Seattle Mariners

Rumors Flying As Winter Meetings Approach

Headley

You would be fired up too if someone offered you more than $16MM a year.

Baseball’s Winter meetings will convene in San Diego this weekend…SoCal in December vs Northeast in December…sigh…’nuff said. A number of rumors concerning free agents and possible trades have been floated out there as the weekend approaches.

The latest is a reported (by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan) four-year, $65MM offer for free agent third baseman Chase Headley. No matter how much the owners complain, they still make ridiculous offers and this is certainly one. Headley, who has a fabulous glove, has not been productive at the plate since his one huge year that made baseball stand up and take notice.

Maybe it was fear that the Mayans would be right, but Headley hit in 2012 like his life depended on it. The Padres third baseman hit 31 home runs, had 115 RBI, and an .875 OPS. Numbers that Headley has not approached before or after 2012. Prior to his trade to the Yankees at this past season’s deadline, Headley had a .651 OPS in 77 games with San Diego. In 58 games for the Bronx Bombers, Headley had a respectable .768 OPS, but he was a non-factor in August before a hot streak in September gave him decent numbers, in a small sample (58 games), in pinstripes.

The Yankees made the mistake of giving Ichiro Suzuki a two year deal after one hot month in 2012. While Headley is much younger than the Ichiro, he has nowhere near the Hall of Fame career the Yankees gambled on when they gave Ichiro a new contract prior to the 2013 season. Headley seems like a good guy and flashes the leather with the best of them, but I would not be happy if that four-year, $65M deal was offered by a team I was a fan of.

Lester nearing a decision?

CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam reported on Wednesday that free agent pitcher Jon Lester was “likely” to make a decision on his future by the end of the week. Why McAdam felt that way remains to be seen – is this from a source or sources, or a hunch? – but there are reportedly four teams in on the bidding.

FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal stated Wednesday evening that the Los Angeles Dodgers were making a late, hard push for Lester’s services. The Chicago Cubs had reportedly made Lester a six-year, $138MM offer on Tuesday. The Boston Red Sox, who Lester played for in parts of nine seasons before his deadline deal to Oakland, and the San Francisco Giants are the other two teams trying to sign the lefty. (It’s still a mystery how the New York Yankees have not been involved since a relatively young left-handed pitcher is always a need in the Bronx.)

Speaking of the A’s, they are reportedly shopping Brandon Moss, who had offseason hip surgery. Moss, once touted as a prospect, floundered in the Major Leagues until he arrived in Oakland. He had 21 HR and 52 RBI in a little more than half a season in 2012 and followed that up with 30-87 and 25-81 the last two seasons as a first baseman and outfielder. He was selected to his first All-Star team in 2014.

In his second year of arbitration eligibility Moss would get a bump from the $4.1MM he earned last season. The kind of money that does not fits into GM Billy Beane’s budget.

Jays and Mariners Swap Players

The deal that took place Wednesday night between the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners flew under the radar, but could have a fairly significant impact on both teams. Seattle sent outfielder Michael Saunders to Toronto for left-handed starter J.A. Happ.

Saunders missed 1-1/2 months of baseball due to a strained oblique, which was unfortunate since he was arguably having his best season in the Majors. He finished with a career-best .791 OPS and had 8 HR and 34 RBI in 78 games. With Jose Bautista entrenched in right field, Saunders will slide over to left field to replace Melky Cabrera. GM Alex Anthopoulos made the move knowing that the Melkman preferred not to return to Toronto.

It’s the third time that Happ has been traded, with his value diminished in each deal. He was part of a package that the Philadelphia Phillies sent to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt at the 2010 trade deadline. He was part of a deadline deal again two years later, when Houston sent him, and pitchers Brandon Lyon and Dan Carpenter to Toronto for outfielder Ben Francisco, reliever Francisco Cordero, and five minor leaguers.

Happ made 26 starts and four relief appearances for the Blue Jays last season and finished with an 11-11, 4.22 record. He struck out 7.6 batters per nine innings, which was down nearly 1.5 strikeouts since 2012. Happ made just 18 starts in 2013 after being struck in the head by a comebacker off the bat of Tampa’s Desmond Jennings.

So if Happ is to start, who does he replace? Seattle’s rotation, prior to the deal, consisted of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Roenis Elias. Paxton was limited to 17 starts – 13 with the Mariners, four in the minors – after undergoing left shoulder surgery in October, 2013, but he’s still highly thought of. There have been rumors that Seattle was shopping Iwakuma, but GM Jack Zduriencik flatly denied that was the case.

Taijuan Walker was the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft and is one of the top prospects in baseball. That leaves Elias, who was a surprise rookie success in 2014. In 29 starts, the Cuban-born right-hander struck out 7.6 hitters per nine innings pitched, gave up less than a hit per inning and put together a respectable 3.85 ERA. He finished 10-12 three years after the Mariners signed him as a free agent.

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Signed: Cruz Joins Cano in Seattle

NCruz

Had Nelson Cruz not been busted in the Biogenesis scandal in 2013 he likely would have landed a five year deal last year with at least a value of $90MM – $100MM. Instead he signed with the Baltimore Orioles for one year and bashed an AL leading 40 home runs and drove in 108 runs.

It was those numbers that landed Cruz a four-year, $57MM deal with the Seattle Mariners Monday morning. It’s still shy a year and some millions of what he could have made, but after last season’s compromise (Cruz earned $8MM), the new deal looks pretty golden.

The Mariners made a committment last season towards a brighter tomorrow when they held firm to their policy of holding on to ace Felix Hernandez and then signed free agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM deal. The team also inked closer Fernando Rodney last offseason and recently signed slugging third baseman Kyle Seager to a seven year extension. They also dealt for centerfielder Austin Jackson at the 2014 trade deadline.

Cruz is likely to spend most of his time at DH, though he should see upwards of 50 games in left and/or right field spelling Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders. The 34-year old, who has been subject to hamstring injuries throughout his career, matched his career high for games played last season with 159. His home run and RBI totals were both career highs (it was the first time he knocked in 100 runs) and helped earn Cruz his third All-Star appearance and a 7th place finish in the AL MVP voting.

His season was made more interesting by the fact that Cruz only put up .783 OPS at his home ball park, the hitter friendly Camden Yards. His bat also went to sleep from June through part of August.

The New York Mets originally signed the Dominican native to a contract in 1998. He was dealt to the Oakland A’s in 2000 and then moved on to Milwaukee in 2004. The deal that kickstarted his career though came in 2006 when he and Carlos Lee were sent to the Texas Rangers for reliever Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.

Cruz had his break out season in 2009 when he slugged 33 home runs. He’s averaged 29 home runs in his last six seasons. He had 27 HR and 76 RBI when he was suspended 50 games for his involvement with Biogenesis, the performance enhancing drug (PED) “store” that mascaraded as a health clinic.

With Cruz’s departure, the Orioles may ramp up their talks with the LA Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp.

Extended: Mariners Re-Up Seager For 7 Years

Seager

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,

Seattle’s Chris Young, the comeback kid- er, man

Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr. Getty Images

Lester and Price Lead The Winners and Losers of Deadline Day

Tigers supergroup

Three Cy Young winners All in a row.

It’s been a five days since the craziness of the final hours of the Major League Baseball trade deadline came to an end. I cannot recall the last time there was such monumental team changing/game changing deals on July 31. Lately, many of the bigger trades have taken place as the deadline neared. This year, it was a frenzy right down to the final minutes, with some deals announced shortly after the deadline had passed.

So, who came up as the winners and losers at the deadline? Let’s take a look.

Winners

Oakland A’s: This isn’t Moneyball, this is sending and receiving at its finest. The A’s needed to strengthen their starting rotation and add some veteran presence to it. Prior to the deadline, they went out and got Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samarzdija and fellow starter Jason Hammel for a package that included highly rated shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Inserted in the A’s rotation, Samarzdija pitched to his reputation, but Hammel struggled, leading GM Billy Beane to pull off a bold move. He sent his slugging left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for their ace, Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. The A’s outfield had been thinned with an injury to Coco Crisp, so the addition of Gomes gave them another World Series ring-wearing veteran.( Beane would later flip aggrieved starter Tommy Milone for outfielder Sam Fuld to strengthen the bench and play centerfield while Crisp is out)

Lester was the key maneuver, though, joining a rotation of Samarzdija, veteran Scott Kazmir and youngsters Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez. The left-hander started his first game as an Athletic on Saturday, in front of a charged Oakland crowd. Lester allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched in the A’s 8-3 victory. It was Lester’s 110th career victory and his first in a uniform other than that of the Boston Red Sox. (A day later Lester took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the fans.)

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly. That’s a pretty intimidating starting rotation right out of the box. Now add David Price to it and look out. That’s exactly what Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski was able to do on Thursday. As soon as Lester was dealt by Boston, Tampa Bay Rays’ Executive VP of Operations and GM, Andrew Friedman, began to get inundated with calls about Price.

The 2012 AL Cy Young winner still had another year on his contract, so Tampa did not need to trade him this year with the worry of losing him to free agency in the offseason. But Friedman found a deal he liked and brought in the Seattle Mariners as a third team to get it done.

The Rays sent Price to Detroit, who in turn traded centerfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners and Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames to the Rays. The Rays also received second base prospect Nick Franklin from Seattle.

The Tigers now have the last three AL Cy Young winners with Verlander (2011, also MVP), Price (2012) and Scherzer (2013). Sanchez is now the best number four starter in the Major Leagues. The Tigers still need to work on their bullpen –as the Phillies can attest, a great rotation (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt) doesn’t always get it done – which has not performed up to par, but they may not need to make too many appearances with a group of starters that can routinely pitch into the 7th and 8th innings. Price makes his Tigers’ debut Tuesday evening in a place he has started 23 games, Yankee Stadium. (Price is 10-5, 3.66 vs. the Yankees, including 6-2 in the new Yankee Stadium.)

Boston Red Sox: There were a lot of disgruntled Red Sox fans on Thursday, most of them not wanting to see Lester go. But with a better than 50/50 chance of Lester returning as a free agent, GM Ben Cherington took a team that went from first to worst and got it back on the road to future success.

In Cespedes, he got a bona fide power hitter whose power had been lessened by the A’s spacious home ballpark. Now he has the Green Monster to pepper shots off of. It also gives David Ortiz more protection in the lineup than he had with Mike Napoli and allows manager John Farrell to move Dustin Pedroia into the number two slot in the order. Cherington also sent John Lackey to St. Louis for first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly

Craig drove in 90-plus runs the last two seasons before an ankle injury robbed him of much of the current season. He’ll give depth to a lineup that has struggled to score runs this season. The Red Sox also added youth with the just turned 30-year old Craig and the 26-year old Kelly. The right-hander was solid the past two seasons as a reliever and occasional starter, and helped the Cardinals to their second NL pennant in three years in 2013.

Kelly was limited to 10 starts between the Majors (7) and minors (3) this season due to a strained hamstring that kept him out of action for three months. He’ll join the only remaining Boston starter, Clay Buchholz, from the rotation that began the year. (The Red Sox had already dealt Jake Peavy prior to the deadline and sent lefty Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs on the 31st.)

The Sox also dealt veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, to the Yankees of all people, to free up playing time for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts. The aforementioned Peavy deal brought them pitcher Edwin Escobar, ranked in the 2014 top 100 MLB prospects by Baseball America and MLB.com, and a possible addition to their bullpen in right-hander Heath Hembree.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia Phillies: One has to wonder how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has managed to keep his job. Yes, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and repeated as NL pennant winners a year later. But the writing was on the wall for quite some time and Amaro ignored it. He also doled out way too much money for too many players and was unable to move any of them by the deadline.

One of those players was starting pitcher Cliff Lee. The former AL Cy Young Winner still has about $37.5MM owed to him for the next two years. Whether he’ll be able to play or not is another matter. Lee was bothered by elbow problems this season, which made him and his contract harder to move. But Amaro should have done something, even if it meant not getting much in return. He may have been able to move some of Lee’s salary. He didn’t and Lee re-injured his elbow and is likely done for the season, which means no waiver trade either.

First baseman Ryan Howard is not what he used to be, which was a home run smashing, RBI-producing, bad-fielding first baseman. Okay, he is still the last part. Amaro foolishly gave Howard a six year, $106MM extension after the 2012 season. It’s a deal that will be paying Howard $25MM the next two years when he is 35 and 36. The Phillies are just lucky, if you want to call it that, they have a $10MM buyout on a $23MM option in 2017.

If you are to believe the reports, Amaro was also asking for too much in return for outfielder Marlon Byrd. As of this writing, the 36-year old had a .799 OPS with 21 HR and 63 RBI in 110 games. Ah, but Amaro’s over-generosity did him in again. There are plenty of teams that want Byrd for this year, maybe even next season at the $8MM it may cost them. But they don’t want a 38-year old Byrd with another $8MM in 2016.

Amaro was clearly counting on Byrd not being able to attain the vested portion of his contract – 600 plate appearances (PA) in 2015 or 1100 PA between this year and next. Byrd already has 462 PA as of this writing, with nearly two full months of the season left.

Amaro could have also moved A.J. Burnett, whose performance has dropped off from last season. Burnett makes $15MM and has a mutual option with just a $1MM buyout for next year. In today’s market, Amaro did a good job on Burnett’s deal. Burnett is the most likely of the Phillies to pass through waivers and be dealt. He’d better be or Amaro’s trade season will be a complete flop. Not that it still won’t be a complete flop even if Amaro does move Burnett.

There were a number of teams that hoped to improve with minor moves that fall somewhere in between winner and loser. Time will tell which of the categories those deals fall into.

 

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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.