Rays GM Andrew Friedman has left the team to take over as the Dodgers president of baseball operations, both teams announced. After years of building annoyingly good teams on a tiny budget, Friedman will now have the largest payroll in the game at his disposal. Of course, now he has actual expectations too. Team president Matt Silverman will replace Friedman and I have no doubt the Rays will continue to be a thorn in the Yankees’ side going forward. They weren’t a one-man show all these years.
According to Ramona Shelburne, the Dodgers and ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a seven-year contract extension worth $215M. The deal includes an opt-out clause after five years, when Kershaw will still only be 30. It is the richest pitching contract in history, $35M more than Justin Verlander’s deal. The extension could take the Dodgers out of the running for Masahiro Tanaka, but who knows at this point. I have a hard time betting against that team opening its wallet.
3:42pm: Now Nightengale says the Dodgers “won’t spend wildly” on Tanaka. So, yeah. Your guess is as good as mine. Meanwhile, John Shea hears Tanaka prefers to play in New York, Los Angeles, or Boston.
3:00pm: Via Bob Nightengale: The Dodgers have let it be known they “plan to go all-out” to sign Masahiro Tanaka and claim they will not allow themselves to be out-bid. That could just be posturing or, given how Los Angeles has spent these last two years, completely sincere. The Yankees are interested in Tanaka but it is unclear exactly how far they’re willing to go to sign him. The signing deadline for Tanaka is two weeks from today.
Today is the halfway point of Masahiro Tanaka‘s 30-day negotiating window. He has 15 days left to work out a contract before the 5pm ET deadline on January 24th, and the entire deal must be complete by that time. Tanaka needs to pass a physical and sign on the dotted line by then. There won’t be any of this “agree to a deal and three weeks later it’s official” nonsense. Only 15 days until he is on some team’s roster. Love the hard deadline.
Anyway, we know the Yankees have already contacted with Tanaka’s agent Casey Close, but there haven’t been any real updates since. That doesn’t mean talks have stalled or anything like that, just that no updates have leaked. The whole process has been very tight-lipped, it seems. I’m guessing that’s by design. Here are some Tanaka-related notes from around the league in what I suspect is the first of many update posts:
- Tanaka flew to the Los Angeles yesterday to begin face-to-face meetings with teams. He is slated to meet with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, and Angels this week and he will also be seen by a doctor to get the physical process going. [David Waldstein, Bill Plunkett & Jon Heyman]
- D’Backs GM Kevin Towers said Close “pretty much asked those clubs that are involved that just less is better and not to really say anything or divulge the process or what’s happening.” That explains the lack of updates. [Steve Gilbert]
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed he has touched base with Tanaka’s camp but the two sides are in the “feeling out” stage. Negotiations with various clubs are “still in a very preliminary phase” and things might not heat up until next week. [Dylan Hernandez & Andy Martino]
- If you missed it earlier this week, here is our massive Scouting The Market post on Tanaka. Pretty much everything you need to know about the guy is in there.
Robinson Cano has a been a Not A Yankee for a little less than three weeks now, but his market has yet to really take shape. He had not received any offers from other clubs as of November 10th. That isn’t all that surprising, however. Things have been relatively quite for other top free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo as well. The market for the big names usually starts to pick up during the Winter Meetings in early-December.
- Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team will meet with Cano’s people sometime this week, but also indicated they will continue to talk to other players in case things drag on too long. “We haven’t really had any communication on any specifics yet, but it’s the beginning of the process,” said Hal.
- Jay-Z and agents Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez met with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson, and assistant GM John Ricco at a Manhattan hotel yesterday. They supposedly made a “Scott Boras-like” presentation. Cano’s camp initiated the meeting and it sounds like they’re trying to drum up some leverage. The Mets aren’t handing out the type of contract it will take to sign Cano, especially under the risk-averse Alderson.
- “[Jay-Z is] going to be intimately involved in all areas, and that has been true for the last six months” said Van Wagenen recently. “Jay is a very, very successful businessman, who has a keen understanding of value, a keen understanding of brands, and a keen understand of what this player, Robinson Cano, wants to accomplish in his career. He’s been at the table both in strategy sessions and in preparation. And he absolutely has, and will continue to be, involved in the actual negotiations with potential suitors.”
- Cano’s camp has not yet budged off their ten-year, $305M request, but Randy Levine ain’t havin’ any of that. “We want Robbie back — we think Robbie is terrific — but we have no interest in doing any ten-year deals and no interest in paying $300M to any player. Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about,” said the team president.
- The Dodgers still insist they will not get involved in the bidding for Cano. We first heard that a few weeks ago. Los Angeles seems like an obvious fit for Robbie given their huge wallet and second base vacancy, but they appear to be saving the majority of their cash for the inevitable Clayton Kershaw extension. Maybe they’ll circle back if they have some extra cash once that is taken care of.
- Just in case you were wondering, the Marlins will not be in on Cano this winter. Shocking, I know. “We have to know our market and our payroll and our history, and our history is to build around young players and add pieces when it has become very clear that we are ready to win,” said GM Dan Jennings.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Dodgers do not have interest in Robinson Cano and will not pursue him when he becomes a free agent after the season. “They’re not interested in Cano,” said Feinsand’s source flatly. Los Angeles already has a ton of money on the books in future years and must still sign Clayton Kershaw to what figures to be the richest pitching contract in history.
Cano, 30, was recently rumored to be seeking a ten-year contract worth $305M, but that’s just the big scary number every prominent free agent floats before the offseason. No one is paying him that much. The Yankees have reportedly offered a very fair seven years and $161M. The Dodgers are an obvious suitor for Cano given their need at second base and boatload of cash, so I have a hard time believing they’re not truly interested. Even if they aren’t, it would make sense to get involved just to drive up the price. The Nationals, Tigers, Mariners, Blue Jays, and heck, maybe even the Mets, could get involved.
For the second time this season, baseball’s two biggest payrolls will meet for a quick little two-game set. The Yankees and Dodgers split two games in the Bronx back in May, and now the series moves out west. It was much more fun when Don Mattingly returned to Yankee Stadium, that’s for sure.
What Have They Done Lately?
If the Rays are the hottest team in baseball, the Dodgers are the hottest team in the NL. They’ve won nine of ten games since the All-Star break and 26 of their last 32 games overall. At 56-48 with a +9 run differential, Los Angeles has a nice 2.5-game lead in the NL West.
With an average of 4.0 runs per game and a team 104 wRC+, the Dodgers are a below-average run scoring team and an above-average offensive team. Does that make sense? They hit well but don’t score as many runs as you’d expect. They have some timing issues, evidence by their 85 wRC+ with runners in scoring position. OF Matt Kemp (95 wRC+) is on the DL with an ankle issue and won’t return this series.
The top of manager Don Mattingly’s lineup is where all the fun happens. OF Carl Crawford (117 wRC+) leads off, and he is expected to return to the lineup tonight after being under the weather for a few days. OF Yasiel Puig (185 wRC+) bats second, 1B Adrian Gonzalez (130 wRC+) bats third, and the molten hot SS Hanley Ramirez (210 wRC+) cleans up. He’s been unbelievable after missing the start of the year with thumb and hamstring problems.
OF Andre Ethier (107 wRC+) and the underrated C A.J. Ellis (109 wRC+) provide some nice lineup help from the five and six spots. 3B Juan Uribe (104 wRC+) and 2B Mark Ellis (92 wRC+) round out the rest of the regulars. On the bench, Mattingly has C Tim Federowicz (61 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Hairston Jr. (87 wRC+), UTIL Elian Herrera (38 wRC+ in limited time), and OF Skip Schumaker (96 wRC+). They lack that big power bat for key pinch-hitting spots.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Zack Greinke
Two games against the Dodgers, two former Cy Young Award winners on the mound. Such is life. Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy winner, has a 3.49 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 16 starts this year, including strong walk (2.85 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) and homer (0.83 HR/9 and 10.2% HR/FB) rates. The 29-year-old’s strikeout (6.89 K/9 and 18.4 K%) and ground ball (44.3%) numbers leave something to be desired though, especially for a guy who signed for close to $150M. Greinke is a true six-pitch pitcher, using three fastballs (low-90s two-seamer, low-90s four-seamer, upper-80s cutter) to set up his three offspeed pitches (mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball). The curve and changeup see more time than the slider. Believe it or not, the Yankees have faced Greinke just once in the last five years. They punished him for seven runs in two innings back in 2011.
Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw
For my money, Kershaw is the best pitcher in the world. The he 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner brings a 1.96 ERA (2.50 FIP) into this start, not to mention a gaudy strikeout rate (8.76 K/9 and 25.5 K%), a gaudier walk rate (1.96 BB/9 and 5.7 BB%), an excellent homer rate (0.51 HR/9 and 6.5% HR/FB), and a decent ground ball rate (45.2%). He’s a stud. The 25-year-old (!) Kershaw is basically a three-pitch pitcher, using a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a wipeout mid-80s slider, and a hammer mid-70s curve. All three are legit swing-and-miss pitches. He’ll also throw the rare mid-80s changeup. He’s ridiculous. Kershaw has actually pitched against the Yankees once before, holding them to two runs in seven innings back in 2010. You might remember him breaking a bone in Brett Gardner‘s wrist with a pitch in that game. That was before Kershaw made the leap from promising youngster to dominant ace.
After a few rocky weeks in May and June, Mattingly’s bullpen has fallen into place in recently. RHP Kenley Jansen (2.22 FIP) has replaced RHP Brandon League (4.80 FIP) as closer, and the team recently added RHP Carlos Marmol (9.42 FIP) as well. That’s three Proven Closers™, but only one is actually above-average. The other two see mostly low and medium-leverage situations.
LHP Paco Rodriguez (1.07 FIP vs. LHB), a 2012 draft pick, is already a shutdown lefty specialist. LHP J.P. Howell (2.65 FIP) is another strong matchup guy, and the Yankees are familiar with him from his days with the Rays. RHP Ronald Belisario (3.55 FIP) is the guy who did this, and he rounds out the bullpen alongside RHP Chris Withrow (3.31 FIP in limited time). Outside of the lefties, there are some seriously hard throwers in this ‘pen.
Both the Yankees and the Dodgers were off on Monday, so their bullpens are as rested as can be this time of year. Check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who pitched when, then check out Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness and True Blue LA for the latest and greatest on the Dodgers. They’re two of my very favorite team-specific sites on the web.