Tag: NL West

Rockies’ Aggressive Offseason Could Position Colorado as MLB’s 2017 Sleeper Team

When Mike Dunn gets $19 million from the Colorado Rockies, it tells you it’s always great to be a left-handed reliever.

It also tells you Ian Desmond was right.

When the Rockies made Desmond’s five-year, $70 million deal official this week, Colorado’s new first baseman (or will he be an outfielder?) spoke of joining a team on the rise.

“They’re close,” Desmond told reporters, including Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “That’s an industry-wide consensus. Ownership and management are committed to turning that corner. I’m right there with them on board.”

I’m not sure I’d yet call it a consensus, but there is a growing feeling the Rockies are getting better. They haven’t had a winning season since 2010, but even as they were losing 87 games in 2016, they won praise for their young talent, both on the big league club and in the system.

Already this winter, they’re winning praise again.

“They’re my sleeper team for this year,” one National League scout said this week.

It’s hard to consider the Rockies more than just a sleeper, given the presence of the high-spending Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in their division. With all three teams needing back-end bullpen help this winter, the Giants spent $62 million over four years on Mark Melancon (a Colorado native), and the Dodgers topped that by spending $80 million over five years on Kenley Jansen.

Dunn isn’t Melancon, and he isn’t Jansen. He has four saves in eight major league seasons. Jansen had three saves in the 2016 postseason alone.

But spending what they did on Dunn (the $19 million is over three years) continues a winter trend for the Rockies. Instead of looking like a team trying to find its way, Colorado now looks like one pushing to win.

Signing Desmond to the second-biggest free-agent contract in franchise history (behind Mike Hampton’s $121 million in 2000) was part of that. But so were the other moves the Rockies have tried to make, and the ones they still could pursue.

While the Rockies signed Desmond as a first baseman, his experience playing the outfield last season with the Texas Rangers opens the possibility the Rockies could sign someone else to play first—Mark Trumbo? Edwin Encarnacion?—and trade one of their outfielders.

Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reported the Rockies wanted Kevin Gausman from the Baltimore Orioles as part of a deal for either Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez. Kubatko wrote the Orioles “aren’t trading Kevin Gausman,” which is no doubt true.

The bigger point, at least from the Rockies’ perspective, is that general manager Jeff Bridich is thinking big when he looks for pitching help. As Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweeted during the winter meetings, the Rockies would like to trade for “a front-of-rotation-type pitcher.”

The Rockies don’t have one of those in their current rotation. They do have promising 25-year-old right-hander Jon Gray in the big leagues and equally promising 23-year-old right-hander Jeff Hoffman nearly ready in the minors. Hoffman was one of three prospects the Rockies got from the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 Troy Tulowitzki trade.

Trading Tulowitzki was a big move for the Rockies, one ownership had previously resisted. It turned the team and the clubhouse over to the next generation, a group that includes star third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story, who was a strong Rookie of the Year candidate before a thumb injury ended his season in July.

With Arenado, Story, National League batting champion DJ LeMahieu and outfielder David Dahl, there was a strong sense in the Rockies clubhouse that they are a team on the rise. Scouts who followed the Rockies said the same thing and cited more young players the club has coming in the minor leagues.

They’ll go into 2017 with Bud Black as the new manager, which figures to be a positive not because Walt Weiss was bad (he wasn’t), but because Weiss and Bridich admittedly weren’t seeing eye to eye.

The challenges remain, from the payroll that will still trail the Dodgers and Giants by millions to the altitude that makes pitching in Colorado difficult and can make hitters believe they need a different approach on the road from the one they use at home.

It’s not impossible for the Rockies to win. They went all the way to the World Series in 2007.

Ten years later, they won’t be the preseason favorites to get there again. But at the very least, they seem headed in the right direction.


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

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Does Dodgers’ Expensive Roster Have Enough Firepower to Take Down Cubs?

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be good in 2017. For fans of the franchise, this must be at once comforting and beside the point.

The Dodgers being good has been a fact of life for the last four seasons. They’ve averaged 92 wins per year, captured four National League West titles and made two trips to the National League Championship Series. That’s one more than the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos have made in 48 years of existence.

The problem, of course, has been ascending from good to great.

Coming close to the World Series is nice, but you know what they say about coming close only counting in horseshoes and hand grenades. It’s been 28 years since the Dodgers both went to the World Series and won it—a long streak for such a storied franchise.

Not to mention one that’s been keeping its payrolls well north of $200 million since 2013. And the Dodgers recently ensured they’ll be right there again in 2017.

They committed $48 million to left-handed starter Rich Hill at the winter meetings last week. On Monday, they agreed to spend another $80 million on closer Kenley Jansen and $64 million on third baseman Justin Turner. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com calculated that Los Angeles is slated for a $230 million luxury-tax payroll in 2017. And that’s with holes still remaining on its roster.

My initial take on the Dodgers filling three big holes by re-signing Hill, Jansen and Turner was that they secured a spot among the NL’s elite clubs in 2017. I stopped short of putting them on the same level with the Chicago Cubs because, well, the Cubs are really good.

They won 103 games in 2016. They then dispatched the Dodgers in the NLCS en route to their first World Series title in 108 years. Their roster has since taken some hits—but none they can’t recover from. It’s that simple.

Or seemed to be, anyway. After the Jansen and Turner signings, FanGraphs’ projections for MLB‘s top teams in 2017 looked like this:


It’s advised to take these figures with a grain or two of salt. But if we’re going to read into them—and we are—the general idea on display isn’t totally unbelievable.

The Cubs can look to Albert Almora and Kyle Schwarber to replace Dexter Fowler’s defense and offense in the aggregate, but his departure left them without a leadoff hitter. Wade Davis is arguably as good of a closer as Aroldis Chapman, but he’s not markedly better.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, the addition of Koji Uehara may be offset by the loss of Travis Wood. The Cubs have added Brian Duensing to fill his shoes, but he likely won’t match Wood’s extreme lefty-slaying ability. Based on his track record, Mike Montgomery, who is stepping into Jason Hammel’s rotation spot, provides no real gain and another loss for the bullpen.

While the Cubs have made seemingly no improvements, the Dodgers have made at least one big one.

Their starting rotation wasn’t an abomination in 2016, but it was a source of consternation for much of the year. Kenta Maeda was the one guy who stayed healthy and consistent. Clayton Kershaw was brilliant when he pitched, but a back injury limited him to 21 starts. Hill was excellent after he came over from the Oakland A’s in a deadline trade, but he made only six starts. Elsewhere, it was a revolving door of starters who had varying degrees of success.

It should be a different story in 2017. If nothing else, the Dodgers can rest easy knowing their ace is OK.

“I had an injury, and it’s not injured anymore, so now you keep going,” Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com last week.

If Kershaw is his usual self and Hill makes at least 20 starts, the Dodgers will have one of the best one-two punches in the majors for most of 2017. After that, they’ll have Maeda’s reliability and healthy versions of Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy. They also have quite the wild card in Julio Urias, who quietly excelled in 2016 after taking a minute to find his footing in the majors.

As such, there could be something to the early projection that the Dodgers will have the best starting pitching in the league in 2017. The club’s lineup and bullpen, meanwhile, should be no worse than they were in 2016.

The former only has a hole at second base, where Chase Utley left a relatively low bar to clear. And by retaining Jansen, Los Angeles ensured games will continue to flow to one of the sport’s best relief pitchers.

The CliffsNotes version: The 2017 Dodgers will be a lot like the 2016 Dodgers, except without the starting pitching woes. That plus the non-upgrades in Chicago could close the talent gap between the two teams.

At least on paper, anyway. But while that may not mean much for the regular season, a potential postseason matchup is a different story.

The power of the postseason is its ability to magnify everything, including all the little details of each team’s roster. That tends to turn things that are mere nitpicks in the regular season into fatal flaws in October.

Which takes us back to the Dodgers’ loss to the Cubs in the NLCS.

One of the flaws Chicago exploited was Los Angeles’ lack of quality bullpen depth underneath Jansen. It had been good enough to that point, but the Cubs revealed the middle-relief parade of Joe Blanton, Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling and others to be about as unspectacular as you’d expect a parade of those names to be. They surrendered 18 runs in nine innings of work.

With only Vidal Nuno joining the mix this winter, this issue still needs solving. The free-agent market still has solid options (Greg Holland, Brad Ziegler, Sergio Romo, Joe Smith) who could help.

The bigger issue in need of attention, though, is the Dodgers’ weakness against left-handed pitching.

It was punctuated by an MLB-low OPS against southpaws in the regular season, and it bit them again in the NLCS. The Dodgers offense was undone by its lack of power, and Baseball Savant shows the problem was worse against Chicago’s lefties (.277 SLG%) than its righties (.320 SLG%).

The Dodgers have added Darin Ruf and his .921 career OPS against lefties, but that’s only one part-time bat in a sea of mostly left-handed hitters. Their payroll may be too overextended for a run at any of the free-agent options who could help, but the trade market includes some affordable alternatives: Brian Dozier and Ryan Braun, for example.

If the Dodgers want to leave good enough alone, they’ll enter 2017 with a team that should deliver another 90-plus win season and NL West title. But if the idea is to win the World Series, they need a team that can get through the Cubs.

For that, just a little bit more is required.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. Salary and contract data courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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Dodgers Remain Among NL Elite by Re-Signing Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner

Nearly $200 million and exactly three familiar faces later, the Los Angeles Dodgers have retained a roster worthy of the top of the National League power structure.

The first $48 million went into a three-year contract for lefty starter Rich Hill, who continued his late-career revival with a 1.83 ERA in six starts for the Dodgers in the home stretch of 2016. On Monday, Los Angeles committed another $144 million to relief ace Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner.

As Jim Bowden of ESPN and SiriusXM confirmed, Jansen’s deal is for five years and $80 million:

According to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the reliever’s pact also includes an opt-out after 2019.

Confirmation on Turner’s contract is stuck in the pipeline for the moment. But Joel Sherman of the New York Post teased it will be for four years and $64 million. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is hearing the same:

The Dodgers aren’t finished with their offseason checklist. They still need an everyday second baseman. After Josh Reddick’s departure, they could also use corner outfield depth.

For now, though, the Dodgers deserve a tip of the ol’ cap for focusing their offseason maneuvers on the right places and the right players.

Given that he’s a 36-year-old who only twice has gone over 100 innings, Hill comes with durability questions. But talent that’s produced a 2.00 ERA in 24 starts since 2015 made him the most desirable starter on the open market and a good fit for a Dodgers rotation that had depth but needed a proper partner in crime for Clayton Kershaw.

For a player like that, $16 million per year isn’t too much. It certainly sounds better than $16 million per year for a relief pitcher, anyway.

Of course, it’s not the Dodgers’ fault they had to back up a truck filled with that much money for Jansen. Mark Melancon set the market for elite relief pitching when the San Francisco Giants signed him for $62 million over four years. Aroldis Chapman further drove the point home when he accepted five years and $86 million from the New York Yankees.

Simply going with the flow of supply and demand is out of character for a Dodgers front office that favors being analytical and, above all, rational. But, you know what they say about that.

“If you’re always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.

It’s also not like the Dodgers are spending big on a bad reliever. Jansen has dominated since the start of his major league career back in 2010. He’s taken it to a whole ‘nother level since sharpening his control in 2013, compiling a 2.19 ERA and 7.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last 268 appearances.

Through the lens of FanGraphs WAR, here are the top two relievers in baseball since 2013:

  1. Aroldis Chapman: 9.7
  2. Kenley Jansen: 9.4

See that difference? That doesn’t look like a $6 million difference to me.

The concern is that Jansen, now 29, will lose zip as he ages. But that’s a smaller concern with him than it is with other relievers. He averaged 93.6 mph on his cutter in 2016 but has been successful even with an average as low as 91.9 mph in 2012.

For Jansen, it’s not about velocity. It’s about movement. Like so:

That movement should ensure Jansen ages just fine. You know, sort of like another reliever who had a world-class cutter even after he was past his peak velocity.

It doesn’t take as many words to justify Turner’s contract. Although his $64 million is nearly $50 million less than the $110 million Yoenis Cespedes got from the New York Mets, it’s going toward arguably the best free agent the market had to offer.

That was Corinne Landrey‘s argument at MLB.com. And mine right here, for that matter. Over the last three seasons, Turner has posted an .856 OPS with 50 home runs while also rating as a strong defender at the hot corner.

Cue Dave Cameron‘s summary at FanGraphs:

Turner is not that much worse of a hitter than Edwin Encarnacion, only he can also play the field. The power isn’t the same, and teams continue to pay less for singles and doubles than home runs, but Turner gets to a similar overall value, and when you toss in the ability to play third base, 4/$64M in this market seems like a steal.

Although he’s already 32 years old, what sets Turner apart from other veteran free agents is how well-preserved he is. He didn’t become an everyday player until the Dodgers picked him up in 2014, which can only help him age gracefully.

With Hill, Jansen and Turner returning to the fold, the 2017 Dodgers will look a lot like the 2016 Dodgers. At worst, that could mean a repeat of a campaign that brought L.A. 91 wins and a fourth straight NL West title.

It’s likelier that even better things are in store.

The Dodgers can expect a lot more from not only Hill but Kershaw as well after a back injury limited him to 21 starts in 2016. They’ll also have healthy versions of Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood. The young arms of Julio Urias and Jose De Leon contain all sorts of upside.

The Dodgers thus figure to have more than enough pitching to back up an offense anchored by capable veterans (Turner, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal) and explosive young guns (Corey Seager and Joc Pederson).

And since they’ve only used money to flesh out their roster to this point, the Dodgers can now use their farm system to solve their second base conundrum. Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler are among the available trade options, per Rosenthal. The former fits the Dodgers like a glove.

Even as is, the signings of Hill, Jansen and Turner ensure the Dodgers have enough firepower to remain among the NL’s elite clubs in 2017. The reigning champion Chicago Cubs loom as the team to beat, but the Dodgers are right there with the Giants and Washington Nationals among the clubs that could bring them down.

Which is to say, the $192 million they’ve spent to bring back their guys is going toward a good cause.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Kenley Jansen Re-Signs with Dodgers: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Relief pitcher Kenley Jansen reportedly re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Bowden reported the contract is for five years and worth $80 million. Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports later reported Jansen chose the Dodgers over better offers from other clubs and has an opt-out clause after three years. The deal does not include a no-trade clause, per Rosenthal

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Washington Nationals were willing to pay as much as $5 million more than the Dodgers.

Jansen, 29, was excellent for the Dodgers in 2016, compiling 47 saves in 53 opportunities to go along with 104 strikeouts, a 1.83 ERA and 0.67 WHIP in 68.2 innings pitched. It was his fifth straight season with 25 or more saves and his third straight season with at least 35 saves.

He’s established himself as one of baseball’s better closers, ensuring a big payday was coming this winter. But he hinted at a desire to stay before the 2016 season concluded.

“L.A.’s nice. L.A.’s great. L.A. gave me the opportunity. L.A. converted me when I failed as a catcher,” Jansen told Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball in September. “I’m grateful about it and will never forget L.A. But at the same time, we’ll have to see what’s good for the family.”

Ultimately, Jansen decided remaining in Los Angeles was the right move—and the Dodgers benefited.

Jansen will once again solidify the ninth inning for the team, meaning the Dodgers should again have an excellent pitching staff. If he can replicate his phenomenal form from the 2016 season, the Dodgers will have secured one of the best signings of free agency and should be a postseason contender again in 2017.


You can follow Timothy Rapp on Twitter.

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Mark Melancon Puts Giants Back on Level for NL West Dominance

The San Francisco Giants‘ run of even-year championships finally ended in 2016 in large part because their bullpen was cursed. Or to put it more bluntly, just not very good.

All they had to do to solve this was sign the most expensive relief pitcher in Major League Baseball history.

The honor now belongs to Mark Melancon. The early buzz at the first day of the winter meetings Monday had the Giants closing in on a deal with the veteran right-hander, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report the terms: four years and $62 million.

Of course, the signing didn’t really become official until the three-time All-Star made like a true 21st-century man and took to Twitter:

If we want to be technical, it’s actually “a part.” While we’re at it, we should also note that Melancon’s four-year deal is really a two-year, $34 million deal with a two-year option. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, he can opt out after earning $17 million in each of the first two seasons.

But, whatever. There’s $62 million in guaranteed money available in Melancon’s deal, which is $12 million more than the $50 million Jonathan Papelbon got from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. Let the record show, there’s a lot more money in today’s MLB, and also, elite relief pitching is even more valued now than it was then.

And after 2016, the Giants certainly have more cause than most to value elite relief pitching.

Their bullpen lacked a true shutdown arm in 2016, and that led to no shortage of aches in manager Bruce Bochy’s plus-sized head. Despite finishing with a respectable 3.65 ERA, Giants relievers led the league with 30 blown saves.

That was a major factor in their winning just 87 games and falling four games short of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West race. And after Madison Bumgarner put the Giants in the National League Division Series with a shutout in the Wild Card Game, the Chicago Cubs‘ four-run rally in the ninth inning of Game 4 resulted in the Giants finally succumbing to their biggest weakness.

It’s a good thing the core of the 2016 Giants will be back for 2017. They’ll continue to ride a rotation led by Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto and a lineup led by Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt.

But with Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez all free agents this winter, the Giants had just the window they needed to rebuild their bullpen. Signing Melancon is the biggest step forward they figure to make in that regard.

“It gives all of the club a peace of mind and confidence with as many close games we play that we have a lockdown guy for the ninth,” general manager Bobby Evans said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Unlike fellow free-agent relief aces Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen—who will each make sure Melancon’s status as baseball’s most expensive reliever is short-lived—Melancon doesn’t get by on overpowering stuff that allows him to miss bats.

The 31-year-old worked at 91.0 mph with his cutter in 2016 and has struck out just 7.7 batters per nine innings over the last two seasons. To these extents, he’s bringing nothing new to a Giants pen that tied for 27th in fastball velocity and 27th in strikeouts per nine in 2016.

However, Melancon mixes command and movement as well as any reliever out there.

His pinpoint command is reflected in his rate of 1.4 walks per nine innings since 2013, but more so in how he works on the edges of the strike zone. Eno Sarris of FanGraphs has more insight on that.

When you can do that, you don’t need velocity. It’s good enough to have a loopy 12-to-6 curveball and a cutter that can do this:

Melancon may not miss bats with his approach, but he does miss barrels. Only Zach Britton has a higher soft contact percentage over the last two seasons, and much of Melancon’s soft contact ends up in the same place as Britton’s: on the ground.

“Perfect for our defense,” is how Evans characterized that aspect of Melancon’s game, per Chris Haft of MLB.com.

You know what else is great about command and movement? Unlike velocity, they’re not under constant threat to be taken away by age. Melancon’s a living reminder of that, as his command and his movement have remained on point even as he’s lost velocity over the last two seasons.

Assuming he can keep that up, he could be just as effective in the next four seasons as he’s been in the last four seasons. A good way to punctuate that is to look at where he places among his fellow relievers in ERA since 2013:

Look at that! First. This guy must be pretty good.

And not only that, but he’s also reliable too. Despite not becoming a full-time closer until 2014, Melancon still leads all relievers in win probability added over the last four seasons. Other relievers have been more overpowering, but all but one of them (Britton) have had more meltdowns than Melancon (minus three others who tied him).

To be fair, there would have been an equally large number of things to rave about if the Giants had signed Chapman or Jansen instead. They are also elite relief aces, and either arguably would have been an even better solution for what ailed the Giants in 2016.

Nonetheless, nobody should be thinking the Giants merely settled for Melancon. They paid a pretty penny for a big-time improvement in an area where they needed just that. And with him in place, you can already see a team that ought to be more well-rounded in 2017.

And despite FanGraphs’ early projections giving the Dodgers the edge in the 2017 NL West race, they still have moves to make before they’re on the Giants’ level. The Dodgers have talent, but none of it is located at third base, second base or closer.

Melancon’s signing filled the only major hole the Giants had. All they need now is some outfield depth, a back-end starter and a supporting arm or two for their bullpen. Not too much to ask for.

There’s still a lot of winter left. But for now, the Giants can rest easy knowing that lifting the curse on their bullpen has given them the upper hand in the NL West.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked. 

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Rich Hill Re-Signs with Dodgers: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

The Los Angeles Dodgers were so enamored with Rich Hill after acquiring him in August that they have decided to keep him around with a new contract extension, announcing Monday that they had signed him to a three-year contract.

Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reported the deal is worth $48 million.  

While Hill is always a significant injury risk, there’s no denying his performance on the mound when he’s able to take the ball. 

Hill showed his capability for dominating a terrific lineup when he shut down the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. He gave up two hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings in a 6-0 win. 

When Hill is at the top of his game, even at 36 years old, there is a strong argument to be made that he’s one of the best left-handed starters in baseball. The Dodgers already have the best one (Clayton Kershaw), so keeping Hill makes perfect sense. 

The problem is Hill has never shown himself to be capable of staying healthy. He made only 20 starts in 2016 for the Dodgers and Oakland Athletics. He was traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 1, but didn’t debut for the team until Aug. 24 due to lingering blister problems. 

On Monday, Hill told reporters that his blister problems are behind him.

Since making his MLB debut in 2005 with the Cubs, Hill made 30 starts just one time and was relegated to bullpen duty from 2010-14 because it was seemingly impossible to keep him on the mound. 

Despite those injury concerns, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors did note there is recent precedent for injury-prone pitchers to get multiyear deals in free agency:

If demand is strong enough for Hill’s services, teams will simply have to make three-year offers to have a chance to sign him, even if they don’t expect the contract to end well. Hill can also make the argument that he will age well, since he’s not reliant on fastball velocity and has less mileage on his arm than a typical pitcher his age.

It also helped Hill’s free-agent case that this year’s crop of available starting pitchers is bad, to put it nicely.

The Dodgers have been burned by recent deals for free-agent pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, but Hill brings with him a level of domination difficult to replace. He can also serve as a bridge for Julio Urias when the 20-year-old is ready and allowed by the team to take on the task of throwing 200 innings in a season.

Given the way Hill is still able to put up gaudy strikeout numbers without allowing much hard contact and keeps the ball in the park, it’s not a surprise that the Dodgers brought him on board to boost the rotation knowing he probably won’t pitch more than 120 innings during any season of his contract. 

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Mark Melancon to Giants: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Mark Melancon spent the second half of the 2016 season with the Washington Nationals, but the 31-year-old closer is moving on from the reigning National League East champions after signing with the San Francisco Giants on Monday.

The Giants announced the deal Monday after Buster Olney of ESPN first reported the agreement. Melancon would comment on the news via Twitter: 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the contract is for four years and $62 million. The deal includes an opt-out clause after the second season, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area broke down the financial terms:

Olney noted Melancon’s deal is a record one, but he spoke to a National League evaluator who said “that’ll soon be broken.”

The Nationals acquired the three-time All-Star from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 30 to help fortify the closer’s role in the nation’s capital.

After Melancon recorded 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA and a 0.960 WHIP in 45 appearances with the Pirates, he proceeded to hold down the fort with the Nationals.

Melancon notched 17 saves for Washington while finishing 28 games and appearing in 30 in total. By the time his two-month stint in D.C. came to a close, Melancon had notched a 1.82 ERA and 0.809 WHIP.

He finished an MLB-best 67 games thanks to a three-pitch arsenal comprised of a fastball, wicked cutter and curveball, according to FanGraphs.

Speaking to reporters in August, Melancon credited his time with the New York Yankees and famed closer Mariano Rivera for the development of his cutter.

“I was in the pen with Mariano,” Melancon said. “I got to watch that a lot from him and just sit behind the plate, sit behind him pitching, and not only did I notice how important the cutter and the movement and when to throw it in, backdoor it and all that stuff, but just his location and how important that was.”

Based on the way Melancon performed a season after he tallied a major league-best 51 saves, targeting him in free agency was a no-brainer for the Giants since they ranked 15th in bullpen ERA (3.65) among all MLB teams in 2016.

Bringing Melancon aboard also gives the Giants some peace of mind at the back end of their bullpen.

San Francisco blew an MLB-high 30 saves last season, which contributed to a woeful 58.9 save percentage. Only five teams recorded lower save percentages.

That number figures to improve if Melancon can replicate the success he’s experienced over the past couple of years once he arrives in the Bay Area.

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Brandon McCarthy Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Dodgers Pitcher

The Los Angeles Dodgers are looking to make a splash on the open market during the offseason, and Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine reported that they are shopping right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy in an effort to create additional space on the 40-man roster. 

Continue for updates.

Trading McCarthy Could Clear Room for Hill

Sunday, Dec. 4

Olney noted Los Angeles’ 40-man roster sits at 39, which means the team would have to free some space in order to sign free-agent pitcher Rich Hill and other players. Trading McCarthy would help it do just that.

This comes after Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register said the Dodgers and Hill were “closing in on [a] multi-year deal,” which could increase the urgency to trade McCarthy or Scott Kazmir, who Olney also noted was being shopped.

It is not surprising Los Angeles is looking to bring back Hill after he posted a 1.83 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in six starts for the team down the stretch. He also anchored the rotation in the playoffs alongside Clayton Kershaw and finished with a 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in three starts.

It makes sense to trade McCarthy to ensure there’s enough space to re-sign Hill, but Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors said moving the righty would be about more than just the roster space. Polishuk said only Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias are locks to be in Los Angeles’ rotation in 2017 and that trading McCarthy may force the team to look within at options such as Alex Wood and Jose De Leon.

From other teams’ perspectives, trading for McCarthy would come with some red flags.

McCarthy—who has pitched for the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Dodgers since entering the league in 2005—made just four starts in 2015 and 10 in 2016 because of Tommy John surgery. He finished the 2016 campaign with an unspectacular 4.95 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 40 innings.

He has just two seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA in his entire career, and they came in back-to-back efforts in 2011 and 2012 with Oakland. McCarthy will also turn 34 years old during the 2017 season and is likely well past his prime.

It is difficult to envision there will be significant interest in McCarthy from teams unless they see him as a reclamation project who is available as a trade chip for relatively cheap.

Polishuk did say the starting pitcher market is thin in terms of free agency this offseason, so teams desperate for depth could look his way. He did combine for 196 strikeouts in 280.2 innings in 2011 and 2012 with 3.32 and 3.24 ERAs respectively, but that was before the surgery that has limited him in the second half of his career.

There is plenty of risk involved with acquiring McCarthy, which could force Los Angeles to lower any asking price to accelerate a trade.

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Scott Kazmir Trade Rumors: Latest News and Speculation on Dodgers Pitcher

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a crowded roster heading into the meat of their offseason and are reportedly shopping left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir to create additional space, per Buster Olney of ESPN The Magazine.

Continue for updates.

Trading Kazmir Would Help Dodgers Add Hill

Sunday, Dec. 4

Olney noted Los Angeles couldn’t sign free agent Rich Hill and other players with a 40-man roster already at 39 without making some moves, such as trading Kazmir.

Los Angeles eventually signing Hill appears to be approaching as reality, as Bill Plunkettof the Orange County Register said the two sides were “closing in on [a] multiyear deal.”

Clayton Kershaw served as the anchor for the Dodgers rotation in 2016, but Hill was a major reason they reached the National League Championship Series and took the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs to six games.

The southpaw made six starts for the team down the stretch after beginning the season on the Oakland Athletics and posted a 1.83 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in 34.1 innings. He also finished with a solid 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in three playoff starts.

If trading Kazmir will help Los Angeles bring that type of production back, it is probably worth it.

However, Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors said moving Kazmir would be about more than just clearing roster space since it would directly impact the team’s rotation plans with Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias as the only surefire options at this point.

Polishuk pointed to candidates such as Alex Wood, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jose De Leon who could emerge in the race for spots, especially since Olney noted the Dodgers were also shopping Brandon McCarthy.

Kazmir comes with some risks, since he will be 33 years old throughout the entirety of the 2017 campaign. He also dealt with thoracic spine inflammation in 2016 in his first year with the Dodgers and pitched just one inning after Aug. 22.

The journeyman has played for the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics and Dodgers throughout his career and finished the 2016 campaign with a 4.56 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 136.1 innings. The recent numbers don’t exactly turn heads, but he is a three-time All-Star (2006, 2008 and 2014) with six seasons of a sub-4.00 ERA on his resume.

The injury problems are a concern considering he made a mere one start in 2011 and didn’t pitch in 2012, but he did tally 26 or more starts in each of the last four seasons.

He is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor who could attract teams looking for starting pitching depth on the trade market instead of through free agency.

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Tyson Ross Is Fascinating New Possibility on Dismal MLB Free-Agent Market

Under normal circumstances, a pitcher coming off a major shoulder procedure who posted an 11.81 ERA in extremely limited action the previous season wouldn’t be a winter head-turner.

These aren’t normal circumstances.

The free-agent shelves are bare, especially in the starting pitcher department. Marquee trade options may require ludicrous expenditures of young talent. 

Enter Tyson Ross. Flawed as he is, he’s a name worth following.

On Friday, the San Diego Padres didn’t tender Ross a contract, making the 29-year-old right-hander a free agent.

Ross underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October. The recovery time is usually between four and six months, per AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, which means Ross could be available at the start of the 2017 season if not before.

It’s always a gamble to sink dollars into a player recovering from a debilitating injury, especially a pitcher. Not so long ago, however, Ross was a sizzling hot commodity.

In 2014, he posted a 2.81 ERA with 195 strikeouts in 195.2 innings and made the All-Star team. In 2015, he fanned 212 in 196 innings with a 3.26 ERA.

His name floated through the trade-rumor mill last winter, but the Pads had some justifiably sky-high demands, as CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder noted:

It’s easy to conjure Javier Baez’s breakout performance in the 2016 postseason and scoff at the notion. It shows, however, how high Ross’ stock was soaring.

Coughing up seven earned runs in his only 2016 start—on Opening Day, no lessand eventually going under the knife knocked Ross down several dozen pegs. 

But in a dismal class headlined by 36-year-old Rich Hill followed by a mishmash of middling options such as Jason Hammel, Ivan Nova and Doug Fister, Ross sparkles with high-reward possibility. 

There are high-profile trade candidates such as the Chicago White Sox‘s Chris Sale and Detroit Tigers‘ Justin Verlander, but they’ll cost a trove of prospects.

Ross, on the other hand, won’t take minor league chips and could be had on a shorter-term, incentive-laden deal. 

Other pitchers have returned successfully from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Jaime Garcia underwent the procedure in 2014 and posted a 2.43 ERA the following season for the St. Louis Cardinals

It’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s an uncommon surgery, and the results are often less than stellar, as Nick Lampe of Beyond the Box Score starkly spelled out.

Still, Ross will surely draw attention from a number of clubs, including—but by no means limited to—the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, New York Yankees and Baltimore OriolesPhil Rogers of MLB.com said Ross has been “a favorite” of the Chicago Cubs front office for some time.

Even the Friars aren’t slamming the door.

“The interest is there for us,” San Diego general manager A.J. Preller said after the Padres non-tendered Ross, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We know what kind of competitor he is, what kind of worker he is.” 

The Pads, CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder noted, would likely have had to pay Ross upward of $10 million in arbitration, so any reunion would require a significant cut from that high-water mark. 

More likely, Ross will don a different uniform and become a classic reclamation project.

He’s not a sure thing. He might even be a long shot. He’s a possible diamond in the rubble, however, the type of player we could be looking back on in nine or 10 months while talking about bargains and rebirths. 

The projection systems are bullish, with Steamer foretelling a 3.41 ERA in 181 innings. That’s the stuff of a solid mid-rotation starter.

What if Ross could regain his 2014-15 mojo, though? What if he could transform back into the All-Star who warranted Javy Baez rumors?

Is that probable? No. Possible? You bet.

If you can’t dream in early December, when can you?

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