Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rumors dominate slow forming MLB free-agent market

As is typically the case early on in the MLB Hot Stove season, the rumor mill is very active while the actual signings of players is slow to develop. Eventually, there will be a contract announcement which will begin the snowball effect to more. Here are some observations from this past week which was dominated by hearsay.

Phillies go Byrd Hunting

The first “big” free-agent move of the offseason was the Philadelphia Phillies doling out a two-year, $16 million contract with an $8 million third year vesting option to outfielder Marlon Byrd. Byrd had a fine year for the New York Mets and then the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 slashing a line of .291/.336/.511 with a career-high 24 home runs. There has been mixed reaction to the deal. Some suggest that since Byrd is just one year removed from a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension and a miserable season, a two-year deal could come back to haunt the Phillies.

There is some validity for concern, but I feel Byrd has the ability to minimally be a two-win player, making this a potential value signing when all is said and done. If things are not working out for the Phillies and Byrd is performing admirably, his contract may actually be easy to move at the trade deadline, especially in year two. Byrd could be the first of many moves by the Phillies who are looking like shoppers this winter.

A’s make a Good Punto

The Oakland Athletics signed utility infielder Nick Punto to a one-year deal worth $2.75 million with a vesting option for 2015. The signing was initially reported by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan via Twitter.

Punto, a member of the Los AngelesDodgers in 2013, is a scrappy player who can hold down second, third and shortstop. While carrying a light stick (career line - .248/.325/.325), Punto offers above-average defense and is considered a great teammate.

The A’s basically signed an insurance policy for the infield at a reasonable rate considering the anticipated production.

Nolasco first starting pitcher to sign?

Apparently, Ricky Nolasco is not short of suitors and has at least two four-year offers on the table. Nolasco’s camp revealed early on that he was looking for a five-year, $80 million contract. Teams said to be involved in talks with Nolasco are the Minnesota Twins, the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Nolasco registered a 3.0 WAR per FanGraphs in 2013 and has hovered in the 2.5 to 4.1 range since 2008. The 31-year-old right-hander has the ability to eat innings and produced ground balls (41.7 percent career rate).

Whatever Nolasco is paid, it will go a long way toward setting a market for starting pitchers. A contract in the four-year/$60 million range seems attainable.

O’s moving Wieters to make room for…Beltran?

In one of the more interesting rumors, the Baltimore Orioles are said to be considering moving catcher Matt Wieters or another high-salaried player in an effort to make room for Carlos Beltran. Wieters, really? The rumor was put out there by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal via a tweet.

Wieters, who hits the free agent market after the 2015 season, made $5.5 million in 2013 according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. With Scott Boras as his agent, Wieters will surely test the open market at that time so moving him makes more sense prior to the 2015 season, not right now in my opinion. Plus, MLB Trade Rumors estimates he’ll earn a one-year, $7.9 million deal via arbitration which doesn’t seem all that high for a player of Wieters caliber.’s Brittany Ghiroli does not see the O’s trading Wieters this offseason.

Beyond moving Wieters, who is not exactly breaking the bank, parting ways with him or anyone else on their roster for Carlos Beltran seems shortsighted. Beltran, who will be 37 next season, is looking for a three-four year deal (probably four if he can latch onto an American League team), will not come cheap and could be reduced to a DH at the end of such a contract. Further, while the Orioles wanting Beltran makes sense, they should contemplate adding Beltran without worrying about dumping salary, at least not this season.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Hadsall via Flickr

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work here, Chris is a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.