February 2006

Source: Clemens To Return To Astros

A source out of Houston close to former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker tells me that Roger Clemens will return to pitch for the Astros after May 1st.  The word is that Clemens has a handshake deal with Astros owner Drayton McLane to either return to the Astros or retire.  My source says that Clemens will not choose retirement.

This report gels with an independent source who informed me in December that Clemens was choosing between Houston and retirement.  Of course, Clemens was noncommital in yesterday’s conference call, mentioning that his mother had urged him to retire before she passed away. 

Wednesday Morning Reading

I’m sure some of you are just rolling out of bed, while others at the office are counting down til lunchtime.  Either way, you need something to read.  Allow me to help:

My first post on AllCubs is about Kerry Wood.  I refrained from posting these thoughts on this site, as the realists and White Sox fans would probably have a field day.  What can I say, hope springs eternal for Cubs fans.

Over at HoopsBuzz, Andrew analyzes a possible Darko Mlicic trade.

RotoAuthority has some under-the-radar guys capable of 25 HR seasons.

Quick linkage:  Outlook not-so-good on Brad Wilkerson‘s shoulder…with the recent Antonio Alfonseca signing, you should take notice of this interesting stat…Elephants in Oakland rants on overuse of the word Moneyball…Forget Anna Benson, the Mets just wanted John Maine.

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Tejada Could Still Be Dealt By April

We thought the Miguel Tejada rumors had died down.  He seemed fairly content, and said all the right things.  However, Daily Herald columnist Barry Rozner has reignited the Miggy hot stove talk.

In Washington DC to cover the White Sox ceremony, Rozner ran into all sorts of DC media types.  According to Rozner:

"They’re hearing the Orioles would love to move the unhappy Tejada out of Baltimore before the season even begins."

He adds that he expects Tejada to be moved before the season starts or right before the July trading deadline.  As a refresher, MLBTradeRumors has reported that the Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, and Astros have all been involved in talks for Tejada this offseason.

New Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez can still be cut by March 15th, in which case Boston would owe him $500,000.  The Cubs seem quite likely to give Ronny Cedeno his shot, though he’d probably be part of any package for Tejada.

The White Sox have previously offered Juan Uribe, Jose Contreras, and a prospect for Tejada, but the clubs could not agree on the last prospect.  Recent word is that the team plans to wait until after the World Baseball Classic before trading Contreras.  Houston has some top-notch pitching prospects in the fold, so look for them to re-enter the fray once the Clemens saga is resolved.   

Did A-Rod Recruit Sosa?

A reader emailed me with an interesting trade rumor nugget that I hadn’t noticed before.  He directed me to the sidebar of a recent ESPN Deportes article by Enrique Rojas:

"Sammy Sosa, who has been mulling retiring from baseball after receiving only a non-guaranteed contract offer from the Washington Nationals, received an unexpected visitor Sunday at his home in Miami: Alex Rodriguez.  The New York Yankees third baseman called on Sosa in order to find out from the slugger himself how the "Caribbean Bambino" is doing, according to Tuesday’s edition of the Hoy newspaper in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

A source close to Sosa told Hoy that Rodriguez was not there as a "messenger" for the Yankees, but that he just wanted to find out what was going on with the 1998 National League MVP, and what his plans are for 2006.   In the past, the Yankees have used star players as "advance scouts" in some key trade and free agent negotiations."

Alright, so this looks like a non-rumor based on Hoy’s information.  But for the sake of my own amusement, let’s take a look at the Yankees’ depth chart.

First off, you’ve got the 37 year-old Gary Sheffield without much backup in right field.  Admittedly, he’s been very healthy for the past three seasons.  But how much do the Yanks want to push their luck that he plays 154 games again?

Second, Bernie Williams is listed as the primary DH.  I’m not sure if Sosa could outdo Williams’s .249/.321/.367 line.  But this is a ballclub that gave 170 ABs to Ruben Sierra last year.  Sosa can probably still hit lefties reasonably well (.841 OPS in 2005 though just 104 ABs), and he might swallow his pride for a team with the Yankees’ stature.  I’m just saying is all.

UPDATE:  Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune thinks Sosa should use the WBC as an audition, assuming he can pass the steroid test.

Rosenthal Is Blunt On Clemens

Ken Rosenthal pulls no punches in his article today, telling it like it is on all sorts of pressing baseball issues.  It’s like his editors told him to inject an extra dose of attitude into today’s column.

On the Rocket:  "Is there anything more tired than the annual Clemens courtship ritual? Clemens’ flirtations with the Red Sox, Yankees and Rangers are merely designed to get him top dollar from the Astros."

I have to agree; the Clemens thing feels like deja vu all over again and it’s a shame that this is currently one of the biggest stories.  Let’s play some ball already!

On Bonds:  "Even if Bonds stays healthy, his passing of Ruth likely would be met with ambivalence outside of San Francisco, even anger. Unknowingly or not, Bonds used substances alleged to be steroids."

I know a lot of folks feel this way, but I’m in the minority.  I’m not going to worship Bonds as a role model, but I have to witness in person the greatest player of my generation.  I’ll be in attendance when the Cubs host the Giants in early September, and I’m going to tell my grandkids about watching Bonds play.  Unless he sits that day, in which case I’ll be really pissed.

On Bagwell:  "…sympathy for the Astros should go only so far — they’re the ones who awarded Bagwell a back-loaded, five-year contract when he was 32."

No kidding!  Same goes for the Yankees when 35 year-old Johnny Damon is earning $13MM to bumble around in center field in 2009.  I have a feeling, though, that the Yankees won’t be complaining as they’re fully aware that 2009 is a sunk cost here.

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Dodgers Still Interested In Dunn

I did some digging in conjunction with my Adam Dunn post, and received a little bit of info.  A very reputable source tells me that "the Dodgers are always interested in him."  More than one team has inquired about Dunn for sure.  He tells me that any deal before the season begins is unlikely, and unfortunately couldn’t supply any specific names.

Dodger fans were quick to mention their team in the comments of the previous Dunn post; it seems he’s been on the team’s radar for some time now.  Consider this as another source verifying their interest.  Los Angeles has plenty of trading chips, especially if the Reds’ needs expand beyond starting pitching. 

UPDATE:  Word is that Dunn just signed a two-year contract worth more than $17MM with a third year option for $13MM.  Based on projections, I’d say the Reds (or any other team) will be likely to exercise that 2008 option.

Old Edmonds Trade Rumor Legit?

Some nice rumor-related digging was done recently over at Viva El Birdos.  Lboros tracked down this comment made by Mitchel Lichtman recently:

"Of course, you never know if and when a player like Edmonds will be part of a major trade. In order to stay competitive, we will eventually (soon) need to replace him in CF with either another great player (and presumably pay through the nose) or replace him with someone good (and underrated) and then upgrade at the corners and at second, and of course eventually at SS again (which is another difficult position to find bargains). We have very few, if any, position player prospects ready for the Majors anytime soon (I don’t think)."

Lichtman is a defensive guru who consults for the Cardinals, so his feelings on Edmonds trade rumors carry some weight.  You may recall a seemingly wacky Edmonds for Cano and Wang trade rumor surfacing here on November 29th.  That one was also brought to my attention via Viva El Birdos, and it originated with St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz.

Lboros covers the implications of Lichtman’s comment thoroughly, acknowledging that the rumor was feasible in November but no longer fits.  He finishes with this comment:

"The important point here isn’t whether the Edmonds-Cano-Wang rumor had any substance behind it. The point is that trading Edmonds to restructure the payroll isn’t out of the question — and that’s coming straight from a member of the Cards’ decision-making chorus."

Halos Heaven Holds Steady On Weaver

The author of the Halos Heaven blog still says "the ink is dry" on Jeff Weaver‘s contract with the Angels.  The blog originally reported that the announcement would be made on February 6th, and now states that negotiations over the second year have held up the deal.  I know from experience that assigning a date to a rumored signing really brings out the critics if it doesn’t hold. 

Anyway, I just wanted to pass along the info.

Hatteberg Insurance For A Dunn Trade?

There hasn’t been a whole lot of activity on the trade rumor front in recent days, but I’ll keep digging.  In the event that there are just no rumors to report, I’ll step slightly outside of the rumor realm to talk about contracts, analyze teams, and whatever else suits my baseball fancy.  I hope you continue to engage in discussion here and check out the site daily.

Anywho, Buster Olney had a thought this morning in his blog that definitely had not occurred to me:

"The first thing I thought of when I saw the Reds had signed Scott Hatteberg was that now Cincinnati has protection in the event they decide to move Adam Dunn in a deal for pitching."

In reference to Hatteberg’s role, new Reds GM Wayne Krivsky remarked, "The playing time will take care of itself."

One can certainly question whether Hatteberg could serve as even a league average regular first baseman in Dunn’s absence.  He hit .256/.334/.343 last year in 464 ABs.  There’s a chance Hatteberg returns to the .780 OPS level, but that’s still well below the .843 mark posted by the average NL first baseman in 2005.

The Reds led the National League with 222 HRs in 2005 but had a league-worst 5.15 ERA.  The need for pitching is manifest.  In an Orange County Register article this morning, Randy Youngman mentioned that the Reds are rumored to be interested in free agent Jeff Weaver.  However, the Angels are the only known team with an offer currently on the table.

As far as free agent starting pitching goes, the options are grim outside of Weaver.  Some possible retreads for the Reds:  Pedro Astacio, Kevin Brown, Jose Lima, and Jamey Wright.  Only a year removed from 130 solid innings for the Yanks, I still think Brown is worth a look.  But he’s neither reliable nor a long-term solution.  That brings us to the idea of trading Dunn for starting pitching.

Dunn becomes a free agent after the 2007 season, so the Reds shouldn’t be in any big hurry.  It’s well known that the Astros hope to lure him to his hometown, as Houston has already gone to great lengths to "butter him up."  The Reds have not discussed a multi-year deal with Dunn. 

Dunn was worth 6.9 wins last year despite playing with a broken hand.  He was the fourth-best left fielder in baseball last year according to WARP, above Hideki Matsui and Manny Ramirez.  Ranked as a first baseman, Dunn probably should be grouped with Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson.  A brief comparison would indicate that Dunn is due for a four-year, $52MM contract.  However, he’s at least five years younger than any of the aforementioned players. 

Assuming the Reds are looking for affordable starting pitching with potential, which teams have the need for power and could part with a starter?

I’d say the Braves might make a play, given that they could part with Jorge Sosa and Chuck James to add Dunn.  But the club seems content with LaRoche/Langerhans/Johnson manning the 1B/LF spots, and that’s worth a shot.

Would the Twins deal from their strength and send Scott Baker to the Reds?  Doesn’t seem like their style.  Dunn would probably be out of their price range, though he’d be a huge upgrade over Shannon Stewart.

The Orioles could consider shipping off Erik Bedard or Daniel Cabrera to add Dunn, but they’re not exactly pitching-rich right now.  Such a trade would create a new problem for the O’s.

Jake Westbrook is expendable, but the Indians would have to include Adam Miller or Jeremy Sowers as well.  This could be a trade that could help both teams, in my mind.

The Jays could give up Gustavo Chacin, but the Reds would likely ask for Dustin McGowan in any deal.  Top pitching prospects of this nature are rarely traded, though it would fit Ricciardi’s "win now" plan.

Sunday Night Reading

Recent reading appearing on our network:

Joshua Shnider handicaps recent Knicks trade rumors for HoopsBuzz.

AllCubs has a discussion of minor league roster decisions facing the Cubs.

Fantasy baseball nuts will appreciate a look at basepath burners with 60 steal potential at RotoAuthority.  Speaking of fantasy baseball, be sure to bookmark The Closer Watch. They provide depth charts updated daily starting in spring training.

One last plug: check out the RotoAuthority Fantasy Guide, featuring tons of projections, rankings, and other fantasy goodies for just ten bucks.

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