Dan Uggla

Jays and Uggla seem an unlikely match

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Not to say it couldn’t work out.   But Buster Olney’s report that the Jays, according to rival executives, have emerged as the favorites to acquire Dan Uggla strikes an odd chord.

The Jays not only led the majors in homers last season, but they did it with a total nearly 20 percent greater than any other team’s.  They hit 257, while the Red Sox came in second with 211.  The Yankees were the only other team to reach 190, finishing with 201.

And, of course, the Jays have a second baseman who ranked as one of the AL’s better players in 2009.   Aaron Hill slumped terribly last season, finishing at .205/.271/.394 in 528 at-bats, but he’s a far better defender than Uggla there’s little to suggest that he’s going to be shipped off this winter.

Now the Jays have weighed shifting Hill to third base, more to give themselves greater flexibility than because of any concerns about his defense.  However, if they did trade for Uggla, one would hope he’d be the one to switch positions.

There’s also the matter of what the Jays would give up.   In theory, the team has a lot of pitching depth.  In practice, Jays pitchers tend to get hurt a lot.  They had 11 pitchers make at least three starts last year and nine in 2010. 

Two names quickly spring to mind as potential key pieces in an Uggla: J.P. Arencibia and Brett Cecil.

Arencibia, the Jays’ first-round pick in 2007, broke through with a big year in Triple-A last season, hitting .301/.359/.626.  He’s lacking in plate discipline and he’s average at best defensively, but he still qualifies as one of the game’s top catching prospects and the Marlins have a big need behind the plate.

Cecil, 24, quietly won 15 games for the Jays last season.  His 4.22 ERA and 117/54 K/BB ratio in 172 2/3 innings were unremarkable, but he was pitching in baseball’s toughest division and he made 13 of his 28 starts against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.  Despite his success, the Jays probably value him behind Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum and Brandon Morrow, making him somewhat expendable.

I can’t imagine the Marlins would get both in an Uggla deal, but they’d likely want one of the two and then some additional talent.   Second basemen with 30-homer ability don’t come cheap.

Bryce Harper on potential $400 million contract: “Don’t sell me short.”

Bryce Harper
AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is at least three years away from free agency, but people are already contemplating just how large a contract the phenom will be able to negotiate, especially after taking home the National League Most Valuable Player Award for his performance this past season.

When the likes of David Price and Zack Greinke are signing for over $200 million at the age of 30 or older, it stands to reason that Harper could draw more as a 26-year-old if he can maintain MVP-esque levels of production over the next several seasons. $400 million might not be enough for Harper, though, as MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. He said, “Don’t sell me short,” which is a fantastic response.

During the 2015 season, Harper led the majors with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage while leading the National League with 42 home runs and 118 runs scored. He also knocked in 99 runs for good measure. Harper and Ted Williams are the only hitters in baseball history to put up an adjusted OPS of 195 or better (100 is average) at the age of 22 or younger.

Frankie Montas out 2-4 months after rib resection surgery

Chicago White Sox pitcher Frankie Montas throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Per Eric Stephen of SB Nation’s True Blue LA, the Dodgers announced that pitching prospect Frankie Montas will be out two to four months after undergoing rib resection surgery to remove his right first rib.

The Dodgers acquired Montas from the White Sox in a three-team trade in December 2015 that also involved the Reds. The 22-year-old made his big league debut with the Pale Hose last season, allowing eight runs on 14 hits and nine walks with 20 strikeouts in 15 innings across two starts. Montas had spent the majority of his season at Double-A Birmingham, where he posted a 2.97 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 48 walks in 112 innings.

MLB.com rated Montas as the 95th-best prospect in baseball, slipping a few spots from last year’s pre-season ranking of 91.

Athletics acquire Khris Davis in trade with Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers' Khris Davis swings on a home run during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
AP Photo/Morry Gash
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The Brewers’ rebuild continues, as the club announced on Twitter the trade of outfielder Khris Davis to the Athletics in exchange for catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Bubba Derby. MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports that the A’s have designated pitcher Sean Nolin for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for Davis.

Davis, 28, was the Brewers’ most valuable remaining trade chip. He blasted 27 home runs while hitting .247/.323/.505 in 440 plate appearances this past season in Milwaukee. Adding to his value, Davis won’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season and can’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season. In Oakland, Davis will give the Athletics more reliability as Coco Crisp was injured for most of last season and is now 36 years old. Though he doesn’t have much of a career platoon split, Davis split time in left field with the left-handed-hitting Gerardo Parra last season. It’s unclear if the A’s will utilize him in a platoon as well.

With Davis out of the picture, Domingo Santana is a leading candidate to start in left field for the Brewers, GM David Stearns said, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Nottingham, 20, started the 2015 season in the Astros’ system but went to the Athletics in the Scott Kazmir deal. He hit an aggregate .316/.372/.505 at Single-A, showing plenty of promise early in his professional career. With catcher Jonathan Lucroy on his way out of Milwaukee, the Brewers are hoping Nottingham can be their next permanent backstop.

Derby, 21, made his professional debut last season after the Athletics drafted him in the sixth round. Across 37 1/3 innings, he yielded seven runs (five earned) on 24 hits and 10 walks with 47 strikeouts. He’s obviously a few years away from the majors, but the Brewers are looking for high upside.

Yankees, Aroldis Chapman avoid arbitration at $11.325 million

Aroldis Chapman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees and closer Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration, settling on an $11.325 million salary for the 2016 season. It is the lefty’s third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

Chapman had filed for $13 million while the Yankees countered at $9 million, so he gets slightly more than the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

With the Reds this past season, Chapman posted a 1.63 ERA with 33 saves and a 116/33 K/BB ratio over 66 1/3 innings. The Reds have opted to rebuild, so they traded him to the Yankees this offseason in exchange for four minor leaguers. Chapman, who turns 28 at the end of February, will make for a fearsome 1-2-3 punch in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen along with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.