Author: Aaron Gleeman

Goins, Rios

Royals most confident about re-signing Ben Zobrist


Most of the speculation surrounding the Royals’ trio of free agents is that they’ll make the most effort to re-sign Alex Gordon, but Jerry Crasnick of reports that team officials are “more optimistic about keeping Ben Zobrist” than Gordon or Johnny Cueto.

It makes some sense given that Zobrist is 35 years old and figures to be seeking a two- or three-year deal, whereas the 32-year-old Gordon may be able to cash in with a huge long-term contract.

Zobrist could potentially replace Gordon in left field or the Royals could stick with him at second base while keeping Omar Infante benched. He hit .284 with seven homers and an .816 OPS in 59 games for the Royals after they acquired him from the A’s at midseason and Zobrist has a career .786 OPS along with tons of defensive versatility.

Either way, no one seems to think Kansas City will make any real effort to bring back Cueto.

Yankees downplay interest in Daniel Murphy due to poor defense

Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy leaving the Mets as a free agent seems to be all but assumed at this point and apparently his staying in New York with the Yankees is unlikely as well.

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman “essentially indicated Monday that his ball club is not planning to be a major player” for Murphy, citing the presence of in-house options at second base that already offer the offense-first skill set.

I think if we’re going to pursue something … we have two offensive-profile players already at that position. So I think if we did any changing there it would be seeking more balance of both sides of the ball.

In other words, the Yankees–like many other teams, no doubt–don’t view Murphy as a solid enough defensive second baseman to make his overall value there particularly strong. And they already have Chase Headley at third base and Mark Teixeira at first base.

Murphy is expected to turn down the Mets’ one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in search of a long-term deal, but his shaky defense at second base and good but great offensive track record make him an interesting test case for the open market.

White Sox haven’t ruled out re-signing Alexei Ramirez

Alexei Ramirez Getty
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Last week the White Sox parted ways with their longtime starting shortstop Alexei Ramirez by declining his $10 million option for 2016, making him a free agent.

However, general manager Rick Hahn told Dan Hayes of that the team has not ruled out re-signing Ramirez at a lesser salary.

Essentially the decision made is we weren’t going to pay Alexei $10 million for 2016. We haven’t closed the door on potentially bringing Alexei back. He served us extremely well for eight years in a White Sox uniform and obviously middle infield is a position of interest for us going into the offseason. We’ll continue talking to his guy. Nothing has been shut for the future just yet.

As usual the free agent shortstop market is a very thin one, so it wouldn’t be surprising if several teams pursued Ramirez with multi-year contract offers. He struggled in 2015 and is 34 years old, but has a lengthy track record of being an above-average all-around shortstop with decent power.

Tyler Saladino is the top in-house option to replace Ramirez in Chicago.

Michael Brantley undergoes shoulder surgery, likely to miss Opening Day

Michael Brantley AP
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Indians outfielder Michael Brantley injured his right shoulder in mid-September and now he’s undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum, with Jordan Bastian of reporting that he faces a recovery timetable of 5-6 months.

Barring a much speedier recovery that means Brantley will likely begin next season on the disabled list and could miss all of April. That’s awfully rough news for a team to be getting in mid-November, because Brantley is coming off back-to-back outstanding seasons in which he rated among the best all-around outfielders in baseball both years.

This year he hit .310 with 15 homers, a league-leading 45 doubles, and an .859 OPS while walking more (60) than he struck out (51) and playing good defense in left field. And he was even better in 2014.

Brantley and the team initially downplayed the shoulder injury, suggesting he wouldn’t need surgery, but now the Indians are facing a month of next season or maybe more without their All-Star outfielder.

Twins win $12.85 million bidding for Korean slugger Byung-ho Park

Byung-ho Park

After weeks of speculation, rumors, and reports–including a flat-out wrong report this morning–we finally know which MLB team won the bidding for Korean slugger Byung-ho Park: Minnesota.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Twins submitted the high bid at $12.85 million, which is amusing because the Twins were one of the few teams not linked to Park in various reports. No one saw this coming.

Minnesota now has a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with Park, who hit .343 with 53 homers, 146 RBIs, and a 1.150 OPS in 140 games for Nexen this season and has topped a 1.000 OPS in each of the past three years. Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang had similarly amazing numbers in the same league two years ago and went on to hit .287 with an .816 OPS in 126 games as an MLB rookie.

As a first baseman Park would be a bit of an odd fit in Minnesota given the presence of Joe Mauer at first base and Miguel Sano at designated hitter, but Sano played third base in the minors and the Twins have talked recently about getting him some reps in the outfield too. They could find room for Park, Mauer, and Sano in the same lineup by either trading incumbent third baseman Trevor Plouffe–which is a possibility I wrote 1,000 words about two weeks ago–or making Sano a left fielder.

Either way, this news comes as a huge shock to Twins fans and will have everyone in Minnesota refreshing Park’s statistics page on all day.