Last night Jon Heyman tweeted “Joba is out of the Yanks rotation debry.” The basis for this? The news that Chamberlain will pitch an intra-squad game today while Phil Hughes will pitch against the Phillies in Clearwater. Left out of this is the fact that the intra-squad game and the need to get both pitchers work today were necessitated by yesterday’s rainout. Rather than some exile or demotion, the intra-squad game will include Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera who I think we can assume aren’t fighting for jobs. Nothing in any story I could find suggests that the Yankees have made any decisions about the fifth starter yet.
I’ll give Heyman a bit of the benefit of the doubt based on the fact that you can’t fit in a ton of context in a 140-character tweet, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be anything to support this claim that Joba has lost the job already. Steve at TYU says that Heyman has been squarely in the anti-Joba camp for some time and thinks that his tweet is an exercise in sensationalism.
I’m a bit removed from all the Kremlinology that surrounds Yankees’ personnel decisions, but it does seem like there are a lot of people who think about the fifth starters’ race in terms of politics rather than baseball and simply believe on some primal level that Chamberlain is a relief pitcher and shouldn’t be considered for the job. Which makes little sense considering that Joba was a starter throughout high school, college and the minors prior to his callup in 2007 and that he throws four pitches.
As I said last week, this all seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. I have a mild preference for Chamberlain as the starter simply because I think he stands a chance to be a better pitcher than Hughes in the long run, but the fact of the matter is that no matter what happens this spring both of these guys are likely to start games for New York this year and both will probably be starters if someone gets injured, if Javier Vazquez leaves after this year or whenever it is that Andy Pettitte decides to retire. Which is probably going to be after this year.
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.