Agreed to a three-year extension with RHP Nate Jones worth $8 million with two club options and a mutual option (that could turn into a club option) worth between $8.5 and $15 million. [12/18]
A creative contract that benefits both sides.
Jones has been limited to 19 big-league innings over the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery and hip woes. Those came late last season, during which he demonstrated a continued ability to miss bats with his upper-90s fastball and power slider. His early-cocking arm action remains ugly, and the results weren't all pristine—he allowed far too many home runs, for instance—but he also showed that the raw material for a late-inning reliever is there, even if it needs renewed molding to reach that form.
You can understand, then, why the White Sox wanted to 1) keep Jones beyond his original free-agent date (scheduled for after the 2017 season) and 2) protect themselves against another arm injury. Rick Hahn accomplished both feats by inserting some clever language that ties the option's worth to the health of his elbow. If Jones undergoes Tommy John surgery again by the end of the 2018 season, the White Sox will gain a club option worth the league minimum—or, basically, the same arrangement made famous by John Lackey.
That outcome would (obviously) stink for Jones. But he deemed it a worthy risk in exchange for some upfront security. Fair enough.
Reportedly agreed to sign RHP Colby Lewis to a one-year deal worth $6 million. [12/18]
These parties come together for the third winter in a row. Think of Lewis as the Rangers' version of Bartolo Colon: he's an old bull without amazing stuff who throws strikes and has been more durable than not over the last two seasons. The Rangers figure to use Lewis as a starter to begin the year, but could move him into a relief role if Chi Chi Gonzalez forces his way into a healthy, productive rotation. There's nothing exciting about this deal, nor anything that guarantees the Rangers their second consecutive divisional title. But Lewis is a useful fan favorite who comes cheap enough. That works.
Agreed to a three-year extension with RHP Adam Ottavino worth $10.4 million. [12/19]
'Tis the season to extend your rehabbing relievers.
Ottavino underwent Tommy John surgery in May, shortly after becoming the Rockies' closer following three seasons served as a workhorse reliever. The timing of his injury was suspicious for other reasons, as he'd seen his velocity steadily increase during the previous season: climbing from 93 mph in May all the way to 97 mph in September. To put that into perspective, Ottavino jumped a grade and a half in velocity over a four-month span. Who knows how hard he would've thrown if he'd played winter ball.
Those gains aside, you might wonder why the Rockies decided to do this. After all, Ottavino isn't expected to return until May at the earliest, and had two more seasons of team control left. Why not take it slow before guaranteeing him $10 million? Presumably because the Rockies don't face this situation often. That isn't snark—the Rockies just haven't had many veteran arms who are both worth committing to and willing to hang around.
Certainly there's some risk here—that Ottavino doesn't come back, or doesn't come back as good as he was—but the cost is a relative pittance; heck, the Rockies have spent similar money on worse relievers this free-agent period. Even if Ottavino's extension fails to works out, at least he gets some much-deserved financial credit for his previous work.
Signed C-R Jeff Mathis to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. [12/18]
What's the market value of a catcher who couldn't hit a lick if he swung at a wallet-size map of Indiana? Evidently a cool mil and a half. Having missed most of 2015 due to a fractured hand, Mathis returns to Miami for a fourth season to serve as J.T. Realmuto's backup. You might roll your eyes and wonder why the Marlins didn't save their cash by turning to Tomas Telis. The answer is that teams—even those with parsimonious bents—dislike rolling with two inexperienced backstops. Besides, Mathis comes cheap compared to the winter's other free-agent backups. He might be nothing more than an above-average defender and a relic of arguments past, but there's no sense fretting over this deal.