Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. CarGo’s Trade Value An interesting nugget by Jeff Todd at MLBTradeRumors.com turned me to consider the same subject matter. Todd, citing Nick Groke’s report that Gonzalez is finding his timing, posed the question of whether or the recent resurgence will ultimately ignite the trade market for Gonzalez. The outfielder, 30 in October, has been a very good left-handed run producer for the better part of the last six years. I say ‘better part’ because the last couple of seasons have been riddled with injury and struggles. After a .302/.367/.591 campaign in 2013, Gonzalez played just 70 games a year ago, batting .239/.292/.431, and despite his recent hot streak remains well below his career levels at .259/.314/.452 in 82 games this season. The 82 games, however, is a good sign. He’s at .286/.305/.582 over the last 30 days, 26 games, with a .373 wOBA and 123 wRC+. Of course, beyond the health and overall performance concerns — which are legitimate, despite a strong track record prior to 2014 — some will wonder if Gonzalez can hit outside Coors Field. The trap here is to simply look at his road splits, which in both 2014 and this season take a dive — not to completely useless levels but down to part-time performer status. Attempting to determine a Rockies hitter’s ability to hit away from Coors has to go much deeper than simply checking the road statistics. Why? Because, wisely, Rockies batters do what they can to take advantage of their home park. Those are things that do not necessarily work away from Denver, and expecting hitters to make perfect adjustments every road series, several times a month, is ridiculous. Having said that, Gonzalez’s good years are accompanied by good years away from Coors Field. In 2013, his last strong, healthy season — just two years ago, by the way — produced a .332/.381/.606 triple-slash on the road. He was better away from Coors that season. He did struggle on the road in 2012, but was useful on the road in 2011 and solid in 2010. How does a club evaluate, then, what Gonzalez is? The analytical department will delve into how often Gonzalez hits line drives, how hard he hits them, how many of his long balls may not be homers, or even hits, in their home ballpark, or even most road parks. His line drive rates are just under 20 percent, per FanGraphs, much closer to his 20 percent career mark than 2014. He is hitting more ground balls and fewer fly balls, which could be a good sign. One front office executive suggested perhaps Gonzalez, the healthy version, can “trust his hands,” more now that he’s healthy. No, he did not have a significant hand or wrist injury — he had knee surgery — but hitting starts with the legs. If you don’t have full strength, agility and flexibility with your legs, you can put more pressure on everything above your hips in attempt to get to good velocity and hit with authority. But he’s hit 85 balls at 90 mph or more and 70 at 95 mph or more, and his BABIP is more than 50 points lower than his career mark, suggesting perhaps he’s been unlucky, too. It’s worth noting that sometimes when a hitter loses bat speed or some other ability for whatever reason, or is hurt in a manner that impacts those abilities, BABIP often sinks then, too. Batting average on balls in play is a very inexact measure in terms of using it as analysis to explain away struggles. A 50-plus point differential is quite large, however. Gonzalez is due about $5.5 million the rest of 2015 and $37 million guaranteed through 2017. If he’s still a .350 wOBA bat, his value is quite high. Clubs that believe that may be willing to give the Rockies exactly what they want, whatever that is. There are reasons for concern, however, and Gonzalez’s average defense (some metrics suggest below average, though the knee problems he’s apparently getting away from now could explain some of that) may or may not help his market grow. My instincts tell me Colorado will not get the offer they want for Gonzalez and are better off holding onto him to see if he hits the rest of 2015 and shows clubs that he still can hit enough to warrant regular time in the middle of a lineup. He’s started hitting, if it continues, his value goes up, both to the Rockies and to clubs that need outfield help. One thing is pretty clear: Rockies GM Jeff Bridlich made it known that he has doesn’t value Gonzalez based on the statistics, “so if a team is just doing that, I don’t know.” The price for Gonzalez will be higher than his present numbers suggest. Market for Justin Upton Justin Upton, who has played for three teams in four years, could be on the move again if GM A.J. Preller doesn’t see a reason to buy versus selling his pending free agents on the trade market. Upton, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, says he wants to stay with the Padres and see this through, adding that he hopes he and his teammates can turn things around quickly. “In a perfect world, we play well over the next two or three weeks and A.J. pumps the brakes on dismantling the team,” Upton said. If that doesn’t happen, Upton is among the most likely players to be traded before the July 31 deadline. He’s a right-handed power-hitting outfielder without long-term salaries attached. He’ll earn around $5 million for the rest of this season before testing free agency for the first time in his career. Upton is having merely an OK season, batting .253/.331/.422 with a .328 wOBA and 114 wRC+. He’s a fringy defender in either corner outfield spot. He strikes out a lot, always has, but he’s still drawing walks at a 10.2 percent rate and in a better hitting environment his raw power may play better. Several contending clubs could use Upton, including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and with Alex Gordon’s injury and Alex Rios’ struggles, the Kansas City Royals. All of the above, however, have greater needs, such as starting pitching and bullpen help, but Upton is likely to land somewhere. Other possibilities include Seattle, Minnesota and San Francisco. If the Cleveland Indians find themselves buyers, they, too, could be a fit with the struggles of Nick Swisher and Brandon Moss (.220/.296/.427).
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. M’s Seek Catching The club already traded for and traded away Welington Castillo this season, but properly have identified catcher as a need spot and FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted early Wednesday that Seattle was nearing a deal to acquire a catcher. Since that tweet, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweeted that no deal is “close.” The quotations around the word ‘close’ suggests the club may indeed be attempting to land a catcher but that nothing is imminent. The Mariners have two glove-first catcher in Tacoma in John Hicks and Steve Baron. Neither are full-scale upgrades over Jesus Sucre, however, although offensively either probably has a better chance. Shi David of Sportsnet.ca tweets that Dioner Navarro does not appear to be on Seattle’s radar. Morosi reports via Twitter that Braves backstop A.J. Pierzynski is not close to being acquired by Seattle. Keep your eye on Pierzynski, though. Until the M’s acquire another catcher or Pierzynski is dealt elsewhere, he’s as strong a candidate to end up in Seattle. The M’s are highly unlikely to option Mike Zunino to the minors, but clearly recognize the need for more production from the position and the value a 3-day per week option brings versus Sucre, who plays only when it’s time to give Zunino a breather. The extra time keeps Zunino fresh and could allot more legitimate development as he works with the staff, including Edgar Martinez. Other potential names the M’s may have shown interest in include Colorado’s Nick Hundley and Michael McKenry, Cincinnati’s Brayan Pena, Oakland’s Josh Phegley, Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies, Cleveland’s Robert Perez and the White Sox’s Geovany Soto. Alex Avila may be another possibility if the Tigers believe in Bryan Holiday enough to form an acceptable defensive tandem with James McCann. Avila has not been healthy this year, but he’s active now. He’s also the club’s best game caller and the Tigers certainly fancy themselves contenders this year. John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt are three more names to think about, though the former is a well below-average defender and has caught just one game in 2015 and the latter pair are undoubtedly going to be extremely pricey to acquire. If I had to wager I’d put money on Pierzynski, Ruiz or Soto. Signs The Astros Will Trade The simple fact they’re legit contenders is enough but in case you need more evidence to suggest Jeff Luhnow is likely to make a deal or two, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes, with starting pitching a priority. Drellich notes that there isn’t much to suggest Houston has their eyes on Cole Hamels, but rentals such as Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija “remain names of interest” to the second-place Astros. Drellich also mentions Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner as a reasonable target. Interestingly, Drellich also adds that Luhnow may be more willing to move right-hander and 2013 No. 1 pick Mark Appel than other prospects such as outfielder Brett Phillips. From what I have heard on Appel, capitalizing on his recent surge would be wise. Even though it’s within the division, I wonder if Scott Kazmir, provided he’s healthy, might be a better fit for Houston among the rental starters. He shouldn’t come at the cost of Cueto or Samardzija and it adds another lefty to an otherwise four-righty rotation. Handedness simply is a bonus to break ties. Luhnow choose to strike a bit early to beat others to the punch to ensure he doesn’t get cornered later this month and either end up overpaying or being left in the cold. Paying too much now, however — because not many clubs are willing to call it a season and sell — is the challenge. As pointed out by Steve Adams here, first base may be another spot Luhnow looks to upgrade. Chris Carter has struggled, Jonathan Singleton has yet to gain any traction at the plate and the most likely in-house answer beyond those two appears to be Luis Valbuena once Jed Lowrie returns from the disabled list. Perhaps Adam Lind is an option for Houston, and if the Astros add one of the above three starters plus address first base to the level of an Adam Lind, on paper that’s the best team in the division, and probably the second-best in the American League. The Twins, too Terry Ryan is unlikely to do nothing between now and July 31 and while nobody believes they’ll make the big-money splash, they could get a lot better by making a few improvements to the late-inning bullpen options and perhaps shortstop or catcher, as Mike Berardino of the St, Paul Pioneer-Press reports. Shortstop and catcher will be difficult to address, of course, but Eduardo Nunez may get more time if he keeps hitting. The market isn’t dry, but the top names, such as Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, are more of the impact variety that the Twins may steer clear of to avoid the heavy cost and salary. Ben Zobrist can still hang at shortstop and might be an ideal fit. Not sure the two match up, especially if the Mariners, too, see themselves as buyers, but Chris Taylor may be a nice solidifying piece for the Twins. I don’t expect the cannonball, but I do expect Ryan to make waves this month.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. July 13, 2015: Papelbon, Shields, Bruce Should the Mariners be sellers? Whether or not the Seattle Mariners should be buyers or sellers this month is as hot a topic as there is regarding baseball in the city. Prospect Insider’s Luke Arkins covered the subject last week. Tuesday, MLBTradeRumors posted a poll asking which teams should be sellers. There were 11 teams on the list to vote for. The Mariners received fewer votes than eight other clubs at 5.79 percent, more than only the Indians and Rangers. In my opinion, one big reason for the low “Sell” count is the Mariners don’t have a big name to sell. They don’t have a pending free agent with a flashy name like Justin Upton or Johnny Cueto. They aren’t presently in a position where it’s clear the club is seriously considering tearing down their current roster and starting over, like what could occur in Colorado if they were to move Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Once again, the M’s are stuck in the middle, the worst place to be. The first week out of the break is enormous for Seattle, Texas, Boston, Chicago and Cleveland in the American League, and if the Diamondbacks want to hang around they’ll need to make a move in the win-loss column, too. A lot can change between now and the deadline. If any of the clubs above lose six of their first eight post break, they could go from buyers to sellers or from somewhere in between to aggressive sellers. Winning six of eight puts any of them firmly in line to purchase help and probably steps up the aggressiveness on that side. Johnny Cueto Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports tweets that Cueto is drawing the most interest from Kansas City, Toronto and Houston. All three need the right-hander, but Cueto isn’t the only option. Cueto is due about $3.5 million the rest of the season and will hit the open market over the winter. He could put the Royals over the top in the American League, though now without Alex Gordon they may need a little outfield help, too. I continue to be disappointed that Baltimore isn’t being linked here or anywhere near a legitimate frontline starting pitcher. Why? Because they have none and their division rivals do. They haven’t a soul that can match up with Chris Archer, Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, or even Clay Buchholz when he’s on his game. Chris Tillman is not and never has been a No. 1, and Ubaldo Jimenez‘s days as such are gone. If the Jays end up with Cueto or another one of the top arms available, the Orioles will have a significant disadvantage versus every club in their division. If the O’s were to add one, they might end up the second-best team in the circuit. Interestingly, the Red Sox also are looking to acquire more pitching, per the Boston Herald. Cueto and Cole Hamels could be joined by White Sox righty Jeff Samardzija on the trade market. All three are difference-making talents and Hamels is under contract for three more years after 2015. Ideas I haven’t seen a lot of chatter about this, but the Yankees need a second baseman in the worst way, Rob Refsnyder, a rookie, was called up and if he gets hot the Yankees may focus on other needs, but acquiring Ben Zobrist instantly makes the Yankees, already enjoying a 3.5 game lead, the heavy favorites for me in the American League East (acquisitions by other clubs in the division notwithstanding)… The Twins at 49-40 may not be all that aggressive on the trade market beyond a reliever and a part-time player, but with so many rentals available, including Upton, Cueto, Samardzija and Zobrist, Terry Ryan could pull the trigger and surprise some people. How about re-acquiring Carlos Gomez? The chicago Cubs are fascinating, not just because the best front office in baseball is running them but because they are full of young talent that is performing and at 47-40 and a Wild Card leader at the break are in a position to add significant pieces that help them now and beyond. Hamels shouldn’t be out of the question, nor should Gomez or a rental such as Samardzija or Scott Kazmir. I’d bet on at least two moves for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, and a summer on the north side to remember… If I am the Angels I acknowledge that despite the presence of the game’s best player Mike Trout, who is all of 24 years old, that my window of opportunity with the current group is very short. The Halos need a starting pitcher and an outfielder. Their farm system isn’t very good, but if they’re willing to take on some salary there are fits that can help them stay out front in the American League West and perhaps be in a better position than they were a year ago when they won 98 games but were without Garrett Richards in October. While Hamels, Cueto and Samardzija would be terrific additions, the Angels may not need to go that far. Kazmir is an upgrade, too, and if they have a young player or two that the Padres really like, perhaps they can pry Tyson Ross from A.J. Preller and the Padres. Jay Bruce is a fit in the Angels outfield, but a less expensive option may work better, such as Milwaukee’s Gerardo Parra, Cleveland’s Ryan Raburn or Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies. Stephen Vogt Vogt is the most interesting player this summer for me. He’s a viable catcher, under club control pre-arbitration through next season and can really hit. The A’s could use him to make a run next season and still be in position to trade him if they again falter, but his value is at an all-time high and the return may be too good to pass up. So many clubs need catchers and Vogt is such a strong bat that on days he doesn’t catch he can play first base or serve as the DH. He changes the lineup dramatically in Texas, Seattle and Boston, It’s difficult to find a team that wouldn’t benefit greatly from acquiring him. If Billy Beane makes Vogt available, he may garner the biggest return this side of Hamels, and he may surpass what Ruben Amaro gets for his lefty ace. The question is whether or not many clubs have the inventory of young talent to send out in such a deal. Beane is as creative as it comes, though. Stay tuned.
Every day through July 31, and even deep into August to a lesser extent, there will be multiple reports regarding clubs having trade discussions with other clubs, about certain players, and there always are contract details, payrolls and many roster scenarios to consider. We won’t be the rumor round-up hub, but we’re here to fill in some of the missing pieces, offer thoughts on the process and if we happen to run into some information that is useful, we’ll share in in this column. Papelbon, Other Closers ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark tweeted last week that closer Jonathan Papelbon was close to being dealt but the Phillies “pulled back.” Stark mentioned Toronto, Texas, Chicago Cubs among those in said discussions. Papelbon’s vesting option and no-trade clause certainly play a large role here. He’s due a around $4.5 million the rest of 2015 and his $13 million club option automatically vests with 55 games finished this season or a combined 100 games finished the past two. He tallied 52 a year ago and has 29 before the All-Star break. Papelbon can block trades to 17 teams, but appears more than willing to sign off on a trade, Jake Kaplan of the Philly Inquirer reports. At 34, Papelbon has yet to show significant signs of decline. He enters the break with a 2.75 FIP and 9.36 K/9 rate, though his velocity has dipped a full tick since 2013 and nearly three since 2012. The closer market rarely is flooded, but there could be some other big-name stoppers available, potentially including Craig Kimbrel and Francisco Rodriguez. Several setup types likely will be available, too, but if you’re the Rangers and want a proven ninth-inning option, the aforementioned trio likely will be their best bet. Rodriguez, 33, may be especially attractive thanks to his contract, which calls for him to earn just over $1 million the rest of 2015, $7.5 million next year with a $6 million club option for 2017. Jay Bruce, Anyone? Four years ago Bruce looked like a star, but 4 1/2 years into a six-year contract with a club option, he’s being dangled on the trade market, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He’s just 28 but his production fell to .217/.281/.373 in 2014 after knee surgery. He’s rebounded some in 2015, getting back to .251/.341/.465 in a healthy first half. Bruce is due about $5 million the rest of this season, plus $12.5 million in 2016. His $13 million club option comes with a $1 million buyout. When healthy, Bruce is an average defender with a plus arm and he may be a legitimate 3.0 fWAR player. While his home-road splits aren’t pretty this season he’s had numerous season where he hit better away from the Great American Smallpark, as some pitchers like to call it. Bruce’s contract allows for him to block trades to eight clubs — A’s Jays, Yankees, Twins, Marlins, Red Sox and Diamondbacks — but none appear to be fits for the right fielder, anyway. Who does? How about the Royals, who lost Alex Gordon to injury? The Angels also could be a fit if they have enough trade inventory to interest Reds GM Walt Jocketty. Seattle, Texas, the Dodgers and perhaps even the Giants also could have some level of interest. Bruce isn’t pricey, there’s no long-term commitment and it appears he’s put his struggles behind him after a terrible April. Other outfield bats that may hit the market include Justin Upton, Carlos Gomez, Ben Zobrist and Josh Reddick, all of which will draw heavy interest. Every team anywhere near contention outside Pittsburgh, Yankees, Kansas City, Baltimore, Angels and Dodgers could use Gomez. Who needs him the most? Probably Seattle, San Diego and St. Louis. Gomez puts the Cards’ offense over the top and offers the M’s and Padres an answer in center and leadoff through next season. As for Bruce, I’m curious if the Angels or Giants like Bruce enough to make a run at him. Shields When the recent report that the Padres were testing the waters for James Shields hit the Web, I wasn’t surprised, only reminded that it took a long time for a team to give Shields a deal he liked over the offseason. Shields signed for $75 million over four years, but not until days before pitcher and catchers reported for spring training. Now that he’s halfway through year one and due about $3.5 million the rest of 2015 plus $65 million more guaranteed through 2018. Shields can opt out after next season and in lieu of a $2 million buyout on his 2019 option, is due $16 million that season when he will be 38. He’s pitched OK this season for the Padres, posting a 4.16 FIP and 10.11 K/9 over 19 starts. But OK isn’t worth $21 million per season — unless you’re the Red Sox, who gave Rick Porcello nearly $100 million guaranteed for the same kind of performance. Perhaps that deal is why A.J. Preller wants to see what’s out there for Shields. Clubs that may have interest include Texas, Toronto, Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals. All of those clubs had a shot at Shields six months ago, but a few things have changed due to injury. It’s too bad the Royals don’t have the available payroll for a reunion, but I’d love to see the Tigers grab Shields and make the American League Central that much more intriguing.
It sounds like the top remaining free agent will soon have a home. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reports that James Shields is weighing multiple offers and is expected to make a decision by the end of the week. Morosi mentions the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres have been in recent talks with the right-hander. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the Yankees, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Angels are not among the finalists for Shields. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Boston Red Sox aren’t involved either while Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Royals are more interested in the draft pick they’re due for Shields rejecting the qualifying offer. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that the St. Louis Cardinals prefer to fill their rotation hole internally. By the power of deduction we have the Padres and Miami Marlins, who have maintained interested in Shields, as the most likely destinations for the right-hander at this point. The Seattle Mariners have not been connected to the free agent recently. Although Shields ranked a tier below the top free agent starters this winter, he can still pitch at the top of a major league rotation. For his career the right-hander has a 3.72 ERA and 3.77 FIP in 1910 and 1/3 innings pitched. His career strikeout and walk rates are 7.66 and 2.13 respectively with eight straight seasons of 200 or more innings pitched. Entering his age-33 season, there is obviously some concerns that the volume of innings is going to catch up with Shields sooner than later. The right-hander has reportedly been looking for a five-year deal but at this point that seems like a long shot. Shields is the definition of a workhorse and has averaged just under seven innings per start in his career. Mark Buehrle was able to parlay a similar skill set — albeit with slightly worse overall numbers — into a four-year, $58 million contract prior to the 2012 season. At this point, Shields may well end up with a similar contract. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors notes that no free agent pitcher has secured more than a $50 million guarantee in February. Most teams have the bulk of their roster constructed and money that was available in December has, for the most part, been utilized. Ubaldo Jimenez did manage to secure a four-year, $50 million deal last winter from the Baltimore Orioles in February, but would appear to be an exception to what has become more or less a rule: significant free agent money isn’t available this late in the winter. When I profiled Shields’ free agent stock back in December, I concluded that the $90-plus million it would cost to sign Shields would likely be better utilized by the Mariners elsewhere. Since then the M’s have added Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to bolster their lineup. Right now Seattle’s payroll projects to land in the $115-to-120 million range. In other words, it’s about maxed. [pullquote]Even at a reduced cost, Seattle is an unlikely landing spot for Shields. The presence of Walker and Elias serves as a deterrent for committing big dollars to the right-hander.[/pullquote] GM Jack Zduriencik has mentioned in interviews that he still has room for minor moves but suggested under the right circumstances, ownership may allow for a significant addition. As discussed by Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill and Alex Carson on The Hot Stove Report, the possibility of Shields signing in Seattle, even at a deflated price, is still very unlikely. First and foremost, the Mariners don’t really have room in the 2015 rotation for Shields. Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ, and James Paxton are locks with one of Taijuan Walker and Roenis Elias likely to take the No. 5 role. That doesn’t include Erasmo Ramirez who is out of options and would have to clear waivers to be sent down to Triple-A this year. If we are talking about the 2016 rotation, it’s a slightly different story. Both Iwakuma and Happ are slated to hit free agency and at least one rotation spot should be opened up. Between the two and closer Fernando Rodney, upwards of $20 million will be cleared off the books at season’s end. That would essentially cover Shields’ potential salary in 2016 and each year beyond. The question then turns back to 2015: is Shields the guy the M’s want to break the bank for? There’s little doubt that Shields does improve the team in the short-term, despite the starting pitching depth. He’s likely a better starter in 2015 than anyone currently in the rotation mix not named Felix. But we have to look at the marginal increase in value that Shields adds as opposed to purely evaluating what he brings. For example’s sake, let’s say Walker wins the No. 5 job and pitches the entire season with the big league club. He probably winds up producing along the lines of an average big league player — 1.5-2.0 WAR. Shields was worth 3.7 fWAR in 2014 and Steamer projects him for 3.0 fWAR in 2015. Let’s split the difference and call Shields a 3.5 fWAR pitcher in 2015. We’re looking at a projected 1.0-2.0 WAR upgrade over Walker. However, Walker arguably has the potential to reasonably beat that projection while Shields has the potential to fall short. Walker won’t turn 23 until August and Mariners fans don’t need to hear about the talent and potential this kid has. Shields on the other hand, will pitch at 33 and as noted, is likely due for a decline at some point in the near future. Both come with risk, but Walker doesn’t carry a $15-to-20 million salary. The numbers support Shields continuing his pace as he ages — particularly an increase in fastball velocity — but the risk is still there. Shields’ ceiling in 2015 is probably in the 4.0-to-4.5 WAR range. I would not expect a career year out of the right-hander. Does Shields improve the Mariners in 2015? Definitely. Would he be a nice piece to have when planning for 2016 and beyond? Definitely. But considering where the club sits in terms of payroll, and a more pressing need for an additional bat, Shields doesn’t make a lot of sense. Even at a reduced price from the five years and $100 million he was seeking a few months back. And no, Shields will not be signing a one-year deal this winter. Maybe if a team was willing to pay him $40 million for that year, but the chances are practically nil. Even at a $16 million salary, Shields would guarantee himself about $50 million on a three-year deal. Not exactly the contract numbers he was hoping to achieve, but not small change either. The is a non-zero chance that James Shields is a Seattle Mariner in 2015. The veteran is known to prefer signing with a west coast team, but too much stock shouldn’t be put into that. It also appears unlikely that Shields will sign with an American League West foe. The Angels, despite the clear fit, are said to be out and the Texas Rangers haven’t been mentioned in a while. I suppose the Houston Astros could make a surprise run, but that feels unlikely. All three of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays would make sense as landing spots for Shields, especially Toronto. The Jays don’t have a clear ace and despite being near the top of their budget, could convince ownership that the expenditure is needed to break the longest playoff drought in pro sports. The Marlins remain in the picture even though they are out east. If they are willing to go four years, I’d imagine that’d probably put them as the favorites. The Padres, who have already made a number of significant moves, should also be watched closely. It sounds like the club still has some payroll to play with and could also use a boost at the top of the rotation. If Seattle is to make one more major transaction before the start of the season, expect it to be by trade. The missing link simply does not appear to be available via free agency.
The Seattle Mariners have acquired veteran outfielder Seth Smith from the San Diego Padres for right-hander Brandon Maurer, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Presumably, Smith will be part of some kind of timeshare in one or both corner outfield spots. The Mariners get a 32-year-old for the next two years at $12.75 million with a $7 million club option for 2017. The left-handed hitting Smith has a track record of strong production versus right-handed pitching and batted .266/.367/.440 overall in 2014. Smith is a below-average defender but has played a passable left field for the Padres. More time in right field may allow him to track balls better in that corner, perhaps bringing his defense closer to average levels. Smith possesses a fringe-average throwing arm. Smith, a former college quarterback at Ole Miss behind Eli Manning, struggles to drive the ball versus left-handed pitching but still shows some on-base production against southpaws. It’s his work versus right-handers that provides his value. In 2014, Smith batted .270/.359/.455 against righties and for his career owns a .277/.358/.481 split, including a .362 wOBA and 123 wRC+. Weighted Runs Created plus is park adjusted and Smith’s mark versus right-handers this past year was 133 and a very strong 130 versus left-handers. To land Smith the M’s sacrificed a nice piece in Maurer, who broke through as a reliever in 2014 after struggling in multiple stints as a starter. Out of the bullpen, Maurer sits 93-98 mph with a four-seam fastball that shows good life up in the zone. His best secondary pitch is a slider that firmed up a year ago into a cutter-like offering that can induce swings and misses. The pitch was better in the past as a true slider that darted down and away from right-handed batters, but as-is remains a weapon. Maurer also possesses a changeup that flashes above average and a curveball that he didn’t use much in a relief role but ultimately might be his second-best pitch. The 24-year-old displayed inconsistent command in 2014, even out of the ‘pen, but showed an ability to dominate at times. The Padres control five years of Maurer, and may consider giving him another chance to start this spring before letting loose in the same relief role. The Mariners could use Smith in both corners and even occasionally at designated hitter. He’s never played first base in the majors but in a pinch could handle it without much question. Smith has had limited success batting in the No. 2 hole over the course of his career but was good in that spot a year ago — .296/.329/.625 in 82 plate appearances — and has fared well batting third, fifth and sixth as well. He’s also a very solid fastball hitter who adjusts well to changeups. Such success bodes well for his tenure in the American League. The M’s could employ a lineup that looks something like this, particularly versus right-handed pitching: Austin Jackson, CF — R Seth Smith, RF — L Robinson Cano, 2B — L Nelson Cruz, DH — R Kyle Seager, 3B — L Logan Morrison, 1B — L Dustin Ackley, LF — L Mike Zunino, C — R Brad Miller, SS — L And versus lefties: Jackson Ruggiano, OF Cano Cruz Seager Morrison Ackley/Smith Zunino Taylor The Mariners’ payroll still sits in a position where I suspect salary will remain a non-issue in terms of continuing to add talent to the roster. The club still could use a veteran backup catcher, a veteran lefty reliever and should not rule out more outfield help, including an everyday player. The club probably shouldn’t have much interest in James Shields unless they have a deal set up to acquire another hitter in exchange for Taijuan Walker, and there are no indications the club has discussed any such deals of late. As they sit, the Mariners appear to be a club set to win 85-90 games or so, dependent on health and other variables, and the loss of Maurer in the bullpen probably won’t be felt at all with Carson Smith ready to step in immediately and handle high-leverage situations and pushing down Yoervis Medina into more of a middle role.
Despite the commodity that power has become in today’s game, a trio of slugging outfielders were moved west this past week. All three were, somewhat surprisingly, acquired by the San Diego Padres. Matt Kemp was officially acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers after some concerns arose in his physical. Wil Myers was brought on board in a three-team blockbuster with the Tampa Bay Rays. The cherry on top of the newly formed outfield is Justin Upton, acquired from the Atlanta Braves. All three are right-handed, outfielders, and hold plenty of power. All three were also connected to the Seattle Mariners in some capacity during recent times. There were also a myriad of free agent outfielders who found new homes as well. Alex Rios signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals and Mike Morse headed to the Miami Marlins on a two-year pact. Of course Melky Cabrera was also signed by the Chicago White Sox recently, meaning the market for starting-calibre outfielders is barren. Colby Rasmus and Nori Aoki remain, but there are concerns about whether either can be a regular. The Mariners weren’t completely shut out, however, as they picked up Justin Ruggiano from the Chicago Cubs for a minor leaguer. But aside from the Nelson Cruz signing, Seattle hasn’t done anything to significantly augment a lacklustre 2014 lineup. There were reports earlier this week that the M’s were close to a significant transaction, but we are still waiting for that to happen — and it still could. Kemp and the Mariners felt like an inevitability in the fall. Seattle had the need for a right-handed outfielder with some power and the means to assume a significant portion of the slugger’s salary. Despite his flaws, Kemp would have improved the Mariners in 2015 and 2016 at the least. In fact, there was reportedly a deal in place that would have sent Brad Miller and Michael Saunders to LA for Kemp and cash that would cover half his salary. The Dodgers would change their minds and insist that a young pitcher, such as Taijuan Walker or James Paxton, be included in the trade. Seattle said no, and Kemp is now slated to man the position that was famously patrolled in San Diego by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. With Upton it was a similar case as the clubs made somewhat logical trade partners and there was plenty of reported interest. The problem here though was the right-hander’s impending free agency. When Seattle had a deal in place for the outfielder around this time two years ago, they were willing to deal Walker. Upton could have spent three seasons in blue and teal. However at this point there was no guarantee he would stay in Seattle beyond 2015. At the price of a talented young pitcher with valuable years of club control the M’s also balked. Atlanta would be unable to land the coveted young starter they desired and instead sent Upton to San Diego for what they perceived to be the best package of prospects. The Myers trade is the one of the three that really stood out. The Braves had already moved outfielder Jason Heyward and were considered sellers. Los Angeles had an outfield surplus and a new regime looking to change the complexion of a star-studded roster. Myers had just completed his second big league season and was still a couple years away from getting expensive through the arbitration process — usually that is the time when the small-market Rays would deal a player. But as is sometimes the case, the Rays had ulterior motives for dealing the youngster. In return they picked up promising young outfielder Steven Souza from the Washington Nationals who will essentially replace Myers in the outfield, among other players. The Padres were highly praised for securing all three outfielders without surrendering any of the young pitching on the active roster. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy will anchor the rotation again in 2015. Seattle’s system is unlike San Diego’s in that there really isn’t significant depth to deal from. The Padres were able to protect their top pitching prospects and now have excess pieces, such as Seth Smith, that can be dealt to replenish some of the talent given up. Many of the Mariners’ top prospects have graduated to the big league levels. Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, and James Paxton are now key contributors. Taijuan Walker and D.J. Peterson are the blue chippers that sit atop the system, with Walker expected to take a spot in the rotation if everything goes right. There is obvious concern with dealing any top prospect, but there’s very little in the upper minors in terms of serious young talent. Katel Marte and Austin Wilson, among others, could take another step forward in 2015. But they aren’t considered impact players at this point in time nor do they have the lustre of a first-round draft pick or highly ranked talent. For those reasons of organizational depth, it made plenty of sense for the Mariners to go the free agency route this winter. Nelson Cruz was given $57 million and there was plenty of disappointment when Cabrera decided on the Windy City instead of Seattle. Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill recently compared Kemp and Cabrera and what it would cost the Mariners to acquire the outfielders. His conclusion was that it would make far more sense to commit years and money to Cabrera instead of more cash and considerable talent to land Kemp. Kemp appears to be the better player, especially if the power comes back, but both project for similar production moving forward. Would it make more sense to have spent an extra year and $13 million on Cabrera or trade Walker? In that context it seems obvious considering the available funds and lack of success in player development. I don’t want to suggest that the Mariners should or should not deal a younger player to improve the lineup this winter. Depending on the player, it may make sense. If Myers, a young outfielder with star potential, is the target then sure, we have a case. But a one-year rental on a guy like Upton? That doesn’t make much sense. Both the Dodgers and Braves would only deal their outfielders to Seattle for Walker, Paxton, or maybe Roenis Elias. The Mariners wisely abstained and are most likely better off for it. Eventually Seattle will have to take a significant risk to get that piece that they believe will put them over the top. We saw that fail for the Oakland Athletics and Jon Lester. We also saw that succeed for the Kansas City Royals and James Shields — yes, even though they didn’t win it all, that’s still a major victory for the city and club. Upton and Kemp didn’t appear to be the right players for that job. The decision to give Cruz four years and not offer more than three to Cabrera is still puzzling, but it isn’t invalid. Myers could’ve been that player, though we don’t know for sure what conversations the Mariners did or did not have with the Rays. It’s still early in the winter and despite the flurry of activity, there are still plenty of moves that could be made. Acquiring the second half of the right field platoon with Ruggiano — we’re all looking at you, Seth Smith — could give the lineup the extra boost it needs overall. I had opined that there was no reason Seattle shouldn’t look to acquire Smith and Upton before the latter was dealt elsewhere and Ruggiano was brought into the fold. After all, Dustin Ackley isn’t a sure thing in left field and there is some level of concern with Austin Jackson in center. In all reality, the M’s should and probably will continue to look for that impact outfielder that can be had via the trade route. Who that could be very much remains to be seen. If the club can start the year with Ruggiano in a fourth outfielder role or allow Miller to focus solely on being a starting shortstop in the spring, the offseason will have been successful in many ways. Nothing is likely to happen until the new year, but there are plenty of significant players that are acquired in January.
Another day comes to a close and another option for the Seattle Mariners is taken off the board. According to several reports outfielder Melky Cabrera has agreed to a three-year deal with the Chicago White Sox. It’s expected that the total dollar value of the contract will fall in the $42-43.5 million range according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The signing comes literally hours after the Mariners were considered the favorites to sign Cabrera. Reportedly Seattle had engaged in multiple discussions with the free agent and had extended a three-year offer, but were unwilling to budge on adding a fourth year. At the outset of the offseason Cabrera was searching for a five-year deal and was willing to take four years. It is a little surprising to see the 30-year old settle this early. I for one expected him to hold out for another week to get that fourth year. After all, Nelson Cruz was able to secure a four-year guarantee and he is more or less limited to designated hitter duties. Cabrera is four years his junior and is a capable defensive outfielder despite previous health concerns. Both players declined qualifying offers as well. A look back to last offseason when Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew found multi-year pacts hard to come by, and the outfielder’s decision is easily justifiable. The White Sox have had a busy past couple weeks as they have also inked Adam LaRoche and David Robertson to free agent contracts. The club also managed to acquire one of the big fish at the Winter Meetings in Jeff Samardzija who comes via a trade with the Oakland Athletics. What the Mariners were willing to offer Cabrera salary-wise is unknown at this point in time. There has been talks that the club wasn’t willing to commit more than the $14 million annual salary Cruz will receive to the switch-hitter. If they were willing to offer exactly that, $14 million a year, that would equate to a $42 million guarantee on a three-year deal — approximately the contract Cabrera has agreed to with the White Sox. If the fourth year was problematic for Seattle then a mistake was made. It’s completely reasonable that the M’s didn’t increase their offer with no other club apparently willing to go the fourth year, but sometimes this is what it takes to seal the deal. The Baltimore Orioles were willing to go three years for Cruz but not four. Presumably the fourth year is what convinced Cruz to head west. The major difference in what Cabrera and Cruz bring to the table is power. Otherwise Cabrera is realistically the superior player. There is some logic to not wanting to have a 38-year old Cruz and a 34-year old Cabrera on the same roster — there are only so many designated hitter at bats to go around. But at the same time, this offseason was supposed to be about 2015. Signing Cruz was about 2015. The structure on the Kyle Seager extension was about 2015 and 2016. Despite the near-perfect fit between Cabrera and the Mariners, GM Jack Zduriencik didn’t sound all that convinced a deal would get done on Friday. Right field is the obvious gaping hole on the roster, but there isn’t any reason for Dustin Ackley to simply be handed the left field job either — as discussed by Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill and Alex Carson on this week’s edition of The Hot Stove Report. Austin Jackson should rebound and give the Mariners a much better center field performance in 2015 than they received collectively in 2014. The problem is that the corners are going to be filled with James Jones, Stefen Romero, and Ackley at this point, and that’s simply not good enough. There’s some upside for sure, but Jones is limited and Ackley still has to prove he can produce for a full season. So, how exactly could Zduriencik get creative with fixing the outfield? Let’s take a look. Jayson Werth, RF, Washington Nationals | 2014: .292/.394/.455, 141 wRC+, 16 HR, 4.8 fWAR The Mariners have already been connected to the Nationals, but that was regarding shortstop Ian Desmond. Despite being projected as one of the top teams in all of baseball, the Nats are looking to make some moves to refill the cupboards. Desmond and starters Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are all set to hit free agency after this season. An extension for Stephen Strasburg is also looming, and maybe the club wouldn’t mind moving some of the $63 million owed to Werth over the next three seasons. Werth is coming off consecutive years with 4.6 or higher fWAR and will turn 36 next May. He bats right-handed and owns a career 149 wRC+ against left-handed pitching — exactly what the Mariners are looking for. Some of the power has disappeared over the past couple seasons, but Werth is a solid 20-to-25 home run bat and anchored the No. 3 spot in the Nationals batting order last year. In the Mariners lineup he could be a great fit on either side of Robinson Cano who figures to hit in the No. 3 spot. Werth is a better overall hitter than Cruz who will likely take the No. 4 spot and pushing the free agent signee to the No. 6 spot, behind Seager, would make the lineup all that much better. The right-hander has predominantly played right field the last several seasons and has some experience in center. He’s about average in right with UZR ratings just below the zero mark in the last two seasons. His arm is also average in right and could easily play in left as well. The financial side of things shouldn’t be a problem either. Seattle was reportedly willing to take on about $70 million of Matt Kemp’s contract in a potential deal and Werth will earn $21 million in each of the next three years. The problem is Werth’s full no-trade clause and the Nationals willingness to move a big piece of their lineup. What makes this feasible however, is the presence of young outfielders Michael Taylor and Steven Souza who appear ready or very close to being ready for regular big league jobs. Certainly the right package could get a deal done, but it seems more likely, for now anyways, that the Nats will aim to move a Fister or Zimmermann instead. Seth Smith, LF/RF, San Diego Padres | 2014: .266/.367/.440, 133 wRC+, 12 HR, 2.6 fWAR The Padres have been one of the more aggressive teams this offseason with failed pursuits of Pablo Sandoval and Yasmany Tomas before finally landing Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Will Venable figures to play a regular outfield role as well, likely in center with Kemp in right. Cameron Maybin, Rymer Liriano, and former Mariner Abraham Almonte also figure into the club’s outfield plans. One can’t forget about incumbent outfield Carlos Quentin either, who should be healthy for Opening Day. There is some talk though that Quentin could be moved to first base. Smith was thought to be a potential trade candidate last summer but instead of dealing the outfielder, the Padres locked up the 32-year old to a two-year extension that will pay him $6 million in 2015 and $6.8 million in 2016. The deal also includes a $7 million club option for 2017 with a $200 thousand buyout. Obviously the Mariners’ goal is to add a right-handed bat and Smith hits left-handed, but he has proven that his skill set can play in Petco Park — one of the toughest parks to hit in. Safeco Field shouldn’t be much of an issue. While Smith is coming off of one good year and has largely been a platoon player for the bulk of his career — he has wRC+’s of 63 and 123 against left and right-handed pitching respectfully for his career — he could still play a fairly regular outfield role for the M’s. He’s average defensively and his arm is adequate for right field. He would also provide some much needed pop to the bottom half on the lineup. Smith helps the Padres in 2015 and it’s possible the club is not interested in dealing the outfielder after extending him a few months back. While the price for the 32-year old likely isn’t very high, San Diego probably would prefer a major league ready piece in return. Their pitching staff has some depth, but a bullpen arm such as Brandon Maurer or Tom Wilehlmsen could be of interest. Roenis Elias is likely too valuable to deal for two-plus years of a No. 3/4 outfielder, but there could be a match between the two clubs. The free agent market While the Mariners do have pieces to move, it made sense for the club to flex their financial muscle as opposed to dealing financial assets. Ponying up the extra cash for a Melky Cabrera looks a lot more enticing compared to dealing a James Paxton or Brad Miller. With Cabrera off the board however, there aren’t any real everyday outfielders on the market. Colby Rasmus and Nori Aoki are moderately interesting options that could play fairly regularly and require reasonable commitments. Delmon Young is also available though he is more of a fourth-outfielder/back-up designated hitter than anything else. Expect to hear plenty of Alex Rios’ name over the next couple weeks as an option for Seattle. His agent Scott Boras will likely drive the price on a one-year contract to the $10 million range or higher. Counting on Rios to play a regular role with above average production in 2015 may be asking too much. But the 33-year old did past a 3.1 fWAR in 2013 and 4.2 fWAR in 2012 — there is some upside here. Trying to pinpoint what exactly Zduriencik has up his sleeve is difficult. It’s still very early in the winter as clubs are attempting to figure out exactly what they have and what they need. It’s entirely plausible that the M’s acquire a bat that didn’t appear to be available or was seldom mentioned. Churchill and Carson tossed around the idea of a potential trade for Bryce Harper on The Hot Stove Report — it doesn’t seem likely — and perhaps the club is aiming higher than a stopgap solution in the outfield. If a Taijuan Walker is to be traded, and there is nothing to suggest that will be the case, the club has to make it count. They shouldn’t limit themselves to just a right-fielder either. If the right left-fielder can be had, go for it. The exact positions can be taken care of later. Cabrera signing with the White Sox isn’t the worst scenario for the Mariners. Plenty of options are out there and there is no reason to believe Jack Z and Co. aren’t doing everything possible to find that missing piece. Whether or not they are able to execute is the question we will be asking.
Several years ago Chase Headley was an emerging superstar with the San Diego Padres. He showed power in the minors before blossoming into a star in the very pitcher-friendly Petco Park. After the 2012 season trade rumors escalated as Headley was coming off a 7.2 fWAR season and had just two years of club control remaining. The small-market Padres seemed likely to deal the third baseman. That didn’t happen, however, and after a stint on the disabled list in 2013 and a drop in value of approximately 50 percent to 3.6 fWAR, the perception of Headley went sour. It was a similar season in terms of production in 2014, split between the Padres and New York Yankees. Headley posted a .243/.328/.372 slash line with a 103 wRC+ in 531 plate appearances. The switch-hitter also posted one of the best defensive seasons of his career. It’s a good time for a player in his prime who is solid on both sides of the ball to hit free agency. Bats: BothAge: 31 on May 9Service: 6.123Agent: Excel Sports ManagementQualifying Offer: N/A Scouting Report Headley is a switch-hitter who has hit left-handed pitching slightly better than right-handed with a 118 and 104 wRC+ respectively. Most of his power is on the pull side, regardless of if he’s batting from the right or left side, but he does have the ability to hit the ball to all fields. His career walk and strikeout rates are both above average, effectively cancelling any benefit out. Headley has been a particularly better performer in the second half and has a career 126 wRC+ in September. The 30-year old has stolen 17 bases in two seasons and has been average on the base paths. In his first two big league seasons Headley saw considerable time in left field. In 2010 Headley became the Padres everyday third baseman and has been one of the better defensive corner infielders in baseball. He picked up a Gold Glove award in 2012 when he was credited with 14 DRS and a 16.5 UZR rating. Headley’s 2014 campaign was similar in terms of value with 13 DRS and a 20.9 UZR rating. He has a strong throwing arm and above average range at the hot corner. The Upside The third baseman won’t turn 31 until next May and a multi-year pact would carry him through the final years of his prime. Headley should see an improvement in his overall power numbers if he spends the entire season in a neutral or more hitter-friendly environment. The 31 home run total of 2012 seems like an anomaly, but he’s a solid bet for 15 with slightly above average on base skills. He can hit hear the top or in the middle of the order and the ability to hit both right and left-handed pitching is very valuable. He’s a great bat in the No. 6 or 7 slots in the lineup. Headley isn’t an elite player moving forward, but he’s a very solid everyday player who may still have an All-Star appearance or two left in his pocket. He’s coming off a strong season on both sides of the ball and didn’t show any obvious signs of slowing down last year. He’s plus at the hot corner and has experience at first base and left field. The Downside The big question that will be asked of Headley this winter in whether or not he’ll be able to stay healthy down the line. He’s hit the disabled list in three of the last four seasons and has had major surgery on his knee. There’s also the fact that most of his value is tied to defense which makes up for his average performance at the plate. Another injury to his knee or decline in production at the hot corner could greatly affect his value moving forward. The power is average, though as a right-hander in a scarce market that shouldn’t impact his next contract too much. His batting average and on base percentage have been trending downwards the last couple years as well. As long as the team that signs Headley knows that they are getting a plus-defender with average to slightly above average pop there isn’t much downside. Cost & Conclusion: Mariners Perspective Kyle Seager has cemented himself as the Seattle Mariners third baseman of the future. He’s coming off a career year in which he lead the club in fWAR and home runs — 5.5 and 25 respectively — and is a candidate for an extension this winter. There’s also no reason to consider moving the Gold Glove finalist from the hot corner at just 27-years old. Presumably the M’s could slot Headley in at first base if he is willing to accept an everyday role there. They could also get creative and see if he has anything to offer in left field. However either of those alternatives could severely hurt the value Headley does provide. Seattle has room at designated hitter for the moment and being able to give Headley a few half-days off now and then would be a plus. Pablo Sandoval is the top third baseman available this winter and reportedly has a five-year, $95 million offer from the Boston Red Sox in hand. The San Francisco Giants, Panda’s former club, are still very much in the mix with the San Diego Padres making an interesting third serious suitor. Sandoval is a switch-hitter like Headley but won’t turn 29 until next August. He’s also reported to be more interested in a six-year deal than a particular dollar figure. The Toronto Blue Jays have also shown serious interest in the slugger but are believed to be on the outside looking in at this time. The Yankees haven’t been connected to Sandoval as of yet and are interested in re-signing Headley as insurance at first and third base. New York is in a tricky situation with Alex Rodriguez back in the fold and several aging players with injury concerns. A reunion is still possible, though Headley may prefer a situation where he is guaranteed more playing time at third. My opinion: the Jays would make a great fit for the former second-round draft pick. Headley is one of the more interesting free agents because he has the potential to be an impact player without the impact player price tag. A three-year deal seems fair and four definitely isn’t out of the question. He earned $10.5 million in his final arbitration year but doesn’t appear to be in a position for a significant raise. In January 2013 Headley’s Yankee teammate Martin Prado signed a four-year, $40 million extension with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although part of what makes Prado valuable is his positional flexibility which his former teammate doesn’t offer. Aramis Ramirez signed a three-year, $36 million free agent contract back in December of 2011, which will probably be Headley’s floor. As he was traded midseason, Headley was ineligible for a qualifying offer and requires no compensation. Although the Mariners have the money to make a fairly significant commitment and need to bolster the lineup, the fit with Headley is poor. If the switch-hitter is willing to move to first base then definitely the fit becomes more realistic, but there’s been limited talk about the free agent’s positional preference.
How’s that for a trade deadline day, eh? Unexpected teams involved, a couple aces trading places — and some of us expected today to be boring. Anyways, the Seattle Mariners actually ended up being one of the more active teams today, and were involved in a blockbuster, though they didn’t end up with the big fish they had been linked to for the past couple months. However, one can’t say that the M’s aren’t better today than they were yesterday, and they didn’t have to mortgage the future to do it. The M’s acquired veteran outfielder Chris Denorfia from the San Diego Padres in exchange for outfielder Abraham Almonte and right-hander Steve Kohlscheen. Denorfia, 34, owns a .242/.293/.319 slash line on the year with a single home run across 268 plate appearances. Although he has just an 85 wRC+ against left-handed pitching on the year, he owns a 128 wRC+ against them for his career as well as a .301 batting average, which should add a boost to a team that’s had some struggles against lefties on the year. Denorfia is owed about a million bucks for the rest of the year and will be a free agent this winter, which makes him a rental. Seattle did give up their Opening Day centerfielder in the trade, but after a weak first six weeks in the big leagues Almonte has been playing at Triple-A Tacoma where he’s put together a .267/.333/.292 line. The 24-year old has some potential that could still develop, but at the moment he has the makings of a No. 4 outfielder who could draw into the lineup often given his speed and defensive abilities. Almonte will join the Padres major league club, but it’s not yet clear if he’ll see regular playing time there throughout the remainder of the season. Kohlscheen was a 47th-round draft pick in the 2010 amateur draft and has been enjoying a decent season in the minors. In 56 and 2/3 innings spent between Double-A and Triple-A, the right-hander owns a 2.70 ERA. The 25-year old does offer some upside as a potential major league reliever, including the fact that he is 6-foot-6, but isn’t one of the M’s more interesting pitching prospects. Not to say he won’t have any value in the future, but this is the type of player a club can deal without too much fear that he’ll come back to haunt them, especially given the volatile nature of relievers. The Tampa Bay Rays did deal staff ace David Price today, but he ends up with the Detroit Tigers while the Mariners sent infielder Nick Franklin to the Rays and acquired outfielder Austin Jackson from the Tigers in a three-team deal. [pullquote]Jackson has seen most of his at bats come in the No. 1 and No. 6 spots in the lineup this year and his skill set will likely fit well at the top of the Mariners’ order in front of Cano and Kyle Seager.[/pullquote] Jackson, 27, has manned center field for the Tigers for the past four and a half years and has posted a .270/.330/.397 slash line in 416 plate appearances for an even 100 wRC+ so far in 2014. The former eighth-round draft choice of the New York Yankees has typically been a plus defender so far in his career — UZR gives him a 7.2 rating in nearly 6000 innings of work — but hasn’t quite played as well in the field this season. However he does give the Mariners a true center fielder and strengthens a strong defensive outfield between Dustin Ackley and eventually Michael Saunders, though Corey Hart has started the last couple games in right. Jackson is arbitration eligible for the final time in 2015 and is owed around $2 million for the remainder of this season. He also has familiarity with manager Lloyd McClendon as he was the hitting coach in Detroit before joining the M’s. After several months of speculation Franklin finally finds himself a new home, and it’s with a team that has reportedly had interest in him for a while now. The infielder has struggled in a handful of major league plate appearances this year but has posted a .294/.392/.455 slash line at Triple-A. The 23-year old still has all the makings of an above average major leaguer, but with Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, and Chris Taylor in the middle infield picture for the foreseeable future, there was simply no room for that to happen with Seattle. And with the Rays’ excellent player development program, it’d be no surprise to see Franklin have plenty of success in the American League East. The Mariners were also linked to super utility player Ben Zobrist, but the Rays elected to hang on to him for now. Overall, general manager Jack Zduriencik made well on his “Trader Jack” moniker today and the M’s were able to address their most glaring need: the outfield. The team is also better off heading into 2015 with Jackson set to be their everyday centerfielder, while notgiving up anything of real significance. Yes, Franklin will likely turn out to be something great, but understanding that that probably wouldn’t happen with the M’s, it’s great to see the team get very good value for him, and to see him get an opportunity to succeed.
The National League West division got a whole lot stronger when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new ownership decided to push their cards all in and spend as much as necessary to win. It was a fairly busy offseason for the five clubs, but both the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants elected to use plenty of their resources on retaining some of their key pieces. The Arizona Diamondbacks made a series of interesting trades while the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies made a couple interesting acquisitions of their own. Let’s take a look at what each club gained and lost of the past offseason. Los Angeles Dodgers | 2013: 92-70 Under new ownership the Dodgers have spent big the last couple of years in an attempt to win their first championship since 1988. The St. Louis Cardinals proved to be too much for the club to handle in the 2013 National League Championship Series as LA lost in six games, however. Run prevention was key to the Dodgers’ success in 2013 as the 582 runs they allowed were the third fewest in baseball, while their 649 runs scored were the seventeenth most. Who’s In Paul Maholm, SP — 0.7 fWAR | Signed one-year, $1.5 million dealAlexander Guerrero, 2B — Played in Cuba | Signed four-year, $28 million dealJamey Wright, RP — 0.5 fWAR | Signed one-year, $1.8 million dealErisbel Arruebarrena, SS — Played in Cuba | Signed five year, $25 million dealChris Perez, RP — -0.9 fWAR | Signed one-year, $2.3 million dealDan Haren, SP — 1.5 fWAR | Signed one-year, $10 million dealChone Figgins, 3B — -1.1 fWAR (2012) | Signed minor league contractJustin Turner, 2B/3B — 0.5 fWAR | Signed minor league contract Who’s Out Chris Capuano, SP — 1.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Boston Red SoxRonald Belisario, RP — 0.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Chicago White SoxMark Ellis, 2B — 1.8 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with St. Louis CardinalsMichael Young, SS — -0.2 fWAR | RetiredEdinson Volquez, SP — 0.4 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Pittsburgh PiratesSkip Schumaker, 2B/OF — -1.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Cincinnati RedsNick Punto, 2B/SS/3B — 1.8 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Oakland AthleticsRicky Nolasco, SP — 3.0 fWAR | Signed free-agent contract with Minnesota Twins 2014 There’s no doubt that it’s World Series or bust for the Dodgers in 2014 as they enter the season with an estimated payroll of $235 million; even higher than that of perennial big spenders the New York Yankees. The biggest move of the offseason was getting ace Clayton Kershaw locked down to a seven-year contract extension worth $215 million that also includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year. The reigning NL Cy Young award winner will once again be joined by Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu in the rotation alongside Haren, the newcomer. Maholm figures to be a placeholder in the rotation while Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett recover from their respective injuries. The Dodger offence is about as loaded as it gets in baseball with all-stars at nearly every position. Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig will lead the charge with outfielders Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier all being close to full heath. Third base will be covered after Uribe was re-signed, but LA has somewhat of a hole at second base after Guerrero, the Cuban import, didn’t appear ready for show in Spring Training. It’s expected that a combination of Turner, Figgins, and Dee Gordon will man the position for the time being and as we all know, the Dodgers have plenty of resources should they choose to acquire a more established option. Los Angeles are the consensus favourite to win the NL West this year and they certainly have the talent to do so, but once again, it’s going to come down to health for the club. If Kemp or Ethier can regain their form of a few years back the Dodger offence could become very scary. Same goes for their rotation if Beckett or Billingsley can find something left in the tank. And should none of that happen, LA can probably just go out and buy the missing pieces their roster needs. Arizona Diamondbacks | 2013: 81-81 A pair of back-to-back 81 win seasons followed Arizona’s playoff appearance in 2011, placing them second in the division in 2013. The Diamondbacks’ 685 runs scored and 695 runs allowed placed them near the middle of the pack in both categories. Average isn’t going to cut it in a division with plenty of talent and the Dodgers’ ability to buy themselves out of trouble however, and the club made some interesting moves this winter to improve. Who’s In Addison Reed, RP — 1.7 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Chicago White Sox in exchange for 3B Matt DavidsonBronson Arroyo, SP — 0.8 fWAR | Signed two-year, $23.5 million dealHenry Blanco, C — -0.5 fWAR | Signed minor league contractMark Trumbo, OF — 2.5 fWAR | Acquired with RHP AJ Schugel via trade with Los Angeles Angels and OF Brandon Jacobs from the Chicago White Sox in a three team deal that sent LHP Tyler Skaggs to LAA and OF Adam Eaton to CWSRyan Rowland-Smith, SP/RP — -1.9 fWAR (2010) | Signed minor league contract Who’s Out Willie Bloomquist, SS/OF — 0.5 fWAR | Signed free agent contract with Seattle MarinersMatt Davidson, 3B — 0.2 fWARTyler Skaggs, SP — 0.1 fWARAdam Eaton, OF — -0.5 fWARWil Nieves, C — -0.1 fWAR | Signed free agent contract with Philadelphia PhilliesHeath Bell, RP — 0.0 fWAR | Traded to Tampa Bay Rays in a three team deal that sent LHP David Holmberg to the Cincinnati Reds; ARI acquired RHP Justin Choate and OF Todd Glaesmann 2014 The D-Backs have found themselves in the category of being a good ball club, but not good enough over the last couple years. Slugger Paul Goldschmidt leads the offence that gets a potentially huge boost with the addition of Trumbo in the middle of the order, although there are legitimate concerns as to whether or not he can play the outfield. The trio of Miguel Montero, Aaron Hill, and Martin Prado have quietly been a stable force of the Arizona offence and will be relied on heavily once again. A couple short weeks ago the Diamondbacks appeared to have put together a strong rotation with plenty of upside, but now that Patrick Corban is done for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the rotation has come under question. Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, and the recently signed Arroyo form a solid set of starters, but none are quite the game changer that Corban is. Top prospect Archie Bradley will begin the year in the minors, but it’s likely he’ll make an appearance in the big leagues before the season is over and could become an x-factor in the pitching staff. Arizona is good, there’s no doubt about that, but the Dodgers are the clearly superior club in the division and the Wild Card race looks like it’ll be tough once again. All in all, the D-Backs may find themselves in the same position they were the previous two years: a .500 club that fell just short. San Diego Padres | 2013: 76-86 Like the D-Backs, the Padres also had an identical record in both 2012 and 2013, which is twice as disappointing after the club won 90 games in 2010. Even though they played half their games in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks, the club allowed 700 runs and their team ERA of 3.98 was just higher than the league average mark. The Padres weren’t able to produce enough offence either as their 618 runs scored was the seventh fewest last year. Who’s In Joaquin Benoit, RP — 1.6 fWAR | Signed two-year, $15.5 million dealJosh Johnson, SP — 0.5 fWAR | Signed one-year, $8 million dealSeth Smith, OF — 1.1 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Oakland Athletics in exchange for RHP Luke GregersonXavier Nady, OF — -0.8 fWAR (2012) | Signed minor league contractAlex Torres, RP — 1.3 fWAR | Acquired with RHP Jesse Hahn via trade with Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for 2B Logan Forsythe, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Matt Lollis, and 2B Maxx Tissenbaum Who’s Out Jesus Guzman, 1B/OF — 0.0 fWAR | Traded to Houston Astros in exchange for 2B/3B Ryan JacksonLogan Forsythe, 2B — 0.0 fWARRonny Cedeno, SS — -0.7 fWAR | Signed minor league deal with Philadelphia Phillies; ReleasedJason Marquis, SP — -1.6 fWARClayton Richard, SP — -1.2 fWARColt Hynes, RP — -0.3 fWAR | Traded to Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations 2014 The Padres decided to hang on to third baseman Chase Headley for the upcoming year instead of dealing him while he still had a full season of team control remaining before becoming a free agent. Other than Headley, the lineup doesn’t really feature any elite level talent at the moment. Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera are competent hitters and if Carlos Quentin is able to stay healthy he has proven to be a key part of the batting order. Catcher Yasmani Grandal is a prime breakout candidate for the Padres as long as he can put last year’s injury riddled campaign behind him. Petco Park is widely regarded as one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks around right now, and that certainly weighed into Johnson’s decision to sign a one-year deal in San Diego. When he’s been healthy he’s been as dominant as anyone, but keeping him on the field has been a very tall task; he’ll start 2014 on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner are a pair of dependable arms that’ll sit atop the rotation, but big seasons will be required out of starters like Eric Stults and Tyson Ross if the Padres are to make the playoffs. The signing of Benoit will help shore up the bullpen by giving it another needed veteran presence. There certainly is enough talent on the club to win 80 or more games, but the Padres will need career years from more than a few players if they hope to taste October baseball once again. They could be a surprise club if everything can go right. San Francisco Giants | 2013: 76-84 It’s been just over a year since the Giants were celebrating their second World Series title in three years. For the first time since 2008 the club finished with a record below the .500 mark and were a full 16 games behind the division winning Dodgers. Pitching was a strength of San Francisco’s during their championship runs, but their team ERA of 4.00 placed them outside of the top 20 teams. Their offence wasn’t a whole lot better as they only managed to produce 629 runs in 2013. Who’s In Michael Morse, OF — -1.6 fWAR | Signed one-year, $6 million dealTim Hudson, SP — 1.7 fWAR | Signed two-year, $23 million dealJC Gutierrez, RP — 0.2 fWAR | Signed minor league contractKameron Loe, RP — -1.2 fWAR | Signed minor league contract; ReleasedDavid Huff, RP — 0.0 fWAR | Acquired via trade with New York Yankees in exchange for cash considerations Who’s Out Barry Zito, SP — -0.6 fWARChad Gaudin, SP/RP — 1.1 fWAR | Signed minor league contract with Philadelphia Phillies; ReleasedAndres Torres, OF — 0.7 fWAR 2014 The Giants elected to retain their key free agents this winter in Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence who signed two and five-year contracts respectively. Hudson could prove to be a nifty little pick up as he’ll help solidify the rotation that includes himself, Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong. Perhaps the key to the pitching staff will be lanky right-hander, Lincecum, who hasn’t been able to find his Cy Young form once again but has shown improvement recently. San Francisco is finally free of the Zito contract that become increasingly burdensome as the former ace was unable to turn his struggles around over the last couple seasons. Offensively, there aren’t many that do it better than catcher Buster Posey who had a down season by his standards in 2013. Pablo Sandoval has shown signs of being an elite power bat but still has plenty to prove as he enters his contract year. How much value Morse can reasonably be expected to provide is pretty minimal, but he was the only real addition to an offence that could’ve used a boost. Although if a guy like Brandon Belt can take another step forward, the Giants may not require an outside piece to shift their offence out from under the mediocre title. Overall, the Giants aren’t really that much improved heading into 2014, but there’s plenty of potential for players to produce more than they have in recent memory and it appears the team is counting on rebound seasons from a couple players. There’s plenty of talent on the roster, that much is for sure, but it’s going to take a couple welcome surprises for the club to get back into the playoffs this year. Colorado Rockies | 2013: 74-88 It’s been a tough couple seasons for the Rockies who’ve been holding down the basement in the NL West. Despite the losing record, the club still manage to score the tenth most runs in the league with 706, but it was their pitching that once again let them down. Their team ERA of 4.44 and the 760 runs they allowed were both the third highest marks in all of baseball last year. Who’s In Justin Morneau, 1B — 0.8 fWAR | Signed two-year, $12.5 million dealBoone Logan, RP — 0.3 fWAR | Signed three-year, $16.5 million dealJason Pridie, OF — 0.7 fWAR (2011) | Signed minor league contractLaTroy Hawkins, RP — 0.8 fWAR | Signed one-year, $2.5 million dealPaul Janish, SS — -0.2 fWAR | Signed minor league contractJordan Lyles, SP — 0.4 fWAR | Acquired with OF Brandon Barnes via trade with Houston Astros in exchange for OF Dexter FowlerBrandon Barnes, OF — 1.0 fWARBrett Anderson, SP — 0.3 fWAR | Acquired with $2 million via trade with Oakland Athletics in exchange for LHP Drew Pomeranz and RHP Chris JensenDrew Stubbs, OF — 0.8 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Cleveland Indians in exchange for LHP Josh OutmanFranklin Morales, SP/RP — 0.1 fWAR | Acquired via trade with Boston Red Sox in exchange for 2B/SS Jonathan Herrera Who’s Out Todd Helton, 1B — -0.8 fWAR | RetiredJonathan Herrera, 2B/SS — 0.4 fWARRafael Betancourt, RP — 0.5 fWARDexter Fowler, OF — 2.2 fWARJosh Outman, RP — 0.7 fWARDrew Pomeranz, SP/RP — -0.2 fWAR 2014 It was a busy past couple months for Colorado who added several pieces via trade and free agency. Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Michael Cuddyer make up the heart of the lineup that will be joined by Stubbs and Morneau, who will replace Helton at first base after his illustrious career with the Rockies came to an end. The departure of Fowler leaves some big shoes to fill at the top of the batting order, but Barnes is an interesting piece who could turn a few heads in the upcoming year. When Anderson has managed to stay healthy, he’s been a very effective starter, but like with the Padres’ acquisition of Josh Johnson, keeping him on the mound has proven to be difficult. The former Oakland Athletic does appear to be playing at full health and reports out of camp this spring have been positive however. Anderson will be joined in the rotation by Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, Tyler Chatwood, and Jhoulys Chacin once he returns from injury. The Rockies appear to be a fringe contender at most in 2014, but with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez in the lineup it’s hard to count them out just yet. If the rotation can stay healthy and perform well, Colorado may be able to sneak in to the playoffs, but they could just as easily find themselves at the bottom of the division once again. *All player WAR’s shown are via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.
For some reason the Seattle Mariners believe they are so littered with left-handed hitters that they are narrowing their search for offense to right-handed hitters. I’m not saying they won’t even consider lefties, but it seems they are fascinated with getting more right-handed after signing Robinson Cano. Corey Hart is right-handed. Clearly he’s in the plans to get a lot of plate appearances, no matter how he’s used in the field. Mike Zunino appears to be a big part of the club’s plans at catcher, there’s another 300-450 PAs from a right-handed bat. The No. 2 catcher is probably going to be right-handed, too, since there are so few lefty-hitting catchers in general and ZERO available, so that brings us to 2 righties and a lefty. Sure, Kyle Seager is going to be in the lineup 145-155 times, and he joins Cano as another left-handed hitter. If we assume Logan Morrison is in the plans for 400-500 PAs, there’s one more lefty. Three left-handed bats and two right-handed ones. Brad Miller, assuming he’s the starting shortstop, is another left-handed bat. The chanced the club’s centerfielder is a left-handed hitter are slim, unless they make no other acquisitions for the outfield. Michael Saunders are Dustin Ackley are each lefty bats, but Abraham Almonte is a switch hitter. Reserve Willie Bloomquist is also a right-handed bat. If the season started tomorrow, Cano likely would bat No. 3 in the order with the right-handed Hart batting cleanup. Seager probably bats No. 2, and Morrison at No. 5. That’s a left-right-left middle of the order. Yes, Miller probably leads off — or Almonte in certain matchups — but how in the world is this lineup lacking proper balance? Last I checked, Safeco Field was death to right-handed fly ball hitters, not left-handed hitters in general. If you’re going to be imbalanced at all, you want to be a bit left-handed. Most pitchers in baseball are righties, and Safeco is more fair to left-handed hitters. Worth noting: Cano is a career .290/.340/.450 hitter versus left-handed pitching, and batted .291/.356/.432 against them in 2013. He’s the equivalent of a solid righty stick versus lefties. If the search for a right-handed bat lands them on a significantly lesser right-handed bat than they could have landed in a lefty, it’s an enormous mistake to care so much about handedness. Shin-Soo Choo, however, is so bad versus left-handers that he hurts the attempt at balance quite a bit, not to mention being a much higher risk than Cano to be a financial burden on even a 7-year contract. Nelson Cruz has been mentioned a lot — he doesn’t fit so well, as he shouldn’t be playing the outfield and that’s the Mariners’ biggest area of need — but there are zero right-handed hitting outfielders on the free agent market, and there aren’t a lot of right-handed hitting outfielders that even could be trade targets. I’m sure Seattle would love Giancarlo Stanton, but without gauging the organization’s talent base no team is well-equipped to pry Stanton from the Miami Marlins right now. After that, there’s a drop-off in talent and an increase in risk as well as cost. There are some ideas, however, I’m just not sure how likely any of them are. Michael Cuddyer and Matt Holliday come to mind. Neither seems very likely to go anywhere, particularly Holliday with the Cardinals having lost Carlos Beltran to free agency and adding glove-first centerfielder Peter Bourjos. I mentioned Carlos Gomez in October, but it seems highly unlikely he’ll be moved after the Milwaukee Brewers dealt Norichika Aoki to Kansas City earlier this month. Can’t imagine the Baltimore Orioles are looking to part with Adam Jones just yet, nor is it likely the Cleveland Indians move Nick Swisher, a switch hitter. I also mentioned B.J. Upton earlier this offseason, but that does indeed appear to be too big a risk, considering the money owed to him and the slim-to-zero chance the Atlanta Braves are willing to cover enough of the remaining salary. Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings is a nice fit; he can play center field, will not be arbitration eligible until after 2014 and is a right-handed hitter with a good track record versus left-handed pitching. Problem is the Rays value those things, too. Surprised? I did dig up some smaller, part-time type pieces that if used properly by skipper Lloyd McClendon, could be legit targets. Drew Stubbs Stubbs may be available to some extent with the Indians having Bourn, Swisher and Michael Brantley in the fold, and having acquired David Murphy via free agency. The club also employs Ryan Raburn, who had a great year in 2013 and bats right-handed like Stubbs. Brantley can spell Bourn in center, so Stubbs isn’t necessary there, and he’s due a raise via arbitration. He earned $2.825 million in 2013. Cleveland’s motivation for moving Stubbs could be partly financial, too. Paying a fourth or fifth outfielder upwards of $4 million when you have two others like that on the roster — one lefty, one righty — seems ridiculous, especially for a frugal club like the Indians. The price for Stubbs? Can’t imagine it’s very high, though if he’s available to some level there are certain to be more than one team interested. Stubbs can go get it in center field and batted .266/.361/.357 versus lefties a year ago. Overall, he strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit for enough power to even begin to make up for a career .310 on-base percentage, but as a part-time player can be valuable. Alex Rios Rios was acquired by the Rangers in August for a song, so perhaps another song is enough to acquire him from them with one year and $13.5 million, $1 million buyout included. The Rangers are out looking for a bat and have been mentioned in the Choo rumors all offseason. Perhaps shaving off Rios’ salary makes the investment in Choo easier to push through. Texas may prefer not to become so left-handed in their lineup — they traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder last month and Kinsler’s replacement at second base, Jurickson Profar, is a switch hitter who is a bit better from the left side. They did acquire Michael Choice, a right-handed hitter, from the Oakland Athletics, though he’s still a prospect and may or may not be ready for an everyday gig early in 2013. Rios, while a not a center fielder, really, is a solid corner outfielder who can run and provide decent production somewhere in the No. 5 or 6 hole. His numbers have come in hitter’s ballparks, so that’s something to consider, too. He also comes with no long-term commitment. Chris Denorfia Denorfia has been mentioned quite a bit because he can defend, hits well versus left-handed pitching and is set to earn a paltry $2.25 million in 2014. The San Diego Padres aren’t going to give him away, but barring another multi-year extension of sorts, they’re likely to try to get something of value for him by July 31. Whether or not they are inclined to listen on him now is unclear. As a platoon partner for Ackley and/or Saunders in a corner, however, he’s a good idea. Some have asked me about switch hitter Chase Headley, but he’s really a third baseman. He last played the outfield in 2009 and wasn’t very good. Furthermore, the price will be for Headley, third baseman, which costs more in trade, and he’s a free agent after the season. Another idea tossed at me is Alfonso Soriano, who appears to have gone from terrible outfielder to passable, but he’s a low-OBP guy and while the trade cost may be minuscule, he’s set to earn $19 million in 2014. The Yankees received $14 million in cash to cover Soriano’s ’14 salary, but the Yankees aren’t required to transfer any portion of that in a future trade. Plus, Soriano has a full no-trade clause, which probably kills the idea altogether… not that it’s a good one, anyway.