Devin Mesoraco became a breakout star in 2014. Now, he'll be paid like one.
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Mesoraco and the Reds agreed to a four-year, $28 million contract extension Monday, ensuring the 26-year-old will be compensated like one of the game's best offensive catchers. The deal buys out all of Mesoraco's arbitration years and his first year of free agency.
The raise was well-earned after Mesoraco batted .273/.359/.534 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. The production eclipsed what the catcher had done in 175 games in his first three years in the majors.
And Reds manager Bryan Price has hopes for more production, including more starts, in the year to come.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot about Mesoraco playing first base,” Price told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “How much would he play? Only if Votto was injured. Realistically, I see him as a Yadier Molina type guy who is going to catch 145 games a year, more so than I see him catching 110 a year and playing 20 or 30 at first base.
“It stood out more last year because I linked up Johnny Cueto with Pena catching,” Price added. “I anticipate Mesoraco catching a lot more games this year, especially if he stays healthy. We won’t pair Pena with Cueto as much. Devin did a real nice job with Johnny the times he caught him.”
That's good news for Mesoraco's fantasy owners. It may be hard for him to improve on what could end up being a career year, but more at-bats means similar production could be approximated through sheer volume. Mesoraco is a top-5 catcher heading into fantasy drafts.
Phillies Take Shot On Billingsley
The Phillies have largely been a haven for low-risk, low-upside pitchers in recent years.
So it was somewhat of a shock when the club went in the other direction Thursday, inking Chad Billingsley to a one-year, $1.5 million contract with incentives that can max out at $8 million. It's the kind of high-risk, high-reward signing that has been scarce for a club that has taken more interest in the Jerome Williamses and Kevin Sloweys of the world.
"As has been the case throughout this offseason, we have attempted to create as much starting pitching depth as possible at both the major- and minor-league levels," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. "Given Chad's track record, we feel he is an excellent candidate to bounce back as a productive starting pitcher."
Billingsley didn't make a start in 2014 and made just two the year prior, but as recently as 2012 he had a 3.55 ERA over 25 starts. Flexor tendon surgery on his right elbow behind him, the 30-year-old will look to revive his career in Philadelphia. And with competition like Williams and Slowey, he immediately becomes one of the more interesting starting candidates the Phillies have.
Jays Monitoring Reliever Market
The Blue Jays have kept a close eye on the closer market as their closer from last year has found a new home.
Casey Janssen, who saved 25 games for the Jays last year, agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Nationals to fill Tyler Clippard's late-inning role. Janssen, 33, has 90 career saves, so he can also fill in for Drew Storen in the event Storen encounters more struggles.
With Janssen gone, the Jays are keeping tabs on a number of free agent relievers who could help soften the blow. The club is reportedly staying in contact with the reps for Francisco Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano and Burke Badenhop, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The team also has prospects for the closer job in-house, with Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar and impressive rookie Aaron Sanchez returning next year.
Both Rodriguez and Soriano saved games for their respective clubs last year, and either would likely be brought on as an option to close in Toronto. K-Rod returned to the Brewers and finished a league-high 66 games, notching 44 saves with a 3.04 ERA. Soriano recorded 32 saves for the Nationals but struggled and was replaced late in the season, but he still finished with a 3.19 ERA. Badenhop doesn't have much closing experience, but the 31-year-old is younger than the other two and posted a 2.29 ERA in 70 2/3 innings last season.
Quick Hits: Jayson Werth begins serving his five-day jail sentence Friday. The Nationals outfielder was caught speeding in July, driving 105 mph in a 55 mph zone. It won't affect his readiness for Opening Day, but shoulder surgery earlier this month might. ... Brandon Beachy was believed to be close to a deal with a club last week, but it now appears he won't sign anything anytime soon. His agent, Rob Martin, said Beachy will "continue with his throwing program and make a decision closer to spring training". ... The Giants released Marco Scutaro after DFAing him last week. Scutaro is due $6.67 million this year, but his career may be over after multiple back injuries. ... In order to make room on the roster for Gordon Beckham, the White Sox DFA'd outfielder Dayan Viciedo. Viciedo has hit 60 home runs over the past three seasons and is still just 25 years old. Beckham returned to the club on a one-year, $2 million contract, and he'll likely be utilized at a few different positions. ... David Freese and the Angels avoided arbitration with a one-year, $6.425 million deal. ... The Mets agreed with Jenrry Mejia on a one-year, $2.595 million deal, avoiding arbitration. ... The Jays did sign one reliever Thursday, agreeing to a minor league deal with Ronald Belisario. ... Daniel Nava and the Red Sox avoided arb with a one-year, $1.85 million deal. ... Neal Cotts will pair with Will Smith to give the Brewers arguably the toughest left side of any bullpen in the majors. Cotts and the Brewers agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal Thursday.