When the Kansas City Royals announced last month that they were placing, Wade Davis, baseball’s best reliever, on the disabled list, virtually everyone in thought the same thing.
A player’s years of arbitration eligibility provide an opportunity for value, as teams are able to retain veteran assets without being forced to commit to future seasons — as is often necessary in the free agent market. But there can come a time where even talented and still-useful players have pushed their arb price tag too high to justify the tender of a contract. With performance and/or injury issues marring the 2016 seasons of these eight established big leaguers, their already-lofty salary starting points could conceivably prompt their respective teams to send them onto the open market: Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets (5+ service class, $6.725MM 2016 salary): Back issues appear to have ended Duda’s campaign after just 145 plate appearances, and they weren’t terribly productive ones. In that relatively small sample, his walk rate fell even as he put more balls on the ground and made less hard contact than in his productive prior campaigns. The result was a below-average .231/.297/.431 batting line. With health and platoon questions at play, the Mets could well be forced to look for an alternative approach at the position. Early prediction: Non-tender Nathan Eovaldi, SP, Yankees (5+, $5.6MM): Despite his struggles, Eovaldi seemed for much of the year to be a fairly sure thing to be tendered a contract. He continued to show signs of promise in spite of the inconsistencies — a career-best 9.3% swinging strike rate, for instance — and at worst would appear to be a late-inning pen candidate with a fastball that sits at 97 even when he’s starting.
Right-hander Max Scherzer was dominant at Nationals Park on Thursday night as the Nationals blanked the Orioles, 4-0, to win the finale of the four-game, home-and-home Battle of the Beltways clash. The Nats put the brakes on a four-game skid, while ending the O’s three-game winning streak.
He’d be a viral sensation.
Stephen Strasburg has played catch on back-to-back days, an encouraging sign just days after he was placed on the disabled list with right elbow soreness.
The Dodgers have added another Phillies stalwart, bringing in veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz via trade. In an interesting twist, Los Angeles will send its own long-time backstop, A.J. Ellis, back to Philly in the swap. The Phillies will also pick up some other assets in the deal. Young righty Tommy Bergjans is on his way to Philadelphia, along with a player to be named later or cash considerations. There’s a financial element to the deal, too. Ruiz’s $8.5MM salary still has about $1.85MM left to go on the year, while there’s a little less than $1MM owed Ellis in his final season of arbitration eligibility (which was costing the team $4.5MM). The Dodgers will presumably also be obligated to pay Ruiz a $500K buyout on his $4.5MM club option for 2017 — unless the team elects to pick it up. Ruiz had spent all of his 17 professional seasons with the Philadelphia organization, including the last eleven at the major league level.
Jon Niese’s season looks to be over, as the left-hander will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. The injury likely brings to an end Niese’s second stint with the Mets — one that will be remembered as considerably less successful than his first tenure. Since being acquired from the Pirates in a one-for-one trade that sent struggling lefty Antonio Bastardo to Pittsburgh, Niese has yielded 14 runs on 13 hits and nine walks with 12 strikeouts. That 11.45 earned run average continued what was a dreadful season for Niese with the Bucs, and his 2016 campaign looks like it will come to a close with a 5.50 ERA over the life of 121 innings between the two teams. Per DiComo, Niese has been dealing with discomfort in his knee since June but has attempted to pitch through the pain he felt
7:55pm: Cespedes has already walked back his comments somewhat, as Mike Puma of the New York Post writes. Asked about his earlier comments, Cespedes replied (through a translator): “I’ve said it before: My intentions, of course, are to be here for three years and if I can spend the rest of my career with the Mets I would.” Cespedes, though, said he hasn’t made a decision as to whether he’ll opt out. “My focus is just to play baseball and help the team win, hopefully make it to the playoffs. I let my agents worry about all that.” Certainly, it’d be fairly stunning if Cespedes passed up the opportunity to hit the open market, though the possibility of course remains that his agents could work out an extension or that he could simply opt out and re-sign for a considerably larger sum than the $47.5MM he’d be guaranteed through 2018 under his current contract. 1:33pm: Mets star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes says that he still intends to stay for the final two years of his contract with the Mets, as Bob Klapisch and Matt Ehalt of the Bergen Record report. Of course, there’s still time to go before he has to decide on his opt-out clause, which still looks like the better financial decision from his perspective. Cespedes landed in New York via trade, but seemingly prioritized a return when he hit the open market last winter.
The Gary Sanchez joy ride continues. He made his mark on yet another big league game — and now the history books — in a hurry.