Signed RHP Samuel Deduno to a minor-league deal. [2/29]]
You might remember Deduno from the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He’s since rode that momentum all the way to . . . uh, Notmuchville. Last season he appeared in nine games with the Astros before hitting the disabled list with a tight back. He later underwent hip surgery, ending his year and his stint with Houston. Even before the injuries piled up, Deduno was showing reduced velocity and an altered, offspeed-intensive approach. We’ll see if those trends continue, since he’s likely to reach Baltimore before the fall. —R.J. Anderson
Signed OF-L David Murphy to a minor-league deal. [2/29]
Just what the Red Sox needed—another outfielder. Murphy returns to his original organization after splitting last season between the Indians (with whom he played well) and the Angels (with whom he did not). Ostensibly the idea is to use him as an insurance policy in case someone gets hurt and/or Rusney Castillo is unfit for the Opening Day roster. Should either scenario come to fruition, you figure Murphy would slot into a platoon with Chris Young. On paper, that looks like a fine pairing. There is potential downside, however, as Murphy is entering his mid-30s and has taken to expanding his zone a little too freely for someone who often hits off his front foot—a combination that could lead to a lot of weak contact. There’s no sense fretting about that, though, since the Red Sox are unlikely to give a cooked Murphy substantial playing time over their alternatives. —R.J. Anderson
Signed C-R Salvador Perez to a six-year, $52.5 million contract extension [3/1]
After months of speculation, the Royals have chosen to bail on what is perhaps the league’s most team-friendly contract (non-rookie-deal division). Perez, a foundational cog in the Royals’ back-to-back AL pennant machine, was making a sum that looked positively criminal in comparison to even what other early-career extension-signers were making. After signing his five-year, $7 million extension back in February 2012, it already looked like a sweet deal for the Royals, and that’s before taking into account the three team-friendly options tacked on to the end.
Now, the Royals are reportedly giving him a bonus for 2016, guaranteeing those three options, and tacking on another two years at the end, at the cost of approximately $36 million in new money. In one way, you could look at this as the Royals grabbing a two-year, $36 million extension for 2020 and 2021, while also getting rid of any outs in ’17, ’18, and ’19. That’s a nice little deal for Perez, but for the Royals, it’s a bit of a conundrum. After all, why would the team pay more than they needed to, while also locking themselves in for five seasons in which Perez could turn into a pumpkin?
Dustin Palmateer made a compelling case as to why the Royals might’ve done something like this last month, with four possible reasons. Perhaps Perez will play better if he’s happy, or their fans might be happier, or this will cause Ned Yost to rest him more often. Those don’t quite seem like good enough reasons, but I don’t want to dismiss them out of hand. The other reason Dustin projected resonates with me, however: future discounts. It’s easy to imagine a world where more and more teams are interested in locking up good young players earlier–pre-arb extensions seem to happen all the time these days. What this move might say to players and agents that signing a team-friendly extension early may pay off, and that the Royals are prepared to back up great performance by paying more later, and even re-working the deals that are in the club’s favor.
It’s worth noting that Perez may not be the world’s greatest value. BP’s framing metrics are unkind to the Royals’ backstop, to say the least. Over the past five years, he’s been worth -42.2 runs due to framing, according to the site’s metrics. Due in part to this, Perez’s seasonal WARP totals add up to 4.5 wins above a replacement player—in total—over five years. Given how many games he’s caught, and how he’s put in more time behind the plate over the past three years than anyone else, there’s more than a little risk that he could burn out. He can hit a bit, sure–despite his low OBP, he’s been a league-average hitter over his career (.263 True Average). But despite the team’s success over the past two seasons, they’ve also been Perez’s worst two offensive seasons. If the Royals buy BP’s metrics, then this move seems like something a bit off-kilter. Perez may not be such a good player that the Royals need to lock him down. However, if the team values his contributions more than the numbers say, then perhaps this deal makes a bit more financial sense.
This is not business as usual. This is business as unusual. Whatever the Royals are paying for here, it’s (probably) not performance. It could be for the psychic benefits of having a happy foundational piece of their team. It could be to send a message to players local or out in the ether. Or, perhaps, it is about locking in a player for the long(er) haul, even if they’ll have to pay big to do so. But since it’s decidedly not business as usual, the Royals can spin this as an example of the big bad owner/front office doing right by their player for a change. For all the bad publicity that the Pirates and Astros and other teams are getting these days, maybe paying an extra $30 million or so is a nice way to buy some karma and goodwill? Maybe it’s worth paying that financial and opportunity cost? —Bryan Grosnick
Signed RHP Rafael Soriano to a minor-league deal. [2/28]
A match between player and team that seemed inevitable a year ago, when Soriano was a free-agent closer who’d ended the 2014 season on a bad note and the Blue Jays were a quasi-contender without a proven fireman. Now? Soriano is a 36-year-old coming off a year in which he was released after six appearances and a shoulder-related stay on the disabled list, and the Jays have multiple closing options. The lesson: life (and baseball) comes at you fast.
You never want to read too much into small samples, but there are a few concerning developments worth noting about Soriano’s season: 1) he threw only 43 percent of his pitches inside the zone—more than three percentage points less than his previous PITCHf/x-era low; and 2) the Cubs thought so little of his prospects of contributing down the stretch that they released him after rosters expanded. Ouch. There’s no harm bringing Soriano to camp and seeing what he’s got left in el tanque, just don’t be surprised if his biggest contribution to the Jays is dinner. —R.J. Anderson