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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Reds have fired GM Dan O’Brien. It’s about time.
O’Brien was hired at the end of October in 2003. Now, O’Brien is an easy target for a lot of baseball fans. I think it’d only be fair to dedicate this post to the things he did right.
Hmmm. The Kent Mercker signing? He posted a 3.65 ERA in 61 innings for the Reds so far. Could’ve been worse.
How about O’Brien’s pickup of Javier Valentin as a free agent? Valentin hit .281/.362/.520 for less than half a million bucks for the Reds.
Anybody else have a positive move from the O’Brien Era?
I spoke to my White Sox source today, and he was able to offer up a little bit of information.
Remember this tantalizing tidbit from Gordon Edes’s January 15th article for the Boston Globe?
"Would you believe that the White Sox were hovering on the fringes of the Tejada trade talks, not because of any interest in Tejada but in the hopes that if the Orioles peddled him to the Chicago Cubs for ace Mark Prior, they would have been willing to flip Prior to the crosstown White Sox in a package?"
He also told me that there hasn’t been any hot stove buzz lately involving a Jose Contreras trade, contrary to published reports.
Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald had the scoop last night:
"According to baseball sources, the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians have agreed in principle on a deal that will bring outfielder Coco Crisp to the Sox in a multi-player trade. The deal was agreed upon several days ago under the condition that Cleveland be able to acquire another outfielder to replace Crisp, presumably Jason Michaels from the Philadelphia Phillies."
While everyone seems to agree that Crisp and Marte are the principles and the teams have been talking quite a bit, no other source that I’ve found has confirmed this trade as complete. Chris Snow of the Boston Glove indicates that talks are still ongoing.
Should the deal go down, it appears that the Indians plan to hold Marte back for one more year. According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"The Indians feel Marte will have to spend this season at Class AAA regardless of his position, which doesn’t do them much good if they’re going to challenge Chicago in the AL Central."
The Indians restructured and exercised Aaron Boone‘s 2006 option in August of 2005, apparently deciding that there was no better alternative considering the price ($3.75MM). In his age 32 season, Boone posted a .243/.299/.378 line in 511 at-bats. That performance ranked 36th offensively among third baseman in 2005. Boone spent much of the season shaking off the rust after missing 2004 because of a torn ACL. He did manage to improve to .276/.336/.394 in the second half.
Still, you have to think the Indians made the decision on Boone’s option before they realized Marte was available. Given that Marte hit .275/.372/.506 as a 21 year-old in Triple A, he would very likely approximate or exceed Boone’s 2006 production at a tenth of the cost.
Spinning Edgar Renteria, Guillermo Mota, and cash into Coco Crisp is a fine deal on the surface for the Red Sox. However, they may have opened up a new hole by solving their center field problem. The team will now be relying on a positive contribution from Mike Lowell, who is no safe bet for a rebound following a woeful .236/.298/.360 line in 2005. Lowell was, in fact, one of the few third basemen worse than Aaron Boone in 2005.
The addition of Alex Gonzalez is also probably not a good thing for Boston. Even with defense considered, the Sox would be lucky to get an Orlando Cabrera-ish contribution in 2006. (And I’m referring to Cabrera circa 2005, who hit .257/.309/.365).
The real winner in all of this is the Indians. Even if they do delay Marte’s debut, Crisp wasn’t irreplaceable as a left fielder. The average AL left fielder hit .278/.333/.437 in 2005, while Crisp hit .300/.345/.465. Marte projects to be a solid regular and has star potential.
I was all set to point out that Billy Beane has indeed had previous interest in John Maine, but MetsBlog and a lot of message boards beat me to the punch. That’s what I get for taking the afternoon off.
For what it’s worth, I did find this Peter Gammons article from December of 2004 mentioning that Maine was offered by the Orioles for Tim Hudson along with Erik Bedard and Hayden Penn. Man, why didn’t Billy Beane take that offer? That’s 3/5 of a starting rotation right there.
Many of you have already noticed by now that Newsday is reporting that the Mets traded Kris Benson to the Orioles for Jorge Julio and John Maine. A tip of the cap to Orioles Hangout; I’m pretty sure they confirmation first.
The question on most people’s minds is this: is the Benson swap the initial movement indicating a trade of Barry Zito to the Mets? If you recall, my Mets source indicated yesterday that Benson would be traded to Baltimore to acquire a prospect to Billy Beane’s liking. I’ve got word out to a couple of sources to see if anything has changed. In the meantime, let’s see what we can deduce.
First off, would the A’s have use for John Maine? The 24 year-old righty starter was ranked 6th in the Orioles’ organization by Baseball America entering the 2005 season. According to BA back then, Maine needed to refine his command and had a ceiling as a #3 starter. They also mentioned that he was "probably a #4 or 5 guy on a first-division club." Maine pitched kind of like a #4 starter in 128 innings at Triple A Ottawa in ’05. He posted a 4.56 ERA with improved control while maintaining a solid K rate.
I haven’t projected Maine myself yet, but ZiPS thought he’d throw 153 innings of 4.41 ball in his first extended trial with the Orioles. I think that’s great value for the price. For basis of comparison, Maine’s 2005 doesn’t look terribly different from Danny Haren‘s 2004. Haren was certainly better, but it’s a fair comparison. Interestingly, Baseball Prospectus lists these comparables for Maine: Joel Pineiro (2002), A.J. Burnett (2001), Juan Marichal (1961), Bob Gibson (1960), and strangely, Jorge Julio (2003). I know the A’s already have a stable of starters, but Maine probably needs a little more time and a team can never have too much starting pitching depth.
I would speculate that the Mets would hang onto Jorge Julio to serve as Aaron Heilman‘s replacement. While most analysis today indicates that the Benson trade simply means Heilman starts for the Mets, I am skeptical. According to MetsBlog earlier this month:
"The problem is that the only person who seems to see Heilman as a starter is Heilman. Nearly all scouts and experts that I talked with all explained the same thing: Heilman’s repertoire is too hittable during his second time through a lineup."
Should Minaya package up Victor Diaz with someone to acquire a top flight prospect suitable to the A’s, I could really see this Zito deal coming to fruition.
Just got a note from my Mets source on a possible Barry Zito trade scenario. Here’s how this could play out:
The Orioles still have some interest in Kris Benson; VP Jim Duquette likes him. Benson would be dealt to the O’s for young players of Billy Beane’s choice.
Victor Diaz would be shipped off by the Mets as well, but again for prospects coveted by Oakland. The A’s don’t have room for Diaz given their glut of 1B/DH/OF types. The prospects from both deals would then be packaged with Aaron Heilman and the Mets would receive Zito.
The Mets would likely sign Jeff DaVanon to platoon in right field with Xavier Nady to complement this trade. The switch-hitting DaVanon didn’t do much with righties this year, but posted an .824 OPS against them in 2004. Nady has a career line of .323/.400/.452 in 124 at-bats versus southpaws. So keep an eye out for a DaVanon signing and Benson trade, because that could spell a Zito deal.
On the surface, that seems like a terrible deal for the Red Sox. Arroyo is about to be locked in for three years at a great price, and Griffey is probably a lock to play less games in ’06 than he did in ’05. Not to mention Griffey’s huge contract and lousy defense.
Bengie Molina has strangely emerged as neglected free agent, facing very little interest from teams and a possible one year deal. Coming off a career best .295/.336/.446 line, this is a curious situation.
Molina will be entering his age 32 season in 2006, and I’ve projected him at .289 with 17 HR next season. While his defense is no great shakes, one would think a few clubs would come out ahead in offering him a reasonable two-year pact. However, once you factor in defense, Molina ranked 15th among catchers in 2005 despite his solid showing at the plate. He presents very little improvement for most ballclubs, and that seems to explain the lack of interest.
Should the Blue Jays pursue Molina? Probably not. He was only marginally better than Gregg Zaun in 2005, and he’ll definitely cost more. I understand the idea is to platoon the players and have a sweet tandem like the Reds, but is Molina really going to want to do that?
Honestly, these are the teams that I think stand to gain at least one win by adding Molina:
The Royals already tossed their free cash at other marginal free agents, although Molina would’ve made some sense if the club is ready to give up on John Buck. Most likely, they’ll keep Buck around longer than they should in order to pretend they didn’t get hosed in the Beltran trade.
The Angels really should’ve tried harder to bring Molina back. Jeff Mathis is a huge question mark on a team for which a win or two could determine whether they make the playoffs.
The Rockies don’t really have a good reason to go out and sign a free agent. But if I were Molina’s agent, I’d campaign hard to get him to Coors for a season. He could play there for $4MM, hit 20 HR, and get that big deal he was looking for. It’s been done before.
The Dodgers would probably be the best fit, and they have inquired about Molina. It would be a logical solution to bring Molina in for a year before the team evaluates the readiness of Dioner Navarro and Russell Martin.