Phillies will listen on Hamels and Lee.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Phillies are trying to regain their footing after a disastrous 2012 season, trying to get younger while still contending against the Braves and Nationals in the National League East, and they seem ready to try on anything, if they can make all of that happen.
Which could be why they have told other teams that they are willing to consider trades of either of their two best starting pitchers, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, as sources say.
Hamels turns 30 later this month, and it was only 17 months ago that the Phillies signed him to a seven-year, $153 million deal; he had a 3.60 ERA last season. Lee, 35, went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA last season, and he will make at least $62.5 million over the next three seasons; he is set to earn salaries of $25 million in 2014, $25 million in 2015, and he has a vesting option for $27.5 million in 2016, with a $12.5 million buyout.
The Phillies have been veering toward a financial crunch for the past couple of seasons, given the whopping obligations to Ryan Howard -- who is owed $85 million over the next three years -- and Jimmy Rollins and others.
But it's hard to find a consistent strain of thought in what the Phillies are doing. On one hand, Philadelphia spent big on Carlos Ruiz earlier this offseason, giving him a three-year, $26 million contract, and signed Marlon Byrd to a two-year, $16 million deal. Those moves suggested Philadelphia is still looking to win in 2014 and 2015.
In recent days, however, they have told other teams they'd be ready to move either of their two best starting pitchers, as well as closer Jonathan Papelbon.
D-backs' identity crisis
Ken Kendrick is the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and if you're looking for some insight into his operating style, well, just think of the guy in your fantasy football league who makes 12 moves every week on the waiver wire.
Employees past and present report that Kendrick is passionate in the way a fan might be -- tortured by the losses, energized by the wins. If you want your owner to be hidden in the background someplace, deferring completely to the folks he has hired, well, Ken Kendrick ain't your man. When the team wins, the people who work for him feel his enthusiasm, and when they lose, well, they know about that, too. He is more Steinbrenner than Rooney, and when he was asked about the Diamondbacks' 2013 season recently, he was blunt in his assessment.
He declined to pick up the 2015 contractual options for either general manager Kevin Towers or manager Kirk Gibson. So it's not suprising that the Diamondbacks' party arrived here at the winter meetings ready to do business, looking to make changes. If there is an epicenter of the 2013 winter meetings, it is probably the Arizona suites.
They have prospects to deal, and, sources say, money to spend, which is why they've been linked to every major trade candidate -- including David Price, Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale -- and some free agents, such as Nelson Cruz. It's not clear yet what the Diamondbacks are going to do, but rest assured, they're going to do something, because they felt they had a missed opportunity at running down the Dodgers last summer.
But a big-picture question is: Should they be thinking this way? At this critical juncture, should they be pushing themselves to go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers, who have the ability to spend two to three times as much as Arizona?
Or should Kendrick resist his own instinct to win now, and encourage Towers to think of the Diamondbacks as the Tampa Bay Rays West?
Because the reality is that Arizona cannot sustain an arms race with the Dodgers, and the Diamondbacks shouldn't measure themselves against the Dodgers or even the Giants. They should focus on operating as efficiently as possible, and right now, they're in a good position to consistently contend. Their centerpiece star, Paul Goldschmidt, is just 26 years old and is under a team-friendly contract that runs through the 2019 season; he is their Evan Longoria. They have Patrick Corbin to help lead their rotation.
They've got good pitching prospects, most notably Archie Bradley, who they have insisted is not available. They have surplus in the infield, with Chris Owings set to compete against Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and third baseman Matt Davidson on the way. Towers told reporters Monday that the Diamondbacks have the prospects to go get any available player on the market, and he is right.
But should they be thinking that way?
Or should they take a cue from the Rays, the team that is MLB's operational model. Tampa Bay has consistently competed against the Yankees and Red Sox over the past six seasons partly because the Rays don't chase after the biggest names, the most expensive players; they are at peace with who they are and what their resources allow them to do.
They'd never swap prospects for an expensive player just a couple of years away from free agency like Price or Samardzija. They would have never taken a run at Carlos Beltran -- as the Diamondbacks did 10 days ago, when they flew in Beltran on a private jet and wooed the veteran -- and they wouldn't consider an expensive outfield acquisition such as Shin-Soo Choo.
Arizona can't afford to think that way. Consider what the Diamondbacks' payroll has been in recent seasons:
2009: $73.5 million
2010: $75.5 million
2011: $56.5 million
2012: $75.4 million
2013: $86.3 million
They are a small-to-lower-middle-market team, and they can compete -- if they don't overspend, if they don't squander the collection of talent they have. If the Diamondbacks buy big, well, that's like someone who can afford a Hyundai purchasing a Lamborghini. It'll feel good today, but down the road, the bill will crush them.
The Rays have won by waiting and picking the right guys, whether it be a James Loney, a David DeJesus, a Fernando Rodney. The Diamondbacks should be thinking the same way; Ken Kendrick, who so desperately wants to win, should be thinking the same way, rather than ordering off the five-star menu. They aren't the Dodgers and never will be, in the same way the Rays aren't the Yankees and never will be.
Arizona has had talks about Mark Trumbo.
Nick Piecoro wonders: Is Trumbo the answer?
Trumbo was a hot name in the rumor-mill circle, and there was a lot of posturing on behalf of the Angels that made it seem as if the team was angst-ridden over the possible trade of the slugger. The fact is that they've had him on the trade market for two months and they haven't been able to get a lot of aggressive action on him because of four incontrovertible facts:
1. His on-base percentage -- .294 last season -- is below league average.
2. He isn't seen as having a natural position.
3. He strikes out a lot – 184 last season.
4. He is not a young prospect anymore – he'll be 28 next month -- so what you see is what you're probably going to get, and as he climbs the salary arbitration scale, he's getting more expensive.
Kirk Gibson talked about the rivalry between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.
Buzz from Orlando
• The Pirates expect a decision soon from A.J. Burnett. Meanwhile, they are talking with Bronson Arroyo and others. The Pirates have narrowed their list of offseason targets.
The Twins are also talking with Arroyo.
• Kevin Youkilis intends to play in 2014, and his possible landing spots should become clearer in a couple of days here.
• Reliever Chris Perez was here in Orlando meeting with teams, a smart move after all of the off-field stuff that happened with him during the season.
• The Indians are looking for a starting pitcher and were among the teams that met with Jason Hammel. But Hammel -- looking for three to four years in his next deal -- will likely be too expensive.
• The Royals' bid for Carlos Beltran was just a little less than what the Yankees signed him for, and considering taxes and cost of living, he might've actually made more money in K.C. But the Royals sensed that once Beltran had a chance to go back to play in New York, he jumped at it.
• The Rangers are looking for an outfielder. Texas met with the agent for Shin-Soo Choo again.
But there are a lot of reasons for the Rangers and Nelson Cruz to work things out (and the two sides met Monday, with Cruz looking for a deal of three years or longer and the Rangers feeling more comfortable at two years and an option).
1. The Rangers like Cruz and want him back, and value him as a teammate; Cruz liked playing for the Rangers.
2. There are not a lot of teams in the market for the pricier outfielders, and with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier being made available by the Dodgers, this means that the Rangers have the option of quickly turning elsewhere.
• Joe Maddon says the potential loss of David Price would be devastating, as Marc Topkin writes. But hey, the Rays know the drill, the whys and hows of why something like this must happen.
A lot of rival officials believe that Seattle is the most likely destination for Price. The Mariners are the other wild card here at the winter meetings, besides the Diamondbacks, because they are seen as so aggressive and because they have so much payroll flexibility, even after signing Robinson Cano.
Jack Zduriencik answered charges of meddling.
• The Cubs are actively dangling Jeff Samardzija here, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
• Bartolo Colon finished second in the AL in ERA in 2013 and wouldn't require more than a one- or two-year deal, and yet some teams are passing on even having a conversation. "You have no idea what you'll get," said one AL official.
• The negotiating ice seems to continue to melt under some of the free agents attached to draft-pick compensation, such as Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.
Ben Cherington wouldn't handicap the chances of Drew coming back.
Hall of Fame
• Tony La Russa is going to the Hall of Fame, along with Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. Torre tipped his cap to the Yankees, and George Steinbrenner.
A strong case could be made for La Russa as the greatest manager of all time, given his success and in his innovation.
Marvin Miller and Steinbrenner did not meet the ethical standards, writes Bill Madden, which is laughable. It's not a Hall of the pure and pristine; it's a baseball Hall of Fame.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Marlins formally announced the signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who shaved.
2. The Tigers could be zeroing in on Rajai Davis as their left fielder.
• The Orioles are having a lot of conversations. The bottom line: They are holding the line on payroll and GM Dan Duquette doesn't have a lot of money to spend.
• The Yankees are looking for pitching and infield help. Their outfield prospects are no longer valued in the trade market.
• Derek Jeter has no hard feelings about the decision Robinson Cano made.
• The Yankees need to be aware of an aging CC Sabathia, writes Bob Klapisch.
• The Red Sox are comfortable with Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field.
• A Cleveland infield prospect suffered a thumb injury.
• Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis are in line to compete for a spot in the K.C. rotation, says Ned Yost.
• The Tigers are looking at the relief market.
• The Astros may look for an upgrade at first base.
• Sandy Alderson wants to upgrade his rotation.
• The Mets are trying to find trade partners with either Lucas Duda or Ike Davis. The Mets could sign Johan Santana.
• Domonic Brown could be dealt. The problem for the Phillies is that a lot of other teams look at Brown with the same kind of concern that Philadelphia apparently does: He is a DH-type defensive player. He ranked 58th among 62 outfielders in UZR/150 last season. "If he was a decent outfielder, they wouldn't trade him," said one rival evaluator.
• Frank Wren doesn't expect to make a big trade.
• The Cubs are going to make sure that Starlin Castro is in shape.
The Cubs could try to trade for one of the Washington relievers. I'm not sure why they would want to pay the price to get Tyler Clippard, given that he would be pretty expensive. Storen's value is down because of his struggles, and makes more sense as a flier.
• Bryan Price will have to manage egos.
• The Reds are waiting to see if Billy Hamilton is ready.
• Some questions hang on the Cardinals' shortstop solution.
• A couple of Cardinals have gotten medical clearance.
• There's mutual interest between the Brewers and Corey Hart, writes Tom Haudricourt. It makes sense, for a lot of the same reasons that Cruz and the Rangers are a fit: There is a past relationship; Hart would play in a park that suits him; etc. The Brewers should have a good offense, and Hart could put up big numbers in 2014 on a one-year deal and hit the market again.
• Carlos Gonzalez swung off a tee.
• The Giants aren't feeling pressure to get something done for left field.
• Buster Posey is focusing on strength training, writes Alex Pavlovic.
• The Padres are meeting with agents for relievers.
Joe Torre a deserving Hall of Famer.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
AKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The manager's office in old Yankee Stadium was attached to a short hallway that players passed through as they entered or departed the clubhouse, and Joe Torre's desk was positioned in such a way that he could see everybody coming or going.
From time to time -- on rainy days, mostly -- he met with reporters in his office before games, and as he talked, Torre seemed to keep an eye out for a specific player or two that he wanted to speak with. When he saw them, he'd call out, to Paul O'Neill or Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter or David Cone. Maybe he wanted to check on an injury that had occurred the night before, or perhaps he had a specific question. The player would duck his head in the door, and exchange a few words with the manager.
But as one of the reporters who covered Torre, I always thought that he mostly just wanted to see their faces, the way a parent does when they greet their kids coming through the door at the end of school, to assess their expression, their mood, their body language.
I never thought Torre was especially adept at game strategy -- he tended to burn through relievers, for example, the way a kid exhausts a bag of Halloween candy -- and nothing in his history suggests he had a gift for developing young players. But he was a great manager -- a Hall of Fame manager, as he was told today, along with Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox -- because he had a natural affection for his players, and they felt and understood that.
It's a simple trait that can be exceedingly important, and it was for that group of players during the Yankees' dynasty of 1996-2001. In New York, fans and reporters and owners can pick apart a player's performance and personality, but the vast majority of Yankees players felt that Torre liked them and believed in them.
He had a gift for defending slumping players, for putting their struggles into a greater context, and he could effectively communicate with them because of his own vast playing experience. He had been an MVP, yes, but he had also played through poor seasons and unfulfilled expectations, through ownership scrutiny for his work with the players' association. He could relate to just about any sort of problem.
Torre had a good relationship with the media -- smartly, he kept reporters at arm's length, but in a genial way -- and his overriding affection for his players flashed through on the night of Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. Roger Clemens had done the indefensible, really, in throwing a shattered bat in the direction of Mike Piazza. The questions for Torre after that game were pointed and accusatory, and Torre seethed; there was something paternal about the way Torre parried angrily. He deeply respected Clemens' passion for baseball, and counterpunched with his answers because of his feelings for the pitcher, for players.
I didn't cover Bobby Cox as a beat reporter, but I thought he was the same way with his players. La Russa, to me, is the greatest manager in history, because of his track record and because of how he was an agent of change -- particularly in the time he teamed with Sandy Alderson in Oakland -- in bullpen use and in how lineups are structured.
Buzz from Orlando
• David Price will be the centerpiece of conversation here this week, with the Dodgers, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Mariners viewed as the most likely suitors. The lobby buzz Sunday, for some of those arriving, was about Seattle's willingness -- or unwillingness -- to include pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a trade for Price.
Many evaluators with other teams say they would never consider swapping Walker, a potential star who is on the cusp of the big leagues, for a short-term gain in Price. But the Mariners operate differently than a lot of organizations, and they just spent $240 million on Robinson Cano; time will tell whether that win-now drive pushes them to push for Price.
• Matt Kemp's agent believes the center fielder will be traded, as Dylan Hernandez writes. Wrote here last week that the Dodgers have indicated to other teams that they're willing to buy down on money owed to Kemp or Andre Ethier to make a trade happen -- not necessarily to dump the contract or to pare down their list of outfielders, but to add prospects. In other words, the Dodgers are ready to eat enough money to compel another team to give up good young players.
• You wonder if there will be a ripple effect from the Kemp and Ethier market on Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, the two most prominent outfielders in the free-agent market, because Kemp and Ethier could turn out to be cheaper alternatives, depending on how much the Dodgers are willing to eat.
There appears to be a shrinking market for high-priced outfielders, which may include the Rangers and Mariners. Both Choo and Cruz are attached to draft-pick compensation. Texas is leery of giving up a pick, as Jeff Wilson writes.
If nothing happens at the winter meetings for the Rangers, that might be a good thing, writes Evan Grant.
• Corey Hart is another outfield option, and executives say that Jeff Berry, his agent, has been patient in waiting for Hart's market to be established, as one of the few available right-handed power hitters. Last week, the 31-year-old Hart got medical clearance and continues to appear poised for a bounce-back season. A question will be whether Hart is better served by taking a one-year deal, to re-establish his value before hitting the market again next fall, or if some team will invest in Hart's potential and take him off the board with a multiyear deal.
Just speculation: Texas could sign Hart as a cheaper alternative to Choo or Cruz.
• The Scott Feldman signing of $30 million could make pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Brett Anderson even more attractive, as relatively cheap fixes. Anderson is owed $8 million for next season, and Oakland has time to wait for another team to come to them aggressively. Colon would require only a one- or two-year deal.
• The Padres continue to draw interest on Chase Headley and it's possible they could be overwhelmed and make a deal, but sources say it's also possible that the Padres' biggest moves will be to hope for a bounce-back seasons from Cory Luebke and the newly signed Josh Johnson.
• There has been interest in Joel Hanrahan, who had reconstructive elbow surgery last May. Unless a team steps up and invests now, his smarter play will be to wait until he can throw and demonstrate his progress.
• Joba Chamberlain may well choose a team this week. The Royals have shown interest, but other teams are said to be more aggressive.
• The new posting rules for players from Japan are being settled.
• Sources say that the conversation about building rules to reduce home-plate collisions will continue here.
• As the Yankees weigh their trade options, Brian Cashman makes the case that Brett Gardner is a player similar to Jacoby Ellsbury.
• On paper, Gardner might be a match for the Giants, writes John Shea.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Mets are indicating a willingness to move Daniel Murphy.
2. The Cubs have interest in John Axford, writes Mark Gonzalez. The Cubs will be dictating big moves soon, says Theo Epstein.
3. The Nationals are talking with Eric O'Flaherty.
Dings and dents
1. Miguel Cabrera says he's feeling good since his surgery.
• Sandy Alderson tempered expectations about what the Mets are planning the rest of the winter.
• A trio of first basemen are on the Pirates' radar, writes Jenn Menendez.
• The Reds likely will lay low during the winter meetings.
• The Padres are approaching the winter meetings with a sense of calm.
• The Diamondbacks could be in for a hectic week.
• The Rockies still hope to add players, writes Patrick Saunders.
• The Orioles are focused on acquiring a left-handed hitter. Daniel Murphy would be a good fit for them, in salary and in his ability to play multiple positions. It's pretty clear the Orioles aren't going to be spending much this winter. Raul Ibanez would be a good option, too, as a left fielder/DH.
• Replacing Robinson Cano is now the Yankees' biggest worry. The Cano deal was all about the money, writes Bob Klapisch.
• Steve Serby did a Q&A with Brian McCann.
• Boston's bullpen is coming together.
• Here's a winter meetings primer for the Toronto Blue Jays.
• The Royals will look at Nick Franklin, among others, as they consider second base options. Mark Ellis would be a really good fit.
• The Tigers' winter meetings history points to wheeling and dealing, writes Lynn Henning.
• An Indians product is waiting for a visa.
• The Twins are looking to upgrade at the winter meetings, writes La Velle Neal.
• The Mariners still have needs.
• Jerry Dipoto is limited in what he can do, writes Bill Shaikin.
• The Astros are preparing for the first pick in the Rule 5 draft.
Mariners must land Price.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2013 season wasn't an exciting one for the Seattle Mariners, with the team finishing with 91 losses, their fifth losing season in six tries. Only the addition of the Houston Astros to the AL West enabled the M's to break their string of last-place finishes. With patience for the team's current rebuilding process waning -- and more than a decade since the team's last divisional title -- the Mariners have approached this offseason with one goal: get better quickly. The team has an impressive stable of minor-league arms, but tomorrow is stubbornly refusing to turn into today.
After getting involved in the bidding for most of the top free agents, Seattle finally got their man, former Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. Cano comes with a hefty price tag, nearly a quarter of a billion dollars over the next decade.
But how good is the rest of the team that Cano is joining? Are they a serious contender in the AL West after the addition? Robinson Cano is one of the best players of this generation and a future Hall of Famer, but teams that have simply paid for a top star and hoped that it would be enough to turn the franchise around have generally been disappointed with the results. There are 24 other players on the roster, and while Cano won't be the only star on any team that has Felix Hernandez, it's still a team that has many holes to fill.
To see where the Mariners stand right now after the Cano signing, I ran the ZiPS projections for the 2014 team and tallied the WAR (wins above replacement) of every player on the roster. Replacement level is set at roughly 48 wins over the course of a 162-game season. So in a division with the Rangers and A's, you want to see them around 90 wins, enough to be a threat to win the division and not to just grab one of the considerably less valuable wild card spots. That means they need to come up with roughly 52 WAR.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Felix Hernandez is great, but Seattle still has many holes to fill.
According to ZiPS' calculations, Cano and Kyle Seager get us to 10 WAR. Mike Zunino gets two more, Brad Miller three, and another three combined from Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. Add a couple for Dustin Ackley, and we're almost halfway there. Tally another eight for King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma and we've got the Mariners up to 76 wins. The bullpen gets us up to 79 or 80 wins. The various reserves and back of the rotation (Jesus Montero, Willie Bloomquist, Erasmo Ramirez, etc.) don't really move the needle any farther. It's those final 10 wins that will ultimately determine if the Mariners have a successful offseason or not. And it's those wins that will be the hardest, most expensive ones to get.
But there are ways to get close.
Price or bust
Teams are less inclined to let their top players reach free agency than they used to be, generally finding it wiser to either sign long-term contracts with the players before they hit the open market or trade the players to a team that will. That leaves more money chasing after fewer players every year, which is good for the bank accounts of those stars and their agents, but not so much for a team trying to get better very quickly. The best pitcher available in free agency, Masahiro Tanaka, might not even be available in free agency thanks to problems between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball regarding the posting system.
Without Tanaka, the Mariners have few paths to adding 10 wins using only cash. They could get in the neighborhood by signing Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez and Shin-Soo Choo, but that plan has a lot of moving parts and other teams covet those players too. GM Jack Zduriencik can't just click the "Buy it Now!" button and have the players delivered to Seattle by next-day air.
That leaves the Mariners in a position in which they practically need to be the team to land David Price in a trade from Tampa Bay, a deal that has been rumored. They would appear to have the need for Price, and even more importantly when dealing with the Rays, they have the prospects to make a trade happen. Whether or not this was the smart time for the Mariners to make the huge superstar signing, they're now locked into moving forward rapidly. To justify the downside risk that megadeals bring, the Mariners need to make the wins count the most in the near future, making the difference between playing in October and going home.
The Cano "problem"
Cano is an amazing player, but he's also an amazing player at a position at which the Mariners had an incumbent, Nick Franklin, who is a solid player in his own right. Franklin put up 2.3 WAR in two-thirds of a season and that was no fluke; he had a .912 OPS for Triple-A Tacoma, is just 23 next season, and has the pedigree of being a first-round draft pick. Cano's not replacing one of the gaping holes in the outfield or at designated hitter, which still exist as of today.
Projected WAR, Cano vs. Franklin
Year Franklin Cano
2014 3.3 5.5
2015 3.4 5.2
2016 3.6 5.0
2017 3.6 4.6
2018 3.6 4.0
2019 3.5 3.3
2020 3.5 2.8
2021 3.5 2.2
2022 3.3 1.6
2023 2.9 1.1
The Franklin versus Cano comparison demonstrates how urgent it is for the Mariners to put together a competitive team in short order to get their money's worth. Cano is almost certainly a better player now, and will continue to be one over the next few years, but players over 30 are a declining asset and Franklin is years away from his prime. ZiPS projects Cano to be better, on average, than Franklin over each of the next five seasons (see table), but as Cano approaches 40, Franklin will only be approaching 30 and at some point, is likely to surpass Cano. If the Mariners haven't taken advantage of this window in Cano's prime -- the only reason to spend $240 million -- then Zduriencik has spent ownership's money poorly.
The Mariners have top-notch pitching prospects in Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, but it's difficult to see them getting anywhere near 10 additional WAR by this route in 2014 (others, such as Tyler Pike and Victor Sanchez, are further away from contributing to the MLB effort). Walker is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, but not a completely finished product at this point, and while Matt Harvey, Gerrit Cole, and various St. Louis Cardinals pitchers have spoiled us the last few years, it's dangerous too count too quickly on a pitcher who has only played above Double-A for a couple of months.
With so much now riding on the Mariners improving very quickly, they have put themselves on a path on which the next couple years of Price is more valuable than the future of Franklin and Walker. The Cano contract puts the Mariners past the point of no return; like Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC, there's no option to meekly retreat and continue rebuilding. Seattle's made its decision, and now it have to live with it.
Because Franklin and Cano are redundant, the M's must use the former to find a significant upgrade elsewhere, and the way to do that is to pair him with another prospect (likely Walker) in a deal for Price.
Roy Halladay a HOF test case.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Roy Halladay's retirement brought about the usual post-career canonization we hear when any very good player hangs them up -- He's a surefire Hall of Famer! He's a lock! If he's not a Hall of Famer, just tear the place down!
There's a five-year waiting period between a player's retirement and his first year on the ballot, a lag I always assumed was there to help escape the emotional response to the end of a great player's career and add the perspective that distance can provide. Halladay may very well get into the Hall of Fame, and I'd certainly be thrilled to see him get in as a fan and as someone who got to see several of his best years up close when I was working for Toronto, but I don't think his case, examined objectively, is quite so clearcut.
In fact, there are a number of pitchers comparable to Halladay whom Hall voters have summarily rejected, which is why I think Halladay could turn out to be a very interesting test case for the modern era.
Halladay's HOF resume
Halladay's case for the Hall revolved around his high, lengthy peak, as he won two Cy Young Awards, deserving both of them, and having a solid case for a third in 2011, while ranking in the top five in his league in Baseball Reference's WAR eight times, all in a 10-year span. There were multiple points where you could have argued he was the best pitcher in his league or in the game as a whole. That said, he qualified for the ERA title just eight times, and finished his career with 2,749 1/3 innings, which by the standards of the Hall is a low figure for a full-time starting pitcher.
Among post-World War II starters already in the Hall, only Sandy Koufax -- whose Hall of Fame case was built as much on narrative and geography than on his work on the field -- has fewer innings pitched than Halladay does. Koufax threw just 2,324 innings, the second-fewest of any Hall of Fame starter in the modern era, and had just six seasons where his performance was above-average, two of which rank among the greatest seasons by any pitcher in major league history. He's an exception, not a rule, and probably never sniffs Cooperstown if he'd had the same career while toiling for the Orioles.
Looking just at the most recent era, Halladay stands below a number of his contemporaries -- clearly below Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, but also below Mike Mussina (by 17 WAR) and Curt Schilling (by 15 WAR), neither of whom is himself a lock to make the Hall. Pedro Martinez threw just 78 more innings than Halladay did, but racked up more than 20 more WAR, and did much of his best work, as Doc did, in the tough American League East. Enshrining Halladay in Cooperstown implies that all of the above must go in as well.
And that group is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a whole host of other excellent pitchers who have a case very similar to Halladay's who haven't come close to the Hall.
Kevin Brown: Brown produced 3.1 more WAR in about 500 more innings than Halladay, but fell off the ballot in his first year, 2011, with just 2.1 percent of the vote. Brown was the best pitcher in the National League twice, including a remarkable season in 1996 that NL Cy voters ignored because John Smoltz had more of those extra-pretty pitcher wins.
In fact, Brown ranked in the top three in the NL in pitcher WAR for five straight seasons, leading the league in ERA in the last of those, the 2000 season. He had a longer career and was just as good as Halladay during his peak seasons, but he wasn't good with the media, wasn't well-liked by teammates, and had the temerity to earn what was at the time the largest free agent contract ever given to a pitcher. If Halladay's a Hall of Famer, Brown probably should be, too.
David Cone: He produced 3.8 fewer WAR in about 150 more innings than Halladay, so he's clearly a tick below Doc but close enough that it's a fine distinction to say one is clearly over the line while saying the other is clearly below it. He won the Cy Young in 1994, leading the AL in WAR that year and finishing second in WAR in 1995 and 1988 (the latter in the NL).
He also has four World Series rings, for voters who care about that stuff. He even threw a perfect game, as Doc did. And yet Cone fell off the ballot in just one year as well, taking 3.9 percent of the vote in 2009.
Bret Saberhagen: He doesn't really pass the eye test for the Hall; as good as he was in spurts, he was also hurt all the time and finished his career with just 2,562 innings pitched, 187 fewer than Halladay threw, but was also 6.2 WAR behind Halladay -- essentially one borderline Cy Young season of difference.
Saberhagen won the Cy Young award twice, in 1985 and 1989, and got a ring with the Royals in the first of those seasons. He was second in the NL in WAR in 1994, and lost probably 8-to-10 starts due to the strike. Again, I don't think Saberhagen is a Hall of Famer, but his resume is quite similar to Halladay's in value, bulk, and shiny baubles, yet he fell off the ballot after one year, getting just 1.3 percent of the vote in 2007.
Kevin Appier: I don't think anyone would argue Appier is a Hall of Famer -- I'm not -- but in 2,595 innings, about 150 less than Halladay threw, Appier was worth 55 WAR. You can argue that Halladay is a Hall of Famer and Appier isn't, given the space between the two, but if Halladay is a lock or a slam-dunk or any other idiom for an easy Hall of Famer, then why did Appier fall off the ballot after one year with just 0.2 percent of the vote? (For what it's worth, Appier racked up more WAR than Koufax. Appier was kind of underrated while he was active, and might be even more so now that he's retired.)
John Smoltz: He won't hit the ballot until next year, and I think he'll get in if the ballot backlog permits it (deservingly), but I'm not sure if his case helps Halladay or not. In seasons where he worked as a starter, Smoltz threw 3,183 innings and racked up 59.1 WAR, including the -0.5 WAR he generated in his final year with Boston and St. Louis.
On top of that, he worked in the pen for four years, adding another 7.5 WAR. He won a Cy Young and a ring, had a strong postseason resume (a 2.67 ERA in 209 innings), and was even worth another 3 WAR as a hitter. Halladay had a better run strictly as a starter, but didn't have the added value of Smoltz' years in relief.
Again, this isn't an argument that Halladay isn't a Hall of Famer, or that he shouldn't be one, or that I don't want him to be one. If he makes it, I might visit Cooperstown for the first time in 30 years just to watch his induction. This is just an objective examination of his case, compared to other cases that the voters have previously rejected, as well as some upcoming test cases that may also have bearing on Halladay's candidacy.
Hall of Fame vote results are neither logical nor rational -- this is part of why so many fans, myself included, put little or no credence in enshrinement as a measure of anything -- so Halladay could sail in on the first ballot even though Brown was told not to let the door hit him on the way out. But if we are just looking at the electorate's history, Halladay likely won't have an easy go of it.
In response to my Tweets about Halladay's workload, D-backs pitcher Brandon McCarthy tweeted that Doc will be a sort of test case -- the model of what makes a Hall of Fame starter may be due for an adjustment that reflects lower seasonal workloads and shorter careers. Perhaps that's necessary in an era of five-man rotations, pitch counts, and innings caps. If that's the case, Halladay's a fine candidate to usher in such a paradigm shift, but that shift hasn't taken place yet and probably won't until his turn on the ballot.
Four trades that must happen.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It's already been an active winter on the trade market, with Doug Fister, Prince Fielder, Jim Johnson, Peter Bourjos and Dexter Fowler being among the more prominent names changing cities.
Here at Insider, we would like to encourage this hot stove to keep raging out of control, so here are four more trades that should happen posthaste.
Tampa Bay Rays trade: LHP David Price
Pittsburgh Pirates send back: RHP Tyler Glasnow, RHP Nick Kingham, SS Alen Hanson, OF Josh Bell
The Pirates have a window of opportunity, and they should seize it. After a breakthrough 2013 season, the Pirates are one more elite player away from being a legitimate World Series contender, and Price represents the rare elite talent that they could actually afford to acquire.
With two more years of team control at arbitration prices that should total about $30 million over two years, the Pirates could squeeze Price into their modest payroll and give them two years to bring a title to the Steel City.
Price is the kind of impact arm who could allow the Pirates to keep up with the Cardinals in the National League Central and then give them an ace to match up with the game's best starters in October. The cost to outbid other suitors for Price's services would be steep, but Pittsburgh has the depth of young talent to make a deal happen.
For the Rays, this deal might not return one Wil Myers-style elite prospect, but the Pirates farm system is brimming with upside. This package would give Tampa Bay four shots at developing homegrown stars for the future.
Glasnow and Kingham are both potential rotation staples, while Hanson and Bell are athletic youngsters with high ceilings. Keith Law rated Hanson as the 34th-best prospect in baseball headed into the 2013 season, and he managed to reach Double-A in his age-20 season.
The Pirates load up for a two-year run at a title while the Rays restock their system with upside. It's a win-win.
Cincinnati Reds trade: 2B Brandon Phillips
Toronto Blue Jays send back: LHP Brett Cecil
While the Reds suggest that they are open to keeping Phillips long term, it seems like this is a marriage that has soured, and a relocation may be best for both parties. Enter the Blue Jays, who have a glaring hole at second base and are in no position to shrink back from trying to win in the short term given their current roster. Jose Bautista won't be an elite slugger forever, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle aren't getting any younger, and the Jays' window to win is going to get shorter if they don't make some real upgrades this winter.
Phillips represents a massive upgrade for Toronto, given that they have no good internal options at second base, and taking on the remaining $50 million due to Phillips over the next four years doesn't seem that crazy given what free agents are signing for this winter.
The Jays have enough bullpen depth to ship the Reds a quality arm in exchange for Phillips, and getting an above-average second baseman should help the Jays try to win with their current core before Father Time catches up with them.
As for the Reds, this would give them some salary relief, and they could possibly use speedster Billy Hamilton at second base. He came up as a shortstop but was converted to the outfield because his arm was below average for a shortstop. Some believe his optimal position is second base. And Cecil provides them with another good lefty arm for the bullpen if Aroldis Chapman ever moves into the rotation.
New York Mets trade: 1B Ike Davis
Tampa Bay Rays send back: OF Matt Joyce
AP Photo/Morry Gash
The Rays are experts at buying low on first basemen.
This Rays trade is a little less splashy but still helps fill some holes for both teams. The Mets have two first basemen and a shortage of outfielders, while the Rays have too many outfielders and no first baseman.
Davis is a classic Rays acquisition, buying low on a player with some upside who might be able to turn things around in a new city and provide several years of low-cost production before he hits free agency. He would follow in the fine tradition of James Loney, Casey Kotchman and Carlos Pena as busted first-base prospects the Rays have managed to extract value from.
Joyce is a bit more of a known commodity as a power-hitting lefty outfielder who probably should be platooned. In many ways, he is similar to Curtis Granderson, whom the Mets are negotiating with on a multiyear contract for many millions of dollars and whose signing would cost the team its second-round pick in next year's draft. Trading for Joyce would be an effective way to get most of what Granderson would offer without having to surrender the pick or give a lot of money to an aging outfielder on the downside of his career.
Milwaukee Brewers trade: RHP Yovani Gallardo
Seattle Mariners send back: RHP Brandon Maurer
The Mariners want to add a starting pitcher to bridge the gap between their two veterans and their young kids, but as the Robinson Cano affair continues to show, it's not always so easy for the team to get people to take their money.
Instead, perhaps they should simply focus on trading for players who don't have a choice, and Gallardo could provide a reasonable alternative to the free-agent innings eaters who are looking for long-term deals anyway. He's due to make $11.25 million in 2014 with a $13 million team option for the following year.
His drop in strikeout rate in 2013 is a concern, but swapping one non-elite pitching prospect for the chance he rebounds to prior form is a worthy risk for a team with money burning a hole in its pocket and a yearning for some rapid improvement.
The Brewers, meanwhile, could use the savings to pursue a real first baseman so they don't end up using Yuniesky Betancourt at a hitter's position ever again. Losing Gallardo would make the rotation worse while they rebuild -- Maurer has some upside -- but getting enough money to buy a first baseman who can get on base more than 25 percent of the time is worth the downgrade.
Price usually wrong in 'ace' trades.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Forget the Robinson Cano contract, and press pause on the Masahiro Tanaka posting saga, because no possible move this winter has the potential to shake up the game more than Tampa Bay following through on plans to move ace pitcher David Price.
There's just so much intrigue involved: Who might get him? When would he be traded? And perhaps most importantly, just how massive of a return would the Rays demand? While Tampa fans certainly don't want to see him go, it's a bit easier to stomach when they can dream about prospects like Jurickson Profar, Corey Seager or Taijuan Walker wearing Tampa blue.
Perhaps the Rays will be able to pull off another heist like they did last year by swiping Wil Myers and several other prospects from Kansas City for James Shields and Wade Davis, but the sobering truth is that it rarely works out that way. The recent history of teams dealing ace starters very often ends up with a team shipping out its best pitcher for very little return at all.
But what defines an "ace"? There's no industry standard for the term, of course, so for the purposes of this exercise, we'll need to set some ground rules. We'll limit our boundaries to pitchers traded since 2008 who had put up at least one season of 6.0 RA9-WAR in either of the two full seasons prior to the trade, or in the season of the trade itself. That gets us 23 pitcher seasons from 14 pitchers, encompassing 17 trades. (Cliff Lee was traded three times; Zack Greinke twice.)
For the sake of brevity, we'll eliminate Josh Beckett and Ian Kennedy, both of whom had seen their value drop precipitously by the time of their trades. We'll also skip last winter's R.A. Dickey and Shields deals, since it's simply too soon to draw conclusions, though the latter deal certainly looks good for the Rays. Now we have a list to work from.
We're left with 13 trades involving topflight pitchers since 2008. How many have actually worked out? It's overly simplistic to just add the WAR and make a judgment that way, so that shouldn't be taken as more than adding some context, but it does make for an interesting comparison.
Worked out well ...
Ace From To Return Return WAR
Dan Haren D-backs Angels Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, Joe Saunders (Matt Lindstrom), Rafael Rodriguez 8.3
Zack Greinke Royals Brewers Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, Jake Odorizzi 9.2
Greinke Brewers Angels Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Pena 2.6
There are really only three deals that stand out as nice wins, with the gold standard being the 2010 deal that sent Dan Haren from Arizona to the Angels less than a year after a top-five Cy Young finish. At the time, it was seen as a big win for the Angels, but while Haren was very good for a year and a half and mediocre for another, the Diamondbacks received Patrick Corbin, who broke out in a big way in 2013; Joe Saunders, who contributed more than 400 innings of decent ball; and nicely regarded prospect Tyler Skaggs.
Really, these two Angels deals, in addition to the first-round picks they sacrificed to sign all their big recent free agents, are more to blame for their current situation than anything else. It's difficult to compete when you're constantly moving young talent elsewhere.
... not so much
Ace From To Return Return WAR
*Dunn and Vizcaino were later involved in larger trades for Dan Uggla, Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson, not fully accounted for here.
Jake Peavy Padres White Sox Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, Clayton Richard, Dexter Carter 0.9
CC Sabathia Indians Brewers Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson 5.4
Johan Santana Twins Mets Carlos Gomez (J.J. Hardy), Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, Philip Humber 4.0
Cliff Lee Indians Phillies (w/ Ben Francisco) Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp 3.9
Lee Phillies Mariners Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, J.C. Ramirez -0.6
Roy Oswalt Astros Phillies Jonathan Villar, J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose (Brett Wallace) 0.6
Javier Vazquez Braves Yankees (w/ Boone Logan) Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, Aroldys Vizcaino -1.1*
Lee Mariners Rangers (w/ Mark Lowe) Blake Beavan, Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke (John Jaso/Mike Morse), Matthew Lawson 2.3
Ubaldo Jimenez Indians Rockies Drew Pomeranz, Alex White (Wilton Lopez) 1.8
Roy Halladay Blue Jays Phillies Travis d'Arnaud (R.A. Dickey), Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor (Gose) 1.9
Ten of the 13 trades haven't quite worked out as well, with the obvious caveat being that in some cases, young players may yet change the score. In most cases, the cumulative value that came back to the teams didn't equal even a single year of their departed ace.
Generally, what we see here is a whole lot of prospects who just never amounted to anything, with a great example being the CC Sabathia deal in 2008. Matt LaPorta was the big get for Cleveland, but he was a huge bust, putting up negative value in more than 1,000 plate appearances, and he didn't even see time in the bigs in 2013. The only real value the Indians got was from Michael Brantley, who has been a good-but-not-great outfielder for a few seasons. Just three weeks after the trade, Cleveland did far better by trading three months of decent third baseman Casey Blake to Los Angeles for catching prospect Carlos Santana, who has established himself as one of the better young hitters in the game.
The Roy Halladay deal looked good at the time, since all three prospects were highly regarded. But Kyle Drabek blew out his arm and his future remains uncertain; Travis d'Arnaud was of course part of the Dickey deal, while Michael Taylor turned into Brett Wallace and then Anthony Gose, who has speed but massive plate discipline problems. Even when players involved have panned out, it's been for other teams, like Carlos Gomez, who has developed into a star for Milwaukee, or Melky Cabrera, who was horrible in Atlanta before finding success in Kansas City and San Francisco.
Then there's Cliff Lee, who was famously traded three times for a total of 11 players within the span of a year, starting in July 2009. Nearly as famously, all three trades turned out to be enormous busts for the teams that let Lee go. Believe it or not, the most productive player involved in any of the deals may have been Lou Marson, who gave Cleveland a few seasons of decent play as a backup catcher before being non-tendered on Monday.
The most highly regarded prospect at the time was probably first baseman Justin Smoak, who has spent nearly 2,000 plate appearances since then proving that he's merely a replacement-level player. The others have been slowed by injury, legal issues or just plain mediocrity.
Obviously, this isn't an exact science, particularly since Price has two full seasons of control left while some of these pitchers had only one or even less -- and if there's any front office that has shown it knows how to trade an ace, it's Tampa's. But the Myers trade, immediately panned by nearly every non-Royals observer, is the baseball equivalent of a lightning strike. It's going to be difficult to expect that kind of return to happen twice.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Winter Meetings Buzz
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Day One of the winter meetings saw two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay announce his retirement, but the activity in Orlando was void of any major trade or free agent signing. Could things change on Tuesday?
There is some buzz regarding a deal for Matt Kemp, at least according to the agent for the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder. Dave Stewart says “something was brewing" regarding his client, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.
The Boston Red Sox, who recently lost free agent Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees, and Seattle Mariners are viewed as prime candidates. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell both reiterated Monday that they are comfortable with Jackie Bradley Jr. penciled in as the Opening Day center fielder in place of Ellsbury, but that, of course, could change.
Here is a quick look of what is happening, and may happen, in Orlando:
David Price: The race is on to acquire the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, whose value may never he as high as it is now. ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Rays GM Andrew Friedman will get what he wants. “He's not going to budge -- certainly not this week,” Stark says.
Taijuan Walker: Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said Monday he has no plans to trade the top pitching prospect, but they may be what it takes to land Price.
Rajai Davis: The Detroit Tigers appear to be the front runners to sign the free agent outfielder, according to MLive.com.
Nelson Cruz: According to ESPNDallas.com, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels acknowledged Monday that he has met with Cruz's agent, Adam Katz, and that talks with the free-agent outfielder are ongoing.
Atlanta Braves: General manager Frank Wren indicated to David O'Brien of the Atlanta JC that if any deal is made, it would likely be a modest one for a bench bat or pitching depth.
Michael Young: The Colorado Rockies, looking to add a veteran bench player, have expressed interest in Young, a free agent who could be used at first and third base.
Juan Uribe: The Dodgers are losing patience with the free agent who had a bounce-back season in 2013. The White Sox may be interested, but MLB.com’s Scott Merkin is not so sure.
Eric O'Flaherty: The Washington Nationals are interested in the lefthander who is coming off elbow surgery, but O’Flaherty may prefer to re-sign with the Braves.
Justin Turner: Non-tendered by the Mets, Turner might be a fit in Atlanta, says Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
Tags:Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Matt Kemp, Nelson Cruz, Justin Turner, Rajai Davis, Michael Young, Eric O'Flaherty, Taijuan Walker
No big deals out of Atlanta
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Don’t expect a blockbuster deal out of the Atlanta Braves by the time the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday.
General manager Frank Wren indicated to David O’Brien of the Atlanta JC that if any deal is made, it would likely be a modest one for a bench bat or pitching depth. “If spring training were starting tomorrow, we would like our team and feel like we would do well. But there’s always room to improve,” Wren said in Orlando.
The Braves would love to find a taker for struggling second baseman Dan Uggla, who has two years and $26.4 million left on his contract, but they would have to accept pennies on the dollar. Wren has to be financially prudent given that closer Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Freddie Freeman are eligible for arbitration for the first time and will be getting substantial raises.
Kemp trade talks heating up?
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
There was speculation leading up to the winter meetings that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be looking to deal Matt Kemp. Could those rumors be gaining some traction?
Dave Stewart, Kemp's agent, said Monday night that he believed "something was brewing" in trade talks regarding his client, reports Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.
GM Ned Colletti said recently the Dodgers aren't actively shopping their outfielder surplus but will listen to trade proposals from teams. The Boston Red Sox, who recently lost free agent Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees, and Seattle Mariners are viewed as prime candidates.
The Dodgers and Red Sox do have a recent trade history, pulling off a blockbuster in August 2012 involving Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell both reiterated Monday that they are comfortable with Jackie Bradley Jr. penciled in as the Opening Day center fielder in place of Ellsbury, although that's what you would expect them to say.
After agreeing to a $240 million deal with Robinson Cano last week, the Mariners would again be rolling some very expensive dice on any deal with the injury-plagued Kemp, who is owed $128 million over the next six years.
The Dodgers are still looking for a third baseman and would likely be asking for Kyle Seager in any deal, assuming they are unable to re-sign Juan Uribe.
Tags:Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Matt Kemp
Rockies pursuing Michael Young
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Colorado Rockies, looking to add a veteran bench player, have expressed interest in free agent Michael Young, reports Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post.
Young remains a productive player, even at age 37. He spent last season with the Phillies and Dodgers, batting .279 in 147 games, and led the American League in hits as recently as 2011, when he had 213 for the Rangers. His ability to play both third and first base is also viewed as a plus.
In Denver, he would give the Rockies a righty-hitting alternative at first base to pair with Justin Morneau, who reportedly agreed to a deal with the team last week.
Tags:Colorado Rockies, Michael Young
White Sox lukewarm on Uribe?
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
There was some buzz Monday that Juan Uribe, the best player remaining on a very thin crop of free agent third basemen, was being pursued by the Chicago White Sox. But MLB.com’s Scott Merkin tweets he is “not hearing much traction” on any Uribe rumor.
White Sox third basemen ranked 27th in the majors last season with a .350 slugging percentage, so the club is looking for an upgrade over Conor Gillaspie.
Uribe had a bounce-back season for the Dodgers in 2013, hitting .278 with 12 homers. While the Dodgers remain interested, they are “running out of patience” with the 34-year-old and may look to trade for a third baseman, reports Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Tags:Chicago White Sox, Juan Uribe
Nats seek lefty reliever
December, 10, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
It already has been a busy offseason for the Washington Nationals, who landed righthander Doug Fister in a deal with the Detroit Tigers and added outfield depth by signing Nate McLouth.
Next on the wish list of GM Mike Rizzo could be a deal for a lefthanded reliver. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets the Nats are in talks with free agent Eric O'Flaherty, who is coming off elbow reconstruction surgery and could miss the first month and a half of the season.
But ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark tweeted Monday night that other clubs are getting the feeling the feeling O’Flaherty will go back to the Braves. If the Nats do get a lefty reliever, it will be J.P. Howell or Scott Downs.
O’Flaherty is a dominant reliever when healthy and would likely be slotted as the lefthanded setup man in front of Rafael Soriano. Adding a southpaw reliever is a high priority after the Nats sent Ian Krol to Detroit in the Fister deal.
Tags:Washington Nationals, Scott Downs, Eric O'Flaherty, J.P. Howell
M's making Taijuan Walker untradeable?
December, 9, 2013
By Joe Kaiser | ESPN.com
Seattle's signing of Robinson Cano (still pending a physical) certainly will provide a big boost to the team's dormant offense, but the Mariners have plenty of work to do if they intend to compete with teams like Texas and Oakland in the American League West next season.
The M's continue to be linked in trade talks involving Tampa Bay ace David Price, but will Seattle really be willing to unload several of their top prospects -- including Taijuan Walker -- to land him?
On Monday, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik addressed the topic of Walker, who by all accounts is one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball.
"I don't have intentions of trading Taijuan," Zduriencik said at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., according to MLB.com. "You listen to any opportunities that present themselves and you go into discussions with a lot of people. And his name will come up. Why wouldn't it? As do a lot of our guys, quite frankly. But Taijuan is high profile because he's rated our top prospect.
"So if I was a club out there, why wouldn't I ask about Taijuan Walker? That would be a smart thing to do, because you never know where it's going to take you. But I have no intentions of trading him."
Zduriencik's comments are a welcome relief to many around the Pacific Northwest, who have been waiting for years for the M's highly touted farm system to make its way to the majors. And with high-earners on the roster like Cano and Felix Hernandez, it's going to be important that the team also has inexpensive contributors like Walker who it can count on.
But is Walker really untradeable? Probably not -- at least for the right deal. Even if the M's manage to hang on to Walker in a deal for Price, perhaps giving up a package that includes infielder Nick Franklin and left-handed starter James Paxton instead, other big-name targets like middle-of-the-order bats Matt Kemp or Giancarlo Stanton would likely require including Walker in the deal.
Tags:Seattle Mariners, Taijuan Walker
Dodgers moving on from Uribe?
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers are “running out of patience” regarding free agent Juan Uribe and may look to trade for a third baseman, reports Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
There is some buzz that the White Sox and Marlins have some interest in the 34-year-old Uribe, which may explain why he has yet to commit to the Dodgers. Uribe had a bounce-back season in 2013, hitting .278 with 12 homers.
The Dodgers will likely go the trade route since the free agent third base market is quite thin – Kevin Youkilis, Michael Young and Eric Chavez are the best available options.
Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Juan Uribe
Angels willing to shop Trumbo?
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The Los Angeles Angels already traded away an outfielder this offseason in Peter Bourjos, but that deal with the Cardinals did not bring back the starting pitcher they are seeking. Maybe the Halos will look to deal another position player to bolster a rotation that needs some reinforcements beyond Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reports that first baseman Mark Trumbo, who hit a career-high 34 home runs last season, is “in play.” While the Halos would hate to lose Trumbo, he may represent their best bargaining chip to address that pitching void.
One team that might be interested in Trumbo is the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. As he correctly points out, the Diamondbacks have "plenty of pitching depth" and could be willing to move the likes of Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and "possibly even Wade Miley" in order to acquire the outfielder.
There could be a large market for Trumbo. Twelve teams have interest and the Diamondbacks are viewed as a "potential match," reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register wrote last week that Trumbo was unlikely to be traded since he would not bring back the front-line pitcher the Angels are seeking.
Tags:Los Angeles Angels, Mark Trumbo
Orioles' quest for pitching
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Baltimore Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette is dropping hints he will not be making a big splash at the winter meetings, at least regarding a pitcher.
Duquette told Roch Kubatko the Orioles are not in the market for any of the high-priced free agent pitchers, adding: “So, if people are expecting the Orioles to go out and sign a significant pitcher, I think it's more realistic to look for good pitchers to come up through the farm system."
Duquette met with reporters Monday and said the Orioles aren’t ruling out pitchers who may not be ready in time for spring training and are still rehabbing back from injury. That means reliever Joel Hanrahan and starter Gavin Floyd are still in play, says MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli.
Duquette, of course, could simply be negotiating through the media, but if we take him at his word, that would seem to eliminate the Orioles from pursuing a higher-priced pitcher such as Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. Baltimore, which lost free agent Scott Feldman to the Houston Astros last week, is among the many teams looking for rotation help.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Gavin Floyd
Red Sox could deal Lavarnway
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Who might the World Series champion Red Sox be willing to deal at the winter meetings? As for some non-marquee players, expect the name of catcher Ryan Lavarnway, among others, to surface in discussions this week in Orlando, writes Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.
The 26-year-old Lavarnway was likely a candidate for a piece in a package deal even before the Red Sox agreed to a deal with veteran A.J. Pierzynski last week. As Edes points out, manager John Farrell gave Lavarnway just 18 starts last season even with David Ross missing significant time because of multiple concussions.
Clubs are always looking for a serviceable backup, and Lavarnway could be worth a chance as a lower-priced alternative. The Rangers are looking for a backup to Geovany Soto, but would likely prefer a lefty bat and Lavarnway, who owns just a .208 average over parts of three seasons, bats from the right side.
Tags:Boston Red Sox, Ryan Lavarnway
Marlins shopping Logan Morrison
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Garrett Jones reportedly has agreed to a two-year deal with the Miami Marlins, a move that could end the tenure of Logan Morrison on South Beach.
Jones, whose batting average in Pittsburgh dipped 41 points to .233 last season, is expected to be part of a first-place platoon for the Marlins and provide some outfield depth.
With Jones on board, the Marlins are actively shopping Morrison, with the Rays, Brewers, Braves and Orioles expressing interest, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Morrison is just 26, but has not come close to matching the numbers of his rookie season of 2010, when he had a .283/.390/.447 slash line.
Morrison could still end up being an alternative to a team that does not want to overpay for free agent first baseman James Loney.
Tags:Miami Marlins, Logan Morrison, Garrett Jones
Rockies chasing A's Anderson?
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
The winter meetings in Orlando are the perfect locale for the Colorado Rockies to accelerate their pursuit of Oakland lefthanded starter Brett Anderson.
The Rockies and A's reportedly held serious discussions last week regarding Anderson, but the talks may have stalled because of the injuries that plagued the pitcher in recent seasons. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports that the talks could be revived this week, though it's unclear what the Rox will offer in return.
After the Athletics signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal, the chances of the team trading away Anderson rose exponentially. Even with the injury concerns, there should be no shortage of suitors for Oakland’s Opening Day pitcher last season, who is due $8 million for 2014.
It already has been a busy offseason for the Rockies -- the club has signed free agents LaTroy Hawkins and Justin Morneau and traded away Dexter Fowler -- and the team is showing no signs of slowing down.
Tags:Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, Brett Anderson
Bartolo Colon a fit in Queens?
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
Add the New York Mets to the list of teams looking at 40-year-old Bartolo Colon as a short-term rotation fix. The Mets had a meeting Monday with the agent for the righthander, tweets Sweeny Murti.
Colon went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts for the Oakland Athletics last season and is asking far more than the bargain price of $3 million he earned last season. Given that the A’s gave Scott Kazmir a two-year deal worth $22 million, Colon would seem to be in line for at least a one-year deal worth five figures.
The Mets have a rotation spot to fill given Matt Harvey will miss the 2014 season following Tommy John surgery.
The Orioles and Mariners are among the other teams recently linked to Colon.
Tags:New York Mets, Bartolo Colon
Bucs pursuing Bronson Arroyo?
December, 9, 2013
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
It has been a quiet offseason so far for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they could be looking to make a move on free agent Bronson Arroyo.
Arroyo’s agent, Terry Bross, already has a meeting scheduled with the Pirates to discuss a multi-year deal with the 36-year-old workhorse righthander, reports C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
With the status of free agent righthander A.J. Burnett up in the air, Arroyo would be a nice fit for the Pirates, who, to the delight of many in the Steel City, are built to win now and not merely looking to the future. Age should not be a huge concern with Arroyo, who has reached 200 innings all but one season since 2005.
Arroyo is believed to be seeking a three-year deal, but could potentially settle for a two-year offer with a vesting option for 2016. As of now his market appears strong.
The Minnesota Twins, who already have deals with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, are expected to meet with meet with Bross on Monday, tweets Darren Wolfson. The New York Mets have been linked to Arroyo, but the level of interest appears unclear.
Pitching also is an issue for the Los Angeles Angels, who already have a host of bloated contracts. Arroyo should come at a less-expensive price than one for someone like Ubaldo Jimenez.