Free Agents

Kemp, Cespedes, Porcello on the Move In Wild Wild West Meetings

kemp-gordon

The Dee Gordon – Matt Kemp victory celebration is a thing of the past.

 

Ron Burgundy would be going crazy right now if he were in “Sahn De-ago”.  After a bunch of minor moves and a couple of big ones, there was a flurry of active Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The team that was the busiest was the Los Angeles Dodgers, which dealt star outfielder Matt Kemp, young second baseman Dee Gordon, and veteran Dan Haren (who may retire instead).

Kemp, the runner up to the 2011 NL MVP/Prize Winning Cheater Ryan Braun was sent to the San Diego Padres along with catcher Tim Federowicz for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Weiland, and prospect Zach Eflin. The Dodgers will also include $32MM to cover part of the $107MM still owed to Kemp.

The 30-year old had an explosive season in 2011, when he led the league in home runs (39), RBI (126), total bases (353) and runs scored (115). He also won his second Gold Glove Award and second of three Silver Slugger Awards. Injuries derailed Kemp’s career in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but he bounced back nicely last season. After  a slow start, Kemp put up pretty good numbers – 25 HR, 89 RBI, and a .506 Slugging Pct.

Grandal is a 26-year old former first round draft choice (12th overall picky by Cincinnati in 2010), who has 216 games of Major League experience. He topped 100 games played (128) for the first time this past season and produced 15 HR and 49 RBI to go along with a .728 OPS. The Padres acquired him in December, 2011 as part of a four player package from San Diego in return for pitcher Mat Latos.

Plain and simple, this was a salary dump by the Dodgers.

The Dodgers also acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies for Eflin and Tom Windle. The Dodgers sent second baseman Dee Gordon, who stole 64 bases last year, pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Miguel Rojas and a player to be named later/cash to the Miami Marlins for prospect Andrew Heaney, 1st baseman Enrique Hernanedz, catcher/infielder Austin Barnes, and pitcher Chris Hatcher.

The Dodgers also did business with their SoCal rivals, the Los Angeles Angeles, acquiring Gordon’s replacement, Howie Kendrick, for Heaney. The nine-year veteran can be expected to hit in the .290s with some power and about 14 steals (he stole 14 bases in four of the last five seasons). Heaney was the 9th overall pick by the Marlins in the 2009 draft and made his Major League debut last season with five starts and two relief appearances. The results were not good, but the left-hander pitched very well in a minor league season split between Double- and Triple-A.

Yoenis Cespedes was used by Oakland at July’s trade deadline to land Boston ace Jon Lester. Now the Red Sox have used Cespedes as part of a package to acquire right-hander Rick Porcello from the Detroit Tigers. Pitchers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier are headed to Detroit with Cespedes for the New Jersey native who had a breakout 2014 season.

The 27th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Porcello topped 200 innings for the first time, won 15 games, and had a career best 3.43 ERA. Cespedes drove in 22 runs in his first 24 games with Boston, but slumped over the last month of the season.

Detroit then went out and got Porcell’s replacement, sending shortstop Eugenio Suarez and pitcher Jonathan Crawford to the Reds for pitcher Alfredo Simon. Used as a reliever in five of his six previous seasons, Simon was a full-time starter for the Reds this past season and made his first All-Star team. The 33-year old neared 200 innings pitched, won 15 games, and put together a respectable 3.44 ERA and 1.207 WHIP. Suarez could have a shot at the starting shortstop job, with incumbent Zack Cozart coming off a sub.-600 OPS season.

Free Agent: A.J. Burnett Returns to P-Burg

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of Pennsylvania. Free agent right-hander A.J. Burnett pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 and 2013 before he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to last season. After he turned down a $12.75MM option to return to Philly for the 2015 season, Burnett agreed today to a one year, $8.5MM that will have him donning the black and gold of the Pirates next season.

Burnett, who will turn 38 in January, made $15MM in a season in which he led the National League in losses with 18. The Phillies struggled as a team in 2014 and with the future not looking bright for the 2015 campagain, it was no shock that Burnett walked away from his option to play for a better team. Burnett had two of his best seasons as a member of the Pirates, who have made the playoffs the last two seasons as a wild card entry.

Burnett finished with 16 wins and posted a 3.51 ERA when the Pirates finished four games below .500 in 2012. The lanky righty, who has World Series rings from the 2003 Marlins (injuries limited him to 23 games) and 2009 Yankees, pitched in bad luck the following season, but the team ended a 20-year postseason drought. (The team won the wild card game before they lost to St. Louis in the division series.) The lanky righty finished 10-11 despite a 3.30 ERA and a league best 9.8 K’s per nine innings.

Free Agent: Victor Martinez Staying Home For Big Money

vmart

According to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal, Victor Martinez will be the first big winner in the 2014-2015 free agent sweepstakes. And the man called “V-Mart” doesn’t even have to leave town.

Detroit Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski said last week that signing V-Mart was a “priority”. It appears he meant it. Rosenthall reported that the two sides are close to a new four-year agreement. Rumors have the deal set for as much as $80MM. Martinez will reportedly average $17MM over the life of the contract ($68MM in total).

Martinez first signed a four-year deal with the Tigers in 2010. After injuries derailed his 2012 season and affected the start of the 2013 season, the Tigers’ DH had a monster 2014 campaign. The switch-hitter posted career highs in batting average (.335), home runs (32), hits (188), on-base percentage (.409), sluggung percentage (.565) and OPS (974). The latter two numbers were tops in the American League and Martinez also drove in 103 runs.

The former full-time catcher spent the first seven-plus seasons with the Cleveland Indians before he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox during the 2009 season. He spent the following season with Boston before departing for the Tigers prior to the 2011 season.

Martinez was the Tigers primary DH, and spelled Miguel Cabrera at first base for 35 games.

Lester Scratched as MLB Deadline Nears

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

by Drew Sarver

We’re less than two days away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline and the number of rumors is starting to add up. The biggest name among them is Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester. The veteran left-hander has been scratched from his Wednesday start, which means Boston will be making a heavy push to trade him for a boatload of prospects and/or Major Leaguers prior to Thursday’s 4 pm EDT deadline.

With the team and Lester unable to agree on a new contract to keep the left-hander in Boston beyond this year – he becomes a free agent after this season – a trade is now very likely.

Lester’s a grade ‘A’ player; a top performer, team leader, and whose departure would leave a major vacancy in the Red Sox rotation. The 30-year old, who beat anaplastic large cell lymphoma eight years ago, holds a 110-63 (.636) record as of this writing and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. His K’s per nine innings (9.4) is the highest in four years and he has career bests in ERA (2.52) and WHIP (1.119).

He’s also been solid in the post-season. Last year he helped lead the Red Sox to their third World Series title in 10 years. He won four games, including two in the World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be difficult to cut the cord, but if the Red Sox truly feel they cannot resign him, they might as well try to deal him. Needless to say, they’ve getting calls from many teams. That includes the Pittsburgh Pirates, who last night emerged as a “dark horse favorite”.

Lester could be part of a Boston fire sale now that the Red Sox have dropped 12 games out in the AL East and 9.5 games out of the second wild card position. The team, which dealt starter Jake Peavy to San Francisco on July 26, has been fielding calls on John Lackey, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, and Jonny Gomes.

The Red Sox are also rumored to be interested in Matt Kemp, which makes no sense whatsoever. The injury-plagued LA Dodgers outfielder is owed $107MM over the next five seasons. The Red Sox would be better off spending money on starting pitcher. They don’t have to look that far back to see how injured and/or overpaid players (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez) failed in Boston.

The next best pitcher available is Cole Hamels. After not being able to pull off a Cliff Lee deal so far, the Phillies have reportedly either been shopping Hamels or steadfastly refusing to trade him. Even if Hamels is dealt, the Phillies would like to deal Lee and the minimum $37.5MM he stands to make the next two years. He’s also owed the remainder of $25MM this season. Lee will not command the return of players he once was able to unless Philly eats the majority of the salary.

Hamels stands to make $90MM through 2018, with a possibility of making an addition $20MM-$24MM in 2019. Like Lester, Hamels is 30-years old and is having a very good season. Tuesday night he tossed eight shutout innings in a win against the New York Mets. It lowered his career-best ERA to 2.55 and a very good ratio to 1.128 His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings is his highest total since 2006. The Phillies certainly won’t give him away and are probably going to hold on to him.

Like the Red Sox, the Phillies could move several players. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is in high demand and inquiries have been made about A.J. Burnett. The Phillies would love to rid themselves of Ryan Howard’s remaining $60MM over the next three years (the last year is an option with a $10MM buyout.), but that’s not likely to happen.

Other pitchers that could move today are the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, who has one year and $11MM remaining on his contract. The Minnesota Twins would part with Kevin Correia, though there isn’t much demand for a pitcher who leads the AL in losses and whose ERA is over 5. The Twins have also been fielding calls for catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Josh Willingham.

The Kansas City Royals will likely lose James Shields to free agency after the season, but with the team five games behind Detroit in the AL Central and 3.5 games behind Toronto for the second wild card, how could they not keep him?

The Cleveland Indians face a similar dilemma. They’re 6.5 behind Detroit and sit five games in back of Toronto. Do they think they can make a run and become buyers or do they go ahead and become sellers? The Indians are a team that might try to do a little of both. Rumor has it they are trying to move starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is having a disastrous season. Another player having a bad year is Nick Swisher (.615 OPS as of this writing), though the two years and $30MM will make it harder to move him. Add on his failure in several post-seasons, and Swisher won’t bring much return at this point. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could be in a new home by Friday, as he enters free agency after this season.

The Padres are reportedly shopping reliever Joaquin Benoit, who can either set up or close. Other players that could move on are pitcher John Danks, outfielder Dayan Viciedo, and 1B/DH Adam Dunn of the White Sox, pitcher Colby Lewis and outfielder Alex Rios of the Rangers, Cubs’ Pitcher Edwin Jackson, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Stay tuned!

Done Deals

Cleveland sent Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfield prospect James Ramsey. Masterson has been having an off-year in a contract year, but the Cards are hoping he can be the second coming of Jake Westbrook. The Cardinals depth in the outfield allowed them to deal Ramsey, the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Red Sox have traded a left-handed pitcher, but it’s not Jon Lester..yet. They’ve sent Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later.  A Cubs official told Peter Gammons that Doubront was getting “One more change to grow up.”

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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.

KC’s 2014 Goal: Baseball Royalty

yventura

Fireballer Yordano Ventura is ready to take on the AL

by Alli Baker

Key Acquisitions: Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante, Danny Valencia, Jason Vargas

Key Losses: Will Smith, Chris Getz, Ervin Santana, David Lough

For the past few decades, the Kansas City Royals haven’t exactly been regarded as the team to beat. They’ve tended to stay toward the bottom of the pack during the regular season and then remain quiet in the ensuing offseason. 2013, however, was a completely different year for the Royals, as the team had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs in the final month of the season. Although the postseason didn’t happen for the Royals, an 86-76 mark was their best record since 1989 and was good enough for a third place finish in the AL Central.

This past season put some faith back into the organization and gave Royals fans something to hope for. With young stars Eric Hosmer (.801 OPS-17  HR-76 RBI-Gold Glove)), Mike Moustakas (12 HR), Salvador Perez (.757 OPS-13 HR 79-RBI-Gold Glove), Alex Gordon (.749 OPS-20 HR-81 RBI-3rd straight Gold Glove) and veteran Billy Butler (.757 OPS-15 HR-82 RBI), the Royals have an offense and defense to build around. They’re also looking for a breakout year from center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

The organization made moves this offseason to keep that faith alive among the fans and the team’s progress moving forward. Two of the biggest problems faced by GM Dayton Moore were right field and second base. Both Chris Getz and David Lough left the club, leaving these spots vacant. The Royals did exactly what was needed, signing free agent second baseman Omar Infante and acquiring Norichika Aoki from the Brewers for pitcher Will Smith to take over the spot in right field.

Infante, considered to be one of the best second basemen in the league, should be able to help the Royals both defensively and offensively during the upcoming season.

With the departure of free agent starter Ervin Santana and ace James Shields entering the final season of his contract, the Royals were also faced with a pitching problem. They filled the void left by Santana when they signed veteran Jason Vargas, though he isn’t going to give the Royals the same type of performance that Santana did.2 Luckily for the Royals, not all players have to come from trades in the big leagues. The Royals minor league system is deep in starting pitchers, most notably Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura.

Zimmer, who is known for his strong fastball, pitched for the Royal last season, but had his season shortened by bicep tendinitis. However, the injury shouldn’t impact Zimmer’s chances of making it to the majors this season. The Royals still have high hopes for the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. The right-hander is expected to join the team around mid-season and is being counted on to become a permanent part of the rotation.3

The 22-year-old Ventura is currently competing for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, joining Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Vargas, and Bruce Chen. The native of the Dominican Republic, who made his major league debut last season with the Royals, is “ready for the major leagues,” according to  Moore. Throwing upwards of 100 mph, Ventura is likely to find a place in the bullpen if he doesn’t win the fifth spot in the rotation.

Zimmer and Ventura are at the top of the Royals promising future and both were ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects List.1  Moore hopes they’ll be joined by talented prospects, including Raul Mondesi and Jorge Bonifacio, give the Kansas City Royals hope that their future is looking favorable.

After their best season in over 20 years, the Royals know that the team has a chance to do something amazing. With their offseason acquisitions and development of prospects, it appears the Royals now have the tools to make 2014 a defining season.

1 – Baseball America.com 

2 – si.com

3 – sbnation.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

Nelson Cruz: How The Mighty Have Fallen

Nelson Cruz

Once you get the taint of performance enhancing drug (PED) user on your resume it can be very difficult to wipe it off. Nelson Cruz found that out the hard way when he had to settle for a reported one year, $8MM deal with the Baltimore Orioles.

The agreement, reported by ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas, is dependent on a physical and contains incentives worth $750K. The 33-year old has been often injured, primarily hamstring and leg issues over parts of eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, and topped 128 games just once (2012). Over the last five seasons Cruz has averaged 27 home runs, 81 RBI, and an .831 OPS. He was near his average in home runs and RBI after just 109 games last season before he was named in the Biogenesis scandal and was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games.

After initially considering fighting the penalty, Cruz decided to sit out the 50 games. He played his last regular season game on August 4, but returned for the one game playoff between wild card winners Texas and Tampa Bay. Cruz went 0-4 in the Rays 5-2 victory.