For instance, we heard last week that the Twins have already talked to agents about several pitchers including Bronson Arroyo and Phil Hughes. I read that and immediately think, “Yeah, no surprise on either of those.” But what does it mean? Terry Ryan likely has talked to most agents (or at least agencies) already this offseason. In doing so, he probably is getting a feel for what they're thinking about all their clients. This is likely something that every GM in baseball has already done.
Then we read that the Twins have asked to review the medical reports of Johan Santana. Guess what? It’s likely most teams in baseball have requested that paperwork. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Twins and Santana are close to any deals. My assumption is no fewer than 28 teams will at least have a conversation about the former Twins Cy Young recipient.
The day the Twins and Joe Mauer announce he is going to move to first base, they are linked to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I love reading stuff like that. I mean, it’s fun to read the hometown nine linked to such a big (and long) name. “Salty” has been very good. But, when the Twins have a guy like Josmil Pinto very nearly ready to post a .750 OPS in Target Field, does it make sense to give a catcher a four year deal worth 8 figures each year? I can see them adding a veteran to a one year deal to split time with Pinto, or even give Pinto another half-season in Rochester. I’d be perfectly fine with giving a one year deal to someone like AJ Pierzynski or John Buck, or any of several veteran catchers.
I find all of it fascinating, and I enjoy dissecting each rumor, putting it to a test in my mind to see if there is anything worthy of excitement. With the General Manager’s meetings going on this week, a lot of those rumors will start up. Little, if anything of note, will happen during the week, but it may set the table for the annual Winter Meetings in early December.
My favorite rumors may be those where we hear what a player is expecting or asking for as a free agent. In the last week, it came out that Ervin Santana was looking for five years and at least $100 million. Ricky Nolasco was looking for five years and $80 million. Sure, those are the numbers the agents and players want, but will they get them? I guess it’s like when you were younger and walking through the toy section at the store with your parents. It doesn’t hurt to ask for the really cool, spendy toys, but generally speaking, the parents will say no. Except this offseason, will 30 GMs all balk at this crazy types of numbers? Well, I guess we will find out.
We know that each team is expected to get $25 million in additional revenue from the television deals. 52% of that is about $13 million. So, there are extra funds, but will teams just give that money to one player or will it be spread over a few players, or will it just be used to pay arbitration-eligible players? I guess we will find out.
I do think a little sanity check is needed when it comes to a few of these top starting pitching free agents.
After a horrible 2012 with the Angels, Santana was traded (given away) to the Royals. He put together a very solid season in 2013. He will be 31 years old in December.
Stats since 2006:
- ERA – 4.28, 5.76, 3.49, 5.03, 3.92, 3.38, 5.16, 3.24
- ERA+ - 106, 79, 127, 87, 102, 111, 74, 127
- IP – 204, 150, 219, 139.2, 222.2, 228.2, 178, 211
- WHIP – 1.23, 1.55, 1.12, 1.48, 1.32, 1.22, 1.27, 1.14
- K/9 – 6.2, 7.6, 8.8, 6.9, 6.8, 7.0, 6.7, 6.9
Santana certainly put himself in a good position for a new contract, but if we’re being honest, he’s no Anibal Sanchez. A year ago, Sanchez signed with the Tigers for 5 years and $85 million. Sanchez was also about three years younger when he signed his deal. Santana has been healthy for the most part. He has value. I know a lot of Twins fans want to see a guy who can miss bats. Though Santana’s strikeout rate would be higher than most Twins pitchers, he is far from a strikeout pitcher. He has eaten a lot of innings for most of his career and has really been good in two of his last three years.
I think that the Twins (and any other team) would be crazy to give him more than four years, but he will likely get a fifth year. There’s no way he should make more than $16 million per season, but I would expect he will get at least $18 million. He will probably get five years and $90 million. The team that signs him will likely be looking to get rid of the contract by year three.
I have not yet read any rumors on what Jimenez’s side is requesting. I’m certain he’ll be looking for at least $16 million a year for four years. Hey, it’s understandable for him to ask for those kind of dollars. He was very good in 2013, in his contract year. He even struck out more than a batter an inning. Jimenez will turn 30 in January.
Stats since 2008:
- ERA – 3.99, 3.47, 2.88, 4.68, 5.40, 3.30
- ERA+ - 118, 136, 161, 93, 72, 114
- IP – 198.2, 218, 221.2, 188.1, 176.2, 182.2
- WHIP – 1.44, 1.23, 1.16, 1.40, 1.61, 1.33
- K/9 – 7.8, 8.2, 8.7, 8.6, 7.3, 9.6
- FB Velocity – 94.9, 96.1, 96.1, 93.5, 91.7
Again, Jimenez was pretty good in 2013, but even then, he gave up a bunch of base runners thanks to walking 3.9 batters per nine innings (4.0 BB/9 career rate). The drop in fastball velocity has to lead to concern for injury going forward. Frankly, he has not been a great pitcher since the All-Star game in 2010.
I can see him getting a four year contract at $16 million per year. That would scare me as a Twins fan to no end. Three years, maybe up to $36 million is where I would feel comfortable with the risk-reward and even then I would be immensely nervous.
Nolasco spent a lot of time in relative anonymity with the Marlins. He has been a guy that people have thought would take the next step for several years. He really just hasn’t, and yet, some of his peripherals look very good. He will turn 31 in December.
Stats since 2008:
- ERA – 3.52, 5.06, 4.51, 4.67, 4.48, 3.70
- ERA+ - 124, 85, 92, 84, 91, 101
- xFIP – 3.69, 3.23, 3.37, 3.55, 4.17, 3.58
- IP – 212.1, 185, 157.2, 206, 191, 199.1
- WHIP – 1.10, 1.25, 1.28, 1.40, 1.37, 1.21
- K/9 – 7.9, 9.5, 8.4, 6.5, 5.9, 7.4
- FB – 91.2, 91.5, 91.2, 90.5, 90.0, 90.3
Although his ERAs haven’t looked great, his xFIP has consistently been around a full run less than his ERA. He walks just 2.1 per nine inning. His fastball velocity has dropped, but minimally. Again, if you look at his strikeout rate and his velocity, he is not the kind of guy many visualize when they think of a $15 million pitcher.
I think Nolasco is a guy I would feel comfortable going to four years with, but maybe at $13 or $14 million year, not the $16 million he is looking for. I’d feel OK about a four year deal between $52 and $56 million. At that price, he would likely have a few suitors, which means he may get that fifth year and the average annual rate may move up a bit.
Some may have various opinions based on what MLB and Japan work out in a new posting system, but rumors earlier indicated his posting fee would be upwards of $75 million, maybe more. Let me remind you, under the current system, that means a team would pay $75 million just to negotiate a contract with Tanaka. That’s in addition to the 6 years and $75 million he might get in a contract. Yes, he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP this season. Yes, he just turned 25. Yes, in his last three seasons he has BB/9 rates of 1.1, 1.0 and 1.4. Yes, he’s got talent and he most likely will be good. Yes, there’s no guarantee at all.
I’m certainly comfortable with the 6 years and $75 million or so. But, those numbers guarantee nothing. Yu Darvish was certainly good in his second season in the States after coming from Japan. In 2013, he went 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA. Through two seasons, he has a 3.34 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. For comparison’s sake, in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s second season in the States, he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. Like any pitcher, there is no certainty Darvish won’t follow the Dice-K path. Tanaka could be great, but the change to starting every fifth day instead of every sixth day is always an adjustment.
Tanaka may be very good, but would he be worth 6 years and a total of $150 million? Maybe. I guess I would rather take my chances and sign Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes (or another starter who could get $20-30 million packages), and you could still sign a Saltalamacchia or another hitter as well.
I have no problem with the concept of the Twins spending. I just think fans need to understand these guys that are likely to get 4-5 year contracts worth $60 to $100 million are not the sure-fire aces their contracts will imply. If the Twins sign one of them to crazy money, I’ll hope like crazy he stays healthy and pitches consistently well. I just don’t see an arm in this free agent class that is worth breaking the bank for.
Thankfully we have this comment section so in the years to come we can all go back and remember what we said, what we would have offered and stand by those comments over the life of these contracts.