Colon a smart signing by the Mets.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Mets' deal with Bartolo Colon makes more sense for them now in the absence of Matt Harvey, because they needed a short-term solution to keep the rotation respectable and avoid a situation in which they'd be tempted to rush one of their top pitching prospects. Colon is past the point, age- or body-wise, where he should be pitching like he did last year, but the two-year, $20 million commitment is so modest by today's standards that the Mets' risk is tolerable.
Colon's very existence defies belief at this point -- he's fat, 40, and fastball-heavy, throwing the pitch 85 percent of the time last year, most among all major league starters. He's also been nailed for PED usage. On the one hand, I'm slightly surprised he got the second guaranteed year. On the other hand, he was more than $10 million good in 2013, and now he at least makes up for leaving a great pitchers' park by moving to the easier league and to a team with an elite defender in center field and capable ones on the corners.
His addition doesn't make the Mets better compared to where they were with Harvey, but Colon is a good three wins or so better than the best internal replacement for their injured ace.
The Mets' rotation now appears to be set for Opening Day, barring injury. Colon could be the nominal No. 1, followed by Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and probably Jenrry Mejia, who has top-of-the-rotation stuff but has missed the equivalent of more than two seasons with elbow injuries. Mejia's spot might be up for grabs by May, as Rafael Montero is close to ready and Noah Syndergaard isn't far behind, with Mejia headed to the pen in that best-case scenario in which everyone is healthy and the two prospects are effective in Triple-A Las Vegas.
The club could be surprisingly competitive in that case with an improved offense and a deep, mostly young (but 20 percent-old) rotation.
Hart, Morrison carry similar risk for M's.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Seattle Mariners made two more moves Wednesday, signing Corey Hart and trading for Logan Morrison.
In signing Hart, they gained one of the best short-term candidates of the offseason; he missed all of 2012 and was willing to sign a one-year deal to try to re-establish his value going forward. Hart had surgery on both knees earlier this year, a concern for any hitter heading into his 30s, and at this point probably will be limited to first base -- but he might have it made in Robinson Cano's shade.
Hart averaged .279/.343/.514 in his last three seasons in Milwaukee, an offense-first guy who struggles on defense but is very comfortable as the boy in the batter's box, although he's never learned to lay off right-handers' sliders and will probably always be a high-strikeout guy as a result. Safeco Field isn't great for right-handed power, but a .450 slugging percentage is within reach and could open closing doors for him next offseason with a multiyear contract.
Hart's deal is reportedly structured like Mike Napoli's, with a modest base salary in the $5 million range and the chance to more than double his base through playing-time incentives. That protects the Mariners to some extent against both kinds of injury risk -- that Hart can't play every day due to knee problems or that Hart has another catastrophic injury and misses a large chunk of the season.
For the Mariners, this move, in concert with the trade for Morrison, probably indicates the end of the Justin Smoak era in Seattle, even after his best season in the big leagues to date. Smoak is a limited player who can play only first and has a decent eye with average power, but is useless hitting right-handed and doesn't have the huge OBP or 30-homer power of a prototypical first baseman or DH.
He might have been a non-tender candidate in the old calendar, where the tender date was after the winter meetings, and at this point the M's will struggle to get much in return for him in a trade. If, as reported, they think they can keep Smoak and play either Hart or Morrison in the outfield, they are deeply delusional.
The Morrison move carries similar risk for the Mariners, as he's also had his share of knee problems, especially over the last two years. Morrison is a disciplined hitter who, as a prospect, looked as if he'd hit for average and power. But when your lower half isn't healthy, it's hard to produce the kind of hard contact that Morrison has to create to be valuable.
He has qualified for the batting title once, in 2011, and failed to reach 100 games in either of the last two years. Like Hart, he's a bad defensive outfielder when healthy, so one of these two guys has to play first with the other at DH, perhaps rotating the two to keep both healthy as much as possible. Stephania Bell pointed out to me in March 2012 that Morrison was having hip issues and in general needed to strengthen his lower half to avoid further challenges to his hips and knees, a prophecy that certainly came true and presents a specific need to Seattle's conditioning staff to address right away with LoMo.
In exchange for Morrison, a player for whom Miami has seemed to have little use since his injuries started to take their toll on his performance, the Marlins receive reliever Carter Capps, who throws 100 mph but looks as though he might dismember himself with every pitch. Capps comes from a low slot and is death to righties but has no weapon to get lefties out, and he will never have even average command with his delivery. He's a disappointing return for a player who was once among the top 25 prospects in the game.
In a minor deal Wednesday morning, the Nationals got the left-handed reliever they wanted in Jerry Blevins, giving Oakland fringe prospect Billy Burns in exchange. Blevins neutralizes lefties, holding them to a .224/.278/.358 line in his career, although most of that has come in good pitchers' parks, and he may give up more power in a neutral environment. He's not awful against right-handed hitters and throws nothing but strikes, so he's better use of a roster spot than a pure lefty specialist.
Burns is an 80-grade runner on the 20-80 scale and a 70 defender in center, but he was old for his levels in 2013 and has legitimate grade-20 power; you're hoping he turns into Ben Revere.
Scott Boras hoping his gamble pays off.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
AKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The most admired trait that Scott Boras brings to his negotiations -- although to be clear, it's not always admired -- is his relentlessness. As you hear general managers describe Boras proposing a deal over and over, in different ways, you might think of fending off your kid's repeated requests for candy as you make your way through a grocery store.
"You have to be prepared to say 'no' 10 different times," one executive said. "You have to prepare your owner to say 'no,' you have to prepare other people in your organization to say 'no.' Because he will keep coming at you."
It's an approach that Boras and others may need in the weeks ahead, because once again, the players who are attached to draft-pick compensation are gradually being isolated in the market in the way that Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn were last winter.
Shortstop Stephen Drew still needs a job, after he and Boras rejected Boston's qualifying offer of $14.1 million, and there appear to be very few shortstop jobs available. Kendrys Morales, another client of Boras who turned down a qualifying offer, is also without a spot -- and a lot of teams are saying privately that they either are not interested in a player they feel is best suited for a DH role, or that they won't consider him because he's attached to draft-pick compensation.
It's telling, too, that some of the teams looking for starting pitching -- such as the Yankees -- don't appear interested in either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, who are both tied to draft picks.
For Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Robinson Cano and Carlos Beltran, the draft-pick thing wasn't an impediment to getting a new deal. Nelson Cruz appears to be in a good spot, deciding between measured interest from the Rangers -- two years and an option, or perhaps three years eventually -- and serious interest from the Mariners, who need a right-handed hitter to support Cano. Shin-Soo Choo doesn't have a high volume of interest, it appears, but he's an on-base percentage machine, as Jerry Crasnick writes, and eventually his price will get to a point that somebody will jump on him (although some executives estimate his eventual deal range will be closer to $80 million-$85 million than to Ellsbury's $153 million).
But for Drew, Morales, Santana and Jimenez, patience might be required. Relentlessness might be required. Compromise might be required. Those players might want to get Lohse on speed-dial to help them understand how to deal with the wait.
The Rangers are debating whether to invest in Cruz, as Evan Grant writes.
Buzz from Orlando
• The Diamondbacks are not done dealing. In fact, in our interview of Arizona GM Kevin Towers in the aftermath of their swap for Mark Trumbo, he mentioned that he had about 48 hours left in the meetings to deal for pitching -- and that he is focused on pitching, pitching, pitching.
They want a starting pitcher to help support Patrick Corbin at the front of the rotation, and they could go the free-agent route and target Matt Garza. They have had conversations with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija, of course, with the White Sox about Chris Sale (who they aren't getting), with the Indians about Justin Masterson, with the Rays about David Price.
Towers is known by his peers as one of the most aggressive deal-makers, as someone who is willing to take chances rather than focusing on extracting every ounce of value out of each player in a deal. So anything is possible for the D-backs, who are in win-now mode and seem ready to be hyperaggressive in their effort to keep up with the Dodgers. (Wrote in Tuesday's column about how this is not a good strategy for a small-market team.)
Dan Bickley likes the trade for the Diamondbacks. For Arizona, it was another controversial deal.
• The Angels had gaping holes at the back end of their rotation, so to net two starting pitchers for Trumbo, in the current market climate, was great work. And now the Angels appear to have some money available to sign another pitcher as well, based on the helpful dollar savings of the Trumbo deal.
• The White Sox needed a center fielder and they got one.
• The Cubs' market for Samardzija is drying up, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
• The Indians are gauging Masterson's trade value, writes Paul Hoynes, but nothing is imminent. They want him to be with the Indians long-term.
• Other teams say they've asked about Homer Bailey and haven't gotten a firm no in response, and the Reds always have the option of trading Bailey -- who will be eligible for free agency after next season -- and signing Bronson Arroyo, who might be had for a deal in the range of $11 million.
For the record, Walt Jocketty says he's not trading Bailey. For the record, Jocketty talked with Arroyo's agent.
• Execs say that Bartolo Colon's rep, Adam Katz, is focused on getting a two-year deal for his client. Which makes sense, because he can always find a decent one-year deal. The Rangers are one of the interested teams.
• The Rockies rolled the dice and traded for Brett Anderson. You get it from the perspective of both sides: Colorado added a starting pitcher who has the potential to be pretty good -- although he has made only 43 starts in the past four seasons -- and Oakland added pitching depth.
Colorado also is looking for relief help, as Troy Renck writes.
• In our interview with Brian Cashman Tuesday, he turned the word "Yankee" into a verb, saying that the Mariners "Yankee-ed" the Yankees by separating themselves from New York in the Robinson Cano bidding.
• The Masahiro Tanaka saga continues, as Mark Feinsand writes.
• Ruben Amaro says talk of dealing Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels is "silly." Agreed. So why did the Phillies raise the possibility with other teams?
And saying it didn't happen just undercuts credibility with the other clubs that know that it did happen.
The Phillies like their lineup.
• Colby Rasmus is being offered up for pitching.
• The Tigers' speedy makeover continues, with the addition of Rajai Davis.
Love the look of the Tigers' new lineup and defense, and their infield upgrades across the board. The Detroit defense has been subpar at best on most days the past two seasons, and now the Tigers could have one of the better defensive clubs in the majors, with Jose Iglesias installed at short for a full season. Choo would obviously be a great addition, but he'd cost tens of millions of dollars.
The Tigers have turned themselves into a fleet-footed club, writes Lynn Henning.
• Tampa Bay's first-base dilemma continues.
• The Braves intend to try to fix the swings of B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, writes David O'Brien.
• Mike Morse is a rare right-handed power hitter in the current market, with 31 homers over the past two seasons, and interested teams say he is looking for something in the $7 million-$8 million range in a one-year contract.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Ryan Zimmerman will have some playing time at first base in 2014, a precursor to a full-time move to the position, writes Adam Kilgore.
2. Logan Morrison is going to be traded.
3. Don Mattingly's news conference turned awkward when he was asked about his contract status.
4. The Mariners have interest in Fernando Rodney as their closer. The great Justin Havens had this note: "He had a 13.2 percent walk rate from 2009-11, before it plummeted to 5.3 percent during his magical 2012. It went right back up to 12.4 percent last season, the 10th-highest walk rate for anyone with 60 innings pitched last season. He posted the highest strikeout rate of his career last year -- 11.1 per 9 IP -- after punching out 9.2 in 2012 and 7.3 in 2011. He ranks third in baseball in saves over the past twp seasons (85), behind only Jim Johnson and Craig Kimbrel."
• The Mets are taking the strikeouts with Curtis Granderson's power.
• Jeff Wilpon says the Mets have a long ways to go.
• If this is the Mets' only move, then Sandy Alderson has failed, writes Joel Sherman.
I've written here before: The Mets tend to sway according to public opinion as much or more than other teams, and it'll be interesting to see if they feel compelled to do more.
One guy who could make some sense for them: Kendrys Morales. The Mets' first-round pick is protected, and to sign Granderson, they gave up their second-round pick. Morales doesn't appear to have many options if Seattle doesn't re-sign him -- partly because he's tied to draft-pick compensation -- and if his price was driven down far enough -- and the fan base was clamoring for a high-profile move -- the Mets could take a shot at him on a two-year or three-year deal for $10 million or so annually, and they'd only have to give up a third-round pick.
This is total speculation, but with him, the Mets lineup could look like this:
Curtis Granderson LF
Travis d'Arnaud C
David Wright 3B
Daniel Murphy 2B
Chris Young RF
Ruben Tejada SS
Juan Lagares CF
The Mets don't have the money to sign other big names, writes Bob Klapisch.
• A prized Pittsburgh prospect could be in the big leagues by midseason. The Pirates continue to search for the right player and the right deal.
• The Brewers could get a decision today from Corey Hart.
• Pablo Sandoval could make a lot of money if he gets into shape, as John Shea writes.
• The Dodgers should keep Matt Kemp, writes Bill Plaschke.
• The Padres continue to look for relief.
• Robinson Cano bristled when Joe Girardi didn't bat him third, writes George King.
• The Orioles are targeting other outfielders in trade.
• The Orioles aren't close to signing a closer, says Dan Duquette.
• The Cole Hamels extension could be the blueprint for what Jon Lester could be looking for, writes Scott Lauber.
It'd be a shock if the Red Sox ever considered giving Lester that kind of contract, given the team's current working philosophy. I could see them being open to something in the $80 million-$100 million range, but not $150 million-ish.
• A.J. Pierzynski knows what he signed up for.
• The Blue Jays' talks for pitching with one particular team were scuttled.
• The Rays are focused on remaining competitive, writes Marc Topkin.
• The Royals already have solved their need for a middle-of-the-order bat. They are reluctant to make more bullpen cuts, writes Bob Dutton.
• The Rangers are looking at starting pitching.
• The Astros are interested in acquiring pitching, writes Evan Drellich.
• Don't count the Athletics out of San Jose quite yet, writes Mark Purdy.
• Cano is a big piece to the Mariners' puzzle, says Lloyd McClendon. Don't count Nick Franklin out of the M's mix, writes Bob Dutton.
• The Mariners must learn from their mistakes and move forward, writes Larry Stone.
Braves could deal Craig Kimbrel.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays have been collecting information this week in their trade conversations about David Price, because eventually, they will have to trade him. They drafted Price, they developed Price, they love Price, and he is a team leader, but they will move him because of a simple math equation: He will soon make too much money for them to afford.
If they trade him in this offseason, they will get strong value in return. If they wait, their trade return -- as well as their payroll flexibility in 2014 -- will be diminished, because Price is moving closer to the time he can become a free agent, after the 2015 season.
The Atlanta Braves should be taking notes on all this, because they have a player who fits this description, and these circumstances. Someone they drafted and developed, someone they love, a team leader -- and someone who is soon going to be too expensive for their relatively modest payroll: Craig Kimbrel, the best closer on the planet.
They should be looking to trade him, and right now might be the best possible time.
The Braves control Kimbrel for three more seasons before he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, and he’s about to get pretty expensive through arbitration, with his salary climbing from $655,000 last year to the expected range of $7.25 million, according to MLBTradeRumors.
You cannot overstate how great Kimbrel has been in his first years in the big leagues. In fact, try this on for size: his first seasons are arguably the best first seasons of any reliever ever. The right-hander has allowed only 123 hits in 227 1/3 innings, with 381 strikeouts, 82 walks and just 10 homers surrendered. He has a career ERA of 1.39.
His ERA+ for the early work of his career stands at 282. To put that number into perspective, the greatest ERA+ for a full career is 202, by Mariano Rivera.
But remarkably, even at 25, he is beginning to approach the ceiling of what the baseball industry is willing to pay a closer. Rivera was the greatest reliever of all time and he never made more than $15 million in any season, and just last week, we saw the Baltimore Orioles dump Jim Johnson -- who was coming off back-to-back seasons of 50 saves -- because they didn’t want to pay him $11 million through arbitration. The Phillies are ready to pay down big dollars to get rid of Jonathan Papelbon, who is currently baseball’s highest-paid closer at $13 million annually.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
The Phillies are ready to move closer Jonathan Papelbon to ease the payroll burden.
Kimbrel may well be in line to challenge Papelbon as the game’s highest paid closer by the start of the 2015 season, given that his arbitration case is unprecedented, pristine.
The Yankees are one of the few teams that could spend $15 million on a closer. The Phillies could. The Dodgers might. Maybe the Red Sox, for the right guy. The Rangers, perhaps.
The Braves could do it, just as the Rays could keep and pay Price. But because the Braves, like the Rays, have a relatively modest payroll size -- and Atlanta’s has basically stayed the same for the last 15 years because of its lousy television contract, ranging between $86 million and $106 million -- keeping a short reliever who absorbs 10 to 15 percent of a payroll is extremely difficult. Unsustainable, really.
In the years ahead, the Braves will need to pay Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons. They owe B.J. Upton $15 million a year for the next four seasons, Dan Uggla $13 million annually for the next two seasons. They’ll have to pay Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, their two best young starting pitchers.
As great as Kimbrel is, the fact that he’ll account for just 9 to 12 outs in a relatively heavy week of action means that the Braves won’t get a lot of volume of production for his growing salary. That’s a significant problem for a team with a $100 million payroll.
The Rays are working to trade Price now because he’s not so expensive, so close to free agency, that his trade value will be mitigated. The same holds true for Kimbrel, but only right now. If the Braves waited until next winter or the winter after that to deal Kimbrel, the number of teams that would consider trading for a $12 million to $15 million closer could probably be counted on one hand.
On the other hand: With Kimbrel’s salary projected to be in the $7 million range for 2014, a lot more teams would be in play, especially for someone so dominant. Right now, there are about a half-dozen teams looking for a closer, and there probably are many other teams that would dump their current closer if they got a shot at Kimbrel. Think a team in win-now mode like Seattle would like him? Think the Dodgers would hesitate to move Kenley Jansen if they could have Kimbrel?
Typically, teams aren’t going to give up a lot for a short reliever, but Kimbrel may well be an exception if the timing of a trade is right. And because of how Kimbrel’s salary is rocketing upward, through his success, that window may quickly evaporate after July 31, 2014.
If the Braves don’t think they can keep Kimbrel long-term, it would serve them to start collecting information and offers right now, just as the Rays are doing with Price.
Home plate collisions
As Giants manager Bruce Bochy spoke to the Rules Committee about the forthcoming rule changes aimed to eliminate home plate collisions, he mentioned how the change in culture could happen quickly for players. For years, the catchers reluctant to block home plate have been viewed as wimpy; there was a machismo that required baserunners to launch themselves into catchers, and catchers have been expected to take the hit as part of their job description.
But now that the play will be banned, Bochy mused, this will take pressure off everybody to look for contact, and he suspects players will quickly embrace the new rules -- as they have at every level below the major leagues.
Mike Matheny was said to have made an emotional presentation to the Rules Committee, in discussing how concussions have impacted his life; MLB indicated Wednesday that according to their data, about 50 percent of concussions in the game are related to plays at home plate.
Matheny has been talking about this for awhile, writes Derrick Goold.
It’s the safer play, writes Tyler Kepner. The Astros’ Jason Castro welcomes the change. Bochy is proud of his role in this change, writes John Shea.
Let the record show that David Ross -- who has been affected by concussions in his career -- was involved in the last two legal home plate collisions in baseball history. In the same game, he was hit by Miguel Cabrera, and later, he ran over Alex Avila on this play.
• With Corey Hart off the board, James Loney is the best first baseman still available, and he’ll have some choices, from his discussions with the Pirates, Brewers, Rays and Astros. The Brewers are exploring other possibilities, writes Tom Haudricourt.
• The Pirates’ options at first are dwindling by the day.
• The Rays expect something soon at first base.
• There continue to be stories about how the Shin-Soo Choo market is heating up, but so far, little specifically is known, other than the Rangers’ measured interest in the outfielder, who’d be a good fit at the right price. We don’t know if Choo already has a seven-year offer from Texas, as Evan Grant writes. The Rangers don’t feel pressure, writes Richard Durrett.
• From Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Info: One of the concerns with Choo has been his struggles against left-handers. His slugging percentage has dropped nearly 90 points since 2011, and he’s hitting line drives at a much lower rate. Over the last three years, his slugging percentage has dropped from .352 to .265, and his line-drive rate has fallen from 24.4 percent to a meager 17.1 percent.
• Interestingly, Andre Ethier -- available for any interested team right now -- has similar splits against lefties, and can be had much more cheaply, because the Dodgers are willing to eat a lot of the $71.5 million owed to him. Choo’s on-base percentage against right-handed pitchers -- .457 in 2013 is why he’ll get a whopper contract.
• The Reds say they’re moving on from Choo. The Rangers appear to be the most aggressive team on the market for a corner outfield bat, with Choo and Nelson Cruz on the board, and they’ve got history with Cruz, obviously, that could work in their favor. So they’re in a position to grind out negotiations with both players simultaneously.
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports
Corey Hart averaged nearly 30 home runs over his last three healthy seasons.
• The Mariners will be better in 2014, undoubtedly, with the addition of Robinson Cano. But to me, the deals for both Corey Hart and Logan Morrison seemed strange, because they just add to the team’s glut of 1B/DH/defensively challenged corner outfielders. There was much industry conversation here Wednesday night about how the Mariners tend to gravitate toward DH-types and lineups built like a softball team. Hart would seem to make sense at first base, but he’s convinced the Mariners he can play the outfield regularly -- something rival evaluators question, coming off his knee issues. Now he really needs to play the outfield, because Morrison really needs to play first base or DH.
Morrison grades out as a brutal defensive outfielder. Despite only playing 1,500 2/3 IP in the OF over the last three years, he ranks as the 4th-worst OF by Defensive Runs Saved (-31), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
But if Morrison plays first and Hart plays the outfield, what happens with Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero? Will they be designated hitters? One member of the Seattle organization involved in the decisions struggled to come up with answers about who will likely play where on Wednesday evening, which speaks to the uncertainty about the alignment.
LoMo is no more for the Marlins, writes Clark Spencer. Jerry Brewer wonders if the Mariners just took a break from the norm, or plan to do more. This would seem to fill the Mariners’ desire for a right-handed bat.
• Now that the Mariners have Hart and Morrison, Kendrys Morales may have lost out another spot for his shrinking market. Scott Boras made the case that the Angels should sign Morales, but as Jayson Stark reported, the Angels are talking with a cheaper option, in Raul Ibanez.
• Jayson wrote about the Dodgers’ stated intent to keep Matt Kemp for now.
• Bartolo Colon got his two-year deal, with the Mets. A number of teams wouldn’t think about a second year with Colon, who has a PED history; they didn’t want to have him under contract if and when he turns into a pumpkin.
The Mets are gaining credibility for their spending.
• Matt Garza is drawing interest from the Angels and other teams, and he’s in advantageous spot in comparison to Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, two starters tied to draft-pick compensation. Here’s more on Garza from Justin Havens: While he might be something less than an ace, he has posted an ERA under 4.00 in every season since 2008. The others to do that: Cliff Lee (6 times), Hiroki Kuroda (6), and Felix Hernandez (6). Garza has made 60 career starts in the NL and 131 in the AL, and there’s been a noticeable difference in his performance, particularly after his trade to the Rangers in 2013. In the NL, he has a 3.45 ERA, in the AL, 4.01.
While it’s been an incremental decline, Garza’s fastball velocity has dropped since 2011, the rate at which he gets swings-and-misses on the pitch has dropped, and his overall strikeout rate has declined accordingly. His fastball velocity is down from 93.7 MPH to 93.0, and his strikeout rate is down from 23.5 percent, to 20.9.
• The Yankees and other teams are targeting Masahiro Tanaka. But the president of Tanaka’s team wants him to remain in Japan. There really isn’t as much in this for the owners of the teams in Japan, now that the posting fee bidding has been set at $20 million.
• The Yankees rejected a proposed swap of Brett Gardner for Brandon Phillips.
• Some agents and executives are saying the same thing about the impact of the Scott Feldman and his $30 million deal: It has slowed the conversation in the pitching market, because it is seen as such an unexpected outlier and now each agent feels compelled to ask for a similar deal.
• Deals are available for shortstop Stephen Drew, says Scott Boras.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Oakland traded lefty Jerry Blevins to the Nationals. Washington is checking off boxes this winter quickly, addressing needs: Rotation (Doug Fister); bench (Nate McLouth); bullpen (Blevins).
2. The Pirates added Edinson Volquez, a low-level gamble that could pay off if he bounces back.
3. The Twins are making progress in their effort to re-sign Mike Pelfrey.
4. The Orioles are making progress in their talks with Grant Balfour.
5. We still do not appear close for this to be a factor, but Bo McKinnis, the agent for David Price, said in the lobby Wednesday that he will not consider a contract extension with the Mariners if Price is traded to Seattle. On the other hand, McKinnis indicated he would consider extensions with other teams.
Price is prepared to be traded, he says to Marc Topkin, via text message.
6. The Blue Jays have some potential trade offers on the table.
7. Oakland landed an outfield prospect.
8. The Giants are looking for left field help.
9. The Padres set themselves up to get the first pick in the Rule 5 draft.
• Ruben Amaro has whiffed so far at the winter meetings, writes Matt Gelb.
• There is potential at the top of the Braves’ rotation, writes David O’Brien.
• The Pirates aren’t talking extensions with either Pedro Alvarez or Neil Walker.
• Scott Boras took aim at the Chicago Cubs.
• The Cardinals are looking for infield help, Mark Ellis among those.
• The D-Backs are looking for a top shelf starter.
• Walt Weiss expects better in his second season.
• Pablo Sandoval is open to an extension.
• The Dodgers’ Alexander Guerrero could work out in Arizona next month.
• A snooze meeting suits the Red Sox just fine.
• The process has not started in the Tigers’ effort to re-sign Max Scherzer, says David Dombrowski.
• Rajai Davis is glad to have room to run.
• The White Sox are going to be more exciting, writes Daryl Van Schouwen. Agree completely.
• Terry Francona told Justin Masterson he’s not being traded.
• The Indians are looking for a closer. Joaquin Benoit would be an excellent fit.
• The Royals are looking for upgrades.
• The Astros have interest in relievers.
Rumors.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yankees still looking at Infante
December, 12, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
According to ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand, the New York Yankees "maintain interest" in free agent infielder Omar Infante, but believe that his "four-year, $40 million price tag is too high."
Wednesday, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish wrote that Infante was getting closer to making a decision, and that the Kansas City Royals were optimistic about their chances.
Infante and his agent have been in attendance at the Orlando meetings, so there's a chance that a handshake deal could be completed at some point Thursday.
Tags:New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Omar Infante
Rule 5 draft highlights
December, 12, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The MLB Rule 5 Draft took place Thursday morning at the winter meetings, with only nine teams selecting players in the major league portion of the draft.
These players are not on the 40-man roster of a major league team and have played for at least four or five years (depending on their age at signing). In this draft, they may be claimed for $50,000 and must remain on a major league roster all season or offered back to their original team.
The Houston Astros selected first, and claimed pitcher Patrick Schuster from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He is expected, however, to be dealt to the San Diego Padres in order to complete a previous trade that sent Anthony Bass to Houston.
Another Diamondbacks pitcher went to the Philadelphia Phillies with the No. 4 pick. Kevin Munson, a reliever who was a fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft, will now have a chance to join the Phillies' bullpen.
The New York Mets claimed Seth Rosin from the Phillies organization a few picks later. Rosin was a part of the Hunter Pence trade with the San Francisco Giants, and started 23 games at Double-A Reading in 2013. However, the Mets apparently made the selection on behalf of another team and will soon trade Rosin away, likely for cash considerations.
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Anthony Bass
Marcum on the market
December, 12, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
Injuries kept Shaun Marcum from pitching the second half of the 2013 season. Numbness in his pitching hand led to an eventual surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. But Marcum is hopeful he'll be ready to throw come spring training.
According to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark, there are three teams showing interest in the pitcher: the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers.
Before his 2013 season came to an end, Marcum was 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA for the New York Mets, though it should be noted that the Mets scored three runs or fewer in seven of his 12 starts.
Tags:Texas Rangers, Shaun Marcum, Kansas City Royals, Celveland Indians
Winter Meetings buzz
December, 12, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
Not all the news coming from baseball's Winter Meetings has to do with wheeling and dealing and the signing of free agents. On Thursday, the league spent several hours laying the basic groundwork for new rules changes for the upcoming season as it relates to instant replay and the banning of collisions at home plate.
MLB executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre spent two hours outlining the "tentative details" of next year's new replay system, which will involve some sort of managerial challenge system that would have disputed plays reviewed by a central location in New York.
Meanwhile, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the rules committee is set to fast-track new restrictions on plays at the plate that would forbid the blocking of home plate by catchers, as well as baserunners from "targeting" catchers. The exact wording of the rule has yet to be determined, but clearly support for the prohibition of contact is very high among owners and players alike.
Player moves are still taking place, and the most active team Wednesday was the Seattle Mariners, who signed free agent Corey Hart to an incentive-laden one-year deal and also traded for Logan Morrison, formerly of the Miami Marlins. The team might not be done; they reportedly are shopping Justin Smoak – the Houston Astros are one team with interest there -- and Jesus Montero. They're also believed to be one of three teams, along with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, still in pursuit of free agent Nelson Cruz.
Here's a brief look at some of the other "talking points" that may turn into something today:
New York Mets: Once he passes a physical, free agent pitcher Bartolo Colon's two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets will become official. He might not be the last pitcher the team ends up signing, as they've reportedly met with Ervin Santana as well. Other teams in the mix for Santana include the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers.
James Loney: The free agent first baseman may be the next at his position to land a deal, as three teams are still in pursuit of his services. Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee still have holes at first base to fill. Should the Brewers end up missing out on Loney, they may have to go back to the Mets and acquire Ike Davis.
Bronson Arroyo: A return to the Cincinnati Reds seems unlikely for the pitcher, even though ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports that the two sides did meet on Wednesday. Teams still in the Arroyo sweepstakes are believed to include the Twins, Giants, Orioles, Dodgers and Phillies.
Brandon Phillips: The second baseman reportedly has a no-trade clause that includes the New York Yankees, which is part of the reason a rumored deal between the teams failed to gain traction. The Reds were said to be interested in acquiring outfielder Brett Gardner, but if this is to come to pass, a third team would likely have to get involved.
Shin-Soo Choo: Choo reportedly is seeking a deal that would be in the same neighborhood as the one Jacoby Ellsbury got from the Yankees. It came out Wednesday that the Rangers had offered Choo a seven-year deal, but that rumor was quickly squashed, despite the team's continuing interest.
Craig Kimbrel: Is it time for the Atlanta Braves to send Craig Kimbrel packing before his value starts to plummet? That's the question Buster Olney attempts to answer in his latest blog.
Kevin Youkilis: The Tampa Bay Rays have some interest in signing the free agent. They also reportedly have interest in re-signing Matt Joyce and are looking into Johan Santana's status.
Joaquin Benoit: Several teams are still hot and heavy in the race to sign the reliever. Offers may come soon from among the likes of the Indians, Mariners, Padres, Yankees and Cubs.
Tags:Brandon Phillips, Craig Kimbrel, Shin-Soo Choo, Joaquin Benoit, Corey Hart, Logan Morrison, Kevin Youkilis, Nelson Cruz, Bronson Arroyo, Ike Davis, Bartolo Colon, James Loney
Orioles hope to cash in
December, 11, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
The Baltimore Orioles haven't been nearly as active this offseason as some of their divisional rivals, but that could well change if some of the offers they've made over the past few days start to get accepted.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Orioles have reached out to both outfielder Nelson Cruz and reliever Grant Balfour. As he writes, "Baltimore is believed to be willing to make Cruz a four-year offer in the range of the $60-million deal Curtis Granderson got from the Mets, perhaps a bit higher. It isn't known what the offer is to Balfour, but various reports have suggested a two- or three-year deal is possible."
The Orioles aren't content to wait around to see if Balfour agrees or not, as Jon Morosi of FOX Sports adds that the team is also "still in discussions with Joaquin Benoit and John Axford." However, Axford is also said to be meeting with the New York Mets, and the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs have reportedly been looking at him as well.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Joaquin Benoit, John Axford, Nelson Cruz, Grant Balfour
Ervin Santana next SP to go?
December, 11, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
Free agent pitcher Ervin Santana reportedly met with several teams on Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if any of those discussions will lead to a deal this week -- especially given his asking price, said to be in the neighborhood of $112 million for five years.
According to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the New York Mets were one of those teams. However, after reportedly coming to terms with Bartolo Colon on a two-year, $20 million deal, it's unclear whether they're still interested in spending top dollar on another starting pitcher.
Another team said to have met with the Santana camp is the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the club also met with Matt Garza, but are really hoping to land Masahiro Tanaka, presuming of course, that he ends up coming to the United States for the 2014 season.
Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Bartolo Colon, Ervin Santana, Masahiro Tanaka
Reds inquiring about Gardner
December, 11, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Cincinnati Reds are "indeed interested" in Brett Gardner, who the New York Yankees are looking to move now that they've signed Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran to multi-year deals.
However the Reds are said to be offering only, at present, left-hander Sean Marshall in return. That's not likely to be enough to seal the deal for the Yankees, who might be slightly more interested in Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips, given the glaring hole left at that position now that Robinson Cano is no longer around.
This is not the first team that the Reds have tried to send Marshall to this offseason. Earlier in the week, trade talks with the Colorado Rockies broke down, presumably because of the pitcher's contract, which has two years and $12 million left on it. As Troy Renck of the Denver Post reported, "It's unclear what the Reds are seeking in a trade or if they would provide any salary relief."
Tags:New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Brett Gardner, Sean Marshall
Morse starting to get looks
December, 11, 2013
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports that the Colorado Rockies are looking to potentially add free agent Mike Morse to an outfield that already has Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer.
They're not the only team looking at Morse, though. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Houston Astros could make a push for him as well. Manager Bo Porter was with the Washington Nationals when Morse hit .303 with 31 home runs, so he knows how good he can be when everything is clicking.
The San Francisco Giants had also been linked to Morse, but may ultimately decide to try and find a left-field candidate via trade. There was some thought Jeff Baker might be in their sights, but Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News says that is not the case.