The Red Sox are “very interested” in White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, which runs contrary to previous reports. The Cardinals are also after Abreu, Cafardo adds, which isn’t surprising for a team that just lost out on Giancarlo Stanton and continues to seek a power bat. Abreu, who will turn 31 in January, slashed .304/.354/.552 with 33 home runs in 675 plate appearances last season. He comes with two years of arbitration eligibility and will earn a lofty sum – a projected $17.9MM – in 2018. The White Sox want “top prospects” for Abreu, per Cafardo.
Despite recent reports connecting the Red Sox to Jose Abreu, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com tweets that talks between Boston and Chicago are “significantly overstated,” adding that there’s never been much traction between the two sides in that regard. That meshes with what The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote yesterday (subscription required and recommended) when reporting that it’s unlikely the White Sox move Abreu to Boston or to any other club, “barring an unexpected change.”
11:40pm: The Angels are indeed one of the finalists, as per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).
10:39pm: The Angels are thought by “multiple sources” to be one of the finalists, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan tweets. The Tigers are out of the running, according to Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.
8:59pm: The Rangers and Cubs will both meet with Ohtani, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports (Twitter link), and they’re also the only two non-West Coast teams who appear to still be alive in the candidate process. The Rangers, Grant notes, have yet to comment on their status one way or the other.
7:22pm: The Nationals won’t be receiving a meeting, the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (Twitter link).
6:58pm: The Braves are out, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (via Twitter).
6:50pm: The Padres will receive a meeting with Ohtani, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links). The Dodgers are also thought to still be active in the Ohtani sweepstakes though Heyman doesn’t have confirmation; regardless, the Dodgers aren’t thought to be favorites to land Ohtani.
6:15pm: The Diamondbacks won’t receive a meeting, Ken Rosenthal tweets.
6:12pm: The Blue Jays, Pirates, and Brewers are all out, as respectively reported by Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi, MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt (all Twitter links).
5:48pm: The Mets are also out, as per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
5:38pm: Ohtani’s list is “heavy” on West Coast teams, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports, though the Cubs may still be involved. Not every west-based team is included, however, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the A’s aren’t involved.
5:28pm: The Red Sox are also out of the running, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The Twins also won’t be getting a meeting with Ohtani, Heyman tweets.
5:16pm: The Giants and Mariners are among the teams that will receive meetings with Shohei Ohtani and his representatives next week, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports (Twitter link). It isn’t known who the other finalists are in the Ohtani sweepstakes, though the Yankees are one of the teams that didn’t make the cut, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty and MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch).
According to Cashman, Ohtani seems to be leaning towards West Coast teams in smaller markets. This ties to a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman saying that Ohtani’s reps are informing teams that the two-way star would prefer to play in a smaller market.
The news adds another fascinating layer to the Ohtani sweepstakes, which was already one of the more intriguing free agent pursuits in recent memory. Given the seeming lack of immediate financial motive that inspired Ohtani’s move to Major League Baseball, it opened the door for every team in baseball (regardless of market or payroll size) to make a push for the 23-year-old. There had been speculation that Ohtani might look to avoid playing in a larger market, so this apparent confirmation creates a realistic possibility that he will land with a team that wouldn’t normally be considered a favorite to land such a coveted free agent.
Of course, San Francisco isn’t exactly a small market, though Ohtani wouldn’t necessarily be the center of attention on a club with such established stars as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner (and maybe even Giancarlo Stanton in the near future). Playing for an NL team, however, would force Ohtani into a pinch-hitting or even a part-time outfield role for the at-bats he seeks in his attempt to be a two-way player in the big leagues. The Mariners do have such a DH spot available (in a timeshare with Nelson Cruz), and were considered to be a contender for Ohtani given their long history of Japanese players.
The Yankees also have had several significant Japanese players on their past and current rosters, and were widely seen as one of the major favorites for Ohtani’s services from a financial (in terms of available international bonus money) and positional (openings at DH and in the rotation) standpoint, not to mention their international fame and their young core of talent ready to make a World Series push. With Ohtani now out of the picture, the Yankees could move to signing more pitching depth — a reunion with C.C. Sabathia has been widely speculated as a possibility — or a veteran bat to serve as designated hitter, if the club doesn’t just rotate its DH days to find plate appearances for everyone on the current roster.
Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweeted today that while the Twins remain “engaged and interested” in regards to a few big name free agent pitchers, there’s no indication yet that they are “in heavily” on anyone. While that can change quickly, Wolfson acknowledges that the trade market is also a very real possibility. It would seem that Minnesota is in a position to take their time in exploring all possible options. It makes plenty of sense to wonder whether the Twins might wait to see where Shohei Ohtani signs before making any significant pitching acquisitions. The market for pitching is likely to hold fast until the two-way Japanese sensation picks a landing spot, and on the off-chance that he chooses Minnesota, they might be able to focus their resources on other areas of the roster. A particularly weak bullpen comes to mind as another area the Twins will need to improve upon if they expect to contend again in 2018.
More notes out of the American League’s central division…
- While the Tigers probably won’t be serious pursuers of big name free agents this offseason, Katie Strang of The Athletic provides a short list of potential bargain buys for a depleted Detroit rotation. Strang notes that Michael Fulmer is coming off elbow surgery, while veteran Jordan Zimmerman has spent the offseason overhauling his delivery in hopes to return to form after a disastrous 2017 season. Beyond them, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris aren’t sure bets to hold down rotation spots. Chris Tillman, Miles Mikolas and Clay Buchholz are some interesting names Strang suggests as options for the Tigers to explore. While none are particularly exciting, they all have some upside as comeback players and could eat innings for Detroit in 2018.
- Although the Red Sox are players for White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, Scott Lauber of ESPN notes that the south siders are reportedly asking for “an arm and a leg” in exchange for their first baseman. Boston might not have the prospects necessary to swing a deal; the White Sox were able to land huge hauls for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last offseason and might be holding out for a similar return for Abreu. The Cuban native has put up a .301/.359/.524 batting line for his four-year major league career. His slugging percentage and 124 home runs both rank 13th in the majors during that span, while his 410 RBI rank 5th. MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently detailed the trade market for Abreu.
The deadline to tender 2018 contracts to players is tonight at 8pm EST. We’ll keep track of the day’s non-tenders in this post (all referenced arbitration projections courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) …
- The Giants non-tendered righty Albert Suarez, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. Suarez, 28, was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Righty Tom Koehler and infielder Ryan Goins are heading to the open market after being non-tendered by the Blue Jays, per a team announcement.
- The Rays announced that lefty Xavier Cedeno has been non-tendered, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
- The Cubs non-tendered catcher Taylor Davis, per a team announcement. He was not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Four Rangers players have not been tendered contracts, per a club announcement. Righties Chi Chi Gonzalez, A.J. Griffin, and Nick Martinez have been cut loose along with infielder Hanser Alberto. Griffin ($3.0MM projection) and Martinez ($2.0MM) were both noted as non-tender candidates by MLBTR. The other two players were not yet eligible for arbitration. Gonzalez was a former first-round pick who had struggled of late and underwent Tommy John surgery in July.
- The Diamondbacks have also non-tendered lefty T.J. McFarland, who had projected at a $1.0MM salary.
- The Reds non-tendered lefty Kyle Crockett, a pre-arb lefty who was only recently claimed on waivers, per a club announcement.
- Per a club announcement, the Brewers have non-tendered veteran righty Jared Hughes. He will end up being the only 40-man player not to receive a contract from Milwaukee. Hughes had projected at a $2.2MM arbitration value. The 32-year-old is a master at inducing grounders and has turned in repeatedly excellent results. He also averaged a career-best 93.9 mph on his sinker in 2017.
- The Mariners have non-tendered lefty Drew Smyly and righty Shae Simmons, per a club announcement. While the former was expected, due to Smyly’s Tommy John surgery, the latter rates as something of a surprise given his cheap $700K projection. Of course, it’s possible the club is not optimistic of his chances of bouncing back from arm troubles.
- The White Sox will not tender a contract to reliever Jake Petricka, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). He had projected to take home $1.1MM in his second trip through the arb process. Also non-tendered, per a club announcement, were righties Zach Putnam and Al Alburquerque as well as infielder Alan Hanson.
- It seems that righty Bruce Rondon will wind up his tenure with the Tigers, as the organization is set to non-tender him, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free-Press (via Twitter). Rondon was long viewed as a potential late-inning arm for the Tigers, but had some notable run-ins with the organization, struggled with control, and never consistently produced at the MLB level. Though he projected to earn just $1.2MM, Rondon will be allowed to find a new organization. He will turn 26 later this month.
- The Diamondbacks will non-tender righty J.J. Hoover, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Hoover projected at just $1.6MM, but Arizona is watching every penny as it seeks to return to the postseason with a tight payroll situation. The 30-year-old turned in 41 1/3 innings of 3.92 ERA ball in 2017 with 11.8 K/9 but also 5.7 BB/9 on the year.
- The Royals announced that they have non-tendered outfielder Terrance Gore. Though Gore was not eligible for arbitration, teams occasionally utilize today’s deadline to prune their 40-man rosters. Gore had quite an interesting run with Kansas City, scarcely playing at all during the regular season and then appearing as a speed-and-defense asset in the team’s two storied postseason runs. Now, though the fleet-footed 26-year-old is out of options. With an upper minors OPS that hovers just over .600, Gore just was not going to break camp with the club. It seems reasonable to think there’s a chance he’ll return to the organization on a minors deal, though Gore will also have a shot at exploring the broader market.
With the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players set for 8pm tonight, there should be several agreements over the next few hours — particularly among players that were considered to be potential non-tender candidates. Many non-tender candidates will be presented with offers that are lower than what they’d project to earn via arbitration in a “take it or leave it” manner; some will agree to the lesser deal (as Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt did earlier this morning) while others will reject and likely hit the open market.
Here’s today’s slate of players that have avoided the arb process and locked in at least a partial guarantee for the upcoming season (arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed, but each of these players will be guaranteed one sixth of the agreed-upon sum unless specifically negotiated otherwise). All projections are via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz…
- The Padres announced that lefty Robbie Erlin has agreed to a contract for 2018. The 27-year-old missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery and was projected to earn $700K through arbitration. Terms of his deal have not yet been reported.
- The Braves appear to have agreed to terms with just-claimed righty Chase Whitley, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Whitley, who was projected to earn $1.0MM in his first season of arb eligibility, is said to be in line for an opportunity to work as a starter. It’s a split deal that would pay Whitley $800K in the majors, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets.
- The Mariners agreed with Andrew Romine on a $1.05MM contract, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Romine, a versatile infielder, was claimed off waivers after the end of the 2017 season.
- Outfielder Abraham Almonte has reached a deal to avoid arbitration with the Indians, per a club announcement. He had featured as a possible non-tender candidate but instead found common ground with the organization. Almonte, 28, slashed just .233/.314/.366 in his 195 trips to the plate in 2017. He had projected to earn a $1.1MM payday in his first season of arbitration eligibility but will take home $825K, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).
- The Royals have agreed to terms with righty Mike Morin to avoid arbitration, the club announced. He’ll receive a split contract, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets, with a $750K annual earning rate in the majors and $250K in the minors. Morin, who projected at $700K, drew a mention on MLBTR’s non-tender candidates list. Indeed, his contract reflects the middling season that he turned in. Morin allowed 16 earned runs in twenty MLB frames, though he was more effective at Triple-A.
- Yimi Garcia and the Dodgers have avoided arbitration, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (via Twitter). Garia projected to command only a $700K salary after missing all of 2017 following Tommy John surgery; he’ll end up taking home $630K, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Now 27, Garcia had established himself as a significant member of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2015, when he compiled a 3.34 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 over 56 2/3 innings. But injuries limited him in the ensuing season and ultimately culminated in a UCL replacement.
- Per a club announcement, the Indians have agreed to a contract with righty Dan Otero. Otero will take home $1.3MM, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). He was projected to command $1.4MM. The 32-year-old Otero has been an unmitigated bargain for Cleveland over the past two years, turning in 130 2/3 total innings of 2.14 ERA pitching despite averaging just 6.5 K/9 in that span. Otero has succeeded with unfailing command (just 19 walks since joining the Indians) and a hefty groundball rate (over 60% in each of the past two seasons).
- The Angels and righty Blake Wood agreed to a one-year, $1.45MM deal that falls well shy of his $2.2MM projection, as FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman was the first to report (via Twitter). Wood struggled mightily in Cincinnati before being picked up by the Halos late in the year and turning his season around a bit. In 17 innings with the Angels, he posted a 4.76 ERA with a much more promising 22-to-4 K/BB ratio. Heyman notes that he can earn up to $50K worth of incentives as well.
- The White Sox announced that they’ve signed right-hander Danny Farquhar to a one-year deal worth $1.05MM — a pact that falls shy of his $1.5MM projection. In 49 1/3 innings between the Rays and ChiSox, the 30-year-old logged a 4.20 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 5.1 BB/9 and a 41.7 percent ground-ball rate.
The White Sox announced on Friday that they’ve signed free agent catcher Welington Castillo to a two-year contract. One of the few teams to disclose financial terms, the White Sox confirmed previous reports that Castillo signed a two-year, $15MM contract with an $8MM club option for the 2020 season. He’ll earn $7.25MM in each season and is promised another $500K through a buyout. Castillo is represented by ACES.
The 30-year-old Castillo is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, having batted .282/.323/.490 with 20 homers in 365 plate appearances as the Orioles’ primary backstop. With that strong offensive output in his back pocket, Castillo turned down a $7MM player option to return to Baltimore — a move that has certainly paid dividends now that he has a multi-year agreement secured.
While Castillo has long come with a questionable defensive reputation, he led the Majors with a 49 percent caught-stealing rate in Baltimore and also turned in dramatically improved pitch-framing marks in his lone season with the O’s. It remains to be seen if he can sustain that level of defensive play moving forward, but the improvements certainly didn’t hamper his free agent stock.
Though the White Sox are (obviously) in the midst of a rebuild, the team has relied on a hodgepodge of underwhelming options since making the error of non-tendering Tyler Flowers prior to the 2016 season. Castillo will help to solidify a position of need and also give the team’s up-and-coming core of young pitchers an experienced receiver behind the dish.
With Castillo in the fold, Omar Narvaez will shift from the club’s starting catcher to a reserve role, while Kevan Smith will likely be pushed off the big league roster. That pair received the majority of the White Sox’ at-bats behind the plate last season, with Geovany Soto and Rob Brantly also receiving a handful of opportunities. Overall, the South Siders’ catching corps posted a solid .279/.346/.381 batting line, though Narvaez and Smith both benefited from some help in the BABIP department, and neither offers anywhere near the pop that Castillo carries in his bat.
From a payroll vantage point, the Sox can easily fit Castillo’s salary onto the books. The Sox entered the offseason projected to field just a $61MM payroll (after arbitration estimates), with only $15.95MM of that sum coming in the form of guaranteed contracts. The only guaranteed money on the books beyond the 2018 season is Tim Anderson’s contract, which calls for just a $1.4MM salary in 2019.
Castillo may or may not fit into the expected competitive window on the south side of Chicago; the Sox aren’t expected to make an aggressive push for contention this season, though they surely like the idea of a veteran catcher helping a young pitching staff all the same. However, given the wealth of talent in the upper levels of the Sox’ farm, it’s not out of the question that they could contend as soon as the 2019 campaign — the second year of Castillo’s deal. If not, the team surely aims to be contending by 2020, and if Castillo’s play still merits an $8MM salary at that juncture, he could yet be leaned upon as part of the puzzle, depending on the development of prospect Zack Collins.
If the Sox ultimately need a bit longer to return to prominence, or if Collins ascends and pushes Castillo for the regular role, his contract is modest enough that it should contain some trade value on the open market, provided he continues to produce at a level similar to his 2017 form.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Right-handed reliever Rob Scahill has agreed to a minor league contract with the White Sox, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (on Twitter). The Marc Kligman client will receive an invitation to Major League Spring Training and compete for a bullpen spot.
It’s a homecoming for Scahill, who was raised in the Chicago suburbs and attended both high school and college in Illinois. The 30-year-old (31 in February) has seen action in parts of six Major League seasons with the Rockies, Pirates and Brewers and spent the entirety of the 2017 campaign in the Milwaukee organization. Scahill logged 22 1/3 innings in the Majors with the Brewers and pitched to a 4.43 ERA, albeit with just 10 strikeouts against 10 walks. He logged an additional 25 1/3 frames in Triple-A, where he posted a 1.40 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9.
Overall, Scahill has tossed 144 2/3 innings in the Majors and averaged 6.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 with a 54.8 percent ground-ball rate. Though he doesn’t miss many bats, he’s averaged better than 94 mph on his sinker and held righties to a fairly modest .232/.317/.389 batting line throughout his big league tenure.
The Red Sox are among the organizations “in active talks” with the White Sox regarding veteran slugger Jose Abreu, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). It is not clear at the moment which other teams might be involved or how far talks might have progressed.
MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently examined the potential market for Abreu, citing Boston as one of the major possible suitors. Of course, there are also quite a few other organizations that would likely see merit in his contract rights, too.
Unlike top trade candidate Giancarlo Stanton and the slate of available free agents, Abreu can be controlled for a limited financial commitment. MLBTR projects that he’ll earn $17.9MM in arbitration for the coming season, a large sum but also less than what other top sluggers would command on the open market. And there’s another season of control that amounts to a floating club option; should he perform well, Abreu will be entitled to (and will likely deserve) another big raise in his final year of arbitration eligibility. If not, he can be allowed to walk.
In all likelihood, it’s something like a two-year, $40MM contract commitment without any possibility of a long-term commitment gumming up future balance sheets. That’s an appealing contract situation for a player that just smacked 33 long balls and slashed .304/.354/.552 in the 2017 campaign. Abreu will not turn 31 until January of next year.
While Abreu wouldn’t necessarily earn significantly more in average annual salary in a hypothetical trip onto the open market this winter, he’d surely command more years. There’s a world of difference between a four or five-year guarantee at this general rate of pay, for instance, and the current commitment to Abreu. To take but one comparison, he’s effectively controlled under a more team-friendly scenario than that which the Blue Jays agreed to with Jose Bautista last January, after the much older player languished on the market and fell shy of earning expectations on the heels of a down season. That contract guaranteed $18.5MM and included only a mutual option, whereas Abreu’s 2019 rights are firmly in club control.
There’s a fair bit of excess value here for the White Sox, who also won’t feel compelled to move Abreu for less than a compelling return. Putting Abreu in crimson hosiery will likely not be cheap, then. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has suggested his organization is hesitant to part with significant prospect value to land a slugger, so getting something done here will likely require some creativity and/or tough choices.
- The Giants, White Sox and Royals “will likely keep inquiring” about Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. throughout the offseason, Cafardo contends. Each of San Francisco, Chicago and Kansas City have pursued Bradley recently, but the Royals already had Lorenzo Cain occupying center when they went after JBJ in 2015. Now, with Cain likely to depart via free agency, the fit between the Royals and the affordable Bradley is obvious. However, it’s fair to wonder whether the Royals have a good enough farm system to put together a deal for Bradley, who’s controllable through 2020 and will make around $5.9MM next season.