The Yankees have reached a nine-year, $324MM agreement with free-agent righthander Gerrit Cole, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports.
10:42pm: The Red Sox haven’t made any progress toward a Price trade, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. The Padres are among the teams they’ve talked to about Price, per Rosenthal.
6:21pm: Even though he’s coming off an injury-laden season and is still owed a significant amount of money, Red Sox left-hander David Price has garnered trade interest from “multiple teams,” Jeff Passan of ESPN tweets.
This isn’t the first time the 34-year-old Price has been in the news this week. His seven-year, $217MM contract, once a record for a pitcher, was toppled by the seven-year, $245MM pact Stephen Strasburg signed with the Nationals on Monday. The Price deal hasn’t fully worked out to the Red Sox’s liking thus far, though he did help the team to a World Series victory in 2018.
More recently, Price put up a decent but unspectacular 4.28 ERA during a 107 1/3-inning 2019 campaign that ended without a playoff berth for the Red Sox. Price made only two starts beyond July as he dealt with arm problems, posted a career-low 92 mph average fastball velocity (down from 92.7 the prior year), and saw his season come to an official end in late September when he underwent minor elbow surgery.
Although last season wasn’t a banner year for the former ace, Price did log an above-average 3.62 FIP with 10.73 K/9 against 2.68 BB/9. Most clubs would sign up for those numbers, albeit at a far more reasonable price than the $96MM Price is owed over the next three years. The Red Sox seem likely to move on from Price if they can get a major portion of that money off their books, as they – led by new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom – work to get under the $208MM luxury tax in 2020. However, it’s going to be difficult, and as Passan notes, jettisoning Price could require eating some of his salary and/or adding a valuable player to the package to convince a team to take him.
The Mets somewhat addressed their need in center field last week when they acquired Jake Marisnick from the Astros, but they may not be done yet. New York remains in the mix to swing a trade for Pirates center fielder Starling Marte, per reports from Andy Martino of SNY and Jon Heyman of MLB Network. The club’s “working on” a Marte acquisition, according to Martino.
As one of the most valuable center fielders in baseball, Marte’s appeal is obvious. The fact that there’s a dearth of proven center fielders available in free agency should only add to his attractiveness on the trade market. He’s under control at more-than-reasonable prices for the next two seasons (including for a guaranteed $11.5MM in 2020 and a $12.5MM club option in ’21), so the Pirates don’t have to deal him. However, considering they appear unlikely to push for a playoff spot next season, there’s a case that it would make sense for the Bucs to sell off the 31-year-old this winter. For his part, new general manager Ben Cherington is reportedly open to fielding offers for Marte.
Should the Mets end up with Marte, it would add to an already crowded group of outfield-capable players for the team. Marisnick, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis and Yoenis Cespedes (if he returns from injury) are on hand as prominent players who have lined up in the grass. However, the Mets are “open” to parting with Nimmo to somewhat alleviate the logjam, per Martino. They shouldn’t have a tough time finding a taker for the 26-year-old, as he’s a quality major league hitter with three seasons of control remaining and is only projected to earn $1.7MM in 2020.
We’ll track the chatter here …
- The Cole sweepstakes is closing in on an ending, reports Heyman, who adds it would take “a major upset” for him to sign with someone other than the Yankees, Angels or Dodgers.
- There is “serious and intense” bidding going on for Cole, who looks more and more likely to reach an agreement at the Winter Meetings, Heyman tweets. It’s “likely” the Astros and the Giants are the mystery clubs in the Cole derby, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, though the sources he has spoken with have cast on doubt on the hurler ending up with either team. That seemingly leaves the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers to fight it out for Cole.
- The Astros may be one of the mystery teams, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, who writes that they’re considering making a late charge to re-sign Cole. He was, of course, an enormously important part of the Astros’ pitching staff from 2018-19, and owner Jim Crane said last month the team would at least make an effort to keep him. Keeping Cole would likely at least push the Astros over the second level of the luxury tax ($228MM), as Sherman notes, but the reigning AL champions do have some holes in their rotation with him and Wade Miley as free agents. Perhaps a desire to keep Cole, AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke together atop the Astros’ staff will drown out any tax concerns for Crane.
- Agent Scott Boras confirmed recent reports that indicate a deal could come together quickly. He told reporters gathered for his annual media scrum that a decision may come “in the short term,” as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports (Twitterlinks). Boras also says there aretwo mystery teams involved in Cole’s market, though it’s not evident just what constitutes a mystery team from his perspective.
- Cole’s major pursuers are known (Angels, Yankees, Dodgers), along with a few lurkers (Rangers, Phillies). But there’s also a mystery team involved, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). Heyman himself casts doubt upon the legitimacy of this unidentified organization, noting that it is difficult to envision a new entrant to the market vaulting past the existing bidders. Indeed, it is quite difficult to peg a serious bidder among the remaining teams around the league. There are certainly other contenders that would love to add Cole, but in every case there’s reason to question the plausibility. That said, there have been surprises in the past and nothing can be ruled out entirely until there’s a team announcement on a signing.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle notes (via Twitter) that he has been given reason to believe that theGiants would represent “a desirable destination” from Cole’s perspective. But he says he is not aware whether the team is involved and cautions that he has no reason to believe the San Francisco organization is a serious possible landing spot for the right-hander.
DEC. 10: It’s looking increasingly probable that Bumgarner will either reach or approach his $100MM-plus goal, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. “Many teams” are in the race, per Heyman, who tweets that the Twins “are thought to be” heavily in pursuit.
DEC. 9, 5:11pm: The Giants, Bumgarner’s lone team to date, are among his suitors and will meet with his representation this week, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re involved in those discussions,” Zaidi said. “We’re planning to meet with his representatives this week and they have other meetings scheduled, too. That’s what happens when a player is a free agent, they’re going to explore all their options. Guys are looking for different things, looking for maybe a particular geography, maybe a team in a specific part of their competitive cycle.” Interestingly, although they’re not known for their spending, the division-rival Diamondbacks are also in the mix, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. The Angels are also part of it, though whether they’re aggressive in pursuing Bumgarner could depend on if they land Gerrit Cole.
10:46am: Representatives of southpaw Madison Bumgarner have informed interested organizations that he’s looking to top nine figures over five years with his first free agent contract, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. Whether he’ll get there remains to be seen.
Zack Wheeler just blew past the $100M mark, but MLBTR predicted he’d substantially out-earn Bumgarner. While Bumgarner has unquestionably accomplished more in his career to date, the younger Wheeler seems on the upswing. We predicted Bumgarner would land at four years and $72MM, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him approach or even reach the $100MM level if interest soars to five years.
The question facing MLB teams is whether they believe Bumgarner can sustain his excellent results despite less-than-exceptional peripheral numbers. He doesn’t throw as hard as he did in his heyday, but Bumgarner’s velocity has stabilized in the 91 to 92 mph range. He got swings and misses as often as ever in the just-completed campaign after experiencing a somewhat worrisome 2018 downturn. But Bumgarner hasn’t drawn quite as many strikeouts and hasn’t limited the long ball as successfully as he once did, leading ERA estimators to dim on his value.
Bumgarner stands as an interesting market bellwether. Teams won’t pay for his past performance; those days are over. But will they put a big dollar value on his still-significant anticipated future contributions? And will his history of stepping up in the postseason help his cause? Bumgarner is still just thirty years of age and got back to his 200-inning ways in 2019. And even the post-injury version of the lefty still hasn’t finished a season having allowed four earned runs per nine innings.
There are avariety of teams with interest, though to what level isn’t yet evident. TheTwins, White Sox, and Reds have been linked clearly to Bumgarner, while the Reds, Cardinals, and Yankees have also been cited as possibilities. It’ll cost the winning bidder draft compensation to add Bumgarner, which could temper the willingness to add yet more dollars and/or years to an offer.
Longtime major league outfielder Adam Jones’ time in the bigs may have just drawn to a close. Jones announced on Twitter that he’s signing with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes. He inked a two-year, $8MM contract with a club option for 2022, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. The deal could max out at $15.5MM if Jones’ option is exercised and the CAA Sports client earns the $2MM in incentives that are part of the pact.
The fact that Jones is heading to Japan now means he’ll avoid a protracted stay on the open market. As a free agent last offseason, the 34-year-old Jones was a victim of a league that has become more and more averse to signing aging players to guaranteed contracts. Jones went without a deal for several months, finally inking a $3MM pact with the Diamondbacks.
Even though Jones jumped out to a great start in Arizona, his numbers and his playing time declined as the year progressed. He wound up turning in a .260/.313/.414 line (good for a below-average wRC+ of 87) with 16 home runs in 528 plate appearances. In the field, the former defensive standout earned negative marks for the fourth straight year (minus-4 DRS, minus-2.2 UZR).
Despite his subpar numbers, Jones’ lauded leadership skills were surely valued in Arizona. Major league teams could have considered signing him to act as a mentor to their younger players in 2020. However, he would have had to settle for either a low-paying big league contract or a minors agreement. As a result, Jones made the decision to head to Nippon Professional Baseball for a much larger payday.
If this is the last we’ve seen of Jones in the majors, he’ll be remembered as a standout with the Orioles for a significant portion of his career. Jones was the 37th overall pick of the Mariners in 2003, but they ultimately traded him to the Orioles in 2008 in a swap that blew up in Seattle’s face and couldn’t have worked out much better for Baltimore. Jones debuted as an Oriole in 2008, the beginning of an eminently successful 11-season run in which the former center fielder batted .279/.359/.419 with 263 home runs, 90 steals and 29.5 fWAR, earned five All-Star nods and won four Gold Gloves.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
6:17pm: The White Sox are “working hard to land” Mazara, as Jim Bowden of SiriusXM first reported. As for Chirinos, the Astros, Tigers, Rays and Pirates join the Rangers in the market for him, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.
1:04pm: The Rangers have remained busy on the market, with MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reporting that the club is active on multiple fronts (Twitter links). While it stands to reason that the team is still considering moves in the rotation, the attention now is on the position player side after several notable pitching additions.
It has long seemed likely that the Rangers would explore possible swaps involving its existing outfielders. But the team now appears to be engaged in a somewhat dedicated manner. Sullivan says the intention is to “move one of their extra left-handed hitting outfielders,” with Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, and Shin-Soo Choo named as possibilities.
That’s a highly varied group of players. Mazara is a mid-arbitration player that hasn’t turned the corner in the majors but remains quite youthful. Calhoun hasn’t had the same degree of opportunity (and hasn’t logged as much service) but showed well with the bat last year. He’s also still a question mark defensively, as is the aging Choo, who can still hit but isn’t worth the remainder of his big contract.
The Rangers are said to be chatting with the Diamondbacks about some of these players; the clubs were connected last night regarding Mazara. Evidently talks between the Rangers and Marlins didn’t advance. Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio tweets that the Fish were turned off by the asking price for Mazara, a former top prospect.
Meanwhile, there’s “mutual interest” in a new deal with backstop Robinson Chirinos. That’s rather an interesting development, considering the Texas organization surprisingly declined its option over him last fall. The replacement plan fell apart, as MLBTR’s Connor Byrne explored, while Chirinos flourished with the cross-state Astros.
The 35-year-old Chirinos and the Rangers are amply familiar with one another, as he played with the team for six seasons. It seems the sides carry no ill will over the way things ended. The catching market has moved rather swiftly to this point, leaving Chirinos and Jason Castro as the top available options.
Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos has another suitor, as Texas has “checked in on” the slugging outfielder, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweets. While upgrading at third base has been a focus for the Rangers, general manager Jon Daniels indicated they could make a splash elsewhere, per Grant. Signing Castellanos, who’s in line for a lucrative multiyear contract, would qualify. Adding him could also make it even more likely the Rangers move on from Nomar Mazara, whomight be part of a trade as early as this week’s Winter Meetings.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming more likely the Rangers will not keep outfielder/designated hitter Hunter Pence in the fold, TR Sullivan of MLB.com reports. After signing a minor league contract last offseason, Pence enjoyed an improbable bounce-back campaign, even earning an All-Star nod, but it seems the soon-to-be 37-year-old will have to play elsewhere if he keeps his career going in 2020.
Here’s more from the game’s West divisions…
- The Diamondbacks reportedly have interest in free-agent left-hander Madison Bumgarner, but it appears they’ll have to step it up if they’re going to reel in the longtime division rival. According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Diamondbacks did make Bumgarner an offer “at some point,” but it was “light.” The 30-year-old seems to have his sights set on becoming the majors’ latest $100MM-plus pitcher, though it remains to be seen whether that’s realistic on his part.
- The Angels appear poised to break the bank, evidenced by their interest in the likes of Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, but they won’t necessarily limit their spending to one big-time performer. Rather, the club has the ability to fit in “multiple” new players who earn $20MM or more, general manager Billy Eppler declared (via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register). In terms of adding payroll, the Angels helped their cause Tuesday when they got infielder Zack Cozart’s $12MM-plus salary off the books in a trade with San Francisco.
- While payroll looks to be an issue for the Astros, they’re nonetheless hoping to address some needs of their own. President of baseball ops/GM Jeff Luhnow old Jake Kaplan of The Athletic and other reporters Tuesday that the reigning AL champions are seeking a catcher, a starter and one or more relievers. I think the catching has been our top pursuit. But it doesnt mean that its going to be the first one to get completed,” Luhnow said. The Astros’ top backstop from 2019, Robinson Chirinos, is currently among their free agents.
- The Giants have interviewed Rachel Balkovec, the Yankees’ minor league roving hitting instructor, for a spot on their major league staff, per Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. However, it doesn’t look as if the Giants will hire Balkovec, Baggarly adds. The interview itself appears to be historic, though, as Baggarly notes it’s “believed” Balkovec is the first woman to discuss a uniformed role with a major league team.
DEC. 6: The Twins have agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent catcher Alex Avila, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets. The Excel Sports client will take home a $4.25MM guarantee on the new deal, per the report.
Avila, 33 in January, is no stranger to the AL Central, having spent parts of eight seasons with the Tigers plus another year with the White Sox. He’ll give the Twins a left-handed-hitting complement to 2019 breakout star Mitch Garver and, ostensibly, replace Jason Castro, who seems likely to land a starting gig elsewhere in free agency.
The veteran Avila is somewhat of a divisive player, as some view his perennially low batting average and lofty strikeout totals as too detrimental to provide consistent value. Others will point to his sky-high walk rates and above-average power in suggesting that more traditional metrics undersell his value at the plate. Indeed, Avila had one of the game’s more bizarre stat lines in 2019 when he slashed .207/.353/.421 with a 17.9 percent walk rate (third among hitters with 200+ plate appearances) and a 33.2 percent strikeout rate (12th among that same subset of hitters).
Garver, 28, still stands out as the obvious starter in Minnesota after exploding with a .273/.365/.630 batting line and 31 home runs in 2019. Even if next year’s ball is corrected to be less conducive to home runs, the Twins assuredly want to plug Garver into the lineup as often as possible after a such a stout performance. He’ll see time against lefties and righties alike, but Avila will be a more than capable stand-in when Garver needs a breather and a righty is on the hill. For his career, Avila is a .241/.358/.417 hitter (15.3 BB%, 28.7 K%) when holding the platoon advantage, although his .212/.307/.311 career line against lefties is all one needs to see to steer him away from opposing southpaws. If Garver needs a day off when a left-hander is on the mound, the Twins could perhaps look to plus super-utility man Willians Astudillo and his right-handed bat into the lineup at catcher. Astudillo himself could’ve been deployed as a backup catcher in 2020, but in Avila, the Twins have found a drastically better source of on-base percentage and a better defensive option that allows Astudillo to continue on in a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none role.
Avila has long been adept at controlling the running game (career 30 percent caught-stealing rate), but he was particularly impressive in 2019 with Arizona. Although he was only a part-time catcher there as well, Avila nabbed 11 of the 21 men who attempted to run on him (52 percent), and he was 9-for-30 (30 percent) a year prior. Avila’s framing rated poorly in 2017, but the D-backs’ efforts to improve him in that regard were successful, as he was above-average in both his seasons with Arizona, per both FanGraphs and Statcast. Baseball Prospectus, meanwhile, rated him as one of the game’s best at blocking pitches in the dirt in 2019.
Minnesota still has substantial work to do this offseason — namely augmenting a rotation that currently looks too similar to its 2019 iteration — but adding Avila to the fold crosses a more minor need off the to-do list at a reasonable price point. The one-year term of the deal continues with the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine-led front office’s penchant for short-term investments as well, thus maintaining future payroll flexibility. If the Twins hope to truly bolster the rotation, they’ll probably need to eschew that preference, but for smaller-scale moves like this it’s sensible to minimize contractual length.
Speaking with Brian McTaggart of MLB.com and other reporters Tuesday, Astros president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow painted a somewhat bleak picture in regards to the team’s payroll. In Luhnow’s estimation, the Astros are going to have to clear out money if they want to acquire a top-end starting pitcher this offseason. With that in mind, it looks more likely than ever that they’ll be saying goodbye to the No. 1 player on the market, right-hander Gerrit Cole, who teamed with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke to comprise an incredibly formidable trio in 2019.
Back in early October, before the Astros began what proved to be an American League-winning run through the playoffs, owner Jim Crane indicated he’d like to avoid going past the $208MM luxury tax in 2020. However, in the estimation of Jason Martinez of FanGraphs and Roster Resource, their luxury-tax payroll for next season is already over $231MM. As a result, the Astros could be more likely to shave payroll than make any major additions this winter.
The Astros would cut some money by trading star shortstop Carlos Correa, who’s due to earn an estimated $7.4MM via arbitration next year. Dealing the 25-year-old sounds like crazy talk, especially when you’re a championship-level team like Houston, but it’s not off the table. The club has “entertained” the possibility, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription link). As of now, though, no deal appears imminent.
With the top free-agent shortstop, Didi Gregorius, now off the board, it stands to reason any shortstop-needy club would (or has) called the Astros in regards to Correa. In trading Correa, though, the Astros would be selling low after an injury-limited year and leaving themselves with questions at short (of course, they did do just fine without him for a large portion of 2019). For now, Correa’s one of several key Astros who’s due to reach free agency over the next couple years, which could hasten either a trade or an extension. Correa, Verlander and Greinke are under control through 2021, while first baseman Yuli Gurriel and outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley are slated to hit the open market after next season.