There was all sorts of discussion about the designated hitter coming to the National League after Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright went down with a torn Achilles last April. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said as recently as September that he sees no need to expand the designated hitter to the National League, but that hasn’t stopped the chatter from continuing.
The designated hitter has been in effect in the American League since 1973. The National League has resisted it until now, but the idea of a universal DH rule has begun to feel inevitable since the introduction of daily interleague play. The current collective bargaining agreement will expire at the end of 2016, so one wonders if we could see a rule change as soon as next year.
The universal DH rule would potentially add 15 new jobs and/or prolong the careers of some veterans, so there’s obvious incentive for the players’ union to be in favor of it, but there’s an argument to be made for the owners to want it beyond a simple bargaining chip. In addition to increased scoring, it would protect high-priced pitchers from freak injuries like the one suffered by Wainwright. It’s risky enough to pitch.
The novelty of Bartolo Colon aside, pitchers hitting is generally a pretty ugly thing. My defense of keeping the status quo has mostly been based on celebrating and preserving the differences between the two leagues. There’s something cool about that, but I can also acknowledge that it’s irrational.
Many have speculated on Doug Fister being a candidate to take a one-year contract coming off a disappointing 2015 season, but ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s seeking a two-year deal in the range of $22 million.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal mentioned this morning that some with the Orioles like Fister. It makes sense as a potential fit, as the club would have to surrender their first-round pick in order to sign Yovani Gallardo. Matt Wieters accepted the team’s qualifying offer in November and Chris Davis is coming back, so the team isn’t netting any extra draft picks for 2016. This could push them away from a pursuit of Gallardo to consider a pitcher like Fister, who isn’t attached to draft pick compensation and won’t cost nearly as much.
How Fister would fare in the American League East is a legitimate question. Showing diminished velocity, he had a 4.19 ERA and 63/24 K/BB ratio over 103 innings with the Nationals last season. He missed time with forearm tightness during the first half and was moved to the bullpen down the stretch.
Chris Davis has reportedly reached agreement on a seven-year, $161 million contract to return to the Orioles. This presumably takes a potential landing spot off the table for Yoenis Cespedes, who was mulling a five-year, $90 million offer from the club. Where does Cespedes go from here?
According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Cespedes was weighing the Orioles’ offer against the knowledge that he could return to the Mets on a one-year/short-term deal. The Mets haven’t made a formal offer, but the thought is that they are open to such a scenario. The thing is, if Cespedes is truly receptive to signing a short-term deal, there are likely a handful of teams who would also be interested and could potentially offer a higher guarantee. It’s far from a given that he’s returning to Queens. And heck, he still may end up getting the lucrative long-term deal he covets.
Where things get tricky is when you try to think of the teams who could be in the mix here. The Braves have reportedly expressed interest in Cespedes while teams like the Tigers, White Sox, and Cardinals could have an opening for an outfielder. The Angels have also been mentioned as a possibility, but they are reportedly reluctant to go over the luxury tax threshold. The other big variable here is that Justin Upton and Dexter Fowler are also still trying to find homes.
The noteworthy signings keep on coming on this Saturday morning. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Royals and Ian Kennedy have reached agreement on a five-year, $70 million contract. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that the deal includes an opt-out after two years.
Coming off a 4.28 ERA with 31 homers allowed in 168 1/3 innings in 2015, Kennedy received a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Padres in November. Many were surprised that the 31-year-old didn’t take the qualifying offer, as it was assumed that it would severely impact his market. For most of the winter, it seemingly did, but Scott Boras ended up landing a pretty nice deal for his client here. It’s just a shade under what Mike Leake and Wei-Yin Chen (five years, $80 million) received.
The Royals, who have been linked to Kennedy for the past couple of weeks, will surrender their first-round pick in order to sign him. He’ll be reunited with his former pitching coach Dave Eiland and join a rotation which includes names like Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, Kris Medlen, Danny Duffy, and Chris Young.
While it hasn’t shown in his ERA, Kennedy has struck out 24.4 percent of the batters he has faced over the past two seasons. Pitching in the National League has surely helped, so we’ll likely see that number go down with the Royals, but only 18 starting pitchers (min. 250 IP) have a higher strikeout percentage in that timespan. Kennedy has also been durable, making at least 30 starts in each of the last six seasons. Still, this is a heck of a job by Boras after Kennedy’s market has been quiet all winter.
UPDATE: Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the deal includes $42 million in interest-free deferred payments. Davis will make $17 million per season from 2016-2022. He’ll then receive annual payments of $3.5 million from 2023-2032 and $1.4 million from 2033-2037.
Per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the present-day value of the contract is expected to come in under $150 million.
12:05 p.m. ET: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal may only include a partial no-trade clause. It is also expected to include deferred money, which would take away from the present-day value of the contract.
8:09 a.m. ET: Big news this Saturday morning, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Orioles and Chris Davis have reached agreement on a new contract. Heyman adds that the deal is worth $161 million over seven years. It easily surpasses Adam Jones‘ $85.5 million extension as the richest contract in franchise history.
The final number also beats out the Orioles’ previous reported offer, which checked in at seven years and $150 million and included some deferred money. They eventually pulled that offer, but remained open to revisiting a possible deal. With negotiations stalled between the two sides, the Orioles were considering alternatives in recent weeks. The club reportedly made a five-year, $90 million offer to free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this week, which could have forced a resolution with Davis.
After a down 2014 which ended with a 25-game amphetamine suspension, Davis bounced back in big way last season by leading MLB with 47 homers while posting a .262/.361/.562 batting line. The slugger turns 30 in March and the new deal will carry him through his age-37 season. This is a huge price to pay, especially when it’s unclear who the Orioles were bidding against, but owner Peter Angelos made him a priority and he’s considered a fan favorite. In addition to providing balance to Baltimore’s righty-heavy lineup, Davis has thrived at Camden Yards in his career, posting a .927 OPS. Most of these contracts don’t age well, but continuing this partnership makes sense for both sides.
FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that Davis’ new deal includes a full no-trade clause and doesn’t have an opt-out.