spencer via an interpreter that “my body just didn’t feel like my own body. My body was, like, sick.”  Ichiro has long been known for his incredible fitness regime, and he doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon, as he has said that he hopes to keep playing into his 50s.

Here’s the latest from around baseball…

  • With the Yankees making a deep postseason run this year, Joel Sherman of the New York Post has a few suggestions on what the club must now do to cement itself as a World Series contender.  The list includes signing Shohei Otani, cutting down on strikeouts, re-signing CC Sabathia, reinforcing the bullpen by signing Mike Minor, and trading a high-paid veteran to ensure that the team gets under the $197MM luxury tax threshold.  Sherman also floats the idea of shifting Gary Sanchez into a part-time DH role with Otani, which then necessitates signing a backup catcher capable of handling a workload of around 60 games.
  • The Diamondbacks’ roster is broken down by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, who looks at both 2018 salary (hat tip to Piecoro for citing MLBTR’s arbitration projections) and each player’s role on next year’s club.  With payroll size still an issue for the D’Backs, players such as Patrick Corbin or even A.J. Pollock could come up in trade talks since both will be free agents in the 2018-19 offseason.  Brandon Drury or Nick Ahmed are cheaper but could also potentially be shopped due to a logjam of other infield options.  Piecoro predicts Arizona will exercise its $2MM club option on Daniel Descalso since the veteran “was a big part of the clubhouse culture.”
  • The Tigers’ choice of Ron Gardenhire as the team’s next manager “was a solid hire. It was a safe one, too,” The Athletic’s Katie Strang writes (subscription required and recommended).  Both Gardenhire and Tigers GM Al Avila are under contract through 2020, so there is no small sense that Avila’s own job security will be scrutinized as the Tigers undergo a lengthy rebuild.  Strang also shares some details on the Tigers’ managerial search, which included a wide variety of candidates but seemed to wrap up quickly (before even a second round of interviews) once Gardenhire emerged as the top contender.

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