MLB

White Sox Get Melk, Headley Re-Ups With Yankees

The Melkman is back delivering across the border.

The Melkman is back delivering across the border.

The latest free agents are comprised of a player moving on to his sixth team in seven years and one that is staying where he was two-month rental. The Chicago White Sox have been busy this offseason and they continued their re-tooling over the weekend with the free agent signing of outfielder Melky Cabrera. Meanwhile, the New York Yankees agreed, on Monday, with Chase Headley to keep the free agent third baseman for the next four years (at a cost of $52MM).

Cabrera, who played four full seasons with the Yankees, then spent one season in Atlanta, one in Kansas City, one in San Francisco, and two years in Toronto. He’ll replace the lackluster bat of Dayan Viciedo in left field and join newcomers Jeff Samardzija and former Yankees teammate David Robertson on the list of big time acquisitions by GM Kenny Williams.

The Melkman was suspended for 50 games in the second half of the 2012 season due to his involvement in the Biogenesis Clinic scandal. The Giants could have brought him back for the playoffs, but chose not to. With the suspension impacting a new deal, Cabrera signed a two-year, $16MM contract with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season. 2014 saw him produce the second best home run (16) and RBI (73) totals of his career.

Cabrera had his best season to date when the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, but he was sent with pitchers Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino to Atlanta for pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan. The deal was a disaster for both teams. Cabrera produced a .671 OPS with 4 HR and 42 RBI with the Braves. A year later he was a new man, and maybe Biogenesis was the reason.

The then-26-year old put up career numbers in batting average (.305), HR (18), RBI (87), hits (201), and stolen bases (20). With free agency to come after the 2011 season, the Royals dealt Cabrera to San Francisco for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo.

Headley played his first six-plus seasons with the San Diego Padres until the 2014 trade deadline came around. The Yankees, who had been interested in Headley since his 2012 MVP-like season. (31 HR 115 RBI, .875 OPS, 17 stolen bases) Headley had never approached those caliber numbers before 2012 and has not after. The price to obtain the third baseman was much lower than during or initially after his magical season. The Yankees were able to acquire Headley for rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte and pitcher Rafael De Paula.

While the Yankees’ defense on the left side of the infield has improved drastically with Headley and the two-headed platoon at shortstop with Brendan Ryan and Didi Gregorius, the production of the lineup has not. In fact, it’s gone in the opposite direction.

The move has produced some head scratching, particularly the length of the contract.  A four-year deal based on a very good September after a terrible August. Two months in pinstripes, one good, one bad. It also shows that Headley most likely did not have a four-year, $65MM offer from another team.

The Yankees starting nine hitters, for now, are

1B Mark Teixeira
2B Martin Prado
SS Brendan Ryan/Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
LF Brett Gardner
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Carlos Beltran
C Brian McCann
DH Alex Rodriguez

Not exactly intimidating.

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

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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.

Signed: Lester Goes To The Cubs

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Jon Lester says good-bye to Boston.

 

All along the thought here was that Jon Lester would return to the Boston Red Sox, the team he played for eight-plus seasons until a 2014 deadline deal to the Oakland A’s. But the free agent lefty instead opted for a reported six-year, $155MM deal with the Chicago Cubs.

The deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday night, includes a vesting option for a seventh season that would bring the total worth of the deal to $170MM. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Estes, the Red Sox top offer was six years for $135MM with no vesting option included.

Lester, who doesn’t turn 31 until January, was 16-11, 2.46 in 32 starts (21 with Boston) between the Red Sox and A’s last season. The pending free agent was dealt with outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A’s on July 31 for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a draft slot. Cespedes has been the subject of trade rumors, which now may pick up with the increased need for a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

The Red Sox reportedly made a one-year offer to bring back another former pitcher, Justin Masterson, but the righty struggled last year with Cleveland and St. Louis. You can expect renewed talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels.

New Cubs manager Joe Maddon was more than happy to have an old AL East nemesis on his team.

“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” he said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year, but now it’s up to us to put it into effect. It’s all theory right now. We’ve got to make it real, but you need pieces like this to make it real.”

“He’s been [to the World Series] before. He understands what it feels like. I want to believe that he could foresee the same thing happening here,” Maddon said.

“Yeah. It definitely sends that message about how [Cubs president Theo Epstein] and the group feels about this particular group, but understand we have a lot of young players that have to grow up, and we have to do a good job of nurturing that and making it happen,” Maddon said. “It’s possible, but having Jon there definitely adds to the flavor and the believability.”1

Baseball free agency…expect the unexpected.

1 – espn.com

Lester Moves On to Chicago and Delivers Retort

lesterbye

All along the thought here was that Jon Lester would return to the Boston Red Sox, the team he played for eight-plus seasons until a 2014 deadline deal to the Oakland A’s. But the free agent lefty instead opted for a reported six-year, $155MM deal with the Chicago Cubs.

The deal, which was agreed upon late Tuesday night, includes a vesting option for a seventh season that would bring the total worth of the deal to $170MM. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Estes, the Red Sox top offer was six years for $135MM with no vesting option included.

Lester, who doesn’t turn 31 until January, was 16-11, 2.46 in 32 starts (21 with Boston) between the Red Sox and A’s last season. The pending free agent was dealt with outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A’s on July 31 for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and a draft slot. Cespedes has been the subject of trade rumors, which now may pick up with the increased need for a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

The Red Sox reportedly made a one-year offer to bring back another former pitcher, Justin Masterson, but the righty struggled last year with Cleveland and St. Louis. You can expect renewed talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels.

New Cubs manager Joe Maddon was more than happy to have an old AL East nemesis on his team.

“It’s not often you get to win the lottery,” he said. “We won the baseball lottery so far this year, but now it’s up to us to put it into effect. It’s all theory right now. We’ve got to make it real, but you need pieces like this to make it real.”

“He’s been [to the World Series] before. He understands what it feels like. I want to believe that he could foresee the same thing happening here,” Maddon said.

“Yeah. It definitely sends that message about how [Cubs president Theo Epstein] and the group feels about this particular group, but understand we have a lot of young players that have to grow up, and we have to do a good job of nurturing that and making it happen,” Maddon said. “It’s possible, but having Jon there definitely adds to the flavor and the believability.”1

Baseball free agency…expect the unexpected.

UPDATE

What’s not unexpected is the reaction by some Red Sox fans to Lester’s departure. Lester took to Twitter to thank the fans and then delivered a witty response to one cranky New Englander.

lestertwitter

1 – espn.com

Starter and Closer: White Sox Obtain Samardzija and Robertson

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The Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams can’t be blamed if he’s feeling a bit giddy this morning. Last night, Williams started the finalization of a deal that brought starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland A’s and he also came to terms with Yankees closer David Robertson on a four-year, $46MM deal.

Samardzija began last season with the Chicago Cubs, was dealt to the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline, and now returns to Chicago, albeit this time to the south side of the Windy City. Along with the 29-year old right-hander, the A’s sent pitcher Michael Ynoa for infielder Marcus Semien, pitcher Chris Bassitt, 1st baseman Rangel Ravelo, and catcher Josh Phegley.

Samardzija was 2-7 despite a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs before he and Jason Hammel were sent to the west coast for shortstop prospect Addison Russell and two others. The man with the long mullet made 16 stars for Oakland and finished with a 5 and 6 mark despite a 3.16 ERA. The Notre Dame product is in the third year of arbitration eligibility and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. He earned over $5.3MM last season.

Semien played 64 games for the White Sox last season after he had appeared in 21 contests in 2013. He put together a .673 OPS with 28 RBI in 64 games, most of which were played at second base. Baseball America ranked Semien as the 91st best prospect in this past January’s Top 100. Semien, who will be going home (born in San Fran; attended UC-Berkeley) hit 15 HR and drove in 52 runs in 84 games for Triple-A Charlotte. He also  slugged .502 en route to an .881 OPS.

Shortstop has been Semien’s primary position in the minor leagues and that’s where he is slated to play for Oakland after the departure of free agent Jed Lowrie.

Bassitt was a reliever for the University of Akron, but was converted to a starter by Chicago. He’s shown improvement, but it still a work in progress. Phlegley was a first round pick, 38th overall, in the 2009 amateur draft. The 26-year old produced 23 HR and 75 RBI and slugged .861 for Charlotte last season.

He played up with big club for 65 games in 2013, but his OPS was a below par .522. Phegley put up outstanding numbers (.966) in 61 games for Charlotte that same season. With 270 games under his belt at the Triple-A level, Phegley is at the make or break point of his career. He’ll have a shot to at the backup role to Derek Norris.

Know When To Close ‘Em

David Robertson had the best seat in the bullpen school of pitching. The Yankees reliever watched and learned from the best closer in the game, Mariano Rivera, from 2008-2013. Rivera taught Robertson his cutter and more importantly, helped him with the physical and mental aspects of the game.

After averaging 67 appearances from 2010-2013, Robertson became the full-time closer upon Rivera’s retirement. He responded with 39 saves in 44 opportunities and struck out 13.4 batters per nine innings. A first time free agent, Robertson and his agents looked to match the contract Philadelphia had given to Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50MM) prior to the 2012 season. The Yankees were willing to go four years, but they weren’t willing to part with as much money as even the White Sox were.

With the emergence of set up man Dellin Betances, the free agent signing of Andrew Miller, and the acquistion of Justin Wilson, the Yankees felt Robertson was expendable. Kenny Williams is glad they did.

Lester, Kemp, Melky, Cespedes and Other Rumors and Factoids

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With the winter meetings commencing in San Diego Monday, there should be a handful of big named players that are dealt, signed, or talked about in the coming days.

Jon Lester and Matt Kemp are the two biggest names that are constantly creating a buzz on the line. It’s clear that Lester will set the bar for free agent pitching with his signing almost certainly to come before that of fellow free agent pitchers Max Scherzer and James Shields.

UPDATE – ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that a decision by Lester is expected between Monday night and some time on Tuesday.

The only reported contract that has been offered to the left-hander is a six-year, $138MM deal that the Chicago Cubs have served up. On Saturday, Red Sox owner John Henry flew to Atlanta to meet with his former star to see if a deal can be struck to bring Lester back to Boston. You can be sure Henry flat out asked what will it take, and will certainly be looking for a hometown discount. Especially after the boatload of money given to free agents Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

The Red Sox rotation for 2015 is, at the moment, Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, Alan Webster, and either Anthony Ranaudo or Brandon Workman. Even if Lester returns to the Red Sox, whom he played parts of nine seasons for until his trade to Oakland at the July deadline, the Red Sox will be looking to acquire another proven starter before Spring Training.

In dealing John Lackey and Lester, the Red Sox received outfielder/1st baseman Allen Craig and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  Boston appears to be willing to move one or both to strengthen their starting pitching. Rumors flew on Sunday that the Red Sox and San Diego Padres were discussing a Cespedes for Ian Kennedy deal.

Kennedy bounced back from a rough 2013 season with 201 innings pitched, a WHIP under 1.3 and a 3.63 ERA in 2014. He finished 13-13 to remain 13 games over .500 in his career. Cespedes started hitting like a house afire when he joined the Red Sox (22 RBI in 24 games), but ended up with a .719 OPS in 51 games after a weak September.

The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to look for a new home for outfielder Matt Kemp. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma New Tribune reported Saturday that Dodgers and Seattle Mariners were close to a deal, but the Dodgers insisted that one of Seattle’s top pitching prospects – Taijuan Walker or James Paxton – be included in the deal. Seattle responded with a big “NO” to that.

According to FoxSports’ Jon Morosi, the Texas Rangers have now joined Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego in pursuit of Kemp. Bob Nightengale of USA Today believe the Padres are the likely landing spot for the veteran outfielder.

Kemp isn’t the only Dodger being shopped. LA spoke to the Arizona Diamondbacks about a swap that would sent first baseman Andre Ethier to the desert for catcher Miguel Montero.  A potential deal was negated by Arizona ownership, per FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal. Trading within the division is always a tricky thing and it’s understandable that front offices get nervous about a player coming back to haunt them 15-20 times a year.

The market for Melky Cabrera is beginning to heat up. The Mariners are reportedly very interested in a Melky – Robinson Cano reunion. The contract could be similar to the four-year deal the M’s gave Nelson Cruz. The San Francisco Giants, who the Melkman played for in 2012, are also showing interest. Cabrera missed the last 50 games of the regular season due to his Biogenesis suspension and the Giants decided against bringing him back for the playoffs.

Pitcher Jason Hammel appears headed back to the Chicago Cubs, per the NY Post’s Joel Sherman. Hammel was dealt by the Cubs to Oakland at the deadline last season and subsequently bombed.

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that the New York Mets, very much in need of a shortstop, have talked to the Mariners about Chris Taylor and Brad Miller. Wilmer Flores is the Mets shortstop in the meantime.

Rosenthal’s sources say the Milwaukee Brewers are open to dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra. The 27-year old was sent from Arizona to Milwaukee for a pair of minor leaguers at this past season’s trade deadline.

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has the Blue Jays talking to the KC Royals about closer Greg Holland. The Royals need to replenish their starting pitching with the likely departure of free agent James Shields. The Royals have a number of hard throwing relievers, with Kelvin Herrera as the favorite to replace Holland if he’s dealt. The price for Holland would be steep after the 29-year old saved 93 games and blew just five opportunities over the last two seasons.

Signed: Yankees Get Their Miller

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Andrew Miller’s career looked like it was over. The former 6th overall pick (Detroit) in the 2006 draft was derailed by injuries and ineffectivness. Then things suddenly turned around him for as a lefty specialist with the Boston Red Sox in 2012. It paid off for him today. The YES Network’s Jack Curry reported that the New York Yankees and Miller agreed on a four-year, $36MM contract.

The Yankees did not want to go to four years, but compromised once they were able to reduce the yearly average. Miller had reportedly been seeking $10MM per season. The Yankees have struggled to find a consistent left-hander out of the pen for the last decade. Guys like Boone Logan had some good streaks, but would often fail at the worst possible time.

Miller’s bust out season saw him strike out 11.4 batters per nine innings. He appeared in just 37 games in 2013 due to foot surgery, but saw his Ks/nine innings increase to 14.1. Last season, with Boston and Baltimore, he set personal bests with 62.1 IP, 14.9 Ks/nine innings, and a 0.802 WHIP. Good timing for a great contract.

Even with Miller signed, the Yankee cannot leave their bullpen as is. The team had a superb 1-2 punch at the back end of games last year as Dellin Betances emerged as a power right-handed set up man and David Robertson excelled as the closer that replaced Mariano Rivera. Robertson, as of this writing, is an unsigned free agent. Miller’s acquisition will strengthen the bullpen, but only if they resign Robertson or an equivalent. It would be a huge mistake to turn away Robertson if he wants four years after giving Miller four years, even if it’s likely to cost the Yankees an additional $50-$52MM.

Despite Miller’s numbers, Robertson is the better pitcher and it shouldn’t be assumed that Betances can step into the closer’s role.