The Rundown: Zimmermann Signs with Tigers, Cueto Rejects D-Backs, Reliever Market Heating Up

I’m fascinated by ads for pharmaceuticals. Whether it’s a super-attractive woman flashing bedroom eyes while tossing a football around, an anthropomorphic bowel, or a woman carrying her constipation to her doctor’s office in a briefcase while being escorted by a giant opiate pill, the 21st century dope men are pushing their products on us in any way possible. That really has nothing to do with baseball, other than the fact that sports broadcasts have become replete with drug commercials.

Then again, maybe MLB could do with a big dose of Movantik to help ease its hot stove-induced hindrance. Signs do seem to point to a bit of relief on the horizon though.

Jordan Zimmermann inks deal

The former Nat became the first big free-agent signing of the winter when he agreed to a 5-year $110 million deal with Detroit on Sunday. The deal reportedly has no options, that according to Jerry Crasnick, so we’re looking at $22 million AAV. That’s pretty close to the crowd-sourced estimate on FanGraphs a few weeks back, which pegged a deal at $126 million over 6 years ($21M AAV). As such, it really doesn’t have a seismic impact on the market. However, it may have driven at least one decision so far.

Cueto rejects $120 million

The Diamondbacks went a bit out of their comfort zone in offering Cueto, who will turn 30 in February, $20 million AAV over 6 seasons. He didn’t feel they’d stretched the limits quite enough though, so he turned it down. At first glance, it might seem crazy for him to pass up such a deal, but consider that Cueto’s value was higher before an inconsistent run with KC and also that he has been projected to get more than Zimmermann.

That same FG estimate had Cueto at an average AAV of $21 million over 5.5 years, so while the total amount Arizona offered was a little higher, the annual amount was lower. A million dollars here or there might not seem like much, but a guy taking aim at his last biggest deal might not be willing to settle. It’s also possible that Cueto is angling for a similar deal from a team more ready to compete right away. He is, after all, coming off of a World Series title.

Even if he ends up scoring something in the $22-24 million AAV range, we’re not talking about a market reset here. That means we could still be looking at $28-30/year over 7 years for David Price. Or $64 million over 4 years for Jeff Samardzija.

Melancon and Chapman both on block

In a series of tweets this weekend, Jerry Crasnick reported on the state of the FA relief market being headlined by two guys from the NL Central.

Moving Aroldis Chapman has been a no-brainer for a Reds team that needs to rebuild in a big way, but I was a little surprised by the inclusion of Mark Melancon’s name. But the Pirates may not be willing to pay big for a guy who will turn 31 just before the start of the 2016 season and whose 51 saves last year will likely earn him a premium contract in first foray into free agency. Some might look at the closer’s age and decreased velocity and think he’s not worth a big deal, but Melancon has never been a guy with a big fastball.

In fact, as the heater has dropped from 93 to 91 mph over the past few years, he’s pretty much thrown it away altogether (usage is only 8-13% depending on which service you trust). He’s a cutter/curveball pitcher now, relying on those two pitches for 85-90% of his mix at this point. So while the strikeouts are down a bit, Melancon is inducing more soft contact (27% in 2015 against a career average of 21.8%). The Pirates may be making a value play here, choosing to flip him while both the market and the closer’s profile are peaking.

Seeing two of the league’s best closers leaving the division could be really good for the Cubs in the short term, but it also means two more teams stocking up on cheap young talent. Certainly something to keep an eye on in the coming days.

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