- The Dodgers have signed left-hander Casey Crosby to a minor league contract, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. Thanks in part to injuries, the 31-year-old Crosby has only appeared in the majors in one season – back in 2012 – since the Tigers picked him in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. Crosby divided last year between the independent American Association and the Atlantic League, combining for 46 2/3 dominant innings in which he logged a 1.74 ERA with 14.5 K/9. However, the hard-throwing Crosby struggled with control, as his lofty walk rate of 6.6 per nine shows.
The latest from Chavez Ravine…
- The Dodgers have interest in Blake Treinen, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link). Treinen was non-tendered by the Athletics earlier this week in the wake of a rough 2019 season and a projected $7.8MM arbitration salary, though Treinen figures to get a lot of attention on the open market since he’s only a year removed from an all-world performance in 2018. The former A’s closer would be a particularly good fit for a Dodgers team that got somewhat shaky results from Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly last year.
- This offseason could be “the perfect storm” for the Andrew Friedman-led front office to finally splurge on a major free agent, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes (subscription required). While L.A. has been in the mix for several big names over the years, the Dodgers’ biggest expenditures under Friedman have come in the form of re-signing its own players to free agent contracts or extensions. With the likes of Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, or even Josh Donaldson (who is comparatively much less expensive than the first three) all available in free agency, and such talents as Francisco Lindor or Kris Bryant available in trades, Rosenthal feels “the only debate for the Dodgers should be over which superstar they should acquire.”
- Rosenthal’s piece an interesting companion to this what-if item from his Athletic colleague Andy McCullough, who looks back at everything that could have been different for the Dodgers if they had re-signed Zack Greinke in the 2015-16 offseason. It would’ve been another case of Friedman being willing to spend on a known quantity, as he had tabled a six-year offer worth close to $160MM to the free agent righty, only to be shocked when the Diamondbacks blew away expectations by offering Greinke $206.5MM over a six-year pact. “Had it been closer, I think it would have been a really difficult decision,” Friedman said about the opportunity to counter Arizona’s offer. “I’m not sure how things would have played out. But it was a pretty seismic gap.” The fallout of Greinke re-signing with Los Angeles would’ve been immense, though given how the club was able to re-invest that planned money into some other noteworthy players, it’s not a slam dunk that having Greinke would have meant a World Series title over the last four years.
The Yankees have already met this offseason with the top free agent available, Cy Young-caliber right-hander Gerrit Cole. It sounds as if their powwow went well, as the Yankees have a Cole signing atop their list of offseason priorities, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports. While the luxury tax has frequently been an issue for the Yankees since Hal Steinbrenner assumed ownership several years ago, it doesn’t look as if it’ll impede a potential Cole signing. The Yankees “have ownership-level approval to offer him a record-setting deal,” Passan writes.
Along with the Yankees, the Angels – who have been regarded as the favorite to sign Cole – as well as the Dodgers may be lining up for a Cole bidding war, suggests Passan. Offers haven’t come in yet, but the Yankees’ involvement could be an enormous boon for Cole. Even if he doesn’t sign with them, the financially powerful franchise has the money to further drive up bidding for Cole, who’s essentially a shoo-in to ink a contract worth far more than the record pact David Price signed with the Red Sox entering 2016 (seven years, $217MM).
The Yankees haven’t handed out a nine-figure contract in free agency since they added righty Masahiro Tanaka on a seven-year, $155MM payday going into 2014. However, the franchise clearly loves Cole, as it selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft (Cole went to UCLA instead, later becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the Pirates) and tried to trade for him a couple years ago. But the Astros outbid the Yankees for Cole before the 2018 season, and Houston eliminated New York from this fall’s ALCS with Cole’s help. The Yankees, however, have clearly seen enough of Cole dominating in other uniforms, and they look ready to strike now that he’s available in free agency.
The Yankees sent a notable contingent to meet with Cole and agent Scott Boras this week, per Passan, who names general manager Brian Cashman, skipper Aaron Boone, pitching coach Matt Blake and franchise icon Andy Pettitte as those who sat down with him. In the event the Yankees lose out on Cole, though, they haven’t ruled out going after longtime National and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, the No. 2 starter on the market. The Yankees have also met with Strasburg, another Boras client.
The Dodgers and Angels “have gotten face time” with free agent ace Gerrit Cole, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Those teams have long rated among the top theoretical possibilities for the California native.
Cole has recently been wooed in person by the Yankees, who’d like to roll out the red carpet for him in the Bronx. Sherman provides a detailed explanation of the organization’s approach — including his belief that Cole’s general predilection for the West Coast won’t prevent him from donning pinstripes.
It’s completely unsurprising to hear of the Halos’ involvement. The organization is desperate to get back to winning, has a glaring need for pitching and money to spend, and is now set to embark upon a new potential revenue source after agreeing to a deal with the city of Anaheim.
As for the Dodgers, they were already known to have held sit-downs with two other high-end free agents. Now, they’re at least a legitimate player on Cole, though the true interest level isn’t known. This level of investment is well within the organization’s financial capabilities but hasn’t really been part of its approach of late. The team has been willing to spend gobs of money on short-term arrangements. Whether it’ll approach Cole with such a scenario, providing an alternative to a lengthier term and greater overall guarantee, remains to be seen.
8:48pm: In addition to Rendon, the Dodgers have met with free-agent right-hander Stephen Strasburg, Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times reports. The Dodgers are currently set to lose Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill to free agency, and while they have internal options to replace them, adding Strasburg to the fold would represent a seismic upgrade to an already strong rotation mix.
Like Rendon, Strasburg can be reasonably expected to come with major luxury tax implications, as he’s viewed as a near-lock to secure a $30MM+ annual salary on the heels of perhaps his finest season. The former No. 1 overall pick led the National League with 209 innings and pitched to a 3.32 ERA with 10.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 51.1 percent ground-ball rate during the regular season, but it was the playoffs where he shined brightest.
In 36 1/3 postseason frames, Strasburg logged a 1.98 ERA with a ridiculous 47-to-4 K/BB ratio. He not only went toe-to-toe with eventual AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in a must-win Game 6 showdown but delivered a masterful, near-complete game effort that forever cemented him in Nationals lore.
The Dodgers would be hard-pressed to sign Strasburg and remain south of the luxury tax — particularly since their previous pursuits of premier free agents have tended to feature shorter-term pacts at extremely high annual rates. Just what type of deal the Dodgers envision putting in front of Strasburg and agent Scott Boras isn’t clear, but the current iteration of the L.A. front office, under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, has yet to dole out a contract longer than five years.
10:59am: Free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon has been actively engaged with multiple teams in free agency. In addition to a sit-down with the Rangers, he has held a recent meeting with the Dodgers, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney.
It seems that other teams may also have had face-time with Rendon and agent Scott Boras, though their identities aren’t known. Intense early interest is creating the potential for a fairly quick and dramatic strike, with some unnamed execs around the game telling Olney they expect Rendon to be the first major free agent to sign — and that his new deal “could establish a record for highest annual value.”
That last note represents the latest hint that Rendon won’t be chasing the largest deal in overall value, spread over a huge term, as did former teammate Bryce Harper. Instead, he seems to be intrigued by the possibility of a shorter, higher-AAV pact that leaves him with greater flexibility. No shortage of teams would prefer that sort of arrangement as well — including, especially, the big-market Dodgers, who don’t mind plunking down premium salaries but prefer not to tie their hands too far into the future.
We had already learned of the connection between the Los Angeles outfit and Rendon, so it isn’t especially surprising to hear that they’ve taken the next step. But it’s still quite a notable news item for both team and player. On the Dodgers’ side, dedicated pursuit of Rendon would reshape their roster and payroll, with huge implications for the remainder of the winter and beyond. And for Rendon, the strong involvement of the L.A. behemoth not only opens a potentially promising opportunity, but provides ample leverage in talks with other trade partners.
So, is it down to the Dodgers and Rangers? Not so fast. We haven’t yet learned whether the Nationals will remain involved after making multiple efforts to keep Rendon from reaching free agency; that’s a realistic possibility that certainly hasn’t been ruled out. And there are quite a few other contenders that seem like plausible fits for Rendon, even at the premium price tag he seems destined to command.
For a second consecutive offseason, the White Sox are showing some interest in Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, writes USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Last winter’s talks between the two sides (obviously) didn’t lead to a deal, but the Sox and Dodgers have once again “engaged in preliminary trade talks” surrounding Pederson, per the report.
Chicago’s need for a right fielder is evident just by looking up and down the roster, and GM Rick Hahn has clearly indicated that right field could be an area of focus this winter. Pederson would provide a short-term option for the Sox in that regard, as he’s entering his final season of club control and is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $8.5MM in 2020.
Pederson, 28 next April, hit .249/.339/.538 in 514 plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2019, belting a career-high 36 home runs along the way (although any home run totals from 2019 should be taken with a grain of salt, given the juiced ball and leaguewide home run boom). Both OPS+ and wRC+ regarded Pederson as 27 percent better than a league-average hitter — the third time in the past four years that he’s been to 25 to 28 percent better than average in the estimation of those park- and league-adjusted metrics. For a White Sox club that saw its right fielders post an astonishingly terrible .220/.277/.288 batting line in 2019, Pederson’s appeal isn’t hard to see.
That said, it’s also worth noting that Pederson has been used primarily as a platoon player, so he’s not exactly a cure-all to the White Sox’ ailments in right. The Dodgers afforded Pederson just 50 plate appearances against lefties in 2019, and in 375 career plate appearances against same-handed pitchers, he’s a .188/.263/.310 hitter. The Sox (or any other club) would surely need a right-handed-hitting complement for Pederson in 2020, but a part-time asset in that mold shouldn’t be too tough to unearth.
As for the Dodgers, their motivation for moving Pederson likely comes down to a potential outfield surplus. Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, A.J. Pollock, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez are all viable option in the outfield, and Matt Beaty also saw time in left field after spending most of his minor league career as a corner infielder. Outfielder Kyle Garlick made his MLB debut in 2019 as well.
That’s not to say that Pederson is purely expendable, but the Dodgers’ outfield depth is a clear source of strength. And with Pederson set to hit the open market in a year’s time, flipping him for some help in another area of need — the bullpen, perhaps — while freeing up additional dollars to spend in free agency could be a sensible pursuit. That’d be all the more true were the front office to succeed in signing one of Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson, both of whom are reported to be of interest. A successful pursuit of either premium third baseman could push Justin Turner to first or second base, crowding the right side of the infield and making Bellinger even likelier to spend all of his time in the outfield. (Alternatively, it could make Turner himself a trade candidate.)
Of course, the Dodgers have perhaps the deepest pockets of any club in baseball, so there’s an argument that they should simply keep Pederson, pick up an additional high-end talent or two, and operate with an unparalleled level of depth in spite of the cost. But that hasn’t been this front office or ownership group’s preferred course of action in recent years; the Dodgers haven’t paid the luxury tax since 2016 and are currently about $29MM shy of the $208MM luxury barrier, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource.
In terms of bottom-line results, 2019 was a strong year for Garcia – which is more than you can say for several other Dodgers relievers. The 29-year-old, a past Tommy John surgery patient, logged a 3.61 ERA with 9.53 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9 over 62 1/3 innings, though those numbers came with a minuscule 29.6 percent groundball rate and a 5.19 FIP/4.90 xFIP.
While Garcia’s 2019 output didn’t impress the Dodgers enough to keep him, it was his best full-season showing since 2015. He’ll now head into free agency as a potentially intriguing option for other clubs.
With tonight’s 8pm ET deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players looming, there’ll be several players who agree to one-year contracts for the 2020 season today. It’s common for the day of the non-tender deadline to be a big one for arbitration agreements, though it’s also worth noting that many of the players who agree to terms today will do so at a rate that’s lower than the salary figures projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Broadly speaking, players who agree to terms on a salary this far in advance tend to be those who were at risk of being non-tendered, and their teams are able to use tonight’s deadline as leverage in bringing about a deal that saves them a bit of cash. A look at some of the early instances of players agreeing to terms reveals this to be true already; Mike Zunino ($4.5MM salary vs. $4.9MM projection), Wilmer Difo ($1MM salary vs. $1.2MM projection) and Scott Alexander ($875K salary vs. $1MM projection) have all agreed to lesser terms rather than risk being cast out into the free-agent market.
We’ll keep track of today’s players who avoid arbitration in this post and update throughout the day…
- The Padres have a deal for $1.5MM with infielder Greg Garcia, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. That’s a shade under his $1.7MM projection for the 30-year-old.
- Infielder Orlando Arcia has avoided arbitration with the Brewers, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Though he’s set to lose some playing time, it seems Arcia will be expected to retain a notable role. He’s considered a talented defender at short and was long expected to come around with the bat, but it hasn’t happened yet.
- Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes is in agreement on a $1.1MM deal, per Robert Murray (Twitter link). It’s a guaranteed deal, which isn’t standard for arbitration pacts. Barnes had projected at $1.3MM on the heels of a disappointing season. It seems he’ll be asked to function as the club’s second backstop in 2020.
- The Rangers have a deal in place with right-hander Nick Goody, the club announced. He’ll earn $915K, according to MLB.com’s TR Sullivan (via Twitter). Goody projected to earn $1.1MM, so he’s taking a discount on that mark with his new club.
- Just-acquired righty Jharel Cotton has agreed to a $640K deal with the Cubs, Rosenthal tweets. Cotton had projected at $800K but he’s surely focused first and foremost on getting a significant MLB opportunity. He didn’t quite make it back to the majors in 2019 after a long injury layoff but figures to represent a swingman option for the Chicago club in 2020.
- Outfielder Alex Dickerson and lefty Wandy Peralta are in agreement with the Giants, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). Dickerson settled for $925K, which is well under his $1.2MM projected earning power. The 29-year-old has had trouble staying healthy but usually hits when he is on the field. He rewarded the San Francisco organization for taking a shot on him last year by turning in a .290/.351/.529 batting line in 171 plate appearances. As for Peralta, he lands right at his projected value with a $805K salary. The 28-year-old was claimed off waivers late in the 2019 season.
- The White Sox and James McCann avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $5.4MM, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Passan. McCann’s deal checks in a half million dollars north of his $4.9MM projection. Chicago’s addition of Yasmani Grandal has likely relegated McCann to backup duties, so he’ll be a rather expensive second catcher for the South Siders. A free agent next winter, McCann hit .273/.328/.460 with a career-high 18 home runs, but his bat went dormant in the season’s final few months and his .359 BABIP seems particularly ripe for regression.
- The Athletics avoided arbitration with left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.8MM, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. That salary effectively puts McFarland in line for the same salary he’d have received had he had his $1.85MM club option exercised by the Diamondbacks. Arizona, however, bought him out for $50K and then ran him through waivers, at which point the A’s claimed him. The 30-year-old posted a 4.82 ERA with a middling 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 56 2/3 innings this past season, but he’s a ground-ball behemoth (61.1 percent). He’ll be a free agent next winter and had been projected at $2.1MM.
- Infielder Ehire Adrianza and the Twins agreed on a $1.6MM salary for the upcoming season, Nightengale tweets. The versatile utilityman hit .272/.349/.416 in 236 plate appearances while appearing at all four infield spots and both outfield corners. Adrianza, a free agent next winter, was projected at $1.9MM.
- Outfielder Travis Jankowski agreed to a rare arbitration pay cut with the Reds, Bobby Nightengale Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. After earning $1.165MM in 2019, he’ll be owed $1.05MM in 2020 if he makes the club. A fractured wrist cost him much of the season in 2019, and he was just 4-for-22 when healthy and in the Majors. Jankowski did have a nice season in Triple-A, though (.393 OBP in 39 games), and the Reds gave up some international funds to acquire him, which seemingly indicated that they planned to tender him a contract. He was projected to earn $1.2MM.
The Dodgers have agreed to terms with left-hander Scott Alexander on a one-year, $875K contract to avoid arbitration, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Alexander falls a bit shy of his $1MM projected salary.
The 30-year-old looked like a potential non-tender candidate, perhaps explaining his decision to settle for slightly less than expected. An integral part of the Los Angeles bullpen in 2018, Alexander was limited to just 28 games last season, none after June 5. Alexander suffered a season-ending forearm issue in his throwing arm, which culminated in surgery to relieve nerve irritation in September.
Alexander’s time in LA has been a bit of a mixed bag. Over the past two years, he’s given the Dodgers 83.1 innings with a 3.67 ERA and mediocre strikeout (18.9%) and walk (9.9%) rates. Alexander’s an elite ground-ball specialist, though. His 68.5% ground ball rate the past two seasons trails only Zack Britton among still-active pitchers (minimum 50 innings). The former sixth-round pick turned those worm-burners into stellar results with the 2017 Royals, spurring the Dodgers to part with fairly well-regarded pitching prospect Trevor Oaks to bring Alexander aboard.
Predictably, Alexander has been a bit better retiring lefties (.250/316/.328) than righties (.253/.325/.363) over the course of his career. The Dodgers already have Adam Kolarek on hand as a more extreme lefty specialist, although the three-batter minimum rule likely to be instituted in 2020 could adversely affect both hurlers.
Today’s news doesn’t cement Alexander’s status with the Dodgers. Arbitration salaries don’t become fully guaranteed until the start of the regular season, so LA could yet choose to part ways later on at minimal cost. Alexander will, though, at least keep his 40-man roster spot for the time being. If he sticks on the roster for the winter, he comes with two option years, giving the Dodgers some coveted flexibility.
- The Dodgers have re-signed catcher Rocky Gale to a minor league contract, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com tweets. The 31-year-old Gale, a 24th-round pick of the Padres in 2010, has barely factored into the equation in the majors thus far. Gale has totaled a meager 37 plate appearances at the game’s highest level, including 15 with the Dodgers last season. But Gale does own plenty of experience at the Triple-A level, where he has amassed 1,784 trips to the plate. He’s a .279/.316/.359 hitter in Triple-A ball.