Jonathan Papelbon

Rumor: D-Rob Has 3 Year, $39MM Offer

drob

David Robertson had the opportunity to be the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, who retired after the 2013 regular season. “D-Rob” took full advantage as the new New York Yankees closer, with 39 saves and better than 13 strikeouts per nine innings. A fine season when your about to embark on free agency as well.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday evening that Robertson has a three-year, $39MM offer in hand. The team that made the offer remains unknown at this time. The Yankees definitely want Robertson back and don’t consider set up man Dellin Betances ready to assume the job. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Yankees signed another closer to a short term deal for when, and if, Betances is ready to assume the 9th inning role.

Heyman and Designated For Assignment agree that the Yankees won’t offer Robertson a guaranteed fourth year, but a three year deal would probably be in the range of $40MM – $50MM. The amount would surpass the $12.5MM average per year of the four year deal Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2012 season.

Earlier D4A reported that the San Diego Padres were talking to the Los Angeles Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp. According to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal the Baltimore Orioles have also talked turkey with the Dodgers. The Orioles have free agent outfielders in Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis that would “only” cost them money rather than the players they would have to give up to land Kemp.

That’s Not a July T-Storm, It’s the MLB Trade Winds Blowing!

Clee.jpgIt must be July; Cliff Lee is on the trade block.

by Drew Sarver

Major League Baseball is a week past the All-Star break, which means the MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away. There’s already been a major trade between the Oakland A’s (Addison Russell) and the Chicago Cubs (Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel) that will have an impact on the AL West race.  Teams have until July 31 to decide whether to be sellers, buyers, or to stand pat at the deadline. It gives them less than two weeks to figure out if they are really as bad as they might be playing or as good as they think they are. Should a team within striking distance of a playoff spot go hard after a big-name player or pull the trigger on smaller deals? Or should they stand pat?

There’s precedence for just about every situation at the break. On July 31, 1997, the Chicago White Sox sat four games in back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central division. Despite their close proximity to first place in the standings, the White Sox went into “full sell” mode.  They dealt starting pitchers Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin, and closer Roberto Hernandez to the San Francisco Giants for a half-dozen prospects: Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, Ken Vining, Mike Caruso, Brian Manning, and Lorenzo Barcelo.

All three players dealt by Chicago were free agents after the 1997 season, so GM Ron Schueler cut his losses. (Of the six players acquired by Chicago, only Foulke and Howry went on to have successful Major League careers . The Giants won the NL West, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Champion Florida Marlins. The following season, Alvarez and Hernandez went on to big money deals with Tampa Bay, while Darwin re-signed with San Francisco.)

It’s difficult to tell fact from fiction this time of year, which is why the words “rumor” and “reported” are thrown around like baseballs. More often than not, the player attached to the strongest rumors does not get dealt, or goes to the team that had no rumored association with the player. (Think Cliff Lee.)

So let’s take a look at some of the names being bandied about right now and those names that might be brought up once the deadline gets closer.

Jonny Gomes and Ben Zobrist: There are a lot of moves made at the deadline to shore up a position, or to get one or two more players that might put a team over the edge to make the playoffs and/or make a long run at the title. Gomes and Zobrist would fall into that category. Gomes had several big hits last year to help the Red Sox win their third World Series in the last 10 years. But, with Boston struggling this year, Gomes may be one of the guys to go. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the KC Royals have made Gomes a “potential trade target”. KC is in contention with a group of younger players and could use some experienced, ring-bearing veterans like Gomes.

Zobrist’s name has popped up in many rumors. Though the 33-year old’s bat hasn’t produced as much in the last two seasons, he’s just three years removed from back-to-back 20-home-run seasons. Zobrist, Gomes’ former teammate on the Rays, can also swipe a base when needed and defensively can play both middle infield positions, (second base is his best spot), and the outfield. With a $7.5MM team option for next season, Zobrist comes at a bargain price. That means better prospects will be demanded by the Rays in return.

Fishing for pitching is always a popular sport this time of year, and the biggest fish out there is a Ray. David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, won’t be a free agent until 2016, but the Rays may deal him before then to haul in a big catch. Price made $14MM this season and will surely top that in arbitration or a one-year deal next season. The 6’6″ left-hander entered Monday’s play leading the league in strikeouts and games started, and had pitched to a 3.06 ERA and a 1.041 WHIP.

Price has been especially hot of late, with six earned runs allowed in 48 innings (1.13 ERA). He’s pitched less than seven complete innings only once in his 13 starts and has thrown at least eight innings in nine of those starts. With the Rays playing better baseball of late – they’ve won five straight and 14 of 18 – Price may stick around Tampa until next season’s trade deadline.

With Samarzdiga, Hammel, and Brandon McCarthy already moved, San Diego’s Ian Kennedy has heard his name mentioned frequently. Recently, FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Los Angeles Angels were very interested in Kennedy, but as of this writing, the teams have not been able to match up players for a deal.

Based on the way Kennedy pitched with the Yankees, you never would have thought he would be in demand. But scouts stood up and took notice when Kennedy finished 21-4, 2.88 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. He struggled the following two years and was dealt to San Diego at last year’s deadline. This season, Kennedy has turned things around and is back in demand. The USC product made $6.1MM in 2014 and is arbitration-eligible next year.

Scouts are showing up in droves for Philadelphia Phillies games, with the fightin’ Phils not having a whole lot of fight in them. Teams have made inquiries about starters Lee and Cole Hamels, and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies would reportedly prefer to hold on to the 30-year old  Hamels (They need someone to build around) and deal Lee. (Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like every year Lee is either looking for a free agent deal or he’s the subject of trade rumors?)

The soon-to-be 36-year old Lee is owed the remainder of $25MM this season, another $25MM next year, and at the very least,  $12.5MM in 2016. (The $12.5MM is a buyout; Lee can earn $27.5MM in 2016 if he throws at least 200 innings in 2015.) By comparison, Hamels is owed $90MM from 2015-2018. Just what was GM Ruben Amaro Jr. thinking with these deals and contracts like Ryan Howard’s (min. $60MM owed for the next three years)? Perhaps the Dodgers could swap Matt Kemp’s huge contract for Lee’s?

Papelbon is owed $13MM next year and can get another $13MM in 2016 if he finishes 55 games next season, or 100 games over the current year and 2015 combined. After a shaky 2013 season, Papelbon has bounced back strongly this year. He’s saved 23 of 25 games and struck out 33 batters, while he has allowed nine walks, and has a 1.17 ERA. Opposing batters have only managed to put together a .429 OPS this season. With teams always looking for bullpen help and with so many closers having off years, the Phils could get some very good return for Papelbon.

Well, there you have it for now.  Stay tuned later in the week for another report as the calendar creeps closer to August.

 

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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.

MLB Preview: Phils Full of Questions

Injury concerns surrounding Cole Hamels cast more doubt on the Phillies’ 2014 playoff hopes.

by Christopher Wenrich

Key Acquisitions:  Marlon Byrd, Bobby Abreu, Chad Gaudin, Barry Enright, Reid Brignac, Brad Lincoln, Ronny Cedeno

Key Losses: Roy Halladay, John Lannan

After a string of five consecutive division titles and two World Series appearances (one won and one lost), the Philadelphia Phillies toiled in mediocrity and missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.  Prized ace – and possible future Hall-of-Famer – Roy Halladay struggled with injuries in back-to-back seasons and announced his retirement not long ago.  Longtime stars Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have aged and struggled with injuries.  While the Phillies aim to establish themselves among baseball’s elite again, their window of opportunity may have closed.

During the Phillies’ five-year run of division titles, they averaged 799 runs scored and 675 runs against them.  In the past two seasons, the Phillies have averaged 647 runs scored and 714 runs against them.  The core of their once-mighty offense (Rollins-Utley-Howard) are past their prime.  Utley is still a very productive hitter; however, he cannot be counted on to play nearly 162 games.  Utley’s 131 games in 2013 was the first time he appeared in more than 115 games since 2009 (156 games).  Howard is an all-or-nothing hitter who would club 40 home runs and strike out around 200 times.  Howard struggled with injuries and a very sharp decline in productivity the past few seasons.  Rollins has not been hit by the woeful injury bug that Howard and Utley had over the years, but he has declined significantly as a hitter.

The Phillies’ top prospects – Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle – will most likely start the 2014 season in the minors and possibly not see MLB action this year.  The Phillies made a questionable signing in right fielder Marlon Byrd.  Regardless of whether or not Byrd has a productive season with the Phillies, the signing appears senseless because it takes at-bats away from Darin Ruf.

Ruf is a power-hitting right-handed batter who has shown an ability to get on base at a consistent clip in his short time in the majors.  If Ruf were to get regular at-bats over the course of a full season, he could conceivably hit 30 home runs and have a respectable on-base percentage.  Ruf could be a slightly better version of Mark Trumbo.  With Howard still under contract and starting at first base, and Byrd expected to start in right field, Ruf’s value to the team is greatly hindered.  Ruf may lose even more at-bats if veteran Bobby Abreu receives some starts in right field.  Limiting Ruf to a platoon role with Howard at first base severely dampens the potential of the Phillies’ offense.

Once again, the Phillies are a lefty bat-heavy team.  Right fielder Byrd and catcher Carlos Ruiz may be the only right-handed bats in the starting lineup on a regular basis.  The six left-handed bats will likely be Howard, Utley, Cody Asche, a switch-hitting Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere and Domonic Brown.  The Phillies will have right-handed bats on the bench in Ruf and John Mayberry Jr.  Kevin Frandsen – another right-handed bat – could conceivably be released this spring.

LINEUP
C:  Carlos Ruiz
1B:  Ryan Howard
2B:  Chase Utley
3B:  Cody Asche
SS:  Jimmy Rollins
LF:  Domonic Brown
CF:  Ben Revere
RF:  Marlon Byrd

The opening day batting order at this point is pure speculation.  Because the Phillies will not want to bat four or five consecutive left-handed batters, Rollins or Revere will likely bat in the bottom third of the order.  The Phillies would be best-served by having Revere lead off the order and Rollins moved down in the order.  Revere has tremendous speed and is a respectable hitter.  Revere got off to a slow start in 2013, but eventually rounded into form and became one of the hottest hitters in baseball before suffering an injury.  Although it would be more prudent to bat Rollins in the bottom third, it would not be surprising to see him leading off the top of the lineup (his longtime role with the club).

ROTATION
SP:  Cliff Lee
SP:  Cole Hamels
SP:  A.J. Burnett
SP:  Kyle Kendrick
SP:  Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona)

The Phillies have an excellent front end of the rotation with Lee, Hamels and Burnett; however, the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation leave a lot to be desired.  Hernandez signed a one-year deal worth $4.50 million (another questionable signing).  Due to Hernandez’s salary, the Phillies likely will start Jonathan Pettibone in the minors while assuring Hernandez a roster spot.  Hernandez struggled with command throughout his career and leaves too many hittable pitches up in the zone.

Kendrick is a solid pitcher for the back end of the rotation, but is highly unlikely to show significant improvement.  At his best, Kendrick induces ground balls and puts together a stretch of games where he looks like an ace; however, his overall body of work is never impressive over the course of a season.  Kendrick has improved tremendously against left-handed bats over the years (.298 OBP against in 2013); however, he is more hittable to right-handed bats each year.  Right-handed batters posted the following OBP against Kendrick:  .329 in 2010, .298 in 2011, .312 in 2012, and a whopping .358 in 2013.

Adding to the uncertainty of Kendrick/Hernandez, Hamels may be unavailable at the start of the season.  For now, Hamels is shut down from throwing for at least a week.  It is believed that there is no structural damage in Hamels’ shoulder, but Hamels is reportedly fatigued.  Bad news surrounding the front end of the pitching rotation puts a damper on the club’s playoff hopes.  Should Hamels be unavailable, the Phillies will probably use Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez in his place.  Gonzalez reportedly had elbow issues after signing with the Phillies in 2012 and he has struggled with his command in spring training and failed to impress thus far.

BULLPEN
Jonathan Papelbon
Antonio Bastardo
Jake Diekman
Jeremy Horst
Brad Lincoln
Phillippe Aumont

An inept bullpen has greatly plagued the Phillies over the past few years and cost them many would-be victories, however, the bullpen shows promise for 2014.  Jonathan Papelbon will be back as the closer.  Left-handed pitchers Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman will also be assured  roster spots.  Veteran Mike Adams will likely begin the season on the disabled list before joining the pen as a righty set-up man.  The Phillies will likely carry six relief pitchers rather than seven in order to create a bench spot for Abreu.  B.J. Rosenberg, Michael Stutes and Justin De Fratus are also vying for spots in the bullpen.  Stutes once showed plenty of promise, but has been nothing short of unproductive since his injury.  With Ethan Martin now injured, his chances of making the team are also slim.

BENCH

Wil Nieves will serve as the second catcher.  Ruf (1B/OF) will be assured of a bench spot.  Mayberry will mostly likely be on the bench.  If the Phillies carry six relief pitchers, three spots remain.  Those last spots will likely go to Abreu (a disciplined hitter who draws walks), Freddy Galvis (2B/3B/SS/OF) and Cesar Hernandez.  Galvis is perhaps the best defensive player in the organization, and should be the starting shortstop; however, Rollins’ refusal to waive his no-trade clause prevents such a move from happening.  Galvis is not a spectacular hitter, but has the potential to improve and has respectable power to the gaps.  Hernandez is young but has potential and could be the everyday replacement for Utley if he were to suffer an injury.

2014 Outlook

The Phillies could sneak into the playoffs and surprise the world in 2014; however, that would be highly unexpected.  The Phillies are a team full of uncertainty and need a large number of what-ifs to work correctly for them.  The Phillies’ 2014 playoff fate rests on the shoulders of their top three pitchers, Revere, and an aging cast of hitters.  Revere could be a tremendous bright spot in the Phillies’ lineup this season, with the potential to approach 200 hits and steal many bases; unfortunately, the Phillies’ other potential bright spots (Ruf, Galvis and Hernandez) are reduced to backup roles.  The injury scare around Hamels at this time does nothing to ease the concerns of Phillies fans.  The over/under for victories by the Phillies in 2014 should be around 80 games.

Christopher Wenrich is a contributor for Designated For Assignment.  Follow him on Twitter (@DuggerSports).