Archive for November, 2016

Terry Ryan Hired as Phillies Special Assignment Scout: Latest Details, Reaction

Terry Ryan needed only five months to find a new job, with the Philadelphia Phillies hiring the former general manager as a special assignment scout. 

The Phillies announced Ryan’s hiring in a press release on their official website. 

“I have known Terry for more than a decade and have enormous respect for all that he accomplished during his tenure with the Twins,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in the release. “Terry’s work ethic, loyalty and track record as a talent evaluator are simply unparalleled in our game.”

Ryan previously worked with the Minnesota Twins, serving 19 years as general manager in two different stints from 1994 to 2007 and 2012 to 2016. He helped lead the franchise to four American League Central titles between 2002 and 2006, including an appearance in the American League Championship Series in 2002. 

The Twins became one of the American League’s worst teams since 2011, losing at least 92 games five times in the previous six seasons. The team fired Ryan in July due to a reported disagreement with owner Jim Pohlad over how to go about improving the club, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.

The role of a special assignment scout can vary depending on the team. Typically, he will be used as one of the last channels of communication to a general manager before the GM decides to make a talent acquisition. 

Even though things fell apart with the Twins, Ryan did oversee a front office that led to the franchise having the best farm system in MLB before the 2014 season, with talent like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano among the top prospects. 

The Phillies are still in rebuilding mode with a promising farm system that will likely start to pay dividends as soon as 2017. Adding another sharp scouting mind to the mix like Ryan will ensure the talent pipeline in Philadelphia continues to stay strong. 

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Andrew McCutchen Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Pirates Star

With the Pittsburgh Pirates facing an uncertain future after a disappointing 2016 season, the likelihood that Andrew McCutchen will be traded seems to be increasing.

Continue for updates.

Pirates Exploring McCutchen Deal

Saturday, Dec. 3

A member of the Pirates organization said the team “doesn’t feel compelled to move McCutchen if the price isn’t right,” per Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.

On Nov. 30, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports noted that McCutchen’s likelihood of playing in Pittsburgh next season is “dwindling.” Passan also reported the Pirates have been the aggressors in the McCutchen trade talks.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Nov. 30 that the Texas Rangers are a potential option for McCutchen and that the Pirates are talking to other clubs as well.

Nationals Pushing Hard to Land McCutchen

Saturday, Dec. 3

The Washington Nationals remain in talks with the Pirates regarding McCutchen, per Rosenthal.

Jayson Stark of reported Thursday the Pirates and Nationals “have ramped up” talks about McCutchen, noting the Nationals “would like to make this deal today” given the “ripple effect of trading for McCutchen would likely be a move to nontender shortstop Danny Espinosa before tomorrow’s tender date.”

Rosenthal also reported Thursday the Pirates are “targeting” minor league outfielder Victor Robles in talks. Rosenthal added the Nationals have several starting pitching prospects who are almost ready for the majors and that the Pirates would presumably want one of those pitchers in addition to Robles. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Stephen J. Nesbitt reported Friday morning the Pirates were “breaking down video of Nats prospects.”

On Wednesday, Rosenthal reported the Pirates were still exploring potential deals involving McCutchen and that the Nationals were among the clubs showing interest.

The Nationals could be an easy fit as a trade partner with the Pirates. Rosenthal reported earlier this month the two teams discussed a blockbuster deal at the trade deadline in July that would have sent McCutchen to Washington, but it fell apart because of the vast number of moving parts. 

Those previous discussions at least gave the Pirates a reason to study Washington’s farm system.

McCutchen Coming Off Down Year in 2016

McCutchen is a strong buy-low trade candidate this offseason. He is coming off the worst year of his career, with a .256/.336/.430 slash line and the lowest FanGraphs WAR (0.7) among all center fielders who qualified for the batting title.

Now that he’s 30 years old and likely not a viable option in center anymore after putting up an MLB-worst minus-28 defensive runs saved in 2016, his $14 million salary is an albatross for the small-market Pirates.

McCutchen has been a fantastic ambassador for the Pirates and Major League Baseball since he debuted in 2009, but the team has to focus on its long-term outlook.

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Curtis Granderson Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation Surrounding Mets OF

New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson is generating trade interest as the organization works to clear out an outfield logjam during the offseason.

Continue for updates.

Orioles Reportedly Have Interest in Granderson

Thursday, Dec. 1

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported the Baltimore Orioles “seem to have interest” in Granderson but “not really” Jay Bruce.

Mets Open to Trading Granderson for Right Price

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Marc Carig of Newsday reported Wednesday that Granderson is the asset generating the most discussion among other teams after speculation that Bruce would be the one moved. He noted the Mets are open to dealing either player depending on the return package.

Cespedes Deal Could Spell End of Granderson in New York

New York reached an agreement to re-sign prized free agent Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday. Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that it’s a four-year, $110 million deal that comes with a full no-trade clause and that it will be officially announced once he completes a physical.

While it’s a massive step toward a successful offseason for the 2015 National League champions, it also leaves an overabundance of outfielders for three spots. Along with Cespedes, the Mets also have Granderson, Bruce, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares.

Given the massive contract handed out Tuesday, it’s no surprise the front office would want to move one of the other high-priced options to create some financial wiggle room.

Spotrac noted that Granderson is set to make $15 million in 2017 and that Bruce is pegged at $13 million. Both players will also be playing the final years of their current deals.

Granderson is coming off another solid season in New York. The 35-year-old slugger smacked 30 home runs in 150 games to go along with a .335 on-base percentage and 88 runs scored. He’s no longer the speed threat he was in his prime, but he’s become a reliable power producer.

Maria Guardado of passed along comments the veteran made earlier in November about the possibility of getting traded before next season.

“No reason to think about it,” Granderson said. “I just got to go ahead and take it one day at a time. I’ve been in rumors before that never panned out, so unless something absolutely happens, there’s no reason to think about it.”

Heyman reported the Toronto Blue Jays are one possible landing spot if the outfielder does end up getting moved:

The Mets don’t have a ton of areas that they need to improve, but they could still look to upgrade at catcher, where Travis d’Arnaud is the projected starter, and in the bullpen.

Perhaps a proven reliever and a mid-range prospect or two could get the Granderson deal done while helping save the team some money.


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Matt Joyce to Athletics: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Outfielder Matt Joyce found a new home Wednesday, as he signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the Oakland Athletics

The team announced the move after Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report the deal.

Joyce, 32, hit .242 with 13 home runs, 45 runs and 42 RBI in 140 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2016 season. It was his sixth season with at least 10 or more homers, though his batting average matched his mediocre lifetime average of .242.

That said, Joyce posted an excellent .403 on-base percentage and struck out just 67 times in 231 at-bats. In turn, he was fantastic for the Pirates as the team’s fourth outfielder, making him a valuable addition to Oakland’s depth.

And if Joyce continues to produce like he did in limited plate appearances in 2016, he may just earn himself a steadier dose of playing time.

The A’s have long embraced the Moneyball system under general manager Billy Beane, and the fact that Joyce registered a career-best OBP in 2016 likely endeared him to the organization.

Certainly, there will be concerns that Joyce could sink back to his 2015 form, which saw him hit just .174 with five homers and 21 RBI in 93 games with the Los Angeles Angels. But Joyce appeared to make significant changes to his approach at the plate in 2016, and it paid major dividends.

Now, Oakland will be hoping to cash in on those alterations.

Joyce is far removed from the career season he put up with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, when he hit .277 with 19 home runs and 75 RBI en route to his first and only All-Star nod, but he seemingly fits what the Athletics are trying to do at a reasonable price.

Although Joyce isn’t likely to put up huge numbers, he should provide an upgrade to an outfield that lacked in terms of production and experience outside of Khris Davis in 2016.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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2017 MLB Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions for Dexter Fowler, Rich Hill and More

Slowly but surely, the free-agent dominoes are beginning to fall around Major League Baseball. It should make for an intriguing December as the marquee names still available make their decisions about where to play in 2017 and beyond.

As always, there are some eye-popping numbers being thrown around during the early stages of the offseason. But that’s all part of the roster-building process. Sometimes front offices are forced to overpay a bit in order to fill a void on their rosters with a coveted target.

That’s a trend likely to continue for at least another month before some reasonable value may finally begin to emerge after the new year. For now, let’s take a closer look at some of the latest buzz surrounding notable names still on the market.


Dexter Fowler Heading North of the Border?

Dexter Fowler made a last-minute decision to rejoin the Chicago Cubs last offseason. The decision paid off in a massive way as he helped the organization win its first World Series title in 108 years. Now he’s back in free agency and should command a lucrative, long-term deal.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported the Toronto Blue Jays have emerged as a top contender for the outfielder given their likelihood of losing Jose Bautista. It’s noted the longtime center fielder would likely slide over to a corner spot to accommodate defensive wizard Kevin Pillar in center.

More importantly, Fowler would give the Jays somebody to consistently get on base atop the lineup. He posted a .393 on-base percentage last season. That’s 60 points better than the .333 mark accumulated by the various players who filled the leadoff role in Toronto in 2016, per ESPN.

Those numbers show why swapping Fowler for Bautista is an ideal move. The Jays desperately need somebody to set the table for the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and Kendrys Morales. They should have enough power even without Joey Bats.

Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM previously pointed out Fowler’s camp is seeking a four-year contract, which is a reasonable demand for a 30-year-old player still in his prime. Other teams will likely make a push, but Toronto feels like the best fit.

Prediction: Blue Jays


Rich Hill Market Heating Up

Rich Hill was one of the league’s most overlooked pitchers in 2016. The 36-year-old lefty posted a 2.12 ERA and 1.00 WHIP across 20 starts with the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers. He also struck out 129 batters in 110.1 innings.

What makes him unique is that he posts those terrific strikeout numbers without the benefit of an upper-90s fastball like so many other starters in the current era. Instead, he relies on a wipeout curveball he threw 42.4 percent of the time this past season, according to FanGraphs.

Jim Bowden of ESPN reported there are currently four teams highly involved in the sweepstakes: the Dodgers, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. He also listed the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles as other teams keeping tabs on the situation.

That’s an awesome list for Hill from a financial perspective. Whenever the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox are all involved, the player’s leverage is through the roof and, in this case, it should ensure the aging starter is able to land at least one more high-dollar contract.

That said, don’t sleep on Houston. The Astros should be able to compete with those big-spending franchises since it should be a short-term deal. And Hill is the perfect pitcher to bolster an already-promising roster by adding some depth to the rotation.

Prediction: Astros


Edwin Encarnacion Generating Ample AL Interest

Edwin Encarnacion is one of the most reliable power producers in baseball, but it has nothing to do with playing in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. Over the past three seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger hit 57 homers at home and 58 on the road, so his pop clearly travels.

While his power presence can upgrade any lineup, his defense is a concern. FanGraphs noted he’s racked up minus-17 defensive runs saved at first base and a minus-52 DRS mark at third, though he hasn’t played there since 2013 and probably won’t shift back across the diamond.

The market for his services reflects those two sets of numbers. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported the teams most active in pursuit of the slugger are the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers and Astros—a similar group to those interested in Hill.

While he’s still likely to play some first base regardless of his landing spot, the team’s defense should improve the more time he spends at designated hitter. That’s the main reason for almost exclusive interest from the American League, even though plenty of National League teams could use his bat, too.

No team has a bigger void to fill at DH than Boston following the retirement of David Ortiz. It’s created a logical link between Encarnacion and the Red Sox for quite a while now, and it still feels like that’s where he’ll end up despite the competition.

Prediction: Red Sox


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MLB Rumors: Trade Buzz on J.D. Martinez, Josh Harrison and More

Major League Baseball’s hot-stove season is supposed to be heating up, but unfortunately, the looming specter of a lockout if a new collective bargaining agreement can’t be reached before the current one expires on December 1 has given the offseason a sense of dread. 

While no one wants a lockout, the good news is that even if one happens now, there will be three months to get a labor agreement done before teams report to spring training in February. 

The downside is the lockout could make teams and players reluctant to conduct business until they know what any changes to the salary structure might look like. There’s been nothing to suggest any kind of significant change, but negotiations are difficult to predict. 

Since there are still rumblings about teams wanting to do things, let’s look at what some of their plans look like with winter meetings set to start on December 4. 


J.D. Martinez’s Future

The Detroit Tigers might be the most fascinating team to watch this offseason because general manager Al Avila said earlier this offseason that the “organization has been working way above its means for some time,” per’s Jason Beck

There have been diminishing returns for the Tigers since reaching the playoffs in 2014, though they were in wild-card contention this season until the final day. 

Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Tigers have $179 million committed to 11 players next season. This is not a smart or effective use of resources, making Avila’s desire to cut back on spending necessary so they avoid completely bottoming out in the next year or two. 

Trades become a problem for the Tigers because while players like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are terrific right now, they are signed through 2023 and 2019, respectively. Cabrera will be 39 in the final guaranteed year of his deal, while Verlander will be 36. 

J.D. Martinez is easily Detroit’s most valuable trade asset because he’s young (29) and signed to an affordable contract that runs for only one more season. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports noted that the New York Mets had some interest in Martinez as a backup plan if they couldn’t work out a deal with Yoenis Cespedes

On Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Cespedes was returning to the Mets. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that Cespedes‘ new deal is for $110 million over four years. 

That leaves Martinez’s trade status once again up in the air, though Heyman also noted that the San Francisco Giants have been linked to him and that a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers could be a fit. 

Martinez had an outstanding 2016 season with a .307/.373/.535 slash line. The only downside was that he missed 42 games with a fractured elbow.

In a free-agent market with few power hitters of substance—Mark Trumbo has 40-homer power, but his .316 on-base percentage last season isn’t inspiring—Martinez’s trade value will likely never be higher. 

Even though the Tigers aren’t yet at a point where they need to tear the whole thing down and start over, they can’t afford to wait much longer to start making deals. 

Martinez should be the first big domino to fall for the Tigers at some point this winter to help restock the farm system. 


Pirates Listening on Josh Harrison

When trade discussions about the Pittsburgh Pirates come up this offseason, they typically involve what the team will do with Andrew McCutchen.

But Rosenthal reported that versatile utility player Josh Harrison is another player the Pirates will listen to offers for this winter.

There were no concrete scenarios listed in which the Pirates would deal Harrison. It’s just a case of the team being open to anything and everything. 

Harrison has been a solid performer over the past three seasons, posting a .296/.329/.426 slash line and 8.9 wins above replacement, per

The Pirates could run into some problems trying to trade Harrison, with Rosenthal noting that other teams would likely prefer Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers or Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins if they are going to deal for a second baseman. 

The Pirates spent a franchise-record $99 million on payroll in 2016, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, but managed only 78 wins because of a combination of injuries and poor performances from key contributors like McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. 

There is still hope for next season because Jameson Taillon looked effective as a rookie. Gregory Polanco turned in a strong year, and Starling Marte continues to be one of the best all-around players in MLB. 

The National League Central figures to be controlled by the Chicago Cubs for a long time, but if Cole and McCutchen return to form in 2017, the Pirates could challenge for a wild-card spot. 

Harrison is under control through at least 2018, with two team options in 2019 and 2020. Pittsburgh doesn’t need to actively pursue moving him at this point, but as a small-market franchise, it can’t dismiss anything at any point. 


Arizona’s Pitching Surplus

New Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen is wasting no time in reshaping the roster after acquiring Taijuan Walker as part of a five-player deal with the Seattle Mariners. 

After the team added Walker to the starting rotation, Rosenthal reported that the Diamondbacks anticipate plenty of trade discussions with other teams involving their young crop of arms. 

Walker, Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin, Shelby Miller and Robbie Ray certainly possess youth. Corbin is the oldest in that group at 27 years old, and he won’t hit free agency until after the 2018 season. 

Finding the right deal becomes the key for the Diamondbacks, though no one knows exactly how Hazen views any of those players. Trading Miller when his value has never been lower wouldn’t make sense unless the new regime believes he can’t succeed there and needs a change of scenery. 

Corbin had the worst season of his career in 2016 with a 5.15 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Bradley is only two years removed from being one of MLB’s top 10 prospects, though his inability to consistently throw strikes (89 walks in 177.1 career innings) isn’t inspiring confidence. 

The Diamondbacks still have plenty of talent to believe they can challenge for a playoff spot next season if things fall into place.

Zack Greinke might be a more sensible trade option for the team by virtue of his $34 million salary, per, but there aren’t many clubs that can afford to take on that much money. 

A full, healthy year from A.J. Pollock gives the Diamondbacks more depth in the lineup to put with Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury

Given the state of things in Arizona thanks to the previous regime, Hazen is in the difficult position of trying to assess where his team is at right now and how quickly it can be fixed.

Hazen came from a situation with the Boston Red Sox where money was rarely an object, but the team always seemed to churn out stars from the farm system, especially in the last few years with players like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi

A lot of mistakes were made in the desert under Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa. Hazen may not always make the biggest splash, but he knows how to help construct a team that can challenge for the playoffs. 

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1 Realistic Free-Agent Signing to Fix All 30 MLB Teams’ Biggest Remaining Issue

With the winter meetings set to kick off next week (barring a work stoppage) and myriad action already taking place this offseason, the MLB offseason is undoubtedly in full swing with the month of December now just around the corner.

A number of teams have already made significant additions to better position themselves for the season ahead, but all 30 clubs still have at least one glaring hole to fill between now and the start of spring training.

So with that in mind, what follows is a look at one realistic free-agent signing that each team could make to fix the biggest remaining issue on the roster.

Begin Slideshow

How Early 2016-17 MLB Offseason Moves Have Changed Market Landscape

Four weeks after the Chicago Cubs bested the Cleveland Indians in seven games to clinch their first World Series crown in more than a century, the MLB landscape has seen a number of changes.

Brian McCann and Josh Reddick are now members of the Houston Astros. Taijuan Walker is no longer part of Seattle’s rotation, having been shipped off to Arizona in a deal that bought infielder Jean Segura to the Pacific Northwest.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Yoenis Cespedes, baseball’s most sought-after free agent, has reportedly decided to stay put in New York and re-sign with the Mets, as Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported on Twitter.

Nearly every move that’s been made thus far has had some sort of impact on the landscape of the offseason market. Some, like Cespedes re-signing, have had a bigger impact than others. How have things changed?

Let’s take a look.


The Corner Outfield Market Remains Crowded

As one slugging corner outfielder comes off the board, another one hits the market. With Cespedes sticking around Citi Field, Jay Bruce, whom New York acquired from Cincinnati as an insurance policy against the Cuban-born slugger departing, has now become expendable.

And it hasn’t taken long for teams in need of outfield help to notice.

That’s not good news for former Blue Jay Jose Bautista, arguably the best free-agent corner outfielder left on the market.

If you were the general manager of a team in need of a corner outfielder, would you rather trade some mid-level prospects for one year of Bruce, who is due $13.5 million in his age-30 season, or make a longer, more expensive commitment to Bautista, who will be entering his age-36 campaign?

And it doesn’t stop with Bautista. Colby Rasmus, Michael Saunders and Mark Trumbo, he of the MLB-leading 47 home runs, could all find themselves knocked down a peg or two on the wish lists of teams looking for an outfielder due to Bruce joining the market.


It’s Not Such a Great Winter to Be a Free-Agent Starter

‘Member Chewbacca? I mean, remember the notion that halfway decent starting pitchers were going to wind up being overpaid this winter due to the lack of quality free-agent options available? We can toss that notion aside, for things simply haven’t played out that way.

Consider the deals that these four veteran hurlers have inked:

That works out to a combined five-year, $52 million deal—$18 million less than it cost Kansas City to sign Ian Kennedy last winter when the likes of Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke and David Price led a deep class of free-agent starters.

So while four teams are “in full pursuit” of Rich Hill, the best starter remaining on the open market, according to’s Jim Bowden, the injury-prone 36-year-old isn’t likely to spark a massive bidding war. That’s especially true when there are still plenty of options potentially available via trades.

Aside from Arizona’s stockpile of arms, Chicago’s Jose Quintana and Chris Sale, Oakland’s Sonny Gray, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Tampa Bay’s stash of starters, including Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, could all find themselves on the move before Opening Day.

That’s only going to further limit the earning power of the free-agent starters still on the market—and increase the return teams with quality pitching to spare can expect to receive in a swap.


Relief Pitching Is More Expensive Than Anticipated

With all due respect to Brett Cecil, it’s hard not to look at the four-year, $30.5 million deal he got from the St. Louis Cardinals as something of an overpay. 

After all, Cecil isn’t a closer and is coming off his worst season since becoming a full-time reliever, pitching to a 3.93 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 36.2 innings of work for Toronto. 

If Cecil is worth that much, then what are setup men with significant closing experience going to command?

Take 28-year-old Neftali Feliz, who put up similar numbers to Cecil’s last season in Pittsburgh (3.52 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 53.2 IP) as an example. Not only is he two years younger than Cecil, but he’s got nearly 100 saves under his belt, having been named an All-Star and the American League Rookie of the Year as Texas’ closer in 2010.

It’s hard to argue that he’s not worth more than Cecil.

What about actual closers? It’s been a foregone conclusion for months that the elite options available—Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon—would all shatter Jonathan Papelbon’s record for a free-agent closer (four years, $50 million).

Could one (or more) of them double Papelbon’s pact? If nothing else, Cecil’s deal makes it just a bit harder to discount the notion of a nine-figure closer.


Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of

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Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander Facing Uncertain Tigers Futures for 1st Time

They were two of the biggest stars in baseball, and the Detroit Tigers ensured they didn’t get away.

“I want to finish my career here,” Miguel Cabrera told reporters when he signed an eight-year, $248 million deal in the spring of 2014.

“Once we started contract talks, I wanted to stay in Detroit, and I wasn’t shy about saying that,” Justin Verlander told reporters after signing a seven-year, $180 million deal a year earlier. “I think it all worked out.”

Or did it?

The Tigers spent a decade winning around Cabrera and Verlander, teaming one of the game’s most feared hitters with one of the most dominant pitchers. But in the three years since Cabrera re-signed, they haven’t won a single postseason game. They’re now determined to reduce a payroll that approached $200 million in 2016 and to renew a talent base that had aged to the point they’ve been considered a franchise in decline.

During general manager Al Avila’s end-of-season press conference in October, he acknowledged changes were coming, telling reporters, “I can’t call it a rebuild because we haven’t broken anything down. So, no, I’m not comfortable with the word rebuild. I’ve read retool, I don’t know if that’s the right term. I don’t know if there’s a term for what I want to do here.”

And now the question of the winter, in Detroit and elsewhere, is whether the Tigers would trade one or both of their biggest stars.

“I think they would,” said one American League executive who has talked with the Tigers. “There’s a big difference between them and the White Sox. The White Sox would have to get a ton to trade [Chris] Sale, and even then, their owner might not really want to do it. The Tigers are looking for value, but I think they would like to make a trade.”

Before you start panicking (Tigers fans) or plotting ways to put Verlander in your rotation and Cabrera in your lineup (everyone else), understand that a willingness to make a deal won’t necessarily lead to one. Even a desire to make a deal wouldn’t mean Cabrera and Verlander are done in Detroit.‘s Jim Bowden recently put the chances of a Verlander deal at 20 percent and the chances of a Cabrera trade at 10 percent.

“I’d say 20 percent might be about right for Verlander,” said an American League executive who has spoken with Tigers decision-makers. “But it’s probably 5 percent at best for Miguel.”

Verlander would be easier to trade, partly because everyone needs pitching and partly because just three years and $84 million remain guaranteed on his contract. Cabrera likely could only go to an American League team that can eventually use him as a designated hitter, and only to a team that can absorb the guaranteed seven years and $220 million he has left.

Even at those long odds, it’s a bit of a shock to see the Tigers reach this point.

They’ve been pushing for a World Series title since 2006, Jim Leyland’s first season with the club and the year Verlander was the American League Rookie of the Year. Cabrera arrived after 2007 in a blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins, and the Tigers won four straight American League Central titles from 2011 to 2014, advancing to the ALCS three straight years and to the World Series in 2012.

Verlander was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011. Cabrera won the same award the next two years.

The Tigers were big spenders and big winners, and if they had to go over budget to get or keep a star, there was always a decent chance owner Mike Ilitch would OK it (or even push to make the deal himself). Ilitch was super competitive—everyone knew—and he was also aging and running out of time to win the World Series he craved.

He’s 87 now, and he still hasn’t added a World Series title to the four Stanley Cups he won with the Detroit Red Wings. But rather than chase this winter’s free-agent stars, as Ilitch did when the Tigers signed Justin Upton in an ill-advised deal last January, he and the Tigers have chosen a different path.

The payroll, they say, is going down. They say it doesn’t need to drop too much, at least not right away. They definitely want to drop below the threshold for paying luxury tax, whatever that turns out to be once Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

They don’t want to tear it all down and start over, as the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs did successfully and as other teams have copied. They want to keep competing as they build for the future, as the New York Yankees are trying to do.

The Tigers have already traded outfielder Cameron Maybin, who had a $9 million option for 2017. They’ve discussed deals for second baseman Ian Kinsler ($11 million in 2017), outfielder J.D. Martinez ($11.75 million) and designated hitter Victor Martinez ($18 million), officials say.

But none of those would be the franchise-altering trade that a Cabrera or Verlander deal would be.

None of them would change the Tigers’ future, short term and long term, the way moving one or both superstars could.

No other players could bring as much back in return. No other players could open up future budgets as much.

Cabrera’s contract pays him $28 million in 2017, $30 million a year for the four years after that, and $32 million in 2022 and 2023, when he’ll turn 40 (with two options and an $8 million buyout). Verlander also makes $28 million next year, with two more years at $28 million and a vesting-option year at $22 million after that.

The big money limits the potential suitors, but baseball officials surveyed by Bleacher Report agreed both players remain tradable this winter. That might not be true if the Tigers wait another year, with Cabrera (34 in April) and Verlander (34 in February) getting older at a time baseball as a whole is trending younger.

For teams looking for immediate help, age is less of an issue than performance. Verlander finished a close second to ex-teammate Rick Porcello in the AL Cy Young vote, his fifth top-five finish. Cabrera finished ninth in Most Valuable Player voting, the seventh time in the last eight years he has been in the top 10.

Still, only a few teams can afford to add a player making $28 million. The officials agreed a Cabrera trade would be tougher than one for Verlander, because it’s hard to see a National League team trading for someone who will likely need to become a designated hitter before his contract runs out.

Beyond that, both Verlander and Cabrera have full no-trade protection, so either would need to sign off on any possible move. That may not be the biggest obstacle, though, given that any team which could afford one of them would likely have a real chance of winning a World Series.

The other question rival officials ask is whether the Tigers would be better off keeping both of their stars. The long-term financial impact could be bad, but the Tigers might have a better chance of winning in 2017 with both of them than they would anytime in the next five to six years if they trade them.

“That [American League Central] division is winnable,” said one National League scout who follows it closely.

A Central Division team has played in the World Series each of the last three years and four of the last five, but none of the teams have the financial firepower present in baseball’s other five divisions. The Tigers have had the division’s highest payroll eight of the last nine years (2011 is the exception, with both the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins spending more).

Without all of that money to spend, the Tigers would have had to trade Cabrera and Verlander long before this or watch them leave as free agents. As it was, they kept both stars, giving them deals that seemed to make them Tigers for life.

It still could turn out that way. Cabrera and/or Verlander could enforce their no-trade rights and decide to stay. The Tigers could decide the offers they get aren’t strong enough to justify making a trade.

But keeping both stars now could well mean living with both of those big contracts all the way to the end. As it stands now, the Tigers have five players signed for $122.125 million in 2018 (Cabrera, Verlander, Martinez, Upton and Jordan Zimmermann) and four players signed for $105.125 million in 2019 (all but Martinez).

Even if those players all perform at high levels, it will be increasingly tough to build a winner around them if the overall payroll is going to drop.

“It’s going to collapse on itself,” the National League scout said.

The Tigers’ hope is they can keep that from happening by acting now. The hope is they haven’t waited too long already.

Most teams want to keep their stars right to the end, but few actually do. Of the 34 players on the Hall of Fame ballot announced last week, just two (Jorge Posada and Edgar Martinez) played their entire careers for the teams that originally signed them.

Verlander twice gave up a chance at free agency with the idea he would someday be able to say the same thing. Cabrera, traded from the Marlins to the Tigers when he was 24, twice gave up a chance at free agency with the idea he wouldn’t go anywhere else.

They committed to the Tigers, and the Tigers committed to them.

Whether they end up moving or not, this is the winter when commitment gets tested.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2016-17 MLB Offseason’s 1st Month

There hasn’t been much action in the first month of the 2016-2017 Major League Baseball offseason. Everyone’s been busy tip-toeing around the rather large elephant in the room.

Nonetheless, the time has come for a routine stock-taking. Let us now discuss the winners and losers of the hot stove season so far.

Since it’s been an unusual offseason, we’re going to look at five winners (players, teams and markets that have done well or are shaping up well) and only three losers (players, teams and markets that aren’t doing so hot).

We will proceed in an order that makes narrative sense, starting…


Begin Slideshow

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