MLB Notes: Offseason Day 2

With my annual trip to the Arizona Fall League getting underway Wednesday morning, this space will include notes from games I attend including the Rising Stars Game on Saturday night.

Free agency begins in earnest at 12:01 am EST on Saturday morning, so there should be plenty of activity in the coming days.

Options Picked Up

James Shields, SP, TAM ($10.5 million) - Shields turned in another impressive season for the Rays, with a career-high 8.8 K/9 and 3.52 ERA over 227.2 innings last season. Fangraphs values his last two seasons at a combined $41.2 million, making his option a no-brainer to exercise. The Rays have a glut of pitching talent, so it will be interesting to see how that is addressed during the offseason as the front office makes the necessary roster adjustments to make a run at a postseason berth. Shields ranked 12th among starting pitchers in standard 5 x 5 leagues (15-team mixed, $260 budget) with an $18 value and his 2010 season is standing out as a clear outlier from his body of work since 2007. Here's a very well-written recap of Shields' 2012 campaign from Michael Valancius of D-Rays Bay.

Brian McCann, C, ATL ($12 million) - There was some question as to whether the Braves were going to pick up McCann's option with the expected four-to-six month recovery window from surgery, but he'll return to Atlanta in 2013 with an eye toward a long-term deal somewhere next winter. Outside of providing power (20 homers), McCann was a drain for most owners with a .230/.300/.399 mark over 121 games, but he played through a handful of injuries and still displayed plate discipline on par with his career norms.

Tim Hudson, SP, ATL ($9 million) - At that price, Hudson should be a slight value near the front of the Atlanta rotation in 2013 after posting a 3.62 ERA over 179 innings last season. Hudson turned 37 in July, so this could be his final season with the Braves as the Atlanta farm system has Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado knocking on the door to contribute in the big league rotation. Although he's been a groundball machine (55.5%), Hudson's xFIP (4.10) was nearly a half-run above his ERA and his value his limited by his dwindling 5.1 K/9.

Gavin Floyd, SP, CHW ($9.5 million) - With the option, Floyd will remain in the middle of the White Sox's rotation following the extension of Jake Peavy and with the expected return of John Danks. Although Floyd's walk rate ballooned to 3.4 BB/9 in 2012, he managed to deliver a career-high 7.7 K/9 over 168 innings (29 starts) around a DL stint due to a right elbow flexor strain.

Paul Maholm SP, ATL ($6.5 million) - This move is hardly surprising, as Maholm pitched well for the Braves and Cubs this season with a career-high 6.7 K/9IP. With the new found ability to miss bats more often, thanks to increased usage of his slider, Maholm may be a nice late pickup in deeper formats with a full season of steady run support in Atlanta. He'll be playing for an opportunity to earn a multi-year deal next winter as a 30-year-old in 2013.

Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET ($6 million) - Although he does not possess the ability to play his position well, Peralta's option was picked up because of the lack of viable alternatives on the open market this winter. With an .823 OPS in 2011, Peralta set the bar high in his first season with the Tigers only to slash .239/.305/.384 with 13 homers in 2012. The one thing that makes Peralta particularly intriguing in 2013 is that he's playing for what will almost certainly be his only opportunity to cash in with a long-term deal. To that end, general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated that Peralta started to do agility drills during the second half of the season.

Octavio Dotel, RP, DET ($3.5 million) - The Tigers announced that they're moving on from Jose Valverde (not surprising), but Dotel returns for another season after posting the best walk rate of his career (1.9 BB/9) and improving his ability to keep the ball in the yard (0.47 HR/9) and on the ground (40.0 GB%). The veteran right-hander will turn 39 in November, but could presumably close games for the Tigers depending on how things play out between now and the start of the season. Most likely, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque or Bruce Rendon will get the first look as the new closer, but Dotel's experience (109 career saves) could make him a fallback option at some point if he continues to pitch well in his setup role.

Others: Jose Molina ($1.8 million)

Options Declined

Jake Peavy, SP, CHW ($22 million) - Instead of a $22 million option for 2013, the White Sox opted to work out a new deal with Peavy, putting his average salary at $14.5 million for the next two seasons (two years for $29 million, with an option for 2015) on the heels of a healthy 2012 campaign that included a 3.37 ERA (3.73 FIP) and 8.0 K/9IP over 32 starts. Considering that disastrous nature of long-term deals for starting pitchers, the two-year pact with Peavy looks like a savvy move on the part of new White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.

Kevin Youkilis, 3B, FA ($13 million) - After being acquired by the White Sox, Youkilis hit .236/.346/.425 over 292 at-bats. A return to Chicago isn't out of the question, however, as the market for the 33-year-old could be very limited this winter.

Brett Myers, RP, FA ($10 million) - Surprisingly, Myers' strikeout rate took a hit with the move into the bullpen this season, but his ability to chew up innings as a starter with the Astros in 2010 (4.1 WAR!) and 2011 will likely lead to an opportunity for him to take the ball every fifth day with a new club in 2013.

Others: Scott Feldman ($9.25 million), Yoshinori Tateyama ($1 million?)

Notes of Intrigue

Ricky Romero, SP, TOR - Bernie Pleskoff and I were convinced that Romero was pitching hurt at some point in May or June. Nevertheless, he still took the ball 32 times and piled up an underwhelming 124:105 K:BB over 181 innings, but we may now have our explanation. Romero revealed Tuesday that he had arthroscopic elbow surgery two weeks ago, as well as platelet-rich plasma injections in his knees to aid the recovery of quadriceps tendinitis. It should come as little surprise that Romero is refusing to link the injury to his struggles, but the skills evaporation during his age-27 season (5.2 BB/9, 6.2 K/9) were largely a mystery prior to Tuesday's news. Early signs point to Romero being ready for the start of spring training.

Chad Billingsley, SP, LAD - Billingsley faced live hitters and tossed two pain-free innings Monday, improving his chances of avoiding Tommy John surgery as he's now expected to be ready for the start of spring training with the ability to go through his usual offseason throwing program. Michael Barr of Fangraphs took a closer look at Billingsley's improved (career-low 2.7 BB/9) walk rate in late July. Look at the pitch f/x data from Brooks Baseball, the biggest difference for Billingsley appears to be the reduced number of cutters he threw to left-handed batters last season. Elbow soreness limited Billingsley to 25 starts in 2012 (he made 127 between 2008-11), and concern about a potential issue with his arm in the future may keep the price down. Skills wise, the improved control may be sustainable, but the risk offsets that gain.

Delmon Young, OF/DH, FA - Is Young getting more than a one-year, $1 million deal anywhere? He's hit .278/.311/.435 since 2010 and doesn't appear to be interested in conditioning, rendering him incapable of playing a competent left field. The former No. 1 overall pick turned 27 in September and should be entering his prime, but he looks like a shell of the player that was once heralded as the best prospect in baseball and a future star with annual 25-30 home-run potential.

Bruce Rondon, RP, DET - For now, Rondon is just a name to file away in case the Tigers pass on bringing in an established closer this winter. With the ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun and experience as a closer in the minors (including 29 saves in 2012), Rondon was on the receiving end of heavy praise from general manager Dave Dombrowski on Tuesday. Keep in mind that he'll only turn 22 in December, and manager Jim Leyland may be more inclined to use a committee with Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke, or a veteran like Octavio Dotel before turning the keys to the ninth inning over to a rookie following a trip to the World Series.

Follow me on Twitter @DerekVanRiper.


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