Huston Street and Jerry Dipoto expected to exchange extension proposals soon
Back in December, David Robertson and Andrew Miller each cashed in on elite contract-push seasons with four-year deals on the free-agent market. Robertson had established himself as a dominant reliever prior to 2014 and turned in another top-notch campaign in his first crack at the closer’s role, resulting in a $46 million payday from the White Sox. Miller hadn’t yet established himself at the same type of level prior to 2014, but his transformation from failed starting pitcher prospect to bat-missing relief ace culminated last season when he cut his walk rate nearly in half and finished with the second-lowest FIP ever by a left-handed reliever. The Yankees rewarded him with a cool $36 million.
Heading into the final year of his contract, Angels closer Huston Street has taken notice of the type of cash that his fellow relievers raked in this offseason and is seeking a four-year extension worth a similar dollar figure, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reported on Monday. Street is a unique case given that he has represented himself since 2012 when he negotiated his own two-year, $14 million extension mid-season with the Padres. Fletcher wrote at that talks between Street and general manager Jerry Dipoto had been limited to just text messages, but Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reported on Wednesday that talks are expected to pick up, with formal offers to be exchanged by the two sides soon.
Given Fletcher’s report, it appears that Street’s proposal will at the minimum be the four years and $36 million that Miller got from the Yankees. He indicated that he would want any extension to override the $7 million owed to him this upcoming season, which would essentially mean the Angels would have to commit an extra three years and at least an additional $29 million. At 31 years old, Street is two years older than either Robertson or Miller and it would be understandable if Dipoto was hesitant to tie himself to a reliever with a checkered injury past with a contract extending into his age-34 season.
If we’re going strictly off run prevention, the type of money Street is reportedly seeking wouldn’t be too much of a stretch given that his 1.97 ERA over the last three years trails only Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara and Greg Holland. But there’s also the matter of his league-low .220 BABIP and his league-high 92.5 percent strand rate over that stretch. Last month, Jeff Sullivan dug into the upward trend of Street’s percentage of balls in play that have come on pitches outside of the strike zone, which would suggest that at least some of Street’s insanely low BABIP can be explained away by weak contact generated by sharpening his command of pitches off the plate. However, even the master of command and weak-contact, Mariano Rivera (the inspiration for Sullivan’s article), had a career BABIP of .263.
There’s some serious regression coming for Street even if you’re operating under the assumption that his newfound ability to garner weak contact outside the zone continues going forward. If not and his command ends up wavering as he approaches his mid-30s, you’re looking at a guy without overpowering stuff who has had past issues keeping the ball in the park. Given the potential downside of a deal and the inherent injury risk (although Street did manage to stay off the DL last year for the first time since 2009), it seems likely that Street will have to slightly adjust his expectations. The Angels are certainly factoring all of this in when deciding what figure to arrive at and we should find out in the coming days whether the two sides are in the same ballpark on a potential deal.
Braves hinting Banuelos will start the year in the bullpen
When the Braves acquired former top prospect Manny Banuelos from the Yankees in exchange for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve, the word was that the club was set on him starting the year in a rotation, whether it be in Atlanta or Gwinnett. That may no longer be the case.
The rotation seemingly remains the long-term plan for Banuelos but Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweeted yesterday that the club is hinting that the 23-year-old could start the season in the bullpen in order to keep his total innings down. Banuelos lost the entire 2013 season to Tommy John surgery and pitched just 76.1 innings in the minors last year. Bowman reports that the Braves plan on limiting his workload to between 120-130 innings this season, so a bullpen role appears to be a possibility even if Banuelos starts the year at Triple-A.
That leaves southpaws Wandy Rodriguez and Eric Stults as the remaining challengers to nab the final spot in the Braves rotation from hard-throwing right-hander Mike Foltynewicz, one of the central pieces acquired from the Astros for Evan Gattis. Armed with a fastball that can reach triple digits with movement, Foltynewicz easily has the best pure stuff of the three pitchers but if the Braves feel the command still isn’t up to par, he could be in line for extra seasoning down at Gwinnett. The 23-year-old will make his spring debut on Saturday in a split-squad game against the Mets.
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