Month: November 2014

Extended: Mariners Re-Up Seager For 7 Years

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Kyle Seager has 100 million reasons to smile.

 

The Seattle Mariners made a big committment to turning things around last offseason when they gave free agent second baeman Robinson Cano to a 10 year, $240MM contract. The Mariners continued to build for the here and now, and the future, when they agreed – as reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan – today to a seven year, $100MM contract extension with third baseman Kyle Seager.

The 27-year old is coming off his best season in the Major Leagues, one that saw him earn his first All-Star nod and captured his first Gold Glove Award as well. Seager finished 20th in the AL MVP vote after he compiled a .268/.334/.454 slash line with career highs in home runs (25) and RBI (96).  The North Carolina native has averaged 22 home runs and 84 RBI in his first three full seasons in the Major Leagues.

Seager would not have been eligible for free agency until the 2018 season and wasn’t arbitration eligible until 2015.

2015 Mariners at a glance

Starting Rotation – Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma (possible on the trading block), James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias

Infield – 1B – Logan Morrison 2B – Cano SS – Brad Miller/Chris Taylor 3B – Seager

Outfield – Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson, Michael Saunders

Catcher – Mike Zunino

Bullpen – Closer – Fernando Rodney,

Signing: Kung Fu Panda Headed to Boston

Pablo-Sandoval[1]

Pablo Sandoval and the Giants were number one, three times.

On the heels of the rumored Hanley Ramirez signing by Boston, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman is reporting that the Red Sox have signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five year, $100MM contract.

The Red Sox went from World Series winners in 2013 to last place in the AL East this past Summer. One of the biggest concerns was team defense, something the Red Sox have prided themselves on over the years. With shortstop Xander Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks struggling on defense and offense, GM Ben Cherington has made a big splash by replacing the left side of his infield.

Sandoval had been rumored for over a week to be headed to Boston and it appears to now be true. The San Francisco Giants were thought to still be in the race to resign him, but with concerns about his conditioning and diluted offense, they had decided they wouldn’t overpay Sandoval just to keep him.

The Red Sox are taking a gamble for sure – while his defense has been excellent – the big guy’s offense does not merit a $20MM per year contract. (The Red Sox have definitely followed the Yankees’ Jacoby Ellsbury signing model – overpay to blow away the competition.) Over the last three regular seasons, Sandoval’s OPS has been .789, .758, and .739. His slugging pct. went from .447 in 2012 to .415 this past season. He will be a decent addition for getting on base – he hit around .280 with 40 walks the last three years – but as a left-handed hitter he’ll need to adjust to Fenway Park.

The 28-year old was signed by the Giants in 2003 and made his debut five years later. He was on all three Giants’ World Series championships in the last five seasons. He’s 20-44 (.455) in the last two World Series combined with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 11 games.

The two signings by Boston could mean they won’t be able to bring back their ace Jon Lester. The left-hander was dealt to Oakland at the trade deadline this past season. Boston is more likely to turn to a less expensive alternative such as James Shields or Ervin Santana to help fill out their starting rotation.

While Middlebrooks does not have much trade value, Boston will likely deal Bogaerts to add some pitching.

Signing: Hanley Goes Home Again

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Hanley Ramirez back in his minor league days. He’ll be wearing a much lower number this time around.

With apologies to The Odd Couple – On November 24, 2005, Hanley Ramirez was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from Boston Red Sox management, who sent him to the Florida Marlins in a deal for Josh Beckett and “throw-in” Mike Lowell. Ramirez knew the Red Sox were right, but he also knew that some day he would return to them.

Nine years later, to the day, Ramirez is set to return to Boston as a free agent. A reported five year, $90MM deal (I laughed when I saw someone call it a bargain) has been agreed upon.  UPDATE – Foxsports’ Ken Rosenthal has now reported that the deal is four years at $88MM with a fifth year added on as a vested option.

Ramirez was signed by the Red Sox as an amateur in 2000 and made his Boston debut in 2005. He appeared in just two games and that offseason was dealt to Florida in the aforementioned deal. Both Beckett and Lowell went on to become integral parts of the Red Sox 2007 championship.

Ramirez captured the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006 when he hit 17 home runs, drove in 59 runs and stole 51 bases. He remained with the Marlins into the 2012 season by which time he was having issues with management. At the 2012 trade deadline, he and Randy Choate were sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leauger.

Injuries limited him to 86 games in 2013, but Ramirez hit .345 and slugged .638 to finish 8th in the NL MVP vote. Last year he had a more modest slash line of .283/.369/.448 in 128 games.

Free Agent: Billy Butler Heads West to the A’s, Young Man

butler

The A’s are banking on Billy Butler getting his power stroke back.

 

Billy Butler has been a fixture in the Kansas City Royals lineup since his rookie season of 2007. He was one of the few consistent productive players for the Royals teams that won less than 70 games a year.

But after his best season (2012) – 29 HR 107 RBI .882 OPS 192 Hits – the lineup’s regular designated hitter saw his production drop off. It came at a time when the Royals had a resurgence and made it to the World Series for the first time since 1985. With young players like Alex Gordon ready to starting getting big money, it was an easy decision for Royals’ management to not bring Butler back. The 28-year old agreed to terms with the Oakland A’s Wednesday on a three-year, $30MM deal. It’s a slight bump in salary from the $8MM he earned the last three seasons in KC.

Oakland is looking to Butler to replace some of the offense lost when they dealt Yoenis Cespedis to the Boston Red Sox for Jon Lester during the 2014 trade deadline. But will Butler be able to supplement the A’s offensive production in 2015? After a drop off to 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 2013, Butler only powered out 9 HR this past season and had a career low .379 slugging percentage.

Butler is a station-to-station base runner and a prototypical designated hitter – he hasn’t played more than 37 games at first base since 2010 – so he needs to rely on his ability to drive the ball to be successful.

He’s making the move from a pretty good hitter’s park to one (Oakland Coliseum) that favors pitchers. Granted, it’s been against the A’s pitchers, but Butler has a career .252 batting average in Oakland and a pedestrian .759 OPS. By comparison, Butler had an .849 career OPS at Kauffman Stadium in KC (and a .766 mark on the road.)

Time will tell, but at $10MM per year, the contract could prove to be a a major bargain, especially for a player under 30.

Free Agents: Blue Jays Open the Vault for R-Martin

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Russell Martin has $82 million reasons to smile.

 

by Drew Sarver

Few things these days can make my head explode. Having to hear about that family with the woman with the big ass. That’s more of a nagging headache actually. But things like what the Toronto Blue Jays did on Monday was definitely a “cranial cramper”.

Catcher Russell Martin, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates the last two seasons, agreed to terms with the Toronto Blue Jays on a reported five-year, $82MM. (Even Linda Blair’s head would stop spinning after hearing about that contract.)

Except for the ability to hit the long ball, Martin had struggled at the plate for four straight seasons (2010-2013) and with three teams – the LA Dodgers, New York Yankees, and the Pirates. Martin’s OPS during that stretch ranged from a low of .679 to a high of .732.

With free agency pending, Martin had his best season at the plate in six years. A .290/.402/.430 slash line helped him finish 13th in the National League MVP voting. Defense and pitch calling has never been an issue for Martin, who threw out 39% of would-be base-stealers, second only to his personal best of 40% in 2013. It was also well above his career mark of 32%.

It all sounds good, right? Someone coming off a season like that and will be 32 when the 2015 season begins, should get a good contract. Maybe three years, $36MM. If you want to go five years you pay him $60MM. Apparently Blue Jays ownership and GM Alex Anthopoulos thought otherwise.

The deal falls just a few million dollars short of the five-year, $85MM deal the Yankees gave Brian McCann prior to last season. I thought that deal was a bad one too when it was announced, as in too much money and too many years.  Once a catcher has passed 30, a five year contract is a big gamble.(McCann will be 31 when the 2015 season begins).

The Blue Jays know they have an opportunity to win the AL East or gain a wild card in 2015, and signing Martin was a smart move. An average salary in excess of $16MM makes no sense though. Blowing everyone out of the water to sign a player should only be done if you have a major shot at competing for the World Series and that player better be a damn good one.

Are the Blue Jays there? Let’s take a look at last year’s team and what the team is shaping up to be in 2015.

The Blue Jays offense is powered byright fielder Jose Bautista (35 HR, 103 RBI) and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (34 HR, 98 RBI) and set up by shortstop Jose Reyes (94 runs, 30 steals, .328 OBP).

Outfielder Melky Cabrera is likely to leave as a free agent and third baseman Brett Lawrie’s young career has been marred by injury and inconsistency.

The starting rotation is not one that jumps out you. 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey is the ace of the staff (14-13, 3.71 215.2 IP) and manager John Gibbons will be counting on second year hurler Marcus Stroman, who didn’t receive any AL Rookie of the Year votes despite an 11-6, 3.65 record and a four to one strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

The rest of last year’s rotation was mediocre. Veteran Mark Buehrle won nine of his 10 decisions and allowed less than two and one-half runs per game. But his ERA was closer to six in July and August and dropped eight of nine decisions after his tremendous start.

J.A. Happ and Drew Hutchinson were no better than .500 pitchers, though Hutchinson presents a much bigger upside than Happ and was a year removed from Tommy John surgery.)

Antropolous made a good low risk/possibly high reward move by sending first baseman Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers for starter Marco Estrada. While the 30-year old didn’t have the best 2014 season, he’s worth a shot to compete for a rotation spot. The Blue Jays are also said to be looking to sign one of the bigger name free agents (e.g. Jon Lester).

The bullpen needs improvement as well. Closer Casey Janssen isn’t your prototypical closer – he recorded just 28 strikeouts in 45.2 innings pitched and is a free agent. While Janssen kept his walk total down, the remainder of the pen struggled with their control.

Youngster Aaron Sanchez looked solid in relief in September – he saved three games – but Antropolous wants him in the starting rotation next season. As for a set up man/lefty specialist, the Blue Jays are also thought to be interested in free agent Andrew Miller. The  reliever, who has averaged better than 14K’s per nine innings over the last four seasons, is said to be seeking closer money. Considering the money the Blue Jays gave Martin, it’s not out of the question for them to go overboard with a contract offer to Miller.

So what have we gleaned from this? The Blue Jays have a pretty nucleus and are looking to strengthen their weaknesses. Which means they probably should have spent money on the bigger fixes to the team before doling out money, crazy money at that, for a catcher.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

TRADED: Cards, Braves Swap Former Top Prospects

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The Atlanta Braves had high hopes for outfielder Jason Heyward, the 14th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Amateur draft. Those expectations were wratched it up a notch three years later when Heyward finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting with an 18 HR, 72 RBI, .849 OPS campaign. But after belting 27 HR with 82 RBI in 2012, Heyward’s offense dropped, but Atlanta’s expectations did not, especially considering what they were paying Heyward. The Braves traded the 25-year old to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday for right-hander Shelby Miller, the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

The Cardinals also received reliever Jordan Walden, while minor league pitcher Tyrell Jenkins was sent to the Braves’ organization.

Miller was third in the National League Rookie of the Year vote in 2013 when he won 15 games with a 3.01 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 173.1 innings pitched. This past season, Miller’s ERA rose to 3.74 and his strikeouts per nine innings dropped from 8.8 to 6.2.

Heyward is due to make $8.3MM for the coming season and the Braves, apparently, are not willing to pay more than that for the future. Miller, by comparison earned $521K and is not arbitration eligible until 2016. He will earn substantially less in 2015 than Heyward.

The Braves outfielder posted .776 and .735 OPS the past two seasons and slugged a career-low .384 in 2014. He won his second Gold Glove this year and will join Matt Holliday as a corner (RF) outfielder in the Cardinals lineup. Considering the length of time (four years)  that the Cardinals had Miller under control, the deal had to come as much of a surprise to Cardinals fans as it did to Braves fans. Miller will replace Ervin Santana, a free agent, in the Braves’ starting rotation.

Though he has a propensity to walk too many hitters, Walden was solid out of the pen in his second season in Atlanta. The hard throwing righty struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .541 OPS. Walden, who did not fare successfully as a closer in his younger days for the Angels, could have a chance to win the job in St. Louis from Trevor Rosenthal.

Jenkins was a supplemental pick (50th overall) by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2010 draft. The 6’4″, 22-year old right-hander missed the first half of the 2014 season with shoulder surgery. He finished the season 6-5, 3.28 in 13 starts for the Cardinals’ Palm Beach (Florida State League) affiliate.

Trade Bait: B.J. Upton

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Another at-bat, another out for B.J. Upton

When discussing baseball players, the media, the fans, and the players themselves all go to the numbers. But the numbers for B.J. Upton are misleading. He’s not been as productive, and certainly not as consistent, as his career figures might indicate.

The Atlanta Braves, and more precisely ex-GM Frank Wren, did not use their heads when they signed Upton  (along with a good signing of B.J.’s younger brother Justin) to a five-year, $75.25MM after the 2012 season. Upton’s career splits in his eight seasons in Tampa Bay were average – .255/.336/.422 and despite averaging 25 HRs, 79 RBI, and 38 stolen bases his last two season with the Rays, there were warning signs.

The elder Upton’s home splits in 2011 were .209/.300/.374; a year later he posted an .814 oPS at home, but .687 on the road. He had also had a miserable first half in 2012 with a .679 OPS in 71 games. His second half surge (21 HR 49 RBI in 71 games) made his overall numbers look better and certainly influenced Atlanta’s decision to sign him.

Politics can play a big part in awards and rewards, but Upton never made an All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger Award or a Gold Glove. The Braves paid the then 28-year old as if he was that type of player. His two years in Atlanta couldn’t have been much more disastrous than they were. A Brendan Ryan-like .557 OPS in 2013 (including a .184 batting average), followed by a .620 OPS last season. He had 33 doubles and 21 home runs…in two seasons combined.

The Braves can’t get rid of Upton fast enough, but who is going to take him? The Braves will have to eat much of the $46MM-plus  still owed to him to have any chance of a deal. Even then, they are not going to get more than middling prospects and no Major League talent, unless it’s swapping one bad contract for another. Justin Upton becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. The Braves may have to deal the “good” Upton in order to keep the senior Upton.

Let the buyer beware.