Players occasionally avoid arbitration by signing contract extensions, and Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez will be the next rising star to land a significant deal.
Martinez, 25, is in agreement on a five-year, $51 million extension with the club, according to FanRag Sports, which confirmed an initial report by FOX Sports saying that the sides were progressing toward such a deal.
The contract will buy out Martinez’s three arbitration years and two years of free agency, enabling the player and club to avoid a hearing that is scheduled for Wednesday. Martinez, a first-time eligible arbitration player, asked for $4.25 million; the Cardinals offered $3.9 million.
The Cardinals are a “file-and-trial” team, meaning that they go straight to a hearing once numbers are exchanged, with no further negotiation on a one-year deal. Their policy, however, does not preclude long-term discussions, a source said.
Martinez has produced a 3.02 ERA and .663 opponents’ OPS in 60 starts and 370 innings the past two seasons. He also made two relief appearances in 2015.
WHAT NEXT FOR ROYALS?
At some point, the Royals will get financial relief on the $20.25 million remaining on the late Yordano Ventura’s contract. But that does not mean the club is operating as if it is about to receive a financial windfall.
So, while ownership might approve the addition of a free agent such as right-hander Doug Fister, club officials are debating the value of such a move when they might get comparable performance out of younger, less expensive options.
As I reported on Jan. 24, the fate of Ventura’s contract hinges on the outcome of his toxicology report, which is not expected for another two weeks.
According to sources, the contract will remain guaranteed if Ventura’s death is determined to be accidental, with insurance reimbursing the Royals for about 75 percent of the remaining amount.
The rest of the deal, however, will be voided if it is determined that Ventura’s death resulted from driving while intoxicated, likely triggering a legal battle.
The loss of Ventura, who projected to be at least the Royals’ No. 3 starter behind Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy, creates an obvious and heartbreaking hole.
The Royals, however, are not without internal possibilities, starting with oft-injured righty Kyle Zimmer, who is coming off thoracic-outlet surgery.
Right-handers Jake Junis, Alec Mills and Josh Staumont are progressing through the Royals’ minor-league system, along with lefties Matt Strahm and Eric Skoglund.
BREWERS’ ATTANASIO AT IT AGAIN?
Some Brewers officials are skeptical about the team’s reported pursuit of free-agent catcher Matt Wieters, believing that the interest is more from agent Scott Boras than the team itself.
While that might be true, there is a history of agents working directly with Brewers owner Mark Attanasio to orchestrate signings late in free agency.
On March 25, 2013, the Brewers signed right-hander Kyle Lohse — a Boras client — to a three-year, $33 million contract, forfeiting the 17th pick in the draft (the White Sox later chose shortstop Tim Anderson with that selection).
On Jan. 26, 2014, the Brewers signed right-hander Matt Garza, whose agent, CAA’s Nez Balelo, also represented Ryan Braun. Garza’s four-year, $50 million deal did not include the loss of a draft pick.
Lohse had a combined 3.45 ERA over 63 starts in his first two seasons with the Brewers, then faltered in his third. Garza has averaged 138 innings in three injury-marred seasons with the club, producing a 4.57 ERA in 71 starts.
CUBS THINKING BUTLER COULD DO IT
The Cubs’ acquisition of right-hander Eddie Butler on Wednesday was precisely the kind of trade the team wanted to make as it seeks to improve its starting-pitching depth.
Butler, once a top prospect with for the Rockies, will be a project for pitching coach Chris Bosio and manager Joe Maddon. Still, he gives the team another option on top of left-hander Brett Anderson, who recently signed a one-year, $3.5 million free-agent contract.
The Cubs are more interested in supplementing their rotation than their bullpen — they signed righty Koji Uehara to a one-year deal rather than make a multi-year commitment to another free-agent reliever.
While further moves are possible, club officials are trying to leave sufficient room under the $195 million tax threshold to stay flexible for mid-season acquisitions.
The Cubs exceeded the threshold for the first time last season and paid a tax of $2.96 million. As a second-time offender, their penalty would increase from 17.5 percent for every dollar spent above the threshold to 30 percent.
COMING UP ACES
The free-agent market continues to vex some players and agents, as evidenced by the large number of proven major leaguers still available. But certain player representatives have skillfully worked around the clubs’ increased dedication to efficiency, crafting favorable deals for their clients by seizing available openings.
The three-year, $33 million deal that Kendrys Morales landed with the Blue Jays on Nov. 18 looks increasingly good, given the saturation of first-base DH types in the market. The same can be said of the two-year, $22 million deal that Edinson Volquez received from the Marlins on Dec. 1, the third-largest free-agent contract for a starting pitcher this offseason. The Wasserman Media Group negotiated both deals.
Another free-agent agreement that appears rather prescient from the player’s perspective is the three-year, $19 million deal that left-handed reliever Mike Dunn secured from the Rockies. Two comparable lefties, Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, seem unlikely to match those terms, which were negotiated by Tom O’Connell.
CAA certainly did well to get $110 million for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and $70 million for Ian Desmond, the largest and fifth-largest free-agent contracts of the offseason. But one club executive said, unsolicited, that ACES, the agency operated by Sam and Seth Levinson, “quietly did the best work of any agency this offseason … they read the market better than anyone.”
The exec specifically cited ACES’ four-year, $52 million deal for Josh Reddick with the Astros, its four-year, $30.5 million deal with a full no-trade clause for Brett Cecil with the Cardinals and its two-year, $12 million deal for Brandon Moss with the Royals. The Moss deal became official Wednesday, at a late stage of the offseason when multi-year commitments are difficult to secure.
ACES also negotiated the largest free-agent contract in a weak class for starting pitchers, a three-year, $48 million deal for Rich Hill. And even some of the agency’s lesser agreements compare favorably to others in the market.
Catcher Welington Castillo got non-tendered by the Diamondbacks, then signed a deal that could be worth $13 million over two years with the Orioles if he exercises his player option. Right-hander Jeff Locke got non-tendered by the Pirates, then went for $3.025 million to the Marlins, the same salary he made last season.
Reliever Joaquin Benoit secured a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Phillies at age 39. Catcher A.J. Ellis landed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Marlins when catchers such as Chris Iannetta and Kurt Suzuki went for $1.7 million and $1.5 million, respectively.
ACES also negotiated one of the biggest extensions of the offseason — Danny Duffy’s five-year, $65 million deal with the Royals.
SOME O’s EMPLOYEES STILL IN LIMBO
A problem that seemingly was resolved for some who work for the Orioles continues to fester.
On Jan. 9, I reported that more than 70 of the team’s employees were without contracts for 2017, according to major-league sources.
The group consisted of a cross-section of staffers in baseball operations: Major- and minor-league coaches; professional, amateur and international scouts; player-development officials; even front-office executives. The decisions on the contracts rested with owner Peter Angelos said, sources said.
On Jan. 12, I followed up with seemingly good news: Angelos had signed the contracts, ensuring that the employees would be paid on Jan. 15. But on Wednesday, I received an email from an employee who did not identify himself, but said that ownership had reversed course on about 25 employees, telling them that their contracts needed to be reviewed again for approval.
“I’m not sure what’s going on,” the employee said. “All I know is that since it is Feb. 1, I will not be paid.”
A source said that the number of employees in limbo is closer to 30, and added that others in the original group who had been told they were getting raises were still being paid at last year’s rate.
AROUND THE HORN
— The lag in the free-agent market has hampered the Pirates in their efforts to trade left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo and clear money for perhaps another acquisition, according t0 major-league sources.
Bastardo is earning $6.5 million next season, and Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan and Craig Breslow are among the lefty relievers still available on the free-agent market.
— Speaking of lefty relievers, the Padres have drawn consistent trade interest in Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter, both of whom were highly successful against left-handed hitters last season.
Both pitchers, though, are under long-term control — Hand for three years, Buchter for five. The Padres would not trade either unless they received legitimate prospects in return, sources say.
The Pads also wants to keep their bullpen as strong as possible to protect their suspect rotation, and could always move Hand and/or Buchter at the deadline or some other point in the future.
— Free-agent right-hander Jake Peavy still wants to rejoin the Padres, but the team is not sure it wants to give him the innings that could go to another starter, sources say.
The Pads have a number of candidates for their rotation — Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill, Luis Perdomo, Jarred Cosart, Christian Friedrich, Paul Clemens.
Peavy, 35, had a 5.54 ERA in 118 2/3 innings for the Giants last season.