A club in on Shin-Soo Choo tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post the seven-year, $153MM contract Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to with the Yankees is being used as the guidepost in their negotiations (Twitter link). The club expects the final number to be somewhere between Ellsbury’s deal and Jayson Werth’s seven-year, $126MM deal with the Nationals. All three players are represented by Scott Boras, per MLBTR’s Agency Database. Several teams have been linked to Choo with varying degress of interest including the Rangers, Mariners, Tigers, Reds, Giants, Astros, and Yankees (before coming to terms with Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicted a six-year, $100MM contract for Choo, but the frenzied free agent spending spree this offseason makes that estimate seem quite low. Choo is the highest ranked free agent remaining on MLBTR’s 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list.
Since 2008, teams that have traded top-of-the-rotation pitchers usually haven’t gotten much in return, ESPN’s Mike Petriello argues (Insider-only). The Diamondbacks’ trade of Dan Haren for Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders was unusual, Petriello argues. Instead, what typically happens looks more like the weak returns various teams have received when they dealt Cliff Lee. The Indians’ trade of C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers, which produed Michael Brantley and little else. That’s worth keeping in mind as we prepare for weeks of rumors involving David Price and the Rays. The Rays did, of course, pull off one very good trade of a high-level starting pitcher when they shipped James Shields (and Wade Davis) to Kansas City in return for Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and others. But that doesn’t mean they can do it twice.
Huge long-term deals frequently turn out badly, and yet teams continue to offer them, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. “I thought after [Albert] Pujols [10 years for $240 million] went so wrong, so quickly, turned into such instant garbage, such a horror show, that the industry had finally learned,” an NL executive tells Sherman. “I really did think it was the tipping point.” That didn’t stop the Mariners from giving Robinson Cano ten years and $240MM, however. Here are more notes from the West divisions. The Astros have already acquired Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls this offseason, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be busy at the Winter Meetings, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. They’d like to add another reliever, and they also have the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place Thursday. Many Padres fans were disappointed when the team shipped Luke Gregerson to the A’s for Seth Smith, but GM Josh Byrnes saw acquiring a left-handed bat as essential, U-T San Diego’s Bill Center writes.
If the Rays do end up trading David Price, it won’t be their first trade of a young starter. The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revisits four trades of relatively high-profile deals — those of James Shields, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir and Edwin Jackson. The Rays got useful players in all four. The Shields deal, of course, produced AL Rookie of the Year winner Wil Myers, and the Garza deal returned Chris Archer. Kazmir brought back utilityman Sean Rodriguez, while the Rays got Matt Joyce back for Jackson. Fans will likely use the Shields deal (which could continue to pay dividends for the Rays as Jake Odorizzi emerges) as a barometer for a potential Price trade, whether that’s fair or not. As FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron recently pointed out, the Shields trade shouldn’t set the market for deals involving frontline starting pitchers. Here are more notes from the East divisions. The Phillies are looking for a starting pitcher, and they pursued Scott Feldman and Ryan Vogelsong before those two players signed with other teams, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports. (The Phils extended a two-year offer of about $15MM to Feldman before he ultimately signed with the Astros, tweets ESPN’s Buster Olney.) Salisbury notes that the Phillies’ interest in Feldman and Vogelsong is indicative of the sort of mid-grade starter they’ll continue to pursue — don’t expect them to make a splash.
While the Yankees have already netted several of the offseason’s top players, inking Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Hiroki Kuroda for a combined $299MM, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that the Bombers will again field a roster with age and injury concerns. Beltran, for example, will be paid $45MM for his age 37-39 seasons despite missing significant time in the past with knee problems. “They will just repeat the cycle,” one rival executive speaking with Rosenthal commented. “No young players ready, need to win now, blow everyone out of the water (financially) and hope in three years they have young talent.” Let’s take a look at the rest of Rosenthal’s excellent column: Though the Red Sox have responded to the Yankees’ spending spree with smaller deals for players such as Edward Mujica and Mike Napoli, Rosenthal writes that Boston holds a major advantage over the Yanks in scouting and player development, as the Ellsbury signing shows. While the Sox are unlikely to target Shin-Soo Choo, GM Ben Cherington may also have a surprise in the works, as Boston has considered trading for Matt Kemp and could also deal one of its starters. Choo may receive a deal that’s nearly as large as Ellsbury’s $153MM pact, some executives believe. The Rangers, Mariners, Tigers and Reds appear to be likely landing spots, though some officials tell Rosenthal that the Giants and Astros could also get involved
The Astros have brought reliever Chad Qualls back to Houston with a two-year deal, the team announced in a press release. The contract includes a club option for 2016. Qualls, 35, was drafted by the Astros in the second round in 2000 and was a quality set-up man for the team from 2005-07. After the ’07 season he was traded to the Diamondbacks in the Jose Valverde trade, and the righty went on to pitch for the Rays, Padres, Phillies, Yankees, Pirates, and Marlins. Qualls pitched to a 2.61 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 66 outings last season for the Marlins. The well-traveled veteran hasn’t spent two consecutive seasons in the same city since 2008/09, but the multi-year pact might keep him in one place for a little while longer. For his career, Qualls owns a 3.79 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 across ten big league seasons. Qualls is represented by Jim Murray of Excel Sports Management, accoring to the MLBTR Agency Database.
With Mike Napoli’s big bat a successful physical away from officially returning to the Red Sox, general manager Ben Cherington can now focus on luxuries rather than necessities.
Billy Hamilton only spent September watching teammate and Shin-Soo Choo, but he made sure to pay close attention to the man he will likely replace as the Reds’ leadoff hitter and center fielder. Hamilton wanted to learn from Choo before that as well.
Carlos Beltran is a perfect fit for the Yankees, and not just because he makes that lineup significantly better. He’s the prototype of what the Yankees want their players to be.
Here are today’s minor moves and outright assignments from around the league… Eric Thames will play for the NC Dinos of the Korean Professional Baseball League in 2014, his agent tells Venezuelan reporter Ormuz Sojo (hat tip to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle). Thames posted a .799 OPS in 420 minor league PA in 2013, mostly at the Triple-A level for the Mariners’ and Orioles’ top affiliates, and was claimed off waivers by the Astros in September. Thames hit .250/.296/.431 with 21 homers in 684 PA with Toronto and Seattle in 2011-12. The White Sox have outrighted outfielder Blake Tekotte and infielder Mike McDade, reducing their 40-man roster to 37, according to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). The 26-year-old Tekotte hit .226/.306/.355 with one homer (his first in the Majors) in 36 PAs for the Sox in 2013. He hit .236/.319/.389 in 338 Triple-A PAs