3:41pm: Also going to the Orioles in the deal are right-handers Zach Peek, Kyle Bradish and Kyle Brnovich, Jeff Passan of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Both Peek (sixth round) and Brnovich (eighth round) were college arms drafted by the Angels this summer.
3:06pm: The Angels have reached a deal to acquire right-hander Dylan Bundy from the Orioles, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Minor league right-hander Isaac Mattson is among the players headed back to the Orioles in the trade, which should be the first of several moves made to add to the Angels’ rotation this winter. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles will acquire a total of four minor league pitchers in the deal (Twitter link).
Bundy, 27, was the fourth overall pick by the Orioles back in 2011 and was touted as one of the game’s premier pitching prospects before a slew of injuries slowed his path to the big leagues. Once heralded as a potential ace, he’s instead settled in as a back-of-the-rotation arm in Baltimore, although despite a loss of velocity on his formerly blazing heater, Bundy still creates some optimism that there could be more in the tank.
First and foremost, it should be noted that he’s largely distanced himself from his early-career injury troubles, making 89 starts across the past three seasons as the lone source of consistency in the Baltimore rotation. He’s averaged better than a strikeout per inning over the past two seasons as well, and in 2019 posted a career-high 12.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 35.7 percent opponents’ chase rate on pitches outside the strike zone.
Bundy averages just 91.2 mph on his fastball at this point, but his ability to miss bats is undeniable. Drilling down a bit deeper, the spin rate on Bundy’s fastball ranked in the 95th percentile of MLB hurlers back in 2017 and has fallen in the 86th percentile in each of the past two seasons. His slider has generated whiffs at a near-25 percent clip over the past three seasons as well.
All of that said, Bundy’s bottom-line results simply haven’t been that inspiring since establishing himself as a rotation regular in Baltimore. He’s totaled 503 innings dating back to 2017 but pitched to a lowly 4.83 ERA and 4.76 FIP in that time. Home runs have been a particular problem for Bundy, who served up a league-high 41 long balls in 2018.
Bundy did work to counteract that in 2019, throwing fewer four-seamers and more changeups. The resulting 41.5 percent ground-ball rate was the highest of his career, and if he can continue to induce grounders on a more regular basis, he should be aided by an improved infield defense in Anaheim, where Andrelton Simmons and David Fletcher both grade as standouts with the glove. Simply moving away from Camden Yards and the many hitter-friendly parks the AL East has to offer could also shave a few home runs off his total moving forward as well.
From a contractual standpoint, there’s plenty to like about Bundy. He’ll be eligible for arbitration both this winter and next before reaching the open market upon completion of the 2021 season, and he’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn an affordable $5.7MM salary for the upcoming 2020 season.
The Angels, perhaps more than any team in baseball, have been decimated by injuries in recent years, so Bundy’s average of 29.7 starts over the past three seasons alone surely holds appeal to the Halos. He’ll slot into a rotation mix that features a returning Shohei Ohtani (who should be recovered from 2018 Tommy John surgery), Andrew Heaney and youngsters like Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez.
Of course, the Angels are also known to be in the hunt for much bigger fish in free agency this winter, with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg both rumored to be of interest to GM Billy Eppler and his staff. Other names on the market include Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, and it’d be a rather notable surprise if the Angels didn’t add at least one high-end arm to join Bundy in the updated rotation — be it via free agency or via trade. Given Bundy’s relatively low salary, there’s ample financial room for the Angels to do just that; they’re currently projected to come in around $150MM in 2020 payroll, and their luxury tax considerations are only a bit north of that mark.
Turning to the Orioles’ return, the 24-year-old Mattson, 24 will slot into the upper levels of the Baltimore farm system. He’s not a high-end prospect and wasn’t considered to be among the 30 best minor leaguers in the Angels’ system by either MLB.com or FanGraphs, but he enjoyed a strong 2019 season. A 19th-round pick in 2017, Matttson soared through the Angels’ system with 73 1/3 innings of 2.33 ERA ball and reached Triple-A late in the year. He posted a gaudy 13.5 K/9 mark against 3.3 BB/9 out of the bullpen and went on to post even better numbers in the Arizona Fall League; in 10 2/3 innings of relief in the AFL, Mattson allowed two earned runs (1.69 ERA) on nine hits and three walks with 12 strikeouts. He’s generated average or better ground-ball numbers throughout his minor league tenure and should be a near-term option for the ’pen in Baltimore.
The subtraction of Bundy leaves what already looked to be perhaps the worst rotation in baseball in even more grisly shape, although the Baltimore organization has made it abundantly clear that winning games in 2020 isn’t a priority. To the contrary — the Orioles are quite likely gunning for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft as part of what looks to be an Astros-esque rebuild under second-year GM Mike Elias (who was hired out of the Houston organization). The next several seasons won’t be pretty for Orioles fans, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll come out on top of this rebuild like the Astros and Cubs did, but their aim to do so is readily evident.
Zack Wheeler is off the board on a reported five-year, $118MM agreement with the Phillies, and it sounds like a decision from fellow free agent Madison Bumgarner might not be far behind. Even before word of Wheeler’s agreement broke, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweeted that some within the industry also expect Bumgarner to sign before the Winter Meetings begin next week.
At this point, the Twins and White Sox are among the “heaviest” suitors for the longtime Giants lefty, tweets Andy Martino of SNY, who adds that the Yankees are involved “to some degree.” Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweets that even after the Braves signed Cole Hamels to a one-year, $18MM deal earlier today, they’re still not completely out of the Bumgarner bidding. And ESPN’s Buster Olney somewhat speculatively links the Reds, who also pursued but missed out on Wheeler, to the Bumgarner market as well (Twitter link). Other clubs are surely involved as well.
It seems unlikely that the bidding for Bumgarner will escalate to the same heights as the Wheeler market, although USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted earlier that the Braves jumped on Hamels in part due to concerns that Bumgarner’s price could approach $100MM.
Regardless of where he lands, there’s little doubt that Bumgarner is among the best arms on the market this winter. He’s not the clear-cut ace that he was earlier in his career when he was busy establishing himself as a postseason legend, but the 30-year-old Bumgarner still posted a 3.90 ERA and a matching FIP through 207 2/3 innings this past season. His average fastball velocity (91.4 mph) and strikeout rate (8.8 K/9, 24.1 percent) are both down a bit from peak levels, but Bumgarner still displayed impeccable command (1.9 BB/9) this past season and topped 30 starts for the first time since his injuring his shoulder in 2017’s dirt-bike debacle.
Bumgarner has made 55 starts across the past two seasons, pitching to a 3.66 ERA (110 ERA+, 3.94 FIP) while averaging 8.3 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings pitched. He rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants, meaning he’ll require some draft and possibly international bonus forfeitures (with exact compensation dependent on which team ultimately signs him). At this point, there’s little indication that the incumbent Giants are a serious player for Bumgarner, but they’re in position to recoup a compensatory pick between Competitive Balance Round B and Round 3 of next year’s draft (as they did when Will Smith signed with the Braves).
2:00pm: Geography played a pivotal role in Wheeler’s decision, it seems. Carig noted in his original report that Wheeler’s wife is from nearby New Jersey, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletictweets that the White Sox’ bid on Wheeler was actually higher than that of the Phillies. Meanwhile, Darren Wolfson of 1500 SKOR North in Minneapolis tweets that the Twins, too, made a five-year offer to Wheeler and that money wasn’t the ultimate factor in rejecting that bid.
Presumably, an offer that blew Philadelphia’s out of the water could’ve swayed Wheeler to stray from the East Coast, but it seems that family considerations won the day when final bids wound up comparable.
1:28pm: Wheeler’s contract will guarantee him just shy of $120MM, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia tweets.
1:21pm: The Phillies have reached an agreement to sign free-agent right-hander Zack Wheeler, Marc Carig of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). The Jet Sports Management client will take home more than $100MM, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link). ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets that it’s a five-year pact. The deal is still pending completion of a physical.
Wheeler, 29, has been arguably the most in-demand pitcher on the free agent market early in the offseason. While he’s regarded as the third-best arm on the market behind Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, that duo’s sky-high earning power priced a number of pitching-needy teams out of the market from the outset. Wheeler, however, has been viewed as a more affordable pitcher with high-end stuff — one whom many believe can still take another step forward in the years to come.
Of course, that’s not to say that the current iteration of Wheeler isn’t a quality arm; he very much is. Over his past 55 Major League starts, the right-hander hasworked to a3.47 ERA (3.27 FIP) with 9.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.82 HR/9 and a 43.1 percent ground-ball rate in 349 2/3 innings. He’s distanced himself from Tommy John surgery and the ensuing complications that wiped out nearly two full seasons of his career, combining to make 60 starts dating back to Opening Day 2018.
Wheeler was also the second-hardest-throwing starter on the open market, with his career-best 96.7 mph average heater trailing only Gerrit Cole. Beyond that, he possesses above-average spin on his heater and curveball, and hes excelled in terms of minimizing hard contact against him (90th percentile average exit-velocity among MLB starters, per Statcast). Given that he’s played in front of the worst defenses in the game over the past couple of seasons, there’s a belief that he could excel with a change of scenery, although it’s of course worth noting that the Philadelphia defense has had its own share of struggles over that same time.
Rotation help has been the clear top priority for the Phillies this winter, as their collective group of starters was a decidedly subpar group in 2019. Philadelphia entered the season with Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta anchoring the starting staff. After a 2018-19 offseason that focused largely on augmenting the lineup, the Phils leaned heavily on younger, inexperienced arms like Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez in the rotation.
Of that trio, only Eflin yielded any real dividends, however. The 25-year-old proved a serviceable fourth starter with a 4.13 ERA over 28 starts (32 total appearances), while Pivetta and Velasquez combined for an ERA well north of 5.00. Meanwhile, Arrieta struggled through his worst season since his breakout and ultimately underwent season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. Even Nola, who finished third in 2018 NL Cy Young voting, took a notable step back in 2019. The end result was a Phillies starting staff that finished 17th in ERA (4.64), 24th in FIP (4.91) and 16th in xFIP (4.59) last year.
Wheeler will now slot into the Phillies’ rotation alongside Nola, Eflin and Arrieta — with the hope that the removal of the bone spur through which Arrieta pitched in 2019 will help to bring about a rejuvenation of sorts. There’s still room for another rotation addition, to be sure, and there’s also room on the payroll to make that a reality. Before agreeing to terms with Wheeler, the Phils’ payroll checked in a bit shy of $150MM (including projected arbitration salaries). They’ll see Arrieta, David Robertson and the small portion of the Jay Bruce contract they’re paying all come off the books next season, lending some long-term flexibility even in spite of substantial commitments to Wheeler, Bryce Harper and others.
Earlier this offseason, Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak voiced a preference to eventually move away from signing players who’ve rejected qualifying offers, but it appears that was far from a mandate, as the Phillies will now do so for a third consecutive winter. Signing Wheeler will cost Philadelphia its second-round pick and $500K of international bonus allotments. The Mets, meanwhile, will pick up a compensatory draft pick after Competitive Balance Round B — likely in the 75 to 80 range of next year’s draft. They’ll also, of course, now be on the lookout for another starting pitcher — although they were never viewed as a serious player to re-sign Wheeler.
In the end, Wheeler also drew varying levels of interest from the White Sox, Reds, Twins, Astros, Rangers, Yankees and Blue Jays before today’s agreement with the Phils. That level of interest was largely foreseeable, but the fit with the Phillies has long been a sensible one, as was predicted on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agent list at the start of the offseason. Our choice of destination there proved to be spot on, though the considerable interest in Wheeler ultimately pushed his guarantee north of the five years and $100MM estimate put forth at that time.
1:15pm: The Braves have formally announced the signing and (unlike most clubs) confirmed the terms of the contract in their press release. Their 40-man roster is now up to 38 players.
11:18am: The Braves have struck a one-year deal with lefty Cole Hamels, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan (via Twitter). It’s said to include a $18MM guarantee for the John Boggs client.
Hamels can still get the job done as he closes in on his 36th birthday. Despite losing more than a full tick on his fastball from 2018-2019, he generated swings and misses at close to a twelve percent rate — much as he has done throughout his 14-year career. Since landing with the Cubs in the second half of the 2018 campaign, Hamels has spun 218 innings of 3.30 ERA ball over 39 starts while maintaining 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
Entering the winter, we believed Hamels could command a two-year deal at a $15MM AAV. But it emerged soon after the market opened that the veteran southpaw actuallypreferred a single-season mercenary arrangement. That’s just what he’ll get, and he’ll command a bit of a salary premium by foregoing any long-term security.
Hamelsdrew widespread interestover the past month. That continued into the month of December, with Bob Nightengale reporting (Twitterlink) that a half-dozen organizations were still involved as of yesterday. The Phillies, White Sox, Rangers, and — surprisingly — the Giants were among the teams in the market until the end, per the report.
That Philadelphia link only further increases the NL East intrigue that we’re bound to see in 2020. While he is a few years removed from his tenure with the Phils, Hamels will always be known first and foremost as a long-time Phillies hurler who was one of the team’s key players during its last run of success.
Now, Hamels will try to help the Braves get over the hump. The Atlanta org has won the past two division crowns, but hasn’t yet managed to translate that success into the postseason. Hamels promises to step in for Keuchel as a durable veteran who has been there and done that plenty of times over a long and prosperous career.
This is the latest early strike for the Braves, who have already ticked through quite a few items on the checklist before the Winter Meetings even kick off. Hamels isn’t the top-of-the-rotation arm that might be preferred, but his addition doesn’t preclude further adds. For now, though, the focus will likely remain on re-signing or replacing third baseman Josh Donaldson.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
1:10pm: The Angels are still weighing whether to renovate the existing stadium or build a new stadium on the current site, Alicia Robinson of the Orange County Register reports. To that end, they’ve hired the same architectural firm that recently designed Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium — home of the NFL’s Vikings — and the Rangers’ new ballpark in Texas to aid in their decision-making process.
Robinson’s colleague, Jeff Fletcher, tweets that despite remaining in Anaheim, there are no plans to revert to the “Anaheim Angels” moniker; the team will continue to be referred to as the Los Angeles Angels.
11:52am: The Halos will stay at home for at least thirty more years after reaching a deal with the city of Anaheim, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). As part of the arrangement, which runs through the 2050 campaign, the club has purchased Angel Stadium and its surrounding lots for a sum of $325MM.
This news seems to bring an end to a long-simmering stadium dispute. While other organizations are dealing with more complicated ballpark matters, Angels owner Arte Moreno has at times hinted at the possibility of a move. That never seemed a high-likelihood outcome; now, it’s off the table.
Some important details remain unknown at present. The club will obviously continue to play in the existing ballpark for the time being, but it’s not known whether the facility — at over fifty years of age, one of the oldest in baseball — will ultimately be slated for replacement. At minimum, the Halos are sure to set to work at developing the real estate surrounding the existing stadium.
Cole has recently been wooed in person by the Yankees, who’d like to roll out the red carpet for him in the Bronx. Sherman provides a detailed explanation of the organization’s approach — including his belief that Cole’s general predilection for the West Coast won’t prevent him from donning pinstripes.
It’s completely unsurprising to hear of the Halos’ involvement. The organization is desperate to get back to winning, has a glaring need for pitching and money to spend, and is now set to embark upon a new potential revenue source after agreeing to a deal with the city of Anaheim.
As for the Dodgers, they were already known to have held sit-downs with two other high-end free agents. Now, they’re at least a legitimate player on Cole, though the true interest level isn’t known. This level of investment is well within the organization’s financial capabilities but hasn’t really been part of its approach of late. The team has been willing to spend gobs of money on short-term arrangements. Whether it’ll approach Cole with such a scenario, providing an alternative to a lengthier term and greater overall guarantee, remains to be seen.
DECEMBER 4:Anderson receives a $1.775MM base salary, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). There’s a roster bonus of $500K after 150 days of activity as well as $350K in incentives for throwing at least 130 innings.
DECEMBER 3: The Giants have signed lefty Tyler Anderson to a one-year, Major League contract, the team announced Tuesday evening. Anderson, who was claimed off waivers out of the Rockies organization, had been non-tendered yesterday. Terms of the contract weren’t disclosed, but it’s safe to assume that the GSE Worldwide client will take home less than the $2.625MM he’d been projected to earn in arbitration.
Anderson, 30 later this month, underwent knee surgery over the summer and was limited to 20 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2019 as a result. The former first-round pick had an impressive debut season with the Rox in 2016 when he pitched 114 1/3 innings of 3.54 ERA ball with 7.8 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a hefty 50.9 percent ground-ball rate. But Anderson’s results took a turn for the worse in 2017-18, as his ground-ball rate deteriorated and he became increasingly homer prone. Anderson did rack up 176 innings and make 32 starts for Colorado as recently as 2018, and he has a minor league option remaining, making him a somewhat intriguing depth piece for the Giants in 2020.
Anderson isn’t likely to be guaranteed a job in the rotation next season, but there’s enough uncertainty on the Giants’ starting staff that he should have ample opportunity to vie for a spot this spring. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have starting spots locked down, but the remaining spots currently look to be up for grabs in a competition featuring Anderson, Tyler Beede, Conner Menez, Logan Webb, Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez. That mix would change, of course, if (or perhaps when) the Giants make some additions via free agency or the trade market.
If Anderson is able to return to form, the Giants will be able to control him through the 2021 season via arbitration.
The Astros are among the teams still pursuing free agent righty Zack Wheeler, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). Houston’s interest has long been known, but it wasn’t clear whether the club had staid in the bidding.
Entering the day, one Texas ballclub was known to be pursuing Wheeler. That still holds true, though the team’s identity has changed. It emerged earlier today that the Rangers are no longer involved.
To call Wheeler’s market robust would be an understatement. If reports are true, he’s already sitting on a baseline offer of five-year, $100MM (or more). It seems the only question is whether some organization will push much further north in terms of AAV or guaranteed years.
It’s interesting to see the ’Stros staying in this market even as it reaches greater heights than most anticipated. The club has strongly indicated a desire to drop below the luxury tax line and will need to drop some salary obligations to do so. Adding Wheeler would only add to the intrigue.
12:30pm:The Diamondbacks are also showing some interest, Morosi tweets. It’s good news for Castellanos to have National League teams involved, though it’s still not clear which if any would be interested in a lengthy commitment.
Castellanos is one of the many Scott Boras-repped players populating the upper reaches of the open market. He joins Marcell Ozuna among the top-available outfield options.
While it’s a bit worrisome to imagine Castellanos patrolling the spacious Oracle Park outfield, the club is pulling in the fences this winter. And as Morosi notes, it’s also possible that the youthful slugger could at some point step back into the infield. (He never managed to stick at third base previously but could presumably be expected to play a palatable first base.)
Castellanos is an exceptionally difficult free agent to prognosticate. We ultimately settled on a prediction of four years and $58MM, but batted around quite a few alternative concepts. Castellanos is an accomplished but hardly all-world hitter who has shown some improvements in the field but remains a bat-first player. Involvement of the Giants in his market would assuredly help, as the level of demand has constituted a major element of uncertainty in the earning outlook.
While the level of interest isn’t entirely clear, the Phillies are at least considering a move for veteran starter Stephen Strasburg, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). The organization is said to be “looking at” plucking a star from the division-rival Nationals for a second consecutive winter.
There are many other possibilities for Strasburg, who wrapped up an outstanding (and rather redemptive) season in D.C. before opting out of his contract in favor of the open market. As Heyman notes, there’s still a sense that Strasburg could well line up again with the Nats. But many of the game’s highest-spending organizations have already shown interest as well.
Strasburg would be a big addition to any rotation, but he’d be of particular import to a Phillies staff that was filled with struggles last year. Like many other teams, the Phils are looking both for impact and reliability. Stras has consistently delivered the former … at least, when healthy. Concerns with his durability are in some regards overstated. He’s fresh off of a dominant and complete season at 31 years of age. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg has averaged 28 starts and 168 innings annually (including his infamous 2012 shutdown campaign).
While the Phillies have indicated trepidation at coughing up draft compensationto add a free agent, that’s simply the requisite ante to sit at the high-stakes table. Strasburg is a good enough player that teams can mostly ignore the lost draft capital. That’s particularly true now that he has thoroughly erased any doubts (as unjustified as they were in the first place) over his big-game capabilities. Recently crowned the World Series MVP, Strasburg has passed every test thrown at him in the postseason with flying colors. In 55 1/3 career playoff frames, he owns a sparkling 1.46 ERA with 11.5 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9.