The Blue Jays will attempt to hammer out new contracts with pending free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. Toronto intends to engage with those stars’ representatives this spring, per the report.
As has previously been reported, Jays president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins have sat down with both sluggers already this winter, though Atkins made clear to Stark that the meetings didn’t involve contract negotiations. But those chats did solidify the team’s view that it would “love to have both of them” remain in Toronto past the 2016 campaign, as Atkins put it.
“And the more we’ve learned about them, that has only increased our interest in keeping them here,” Atkins went on to say. “The challenge lies in placing a value on that and then agreeing on a contract.”
Of course, as that last line suggests, finding common ground still appears to pose a significant challenge. While both players paid off — and then some — under their prior extensions, there as many reasons for hesitation now as when they first inked big deals.
Though both players are now well entrenched among the game’s best power hitters, age is a major consideration. Bautista is already 35, while Encarnacion just hit 33. And defensive limitations also come into play. The former has begun to draw negative metrics in the outfield, while the latter is more or less limited to first base or DH duties at this point.
As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently wrote in evaluating Bautista’s extension candidacy, those considerations would seem to make it unlikely that long-term commitments would be made to both players. Exactly how that will play into the way the Jays approach talks — for instance, whether one or the other is prioritized, or whether Toronto pursues each independently but only to a certain cost point — remains to be seen.
It does appear that Bautista, at least, is ready to engage in talks. He has spoken glowingly of the organization and indicated he’d like to finish his career there. Of course, as Ken Rosenthal discussed with Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca on a recent podcast, it is hard to see the veteran taking a truly significant discount with free agency beckoning.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better middle of the order duo that’s stayed together and been so consistently productive. Dating back to 2010, their first full season together, Bautista has slashed .268/.390/.555 and contributed 227 home runs. Encarnacion, meanwhile, has carried a .271/.358/.525 line with 189 long balls, with his output only increasing over that span.
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The Rays are among the teams considering a run at Tyler Clippard late in the offseason, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). As Topkin notes, Clippard was raised in Florida — he attended high school roughly 40 miles from Tropicana Field — and would also benefit from Florida’s lack of an income tax.
The lack of a market for Clippard has been surprising to many, although the right-hander certainly isn’t without red flags. His velocity has dropped each season since 2013, and he posted his lowest full-season strikeout rate in 2015 while also recording the third-worst full-season walk rate of his career. Clippard was also the game’s most extreme fly-ball pitcher last season; his 60.6 percent fly-ball rate was the highest among any pitcher that threw at least 20 innings, and it wasn’t particularly close. Teams may also be concerned about the huge workload on Clippard’s right arm; no reliever is within even 50 innings of the 464 1/3 innings that Clippard has tallied since the 2010 season.
Of course, that durability can also be perceived as a positive. Clippard has never been on the disabled list, and he’s made at least 72 appearances with at least 70 innings pitched in each of the past six seasons. Given the volatile nature of relief pitcher’s, Clippard’s consistent ability to take the mound — and pitch effectively, no less — is nothing short of remarkable. Dating back to that previously mentioned 2010 season, Clippard has a 2.67 ERA with 10.1 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher — though rarely to the extreme that he displayed in 2015 — but has managed to average less than a home run per nine innings (0.9 HR/9) in that stretch as well.
The question with which teams are faced, then, is whether or not the decline in Clippard’s K/BB numbers and velocity are due to that heavy workload or are elements of his game that can be corrected. Given the fact that he’s the last big-name relief arm left on the market, it would seem that there is indeed some level of trepidation surrounding him, but that could create the opportunity for a team to get something of a bargain rate on a player that has typically yielded high-quality results.
The Rays, in particular, could make sense as a landing spot for a reputable setup man, as the team has traded both Kevin Jepsen (to the Twins) and Jake McGee (to the Rockies) in the past six months or so, creating a potential late-inning opening. Clippard would theoretically join names like Danny Farquhar and Alex Colome as right-handed setup pieces serving as a bridge to closer Brad Boxberger.
The Angels have claimed left-hander Christian Friedrich off waivers from the Rockies and designated infielder Taylor Featherston for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (on Twitter).
Friedrich, 28, was selected 25th overall out of Eastern Kentucky University back in 2008, but he’s struggled for much of his pro career, amassing an ERA north of 5.00 at both the Triple-A level and in the Major Leagues. This past season, Friedrich posted a 5.25 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 47.4 percent ground-ball rate in 58 1/3 innings of work. While Friedrich has struggled throughout his career, he’s held left-handed hitters in check fairly well, limiting same-handed opponents to a .257/.314/.364 batting line. He’s also posted considerably better numbers away from Coors, where he has a 4.61 ERA as compared to a 6.96 mark at home. Because he’s out of options, Freidrich will have to make the Halos’ Opening Day roster — presumably in the bullpen — or again be exposed to waivers.
The DFA of Featherston is a somewhat surprising revelation, if only because the Angels carried the 2014 Rule 5 Draft pick on their Major League roster for the entirety of the 2015 season rather than expose him to waivers and offer him back to his original team. Featherston, in fact, received just 169 plate appearances and batted .162/.212/.247. While he’s a gifted defender, the decision to dedicate a roster spot to him over the course of 162 games only to cut him loose in the offseason figures to irk some Angels fans, especially considering the fact that the club missed a Wild Card playoff berth by a lone game in the standings. Then again, with some turnover in the team’s front office, it certainly seems possible that the new faces atop the baseball operations hierarchy simply didn’t few Featherston as highly as their predecessors.
Right-hander J.J. Hoover has won his arbitration hearing against the Reds and will be awarded a $1.4MM salary as opposed to the $1.225MM figure submitted by Cincinnati, Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter). The Ballengee Group client was arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason.
Hoover, 28, enjoyed strong bottom-line results in 2015, posting a 2.94 ERA in 68 innings, although his strikeout and walk rates were both a ways off from his career bests. Hoover averaged 7.3 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 this past season, both of which fall shy of his respective career marks of 9.1 and 4.1. His representatives, however, were likely able to tout the right-hander’s durability over the past three seasons, during which time he’s averaged 63 games and 64 innings. All told, Hoover has a lifetime 3.34 ERA in 223 2/3 innings at the Major League level, dating back to his 2012 debut.
Following the Reds’ trade of Aroldis Chapman this offseason, there’s no clear answer as to who will inherit the bulk of the save opportunities in manager Bryan Price’s bullpen, but as the most experienced reliever on the 40-man roster, Hoover figures to be firmly in the mix come Spring Training. A season spent accumulating saves would do well to boost Hoover’s arb case for the 2016-17 offseason, particularly if he can regain some of his missing strikeouts and continue to post solid ERA marks.
As MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon tweets, this represents the Reds’ first arbitration hearing in more than a decade; their last came against Chris Reitsma back in 2004. Hoover becomes the second player to win an arbitration hearing this offseason, making players a perfect two-for-two thus far; Drew Smyly topped the Rays earlier this week. Blue Jays right-hander Jesse Chavez reportedly had his arbitration hearing yesterday as well, although the outcome of that case is not yet known. Earlier today, I rounded up some of the hearing dates for yet-unresolved cases, including Jake Arrieta and Josh Donaldson.
Lou Piniella led the Cincinnati Reds to glory in 1990 as the manager during the team’s last World Series championship. The franchise is reportedly bringing him back in 2016, albeit in a different fashion.
The Reds announced the news on Twitter:
John Fay of WCPO.com said the former manager will spend time with the Reds at spring training. Fay also made sure to mention this likely isn’t the next step to a managing job for the 72-year-old baseball legend: “Talked to Lou at Redsfest about this. I would be stunned if this led to him managing.”
While Piniella played in the majors for 18 years (11 of which came for the New York Yankees), he is likely most known for his days as a manager, at least among recent generations of baseball fans.
He only managed the Reds from 1990-92, but the team won at least 90 games in two of those three seasons and captured the World Series crown. Piniella also managed the New York Yankees from 1986-88, the Seattle Mariners from 1993-2002, the Tampa Bay Rays from 2003-05 and the Chicago Cubs from 2007-10.
He was revered for his fiery personality and was never afraid to let an umpire know what he thought about a particular call. Instances of him kicking dirt, throwing bases and tossing his cap during arguments have gone down in baseball lore, and he is still a fan favorite in Cincinnati 14 years after his last season as manager.
Piniella even drew cheers when he returned to the Queen City as manager of the division-rival Chicago Cubs, and he inked a thank you letter to the Cincinnati fans in 2015 during the team’s celebration of its 1990 crown. Fay passed the entire letter along, including the section that said, “And To the fans…what would a team be without your support, your encouragement, your love. Thank you for all of that and a lot more.”
As a player, Piniella had one at-bat in 1964 for the Baltimore Orioles and then appeared for the Cleveland Indians in 1968, the Kansas City Royals from 1969-73 and the Yankees from 1974-84. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1969 with a .282 batting average, 11 home runs and 68 RBI in 135 games, and he made his lone All-Star Game in 1972 with a .312 batting average.
Piniella also won back-to-back World Series titles with the Bronx Bombers in 1977 and 1978.
While he won’t serve in a managing capacity for the Reds with this latest hire, he has been around the game of professional baseball for more than 50 years. He understands the daily grind from a player’s and coach’s perspective, has reached the mountaintop multiple times and can offer his expertise to various decisions, including player evaluation.
The Reds are likely headed for some lean rebuilding years in the daunting National League Central, with the Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates all coming off postseason appearances. Having someone like Piniella as an advisor for critical decisions should help accelerate that process as the Reds add important pieces to their club.
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With unbridled optimism running rampant among the fanbases of all 30 MLB teams, it's relatively easy to spin most offseason moves in a positive light.
For contenders, it's not difficult to view a few key veteran additions as the missing pieces to bridge the gap to World Series appearances.
For rebuilding clubs, prospect additions immediately become the next big thing for the organization as the fanbase keeps an eye on the future and brighter days ahead.
However, sometimes a deal just looks like a mistake.
Whether giving up too much in a trade, overpaying for a free agent or cutting ties with someone a team should have retained—there are always at least a few offseason transactions that look regrettable almost immediately.
The rough MLB winter rolls on for Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond and Yovani Gallardo.
There's just two weeks to go before spring training camps fire up around Arizona and Florida, and those three guys headline a free-agent market that is unusually deep for the first week of February.
The big question in the latest round of hot questions is trying to pinpoint where Fowler, Desmond and Gallardo, who are all lugging around draft-pick compensation, will end up signing.
There's also room for some news about one of the offseason's busiest and boldest teams. Plus, there's a spot on the list for some talk about how to combat the rise of tanking.
Howie Kendrick spent 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, slashing .295/.336/.409 with nine home runs and 54 RBI, then hit the free-agent market for the first time in his 10-year career.
He was excited for the opportunity, but with just two weeks left before pitchers and catchers report, Kendrick was without a team and frustrated, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
“Nothing," Kendrick said. “I figured there would be quite a few suitors for me, and nobody was really calling. Here it is, getting close to spring training, and you keep hearing the same thing over and over. Nobody wanted to give up that draft pick. It was a shocker."
Other than the Dodgers, any team would have to forfeit a draft pick to sign Kendrick, 32, because he turned down a qualifying offer at the end of the season. No other team bit, so Kendrick re-signed with Los Angeles for two years and $20 million. Per Nightengale, the deal also includes two years of deferrals, meaning he will receive $5 million per year for the next four years.
It's an amazing deal for the Dodgers, not only because Kendrick has been one of the most productive second basemen in baseball for the past six or seven years but also because the offer Kendrick turned down at the end of the season was worth $15.8 million in 2016.
According to Nightengale, Kendrick was not happy with the process.
"When you get to free agency, you’re supposed to be a free agent," Kendrick said. “Now, with this qualifying offer, teams are trying to decide: Do I make my major league team better or minor league system better?"
Kendrick's agent, 32-year veteran Larry Reynolds, said he and his client discussed the possibility the qualifying offer could hinder the process but did not think it would completely derail it, per Nightengale.
“I’ve never seen anything like it," he said. "Without question, this was the most challenging free-agent process that I’ve been involved in. The teams are placing a very high value on draft picks, and this contributed to the limited market for Howie, and it looks like some of the others are having the same challenges."
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said he had interest in Kendrick but wanted to hold on to his draft pick. Nightengale feels the system is flawed:
Come on, we’re talking about the 39th pick in the draft.
If that pick turns out to produce half the career as Kendrick, the D'backs will be skinny-dipping in their center-field swimming pool.
After all, most draft picks - particularly those beyond the first dozen or so - are largely a crapshoot. And the obsession over picks to the point of impacting the current major league roster has gone too far.
Second baseman Ben Zobrist was able to sign a four-year, $56 million contract with the Chicago Cubs in December because he did not have a qualifying offer attached to him after being traded midseason. On the other hand, free-agent pitcher Yovani Gallardo, who turned down a qualifying offer, remains unsigned. The two players' agent, Scott Pucino, said he knows why, per Nightengale:
He’s probably signed by now if not for the draft pick attached to him. Having a draft pick on you is such a strain. Hopefully, this will be addressed in the next CBA.
It’s a new trend. Instead of signing a free agent, teams are trying to build from within. What I don’t understand is that these guys are already proven. They’re almost a sure thing. When you draft a player, even in the first round, only a small percentage of them get to the big leagues, and staying in the big leagues is even more tougher.
Not much can be done for Kendrick now, but he hopes the CBA rules change to protect future players, according to Nightengale.
“It’s not about one person, but all of us as a whole," Kendrick said. “Hopefully, when the next wave of players come up, it won’t be like that. It will be completely different."
Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com
The Arizona Diamondbacks are showing interest in free-agent relief pitcher Tyler Clippard. The 30-year-old right-hander split the 2015 season between the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics, registering 19 saves while striking out 64 batters and walking 31 in 71 innings pitched.
Continue for updates.
Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said he would like to make a trade for a reliever, but the price is too steep, so Clippard is a viable option, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
“We have not talked to his people, (but) that is a good name,” Stewart said when asked about Clippard. “I know we talked about it internally, so I think there’s a pretty good possibility we will (reach out), at least just to see.”
Clippard spent 2007 to 2014 with the Washington Nationals mainly as a setup man. However, he did record 32 saves as the closer for the team in 2012. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Clippard has a career ERA+ of 138 and an impressive 1.089 WHIP.
It seems likely Stewart makes a big push considering he doesn't see many good prospects on the horizon, per Piecoro.
“I think there’s probably only going to be a few options that will fit,” Stewart said. “I don’t see there being a bunch.”
Clippard has been a workhorse over his career, logging a 2.88 ERA in 562 innings, and has averaged nearly 75 innings the past seven years. He most likely would be a setup man again if he signs with Arizona considering Brad Ziegler, who saved 30 games for the Diamondbacks last year, remains on the roster.
Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com
Today Future announced its preliminary results for the 2015 financial year to the London Stock Exchange. The headlines were that Future has successfully completed an 18-month transformation period, is building momentum thanks to an ongoing ‘Content that Connects’ strategy, and optimising for growth by creating distinct Media and Magazine divisions. In particular, the decision to […]
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On 6 July Future announced the acquisition of Net Communities, an award-winning digital company specialising in advertising solutions and publishing for a range of market leading, global media partners.
New Wearables Channel Enhanced E-Commerce New Responsive Capabilities 20 January 2015 – Future plc, the international media group and leading digital business, has today unveiled significant developments to its market-leading website TechRadar.com with the launch of a new responsive site and the arrival of a new channel, covering the growing wearable technology category. As the […]
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Future plc, the international media group and leading digital business, today launches GamesRadar+, the most significant development ever of its global GamesRadar.com brand. Gamesradar+ signifies the broadening of the market leading gaming site as it launches three significant new channels – Movies, TV and Cool Stuff. The migration of TotalFilm.com and SFX.co.uk onto Gamesradar, creating […]
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Future Fusion, Future plc’s in-house content marketing agency, has been awarded an exclusive partnership deal by Microsoft, for a one month long promotional campaign for the Xbox One exclusive, Sunset Overdrive. The six-figure deal will see the creation of a multi-platform, multi-brand campaign across CVG.com and promoted in Future’s leading Games, Tech and Film portfolios […]
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