With Dexter Fowler and Yovani Gallardo off the board, you might have expected the Lukewarm Stove to slow down a bit as Spring Training got underway. You might have, but somehow we’re still cranking along and there’s plenty to discuss. Among those items, we have restructured deals, failed three-way trades, two of the bigger, remaining free agents and large contract extensions for aging sluggers.
“Okay”, you’re probably thinking, “stop telling us about it and tell us about it!”
Fine, here’s some rumors from around the league …
- Having originally agreed to a three-year $35 million deal, the Baltimore Orioles will now be restructuring their deal with free agent starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. A physical exam earlier this week revealed a shoulder issue that was cause for concern. So, the Orioles insisted on changing the terms, and Gallardo basically had no choice but to agree (there wasn’t exactly a booming market for Gallardo before the Orioles essentially announced an issue with his medicals to the world).
- The new contract pays Gallardo $20 million over the first two years and comes with a third year, team option for $13 million ($2M buyout) in 2018. So, in the end, Gallardo goes from a guaranteed $35 million to just a guaranteed $22 million. And, while your mouth might be watering at the chance of getting any millions, that is a still a rather significant pay cut for Gallardo, and – right or wrong – it reflects poorly on him and the Orioles – who have a history of such activities.
- With Dexter Fowler and Yovani Gallardo signing with the Orioles, one of the last big(ish) name free agents on the market is outfielder Austin Jackson. Jackson, you’ll recall, has been loosely tied to the Cubs this offseason, but is presumed able to find a starting job elsewhere. One of those starting jobs was supposed to be with the Cleveland Indians, but, as luck would have it, they are tapped out on payroll. So unless the “Indians win the lotto,” Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com puts it, “they’re not in the running for the veteran center fielder.”
- For a while this offseason I assumed Fowler was the sure-fire choice over Austin Jackson, but after digging into both of their numbers, I’m not so sure:
Since 2010, Dexter Fowler: 12.2 fWAR, Austin Jackson: 18.1. Jackson is also 11 months younger… Maybe he is the way to go.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) February 23, 2016
- WAR is just one, imprecise stat that can’t be the end of the conversation, but it is an interesting starting point. After going a little deeper, it’s not as one sided as you might think. Sure, Fowler has been the more consistent hitter over that stretch, but Jackson has a similar strikeout rate, a better batting average, and better batted ball data (his medium and hard hit% are both greater than Fowler’s). At almost a full year younger with (statistically) far better defense in center field, and with a draft pick attached to Fowler but not Jackson, I’m still not convinced you take Fowler over Jackson so easily – especially if you are the Cubs, who are looking for a more defensively inclined centerfielder. [Brett: This is an interesting line of discussion not previously explored, but it’s worth pointing out that Fowler was clearly the superior player in 2015, and also has the WAR lead – 6.8 to 6.2 – over the past three years.]
- On Tuesday, we learned that Charles Hairston – former MLB agent for 16 year-old Cuban prospect Lazarito – ended his representation due to an alleged death threat from Lazarito’s handler. He went on to comment that this “investor” was withholding Lazarito’s (and his family’s) travel documents, until he presumably received whatever he was after. In a response, on Wednesday, Lazarito and his family when on a conference call with FOX Sports to share their side of the story and claim they are in “absolute control” of their travel documents and Lazarito’s ultimate decision.
- Hairston and his agency believe that Lazarito’s investor (who will no doubt get some portion of his future salary – up to 25% for these types of deals has been reported in the past) are working to steer the young athlete towards a particular club. For whatever it’s worth, Hairston recently stated, “If we weren’t threatened or fired, why on Earth would we step aside from the best prospect in the world? That just doesn’t make any sense.” This is obviously a very sensitive, obfuscated story. Tread lightly with your assumptions.
- Ian Desmond, one of MLB’s best-hitting shortstops – still hasn’t found a job yet and Barry Svrluga (Washington Post) blames the qualifying offer. Although Desmond was fairly excellent from 2012-2014, 2015 was not the best year at the plate for the 30-year-old. In 641 plate appearances, he slashed .233/.290/.384. And, while his 19 home runs last season are swell, his overall production cannot support a 30% strike out rate and 7.0% walk rate. His 83 wRC+ and .294 wOBA was 10th and 11th best respectively, among qualified shortstops in 2015.
- Earlier this week, we got reports that the Reds were working on a three way trade with the Blue Jays and Angels, which would have sent Bruce to Toronto, Michael Saunders to Anaheim and prospects to Cincinnati. However, that deal has since fallen through (due to non-Bruce related medicals) and does not look like it will be rekindled. BUT, that doesn’t mean a different deal won’t get done:
#Reds would like to move Jay Bruce in the next week, source says. After that, odds increase that he'll start season in Cincinnati.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) February 24, 2016
- So, according to Jerry Crasnick, the Reds are still looking to move Bruce and the $12.5 million he’s owed in 2016. If they cannot get a deal done before Spring Training games start, though, they may be better served waiting until the deadline. Bruce does have a club option for $13 million in 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
- Have you been following this story? It’s a fun one: Slugger Jose Bautista, whose $14 million 2016 option was just exercised by the Blue Jays, is reportedly seeking a five year/$150 million deal to extend his contract beyond the 2016 season. Bautista is an excellent player – slashing .250/.377/.536 with 40 HRs and a walk rate (16.5%) greater than his strikeout rate (15.9%) in 2015 – but he is 35 years old and committing that much money for someone’s ages 36-40 seasons might not be advisable. Well, don’t worry. Those rumored contract thresholds weren’t actually accurate … they’re too low:
Bautista reported ask of $150M, 5 yrs is indeed not exactly accurate, as Joey Bats said. At least years and total $ r MORE.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 24, 2016
- Don’t get me wrong, Bautista hasn’t suddenly become a fourth outfielder worth a marginal contract – I think he still has plenty of baseball in him – but going more than 5 years and $150 million on a 36-year-old slugger just doesn’t strike me as the right move. Still, get paid if you can, my man.
- Something to watch:
There is an issue with Matt Cain. He is not throwing today as planned, and the team expects to provide an update later today. #sfgiants
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) February 25, 2016
lincecum/giants reunion not impossible https://t.co/ML86YcCEXE
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 25, 2016
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.