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I’ve got a source near the Cardinals organization telling me "something big is happening." Apparently, all company employees have received a memo threatening termination if any information is disclosed. Luckily, I’m not employed by the Cardinals, so I’m free to gossip.
I dropped a line to Lboros over at Viva El Birdos, a blogger who has a finger on the pulse of the team. Lboros had an intriguing list of trade rumors and possible signings that have presented themselves within the past few weeks:
Acquisition of Bobby Abreu. It is known that Abreu is on the trading block, although the asking price is sky high. It would be hard to imagine a deal getting done without Major League-ready pitching prospect Anthony Reyes included in the deal.
Trade for Ken Griffey Jr. Lboros speculates that Jason Marquis could be shipped to Cincinnati for Junior. Given Griffey’s terrible defense in recent years, a move to a corner would make a ton of sense. The Reds are desperately trying to acquire young pitching, although Marquis will become a free agent after 2006.
Jim Edmonds traded to Yankees for Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. Sure, it’s a staggering idea at first. Considering defense, Edmonds is still unquestionably the best center fielder in baseball even at age 35. He’s under contract for $12MM in 2006, and the Cards do have a need for a second baseman and a cheap young starter. Before you call me a crazy, evil Rumor Monger (that’s a half-truth), remember that St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz originated the rumor.
A.J Burnett signing. This one is considered the most plausible by the Cardinal faithful, and Walt Jocketty’s wooing of Burnett is well-known. Burnett’s agent stated yesterday that a deal could be "one phone call away." Jocketty doesn’t seem like the type to go to five years, $65MM for a starter, but he has to be considering it.
While MLBTradeRumors.com’s source may have jumped the gun by a week, he was correct in asserting that the Mets would definitely guarantee a fourth year to Wagner and complete the deal sooner rather than later. The Mets hold an option for a fifth year of Wagner for $10MM, a move necessitated by the market-setting B.J. Ryan signing.
Wagner was the reliever closest to a sure thing this winter, as he boasts a 2.40 career ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 11.99 K/9. Should Aaron Heilman continue his relief dominance and remain with the club in 2006, each game will essentially become a 7-inning affair for the Mets.
Thanks to the many emailers who have passed along information about this signing.
So the John Mabry rumor didn’t carry enough heft for you? Looking for something juicer? How about this from a source in the Philadelphia area:
The Phillies are apparently talking to the Orioles about sending them Bobby Abreu for Erik Bedard and Jay Gibbons.
Abreu was the third-best hitting right fielder in the game in 2005, and the second-best in ’04. He’ll make $13MM in 2006 and is strangely unpopular in Philadelphia. Abreu is also on the hook for $15MM in 2007 with a $16MM club option for 2008. The ’08 option has a $2MM buyout attached. Abreu will be 32 when the ’06 season begins and may be ticketed for the Hall of Fame.
Lefty Erik Bedard has been plagued by injuries, undergoing Tommy John surgery and a sprained knee ligament. He’s still only 26 and is many years away from free agency. Bedard improved upon his control somewhat in 2005, and had a nice showing in 24 starts. He flashed his ace potential before the All-Star break, going 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA. Interestingly, Bedard has Bob Gibson (circa 1962) buried among his otherwise pedestrian comparables.
Jay Gibbons is a young, powerful right fielder who would be an adequate replacement for Abreu. He’ll be 29 when the ’06 season starts and made a little less than $3MM last year. Gibbons slugged .516 in 2005, second only to Vladimir Guerrero among regular right fielders. While comparable to Abreu in power, Gibbons has far less plate discipline and a worse health record.
Thanks to Jonathan O.
The word over at Bernie’s Pressbox via Viva El Birdos is that the Cubs have signed 35 year-old OF/1B/3B John Mabry to a one-year contract for $1MM. Mabry is coming off a poor season during which he hit .240/.295/.407 in 246 at-bats.
This rumor is not yet confirmed. A million bucks sounds a bit high coming off an off year, although Mabry earned $725,000 in 2005. He was a spectacular role player in 2004, hitting .296/.363/.504 in 87 games. It may be that Mabry was given more playing time than is good for him in ’05.
Mabry’s versatility would indicate that Jose Macias might be cut from the 40 man roster. Macias made $800,000 in 2005 while playing many positions, none of them well.
Update: Bruce Levine of ESPN Radio 1000 is reporting that the Cubs have indeed signed John Mabry to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Alex
Will Carroll over at Baseball Prospectus has confirmed the Cubs’ interest in center fielder Milton Bradley, and adds a few interesting tidbits.
According to Carroll, Bradley "figures to be a Dodger non-tender and is someone who doesn’t scare Dusty Baker."
I’ve heard whispers of L.A. non-tendering Bradley before, and I find it downright baffling. To throw away a world of potential just to do things "The Dodger Way" seems like a terrible business decision. Whether or not Bradley is a guy you want to have a beer with, his talent is undeniable.
Consider: Bradley posted a 3.8 WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player) in just 283 at-bats in 2005. Prorated for 600 at-bats, Bradley’s WARP would rank him second among all center fielders, behind only Jim Edmonds. Bradley excels in all aspects of the game except for two: staying healthy and pleasing the media. The continual injuries are why it’s not fair for me to prorate his WARP over 600 ABs and say he’s better than Andruw Jones. But if the potential is there, why not pay $3-4MM to find out what he can really do? Bradley is only 27.
The idea that Bradley could be a Cub for absolutely nothing should make Cubs fans salivate. However, it’s been pointed out that Dusty Baker never seemed in full control of Sammy Sosa or Kent Mercker, so it remains to be seen if he can get a handle on Bradley.
Another good point that’s come up in the comments on this site is that the Cubs will have to cut or trade someone from the 40 man roster once the Bobby Howry signing is made official. Some suggest Adam Greenberg, Jose Macias, or Brian Dopirak could be cut, but it’s more likely that a trade is imminent.
Ken Rosenthal has the scoop on the latest free agent signing over at Fox Sports. Apparently Billy Beane is close to inking Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21MM pact.
A month ago, I commented on RotoAuthority that I thought this contract could be a disaster if it reaches more than two years or $6MM annually. I have to assume that Billy Beane knows something we don’t about Loaiza.
Loaiza was hit hard away from RFK Stadium in 2005, and he had a rough time his last turn through the American League. I commend Jim Bowden for letting him leave.
Thanks to David R.
Curious how the White Sox’s rookie center fielder will fare now that he’s likely to get 450 ABs? The departure of Aaron Rowand in the Jim Thome trade means top prospect Brian Anderson will have the opportunity to play every day.
Over at RotoAuthority, we’ve supplied a projection for Anderson for 2006. Whether you’re a fantasy baseball nut or just a casual fan, it’s worth checking out.
B.J. Ryan has signed a five-year, $47MM deal to close for the Toronto Blue Jays. GM J.P. Ricciardi simply made Ryan an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Ryan entered the 2004 season as a lefty with a powerful fastball but little control. He was possible trade bait for the Orioles entering that season. But then Ryan reduced his walk rate signficantly, and the end result is more lucrative then he possibly could’ve imagined.
Ryan’s deal will certainly have a ripple effect in coming years for free agent closers on the right side of 30. Eric Gagne, who is a few weeks younger than Ryan, could stand to cash in following the ’06 season. Gagne has a $12MM option that he may void after 2006. While he likely wouldn’t average more than $12MM annually, he may void the option for the chance to lock into a similar five-year pact on the open market.
Gagne has a somewhat better track record than Ryan, although his health comes with a few question marks. He expressed some displeasure with his organization this season, so a departure is feasible.
Thanks to John
33 year-old closer Keith Foulke was battered around in 45 innings in 2005. He’s undergone surgeries on both knees and was said to have lost some velocity near season’s end. Adding insult to injury, the Red Sox are now thinking about trading him.
My Boston source is telling me Foulke will get some attention as a setup man this offseason after the free agent market runs dry. Despite the surgeries, several teams feel that Foulke’s problems in 2005 were largely mechanical and can be fixed. The Sox are looking to shed Foulke, and may be willing to pay half of his $7.25MM 2006 salary. Foulke has a $7.5MM option for 2007 that could vest with a strong 2006 performance (53 games finished would do the trick). The recent of Guillermo Mota makes Foulke slightly more expendable.
Despite the signings of Scott Eyre and Bob Howry by the Cubs, there are still a handful of set-up men on the free agent market. Al Reyes, Hector Carrasco, and Julian Tavarez all had decent seasons in ’05.
On a related note, the Padres are looking at 39 year-old Japanese left-handed specialist Toyohiko Yoshida. Yoshida limited lefties to a .218 average in ’05. However, the real prize among Japanese relievers may be 28 year-old lefty closer Hirotoshi Ishii. Ishii saved 37 games for the Yakult Swallows this year with over 11 strikeouts per nine innings. If not this winter, Ishii should become available following the 2006 season.
Thanks to Gary Garland of Japan Baseball Daily.