Ben Badler of Baseball America has an interesting story about a complaint raised by a trainer/agent in the Dominican Republic. He says the Yankees had an agreement to sign his 16-year-old client, Christopher Torres, in June for $2.1 million. And that, indeed, the agreement to sign him come June was reached late last year. Then June 2 came around, the Yankees didn’t sign him, every other team’s bonus pool money was dried up and now Torres is in limbo.
The Yankees deny this, saying that while there were discussions, no offer was ever made. The team simply changed its mind and moved on. Worth noting, however, the MLB had a recent meeting with the Yankees about all of this. No one is talking about it, but it’s possible that someone somewhere thinks the Yankees violated the norms of the signing period.
But apart to Torres himself, the dispute itself is not as interesting for what happened here specifically, but for what it shows us about how international signings work in the capped bonus era.
Teams and teenagers reach handshake agreements — or maybe just nods across a room — months in advance. When they do, it gets disseminated through baseball, causing other teams to back off. This dance is happening earlier and earlier because of the limited amount of money MLB allows teams to spend on international free agents these days. Everyone needs to plan more and plan in advance. When teams’ plans change, however, the kids are the ones left with few options.
Some say the solution to all of this is an international draft. Others say that going back to a system where teams are not so severely limited on signing bonuses is the answer. I fall in the latter camp. Ask yourself: if the Yankees truly were high enough on this kid to offer him big dollars, might another team want to swoop in if he became available? They can’t, though, because by then they’re already tapped out.
It’s rough out there. The international signing game is full of crazy incentives and unfortunate stories like this.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.