- Along with the previously reported Raisel Iglesias, the Reds are “open to offers” for left fielder Adam Duvall, Cafardo relays. Duvall, 29, would provide cheap power to a team in need of it – he’s not eligible for arbitration until next winter and is fresh off his second 30-home run season in a row (though he hit an underwhelming .249/.301/.480 in 2017).
- Billy Hamilton is generating the most interest of any potential Reds trade pieces, Rosenthal also reports. Hamilton, obviously, is a limited offensive player due to a lack of power and on-base skills, but his baserunning and defensive skills are among the game’s elite. If the Reds do ultimately find an offer to their liking for Hamilton — he’s arb-eligible for two more years and projected to earn $5MM next season by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz — Rosenthal writes that they’d likely sign a short-term stopgap in center field rather than play a corner option out of position.
The Reds have struck an agreement with left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett, bringing him back to the organization on a minor league deal just days after non-tendering him, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Crockett will be invited to Major League Spring Training.
Cincinnati claimed Crockett off waivers from the Indians a week ago today but apparently didn’t wish to carry him on the 40-man roster throughout the offseason. The former fourth-round pick will now be in camp and battle it out for a roster spot with a Reds team that looks to have several bullpen roles up for grab this spring.
The 25-year-old Crockett turned in a promising 1.80 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 30 innings in his first big league season back in 2014, but he’s struggled to a 4.84 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 35 1/3 big league innings since then. To his credit, Crockett has only surrendered three homers in 65 1/3 MLB innings and has held lefties to a .614 OPS in 167 plate appearances — including a .196/.266/.258 slash in 110 PAs between Triple-A and the Majors this year. Righties have knocked him around at a .280/.373/.452 clip in the big leagues, however.
The Reds’ top left-handed bullpen option this season will be Wandy Peralta, but the team doesn’t have any locks beyond him after Tony Cingrani was traded to the Dodgers in July. Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and Amir Garrett are the only other lefties even on the 40-man roster at all, though each is likely still viewed as a starter by the organization.
The Pirates have made a host of changes to their scouting and front office staff, Bill Brink of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports. Steve Williams, a major league scout since 1988, will be their new director of pro scouting. Junior Vizcaino, formerly of the Red Sox, will replace the recently-discharged Rene Gayo as Pittsburgh’s director of Latin America scouting. Assistant GM Greg Smith will now work under the title “Special Assistant to the GM”, though it’s not quite clear what the change in his role will actually be. Pitching coordinator Justin Meccage will now join the coaching staff as assistant pitching coach. In addition, pro scout Sean McNally has been named Special Assistant to the GM, John Birbeck and Matt Taylor have been made scouting assistants, and Joe Douglas and Justin Newman have been named quantitative analysts. While these moves seem to be mostly routine shuffling, it’s worth noting that very few first-round picks of the Pirates have lived up to their billing over the past 12 years.
More details from around the NL Central…
- In other Pirates news, closer Felipe Rivero has dropped agent Scott Boras. He’ll now be represented by Magnus Sports, according to Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rivero enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, posting a 1.67 ERA and 3.50 WPA across 75 1/3 innings thanks in part to a 10.51 K/9 and a 52.9% ground ball rate. Although he enjoyed a bit of BABIP and home run luck, his 3.03 xFIP is still a solid mark. The left-hander compiled 21 saves after taking over as Pittsburgh’s closer halfway through the season, and is arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason. He should be in line for a significant raise if he can perform close to his 2017 numbers. Bloom notes that Magnus Sports also represents some other closers, including Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees and Raisel Iglesias of the Reds.
- Speaking of Iglesias, the right-hander has officially decided not to opt into arbitration, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. It seemed highly unlikely that Iglesias would choose to do so this season, considering his contract will pay him $4.5MM next season, while MLBTR’s arbitration model projected him for a $2.8MM salary. Nevertheless, Iglesias’ statement ends any speculation that he would opt into the process during this offseason (though he’ll have another opportunity next year). For the 2017 season, Iglesias finished 15th among relievers in total innings pitched (75), 22nd in ERA (2.49), 13th in saves (28), and tied for 13th in strikeouts (92).
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.
The Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization announced today that they’ve signed right-hander Tim Adleman to a one-year deal worth $1.05MM (via Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency). The Reds haven’t announced the move, but Adleman was still on Cincinnati’s 40-man roster, so they’ll likely receive financial compensation from the Lions for releasing Adleman and paving the way for the move.
Adleman, who turned 30 earlier this month, has appeared in 43 games for the Reds over the past two seasons, totaling 192 innings of 4.97 ERA ball with 7.3 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, a 35.1 percent ground-ball rate and an average fastball velocity of 90.4 mph. He led an injury-plagued Reds pitching staff with 122 1/3 innings and finished second on the team with 20 starts made. However, Adleman was also among baseball’s most homer-prone pitchers in 2017, averaging a whopping 2.12 long balls per nine innings pitched.
Though he’s yet to experience much in the way of Major League success, Adleman does possess a solid minor league track record. He’s logged just 63 2/3 innings in Triple-A but recorded a sharp 2.40 ERA along the way, and overall he’s worked to a 3.57 ERA with 7.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 0.7 HR/9 in 458 2/3 innings across parts of six minor league seasons. Though he’s been a fly-ball pitcher in the Majors, he’s demonstrated the ability to induce grounders in the minors, routinely registering ground-ball rates of 45 percent or better.
For the Reds, losing Adleman will obviously deplete the team’s depth in the rotation. However, Cincinnati will surely be banking on better health from the trio of Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and Homer Bailey in 2017; DeSclafani missed the entire year with an elbow issue, while Finnegan was limited to just 13 innings and Bailey chipped in 91 frames. Beyond that, the Reds saw a number of young arms break into the Majors last season, and while many of them struggled, GM Dick Williams recently noted to Fangraphs’ David Laurila that the organization was heartened by strong finishes from the likes of Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle.
In addition to those six arms, the Reds also have lefties Amir Garrett and Cody Reed as options, as well as right-handers Robert Stephenson, Rookie Davis, Jackson Stephens, Keury Mella and Jose Lopez all on the 40-man roster, which now stands at 39 players.
Zack Cozart’s huge 2017 season would seem like the perfect platform year as he enters free agency, though the veteran shortstop faces a complicated market and some inevitable questions about whether he can duplicate his breakout year.
Defense has long been Cozart’s calling card. Since debuting in 2011, he ranks seventh in UZR/150 (+10.6) and 14th in Defensive Runs Saved (56) among all players in baseball with at least 6000 innings played. Among just shortstops in that same timeframe, Cozart is behind only the incomparable Andrelton Simmons in both categories and also behind Brandon Crawford in DRS. Cozart would provide a massive boost to any club looking to improve its run prevention.
Heading into last season, however, Cozart still hadn’t been able to move beyond his reputation as a glove-only player. He posted roughly average run-production numbers in 2015-16, though injuries and a major second-half fade in 2016 left doubts as to whether he could truly put it together at the plate. Those questions were answered in rather stunning fashion, as Cozart emerged as not just a solid bat, but one of baseball’s best overall hitters in 2017.
The numbers are startling — a .297/.385/.548 slash line over 507 PA, 24 homers, 80 runs scored, and almost as many walks (62) as strikeouts (78). Cozart’s 141 OPS+ was topped by just 15 players in the entire league, with an overall 5.0 fWAR surpassed by only 16 players. In fact, Cozart also has the highest 2017 fWAR total of the entire 2017-18 free agent class, counting both hitters and pitchers.
Cozart was no creation of the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, as he hit well both at home (.958 OPS) and on the road (.900 OPS). He also displayed a nice balance against all pitchers, crushing lefties to the tune of a 1.059 OPS while also hitting right-handed pitching hard (.896 OPS).
While he set new career bests in virtually every offensive category, most of Cozart’s advanced metrics are not too far removed from his normal career rates. His homer rate did spike, and his swinging-strike and overall swing rates both dropped significantly from his career norms. This increased plate discipline bodes well for Cozart’s ability to continue an above-average level of hitting, even if he may not again reach the peak of his 2017 production.
While he still outperformed many hitters who received well more than 507 plate appearances, Cozart was again hampered by injuries, as quad injuries to both legs limited him to just 122 games. Between the quad problems, a torn knee ligament in 2015 and continued knee issues in 2016, Cozart has played in just 296 of the Reds’ 486 games over the last three seasons. This lack of durability and the fact that Cozart just turned 32 last August will give some teams pause before considering him for a pricey multi-year contract.
It’s worth noting that last season was one of Cozart’s lesser defensive years, as he delivered “only” a +6.2 UZR/150 and +2 DRS. Obviously these are still fine numbers, though it could hint that the years of leg problems are beginning to impact Cozart’s glovework. It certainly seems like the injuries could be hurting Cozart on the basepaths, given that Fangraphs’ BsR metric has indicated subpar baserunning totals in each of the two seasons since his knee surgery.
While Cozart would hardly be the first player to blossom later in his career, his continuing to be a top-15 hitter in 2018 would be even more of a surprise than his 2017 breakout. As per Statcast, Cozart’s expected weighted on-base average (.332) was well below his actual .399 wOBA thanks to his middling launch angle and exit velocity numbers — that 0.067 gap between the two categories was the second-largest of any player in baseball with at least 200 at-bats in 2017.
In fairness, Cozart has specifically tailored his swing and plate approach to account for his general lack of hard contact, and to focus on a level swing rather than aiming to put the ball in the air. This makes him an interesting outlier among modern hitters, though his power surge may have less to do with swing changes than it does (as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently observed) with the livelier baseballs reportedly used in MLB play over the last two years. If Cameron’s argument is correct, Cozart’s home run numbers could be in particular danger of regression if there are further alterations in how the balls are produced.
Cozart said back in April that he’d actually been feeling more comfortable hitting over two years ago due to increased aggressiveness at the plate, so between that and a minor swing tweak from last Spring Training, above-average production could be a new normal for Cozart. Still, his 2017 numbers were so far beyond his career averages that some amount of regression seems inevitable.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Cozart was a second-round pick for the Reds in the 2007 draft after three years of college ball at the University of Mississippi. His collegiate success earned him a spot on the United States’ gold medal-winning team in the 2006 World University Championship.
As one of the few long-term veterans on the rebuilding Reds, Cozart earned the nickname of “Coach” for his leadership role within the young clubhouse. Cozart was named as the Reds’ recipient of the 2016 Heart & Hustle Award by the MLB Players Alumni Association.
While Cozart is far and away the top free agent shortstop available this winter, his biggest issue could be that the shortstop market itself isn’t very large. Most contenders or would-be contenders already have a shortstop in place, and several of the teams with a hole at the position (such as the Marlins or Padres) are in a rebuilding phase.
This would seem to at least create the possibility that Cozart remains in Cincinnati. The two sides shared some interest in working out a contract extension last summer, and while it would be somewhat unusual to see Cozart become a long-term piece for the club after two years of trade rumors, the Reds may have changed course after seeing him emerge as a hitter. The Reds could decide to go with Cozart and Scooter Gennett (another breakout player in 2017) in the middle infield, leaving Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera for backup or utility roles, or the team could shop one of those young and controllable talents for some much-needed pitching help.
Looking at other possible suitors, there are a lot of “maybe, if…” situations that could see a team make a play for Cozart. The Orioles or Royals could be fits if they aren’t respectively sold on Tim Beckham or Raul Mondesi Jr. as everyday shortstops (and if Kansas City doesn’t enter a rebuild itself). The Pirates or Rays would need to carve out payroll space, or the Cardinals could get into the mix if they sold high on Paul DeJong in another trade.
Perhaps the easier path to locating Cozart’s next team is to look for openings at second or third base. This could require a change of heart from Cozart, as he reportedly “feels strongly” about sticking at his usual position, though he might have no choice but to become more flexible given the lack of shortstop vacancies. Cozart’s reps at Excel Sports Management could pitch their client both as a regular starter at one position, or as an everyday contributor that could get 600 PA while receiving a couple of starts per week at shortstop, second and third. The Angels have already considered Cozart as a second baseman, and a position switch could also get teams like the Mets, Giants, Blue Jays, or Braves interested.
One plus for Cozart’s market is that the Reds declined to issue him a qualifying offer, so another team can sign him without having to surrender any draft pick compensation.
MLBTR predicts Cozart will find a three-year, $42MM deal this winter, though this could be a pretty fluid projection depending on whether or not Cozart is open to a position change. While Cozart’s age could be an obstacle in finding a fourth guaranteed year, you’d think multiple teams would love to find space for a player coming off a five-win season somewhere around the infield, maybe even to the point of making room at shortstop.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
- While the Reds’ rotation has plenty of uncertainty heading into the 2018 season, GM Dick Williams tells David Laurila of Fangraphs that he’s nonetheless optimistic about the team’s collection of young arms. As Williams explains, injuries forced the Reds to promote numerous prospects from Double-A while skipping the Triple-A level entirely. Still, some of those arms made adjustments on the fly as the season wore on, and the experience gained was valuable in their overall development. Williams points to strong finishes from Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle as encouraging factors heading into the offseason. And, of course, the Reds will hope for better health from the likes of Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan and Homer Bailey, which could further help to bolster the rotation results. Laurila also chats with Twins GM Thad Levine about managerial qualifications and Rangers skipper Jeff Banister about player development.
Though Shohei Ohtani has not even yet been officially posted — that’s expected as soon as Friday — the supreme young talent is drawing plenty of attention from MLB organizations. Those clubs received a memorandum over the weekend asking them to provide information to Ohtani and his representatives on a variety of subjects, which is only the beginning of a highly unusual and utterly fascinating recruitment process.
Here’s the latest:
- Though Ohtani is limited to a signing bonus and a minor league contract in coming to the Major Leagues, he stands to earn substantially more through marketing endorsements, tweets USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Marketing agents have predicted to Nightengale that between endorsements back in Japan and in the United States, Ohtani could command north of $20MM annually. That’d make him MLB’s highest-paid player in terms of off-the-field revenue.
- Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic spoke to agent Scott Boras (who was in the running to represent Ohtani before Ohtani signed CAA and Nez Balelo) as well as MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem about Ohtani’s earning capacity. Unsurprisingly, Boras offered sharp criticism of a system that won’t allow Ohtani to top a $3.535MM signing bonus at this point. “He is precocious, greatness cast adrift, forced into the MLB lifeboat,” said the always colorful Boras. “And his admission is handcuffs that prevent him from getting at least what his older, lesser valued peers received—in Tanaka’s case, more than $150 million.” Halem, as one would expect, wholly disagreed with Boras’ notions, pointing out that it was Ohtani who passed on the chance to sign with MLB clubs as an amateur out of high school, which could have jump-started his earning potential. And, it was Ohtani who asked to be posted as an amateur just two years before he could have been posted as a professional. The free column has quite a few quotes from both Boras and Halem on the matter and is well worth a full look.
The Reds announced on Monday that they’ve claimed left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett off waivers from the Indians. Crockett, 25, was designated for assignment in Cleveland last week as the team set its 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.
Crockett was a fourth-round pick back in 2013 and was the first player from that draft class to reach the Majors, debuting in 2014. While he turned in a promising 1.80 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 in 30 innings that season, he’s struggled to a 4.84 ERA with 8.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 35 1/3 big league innings since then. To his credit, Crockett has allowed just a minuscule three homers in 65 1/3 MLB innings and has held lefties to a .614 OPS in 167 plate appearances. Righties have knocked him around at a .280/.373/.452 clip, though.
The addition of Crockett fills Cincinnati’s 40-man roster.