Rumors

  • Athletics Discussing Jeff Samardzija Trade

    The Athletics may be closing in on a trade involving starter Jeff Samardzija, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Oakland would receive several players in return, per Slusser, with the focus being on acquiring bats.

  • NL East Notes: Nationals Bullpen, Fister, Crow, Marlins

    Here’s the latest out of the National League East:

    • The Nationals are interested in adding a veteran right-handed arm to the pen, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post, who adds that the team is presently focused on other matters and has not fully engaged the free agent market. Wagner lists many of the better free agent arms as at least theoretical possibilities, and says that Washington has at least “shown some interest” already in both Casey Janssen and Jason Motte.
    • Doug Fister and the Nationals have not re-engaged on extension talks since they first took place last spring, reports Wagner. Fister has been mentioned as a hypothetical trade candidate as well, though presumably the club would only seriously consider dealing one of he and Jordan Zimmermann.
    • Just-added Marlins hurler Aaron Crow has worked from the bullpen for the last four seasons but could get a chance to return to a starting role in Miami, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel. “It’s still early in the offseason and we’re not sure how the rest of the offseason will unfold in terms of what else we add to our pitching staff, but we love the flexibility,” said president of baseball operations Michael Hill. We love the thought he could possibly be a starting option for us, but at a minimum we know he’ll be a valuable bullpen piece and just add to the overall depth of our staff.”
    • The Marlins‘ front office is focused on achieving “sustainable success,” writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami hopes to step its payroll up over the next few years, more or less in line with the raises in Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract, by adding targeted pieces to supplement its young core.
  • Free Agent Faceoff: Max Scherzer vs. Jon Lester

    A look at this year’s market for free agent starting pitching reveals a group that is deep in quality options and also features a pair of prime-aged top-of-the-rotation arms in Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. This duo, represented by Scott Boras and ACES, respectively, is commonly believed to be the cream of the free agent crop, but which will be the better buy?

    Few pitchers have been as dominant as Scherzer over the past two seasons. In that time, he’s pitched to a 3.02 ERA with 10.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 and a 36.5 percent ground-ball rate in 434 2/3 innings. His K/9 rate trails only Yu Darvish among qualified starters, and he grades out well according to ERA estimators FIP (2.79 — sixth) and SIERA (2.94 — eighth). In that two-year stretch, Scherzer leads qualified starters in ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, K/9 and opponent batting average (.216), to name a few categories. He’s entering his age-30 season on the heels of a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of top five finishes in the Cy Young voting — including his first Cy Young win in 2013. The 6’3″, 220-pound right-hander has cemented himselves among the game’s elite arms and is looking for a sizable payday, as evidenced by his rejection of a six-year, $144MM contract extension in Spring Training.

    Lester is no slouch, however, as he ranks second to Scherzer in ERA (3.10) and FIP (3.19) among qualified free agent starters in that time. His SIERA mark, though a ways behind at 3.49, is still third-best over the past two seasons (Brandon McCarthy sits between them). Beyond that, Lester has been more of a workhorse in his career; he has reached the 200-inning mark in six of the past seven seasons, falling shy only in 2011 when he tossed 191 2/3 frames. Lester certainly keeps the ball on the ground more often than Scherzer, with a career ground-ball rate just under 47 percent and sitting at 43.7 percent over the past two seasons. Lester is also coming off the best platform season of any free agent starter, having pitched to a brilliant 2.46 ERA with 9.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 42.4 percent ground-ball rate. He’s spent almost all of his career in the hitter-friendly AL East, whereas Scherzer has spent more time in a more favorable pitching environment (Detroit’s Comerica Park). Lester is a year older than Scherzer, however, and he’s thrown about 300 more innings in his big league career. He’s rumored to already have an offer upwards of $120MM from the Red Sox, and another possibly as large as $135MM from the Cubs, so the price tag figures to be substantial here as well.

    In our free agent profiles, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted a seven-year contract for Scherzer while I personally went with six years for Lester, but it certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see a team guarantee Lester that seventh season. The above paragraphs are a mere snapshot of each pitcher, while the linked profiles offer a more in-depth look at the pair of aces. You can read over those to brush up on each pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses before making a vote below if you wish, but let’s get to the question at the root of this post.

    Which starting pitcher would you rather sign?

  • Ronald Belisario Elects Free Agency

    Right-hander Ronald Belisario has elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin tweeted earlier today.

    Belisario, 32 on New Year’s Eve, pitched 66 1/3 innings for the White Sox in 2014, though he struggled to a 5.56 ERA with a below-average mark of 6.4 K/9. However, Belisario also posted a strong 2.4 BB/9 with an outstanding 59.3 percent ground-ball rate, leading metrics such as FIP (3.54) and SIERA (3.22) to feel that he was experienced some particularly poor luck. He did see his BABIP spike to a career-worst .339, and his 57.7 percent strand rate was well below both the league average and his career mark (69.9%).

    Belisario has been a fixture in a big league bullpen in each of the past three seasons, averaging 68 innings per year with the White Sox and Dodgers. FIP and xFIP have graded him pretty consistently throughout his career and both feel he’s capable of an ERA in the 3.60 range, while SIERA (3.22) is a bit more bullish.

  • White Sox Sign Tony Campana

    12:32pm: Campana’s contract is a minor league deal, tweets Chris Cotillo of SB Nation.

    12:25pm: The White Sox have signed Tony Campana, the outfielder himself announced on Twitter. Campana is represented by Pro Star Management.

    The 28-year-old Campana is a veteran of parts of four Major League seasons, where he’s batted a combined .249/.296/.288. Not known for his bat, Campana possesses blistering speed, as can be seen in his 66-for-75 track record in stolen base attempts. Those 66 swipes have come in a total of just 477 plate appearances/257 games. Unsurprisingly those wheels allow him to cover a significant amount of ground in the outfield, leading to plus defensive marks in both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved (although both metrics feel he’s better suited to play a corner position than center field).

    Camapana, who broke into the bigs with the Cubs in 2011, split this past season between the D’Backs and Angels and should give the ChiSox some additional outfield depth. He’s a career .291/.348/.361 hitter at the Triple-A level.

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