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February 7, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Atlanta's Extension Spree

by Daniel Rathman

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Braves hope to secure extensions for Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran
General manager Frank Wren has been busy in recent days, locking up Jason Heyward through his arbitration years and Freddie Freeman to an eight-year, $135 million hitch that represents the largest outlay in franchise history. Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that Wren isn’t done yet.

The Heyward and Freeman deals bucked the Braves’ file-and-trial philosophy, but the team would now like to lock up two other key homegrown players long before the sides need to exchange arbitration figures. With one year and 125 days of service time, Simmons is at least one year away from arbitration eligibility—this year’s Super Two threshold was 2.122—and Teheran (1.062) is in no danger of heading to a hearing until at least 2016. Still, with a relatively low-revenue television contract hindering the team’s spending, a little cost certainty could go a long way.

In the press conference addressing Freeman’s extension, Wren told reporters that the team’s move to Cobb County and the revenues associated with that development should help the Braves to retain their own players and continue to contend, even if the Nationals and Phillies—who signed a $2.5 billion television pact earlier this winter—outspend them. Long-term agreements with Simmons and Teheran might be the next steps toward making good on that promise.

Diamondbacks in no hurry to choose their closer
Yes, it’s true: spring training is officially here. The Diamondbacks’ pitchers and catchers have reported to the team’s facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, and their first workout is scheduled for today.

Much to the chagrin of fantasy players whose drafts are scheduled for this month or early March, though, manager Kirk Gibson is likely to drag his feet on the shape of his bullpen. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, who relayed the quotes from Gibson’s Thursday press conference, indicated that the skipper would like the pitchers in contention for save opportunities to take their time getting ready without worrying about the competition. Gibson did not give a timeframe for the final decision.

The battle for the ninth-inning job came about when general manager Kevin Towers acquired Addison Reed from the White Sox for third-base prospect Matt Davidson. Reed, who converted 40 of 48 save chances in his second season as Chicago’s closer, is under the Diamondbacks’ control for four years and will not be arbitration eligible until after the 2014 campaign. To the extent that saves matter to arbitrators, though, the club might be able to save money by moving him back into a setup role—assuming it’s not afraid of any grievance that might ensue.

If the Diamondbacks install Reed as their closer, J.J. Putz, who signed a one-year, $7 million contract with Arizona before the 2013 season, would become an expensive setup man in a bullpen with plenty of right-handed options for high-leverage work. He turns 37 on February 22 and made two trips to the disabled list last year, missing 46 games in May and June with a sprained elbow and 21 more in late August and early September with a dislocated ring finger on his throwing hand. Moreover, Putz’s control—one of his greatest strengths—seemed to erode amid those injuries, as his walk rate soared from 5.1 percent in 2012 to 12.1 percent in 2013.

Brad Ziegler, the primary fill-in for Putz during his absence last year, is an unorthodox choice for the job, but he went 13-for-15 in save tries last season and agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million extension six days after Towers added Reed. The 34-year-old Ziegler is less prone to the platoon issues that tend to plague low-arm-angle pitchers because of his high ground-ball tendencies; lefties have logged a .360 on-base percentage against him over the course of his career, but only a .260 True Average, just 24 points worse than the .244 mark they’ve assembled off of Reed.

Reed is the favorite in this battle, which is second only to the shortstop showdown between Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings at Salt River this spring, but Gibson has a couple of fallback plans if the newcomer struggles. As Paul Sporer wrote in his team preview, fantasy owners should grab Reed in drafts that take place before a resolution is reached, but they might do well to hedge that selection with Putz or Ziegler in case one of the underdogs comes away with the job.

Luis Ayala nearing a decision on his next team
You know it’s a slow news day when a 36-year-old reliever who hasn’t been guaranteed a $1 million paycheck since 2009 makes the top three stories. Luis Ayala: enjoy your moment in the Rumor Roundup sun.

According to Andrew Rickli of SportsReel Boston, Ayala is drawing interest from at least three teams—including the Giants, Nationals, and Tigers. He started the 2013 season with the Orioles and finished it with the Braves, to whom he was traded on April 10. Ayala spent most of the first half on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. He wasn’t particularly sharp when he returned, allowing 25 hits and nine walks in 23 innings, but he came away with a 2.35 ERA in those 28 appearances thanks to six twin killings.

Ayala started his big-league career with the Nationals organization in 2003, back when they were still the Montreal Expos, but he was traded to the Mets in 2008. He has never played for the Giants or Tigers.

Joel Hanrahan could hold tryout with teams next month
More reliever news? Sure, why not?

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted on Thursday afternoon that Joel Hanrahan is well on his way to returning from elbow surgery. Last season, the 32-year-old was hammered in nine games with the Red Sox, ending his career in Boston with a 9.82 ERA and 11.26 FIP before undergoing Tommy John surgery (during which Dr. James Andrews also repaired his flexor tendon and removed bone chips from his right elbow).

Hanrahan is about a month away from being ready to prove to teams that his arm has bounced back, and Olney speculates that the Mets and Orioles—clubs that had been tied to Fernando Rodney before he agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with the Mariners—could be interested at that point. Other suitors are likely to emerge when the showcase actually takes place.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

1 comment has been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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danugglasforearm

The Braves' file-to-trial method remains intact, as both extensions were multi-year deals, something Frank Wren made a point to emphasize in his comments. The Braves retain leverage after arbitration numbers are submitted. They've been trying to get deals done with Heyward and Freeman for years now. It's no coincidence the extensions were completed a week before the potential hearings.

Feb 07, 2014 07:31 AM
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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: C... (02/07)
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Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Examini... (02/06)
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Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Plenty ... (02/10)
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Premium Article Painting the Black: Sl... (02/07)

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