Author: Craig Calcaterra

ervin santana getty

The Royals will “take a look” at Ervin Santana


Jon Heyman says that the Royals will “take a look” at free agent Ervin Santana.

Santana pitched for the Royals in 2013, of course, and had a fantastic year for them. By virtue of their qualifying offer to him last winter, Santana had a hard time finding work and had to settle for a one-year deal from Atlanta. The level to which ballplayers take such matters personally or as a mere matter of business will determine if Santana looks back, of course. As will whether Santana garners much interest at large, seeing as though it’s hard to feature the Royals spending too tremendously much on a starter like him.

Santana should be able to help someone, of course. He finished the season with a 3.95 ERA and a 179/63 K/BB ratio in 196 innings. Which isn’t as good as 2013 was for him, but ain’t chopped liver.

The deadline to accept or reject qualifying offers is 5PM today

Reuters David Robertson

source: Reuters

Today at 5pm is the deadline for the 12 free agent players who were given qualifying offers by their 2014 clubs to either accept them or reject them. Here, again, are the players who were given qualifying offers:

Melky Cabrera, Blue Jays
Nelson Cruz, Orioles
Michael Cuddyer, Rockies
Francisco Liriano, Pirates
Russell Martin, Pirates
Victor Martinez, Tigers
Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers
David Robertson, Yankees
Pablo Sandoval, Giants
Ervin Santana, Braves
Max Scherzer, Tigers
James Shields, Royals

If these guys accept their qualifying offer they will be given a one-year deal with their current club for $15.3 million. If they reject, they are free to sign with any team, however the team that signs them will have to give up a first or a second round draft pick (if the signing team has a top-10 pick in next summer’s draft, they will give up a second rounder). Those picks are often called “compensation picks,” but as our friend Joe Sheehan reminds us today via his fantastic newsletter to which you should subscribe, it’s really a punishment to teams for signing free agents, designed specifically to impede the market for players’ services. Why the union ever agreed to that I have no idea, but it was really stupid of them to do so. Alas.

No player, since the advent of the qualifying offer, has accepted one. That seems likely to change this year, partially because we saw a couple of guys end up taking low-price, one-year deals after they couldn’t find a robust market for their services after rejecting the qualifying offer. Partially because a couple of this year’s qualifying offer recipients would, on the merits, be unlikely to find a better deal regardless.

Michael Cuddyer is an obvious example given his recent injury history and the fact that many teams may perceive him as something of a creature of Coors Field at this point in his career. Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz were two of the guys who had trouble finding jobs last winter due to their last qualifying offers so you could understand it if they accepted, but most reports suggest they will not. It’s possible, however, that Francisco Liriano accepts. Beyond that, it seems like everyone will reject and test the market.

The Mariners are really interested in Hanley Ramirez and Victor Martinez

Hanley Ramirez

Two reports which, if there are some teeth to them and someone acts on them, could really get the offseason rolling in a hurry: The Seattle Mariners are reportedly interested in both Hanley Ramirez and Victor Martinez.

Ken Rosenthal reports that Martinez is believed to be the Mariners top priority this winter. Rosenthal also reported that the M’s were interested in Ramirez, but Bob Nightengale of USA Today goes farther, saying that the Mariners are “aggressively pursuing” him.

Martinez is coming off a career year and is 35-years-old, seeking a four-year deal. Ramirez will likely cost $100 million or more and has become a defensive liability at shortstop. So, yes, both of those guys present some risk. However, Ramirez has shown a willingness to play elsewhere — third base seems like a natural fit — and given how close Seattle came to a playoff spot in 2014 and that they have a still-in-his-prime Robinson Cano, the team is certainly in win-now mode.

Plug in Martinez’s and Ramirez’s bats next to Cano and Kyle Seager in the lineup, endure Ramirez at shortstop for a while and worry about the defense down the road (or move Ramirez to DH eventually) and the M’s could be really, really interesting. Expensive and carrying high expectations to be sure, but certainly interesting.

The idea of popping A-Rod for “distribution” requires an awful lot of magical thinking

Yankees' Rodriguez stands at third base in the eighth inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Red Sox in Boston

Ken Rosenthal’s report over the weekend that some in Major League Baseball are considering whether Alex Rodriguez could be subject to greater discipline in the Biogenesis matter by virtue of steering players to Anthony Bosch or “distributing” PEDs is interesting. But buying any theory along these lines requires a hell of a lot of magical thinking.

I take no issue with Rosenthal’s analysis of the matter. His sources are telling him what they’re telling him and, given how Rob Manfred has been shown to be nothing if not creative and opportunistic in devising new and exciting ways for MLB to gain power over the players in imposing drug punishments over the years, no theory MLB could devise to hammer A-Rod more than they have already would truly surprise me. It’s possible, if MLB has the will, that it would go down in exactly that manner.

But for it to go down in exactly that manner — and for MLB to find the will to do it — would also require a tremendous, tremendous amount of amnesia, disingenuousness and chutzpah on the part of the league. I say this because the notion that Alex Rodriguez steered players to Anthony Bosch and/or distributed PEDs ignores the fact that Bosch was a well-known source of PEDs for as long as a decade before the Biogenesis case broke in January 2013. Maybe even longer.

Let’s go back to June 2009, when Manny Ramirez was, for a time, the poster boy of PEDs. Then it was widely reported that the source of his drugs was one Pedro Publio Bosch, the father of Anthony Bosch, and that Anthony Bosch was allegedly the go-between for his dad and Manny. And both the DEA and Major Leaguer Baseball were well aware of it:

Investigators believe the prescription for human chorionic gonadotropin, known as hCG, was written by Pedro Publio Bosch, 71, a physician who has practiced family medicine in Florida since 1976. His son, Anthony Bosch, 45, is believed to have worked as a contact between his father and Ramirez. It’s unclear how far along the DEA is in its inquiry but sources indicated that investigators want to know whether either man ever procured improper or illegal prescriptions for other people. DEA officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report went on:

Anthony Bosch is well known in Latin American baseball circles, sources say. His relationships with players date at least from the earlier part of the decade, when he was seen attending parties with players and known to procure tickets to big league ballparks, especially in Boston and New York.

Then-MLB president Bob DuPuy — who was Rob Manfred’s boss — said “We’re aware of the investigation and our department of investigations is cooperating with the DEA.” So this is no mystery to the league either.

I suppose it’s possible for someone to keep a straight face and say that the reason Anthony Bosch and his 70-something-year-old father were “well known” among Latin American baseball circles for far more than a decade by the time the Biogenesis story broke was because of A-Rod. But it certainly strains credulity to say such a thing. Given how disliked A-Rod is around the game and how competitive he is, one would think he’d not be introducing a good chunk of the league to his source. More to the point, given how much incentive anyone popped for PEDs in Biogenesis or, for that matter, any of the many people criminally-charged in the matter have to implicate A-Rod as a kingpin instead of a user, one would think we would’ve heard about it before now. Indeed, rather than a potential federal witness, A-Rod would be the target of some very serious federal charges courtesy of the DEA.

But he’s not. What he is is the subject of a lot of new tongue-wagging because someone revealed (perhaps illegally) his statements to the DEA and because of some tabloid nonsense. That’s all quite interesting, but none of that explains why now, after more than a decade of Bosch being well known by baseball as a go-to source for drugs in Florida, Major League Baseball suddenly has decided that A-Rod is the Pied Piper of Biogenesis. As such, if they do decide to do more to Rodriguez, they had better have a good story.  A damn good story.

General Manager Meetings begin today in Phoenix

Biltmore Phoenix

The first official hot stove season event gets underway today. It’s the General Manager Meetings. Which are basically the less-noticed but possibly more interesting younger brother to the Winter Meetings. They get underway today at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix and go through Thursday.

Officially there is Major League Baseball business on the agenda — nothing massive like big rules changes or anything — but the real value of the GM meetings is for execs to being laying the groundwork for trades and free agent signings this offseason. To have preliminary conversations with other GMs and with agents. In the past this meant laying the groundwork for deals in December at the Winter Meetings and later. However, last year there was a lot of action in later November soon after the GM meetings concluded. Which means that the rumors you hear this week, as opposed to last week, may have more heft to them and may be a lot closer to actual deals.

We’ve talked a lot about possible destinations for free agents, but maybe the more interesting teams to watch this week are the ones which have trade decisions to make. The Reds, who have several players, such as Johnny Cueto and Jay Bruce, entering their final year before free agency. The A’s, who could be in the market to trade a pitcher. The Phillies, who may be in the market to trade everything that isn’t nailed down. It may be easy for a GM to text an agent about, say, Pablo Sandoval last week or next week, but it’s pretty common for us to hear, right after a big trade happens in the offseason, things like “well, this all started when [other GM] and I had a conversation at the GM meetings  . . .”

So that’s what’s going down this week. Those preliminary conversations and, possibly, an actual deal. Keep it on HBT as, as is our custom, we will pass along all of the rumors and news as we hear it.