27 year-old Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura is being pursued by both the Phillies and the Indians.
Pat Gillick mentioned today that he has a lot of interest in Iwamura to play third for the Phils. You may recall that Gillick imported Ichiro back when he was GM of the Mariners. Another convenient factor is that manager Charlie Manuel has played in Japan before.
The Tribe is showing interest as well, but are committed to Andy Marte at third base. They would ask Iwamura to convert to second base.
Yankee fans have been emailing me for a 2007 Team Outlook. There's not a lot for me to figure out here because the Yanks don't have many openings. But here we go.
Brian Cashman's contract obligations:
C - Jorge Posada - $12MM
1B - Gary Sheffield - $8MM ($5MM deferred)
2B - Robinson Cano - $0.381MM
SS - Derek Jeter - $20MM
3B - Alex Rodriguez - $16MM
IF - Andy Phillips - $0.38MM
LF - Hideki Matsui - $13MM
CF - Johnny Damon - $13MM
RF - Bobby Abreu - $15MM
OF - Melky Cabrera - $0.38MM
DH - Jason Giambi - $21MM
SP - Randy Johnson - $14.5MM
SP - Chien-Ming Wang - $0.38MM
SP - Jaret Wright - $7MM (player option)
SP - Philip Hughes - $0.38MM
SP - Carl Pavano - $10MM
RP - Mariano Rivera - $10.5MM
RP - Kyle Farnsworth - $5.25MM
RP - Mike Myers - $1.25MM
RP - Scott Proctor - $0.38MM
RP - Brian Bruney - $0.38MM
SP - Mike Mussina - $1.5MM
Payroll stands at roughly $176MM. The Yankees entered '06 at $194MM.
2007 could be Posada's last season as a Yankee. Or not. He had a resurgence at age 34, hitting .278/.375/.494 and playing 142 games. If Cashman were to let Posada walk perhaps Michael Barrett would be signed. Anyway, the Yanks will need to find a backup this winter, maybe someone like Todd Pratt or Henry Blanco.
We all know Sheff doesn't want to play first base in 2007 unless he gets a three-year extension. Will this play out like Alfonso Soriano's position change last year? Any threat to retire may ring hollow as Sheffield needs just 45 HRs for 500. The trade market for Sheffield seems strong despite his whining, as possible .900 OPS outfielders on one-year deals don't grow on trees. The Cubs should offer Bob Howry and/or Scott Eyre and a decent prospect and try to get something done. If they do trade Sheffield, the Yankees can try some patchwork solutions at first base, as their offense can stand it.
We've also got a possible situation with A-Rod. Scott Boras is adamant that Rodriguez will not be traded, and of course the player has veto power here. Given Boras's profession and reputation, everyone is taking that assertion with a grain of salt. If Rodriguez is dealt, I really don't see him moving back to shortstop. The White Sox seem like the best fit, as they can offer Joe Crede and a starter. That starter won't be an ex-Yankee, which leaves only Mark Buehrle or Freddy Garcia.
Miguel Cairo or someone similar will be signed to back up Jeter and Cano.
The Yanks have an outfield surplus, with promising 22 year-old Melky Cabrera serving as the fourth. He had a strong rookie showing in '06; it's a shame he won't be playing full-time in '07. Cashman could use Cabrera to acquire a starter, but why not just hang onto him for right field in '08? The retention of Hughes this summer may indicate a willingness to break in some young guys.
It seems likely that Mussina will work something out with Cashman after his option is bought out. That'll leave the rotation with three or four solid options, but perhaps not a shut-down ace. If Cashman's scouts think Daisuke Matsuzaka is that ace, I can't see how he lands anywhere else. Yes, they were burned by Hideki Irabu - but these are two completely different pitchers.
20 year-old Philip Hughes posted sick numbers in Double A and will probably be up before June. He may be the best pitching prospect in the game - this time, the New York hype is justified.
Someone's going to have to replace Ron Villone's 80 innings in the bullpen. Could be Darren Oliver or even another go-round with Mike Stanton. I'm pretty sure one overpaid veteran reliever will be imported.
Plenty of offseason drama as usual with the Yankees. Best guess is that Sheffield goes and A-Rod stays. Sheff is used to acquire a good reliever. Mussina comes back and the Yankees win the Matsuzaka derby. With Matsuzaka and Hughes fronting the rotation this summer, the Yankees could be World Series favorites.
The White Sox imported Scott Podsednik to fill the speedy leadoff hitter/left fielder role back in December of 2004. Pods did OK in 2005, even garnering some curious MVP votes. Last year, however, his OBP dropped all the way down to .330. The team seems ready to move on.
Dave Roberts's agent would like to kindly suggest his client to fill the role. He would be another former CF playing left, never a bad idea defensively. Roberts is also a bit more adept at getting on base than Podsednik and has a little more power. This is his first chance to explore free agency, and so far the White Sox and Giants appear to be desired destinations. He made $2.25MM in '06. He'll be 35 next year, and health may be an issue.
Doug Melvin's contract obligations:
C - Damian Miller - $2.75MM
C - Mike Rivera - $0.38MM
1B - Prince Fielder - $0.38MM
2B - Rickie Weeks - $2MM
SS - J.J. Hardy - $3.5MM
3B - Corey Koskie - $2MM
LF - Bill Hall - $0.42MM
CF - Tony Gwynn Jr. - $0.38MM/Gabe Gross - $0.38MM
RF - Corey Hart - $0.38MM/Geoff Jenkins - $7MM
OF - Kevin Mench - $2.8MM
OF - Brady Clark - $3.8MM
SP - Ben Sheets - $10MM
SP - Chris Capuano - $0.45MM
SP - Dave Bush - $0.38MM
SP - Doug Davis - $2.7MM
SP - Carlos Villanueva - $0.38MM
SP - Dana Eveland - $0.38MM
SP - Yovani Gallardo - $0.38MM
RP - Francisco Cordero - $5.4MM
RP - Jose Capellan - $0.38MM
RP - Derrick Turnbow - $2.3MM
RP - Brian Shouse - $0.775MM
RP - Matt Wise - $1MM
RP - Chris Spurling - $0.38MM
RP - Grant Balfour - $0.38MM
The Brewers have roughly $54MM committed before arbitration raises go to Mench, Davis, Capuano, Hall, and Shouse. Word is that the team will push payroll past the $60MM mark. Hopefully that means $70MM, because they could reach $60 mil with the raises. Of course, guys like Mench, Davis, and Jenkins could be traded this winter to free up money. Team owner Mark Attanasio is looking for a "$10 million puzzle piece."
The catching situation looks set. Yes, Miller slipped drastically in the second half, but Rivera was a capable backup in '06.
Don't forget that Fielder will be just 23 next year. There's a good chance he will improve on his solid rookie showing of .271/.347/.483. Similarly, Weeks will be 24 and more power should develop.
One key to success will be healthy years from Weeks, Koskie, and Hardy. When one is hurt, Hall must move back to the infield and a lesser player will occupy a corner. Hardy is still young and his ankle should be fine for spring. Koskie hit pretty well before his concussion in July.
Another fun situation is that Milwaukee has seven outfielders. Seriously. Seven. However, three of those guys are overpaid and/or undesirable: Jenkins, Mench, and Clark. Clark should stay on as a fourth outfielder. Melvin will do everything he can to trade Jenkins this winter. Just eat half his salary and get him out of there.
Do you even offer Mench arbitration? A major piece of the Carlos Lee trade, Mench was terrible after joining the Brewers. He still stands to make $3MM or more next year. Tough call here. If Hart and Hall are to occupy the corners, there's no room for Mench.
Gross, Gwynn Jr., Hall, Hart, and Laynce Nix all saw time in CF in 2006. It appears that Gwynn is the favorite after hitting .300/.360/.396 in 112 Triple A games. I'd prefer Gross, personally, if his defense would hold up.
The pitching rotation is deep, though if I had to guess that's where this "$10 million puzzle piece" would come into play. Davis is after a three-year deal to compensate for his better years, which are behind him.
If Davis stays and Sheets remains healthy, only one spot is available. That will initially go to a fifth-starterish guy like Villanueva. Maybe Eveland joins the 'pen in that case.
The fifth starter would just be a placeholder for Gallardo, who took a huge leap to eat Double A for breakfast. Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein named Gallardo the sixth-best right-handed starting pitching prospect in the game, citing three plus pitches. Will Inman is also very promising.
The back end of the bullpen will again be assembled from minor league free agents and whatever spare parts Melvin can dig up. He's adept at this, so it should be a solid group.
Brew Crew Ball names some minor league free agents that Melvin could pursue for the bullpen or perhaps a bench spot.
It's going to be a fun offseason of trading in Milwaukee. This is a team with a lot of promise that could easily take the Central Division if they can keep guys healthy and expel some veterans. Despite the promise of more spending, I don't really see a glaring need with this club.
The Cardinals have been crowned the unlikely world champs, so now it's time for all baseball fans to offically focus on 2007. Here's a roundup of the latest rumors.
With the Tigers' season over, the consensus among local papers seems to be that they will trade some of their excess starting pitching for a slugger, possibly a first baseman. Some folks think Jeremy Bonderman's postseason performance (3.10 ERA in 20 innings) was a sign that he will take it to the next level in '07. Others think it's time to trade him with his value so high. Possible trade targets: Mark Teixeira, Todd Helton, Richie Sexson, Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez, and Pat Burrell. It's certainly feasible that Brandon Inge, Nate Robertson, or Craig Monroe could be included in a trade.
We'll know by November 11th whether Aramis Ramirez will become a free agent. Right now, he's not close to a deal with the Cubs. While Ramirez's current deal is often cited as two years and $22.5MM, the third year is pretty easily guaranteed at $11MM. He just needs to play 270 games over the first two seasons. We hear a lot about the Dodgers and Angels as Ramirez's suitors. The Dodgers would force top prospect Andy LaRoche to move from third base if they sign Ramirez. Other teams that could have interest: the Orioles, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Giants, and Padres.
The Sheffield Saga continues, with the Astros and Indians entering the mix. A one-year rental from the Tribe would be a great fit in my mind.
Word from Yahoo Japan (in Japanese) tonight is that southpaw pitcher Kei Igawa would like to join a West Coast team. That probably means the Dodgers or Mariners, who have hosted such Japanese stars as Ichiro, Kenji Johjima, and Takashi Saito.
Of course, Igawa is coming to the U.S. via the posting system and doesn't have a say in his destination. However, his preference to play on the west coast may compel Ned Colletti or Bill Bavasi to bid higher and sign Igawa to a slightly cheaper contract.
So far the Braves, Mets, and Tigers have also been connected to Igawa. The smart money is on the Dodgers or Mariners with the Mets in a distant third. However, history may go out the window as 2007 brings the largest influx of Japanese talent to the Majors yet. More and more teams are looking overseas to fill their needs.
If the Dodgers are to re-sign Greg Maddux and the Mariners miss out on Matsuzaka, Igawa seems to be destined for Seattle.
We had heard a lot of $20MMish estimates for the winning bid to negotiate with Japanese ace Daisuke Matsuzaka.
However, Joel Sherman's article yesterday quotes an NL GM who sets the over-under at $33MM. Bob Bavasi mentioned $28MM as the highest figure he had heard when I talked to him earlier this month. With more than ten teams looking to make competitive bids, $30MM+ is becoming more of a reality.
Sherman speculates that Scott Boras could ask for five years and $75MM on top of that posting fee. Now we're talking a total of $21MM a season for the guy.
The more you think about it, 5/75 is not an unreasonable amount for Boras to demand. Boras has shown in the past with top draft picks that he is able to gain leverage in a situation where his client seemingly has none. Why shouldn't Matsuzaka be paid like Roy Oswalt? Matsuzaka is a full three years younger.
These kinds of demands are typically only met by the Yankees. In A-Rod, Jeter, and Giambi, the Yanks have three $20MM players for 2007. Randy Johnson gets $16MM and Bobby Abreu $15MM.
My money is officially placed on the Yankees getting Matsuzaka. Other teams just won't mess with that kind of payout and risk.
Mark Healey of Gotham Baseball has a new but familiar trade rumor for us: it appears that the Red Sox would like to acquire Aaron Heilman to be their closer next year. In addition, Theo Epstein and Co. may have their eye on Lastings Milledge. It could be the makings of a Manny Ramirez trade, if the Mets want to pay Ramirez's $39MM salary over the next two seasons.
Healey was not able to confirm this info from multiple sources, but has faith in his Boston source here.
Manny's contract may be slightly less daunting than it looks. That's because $8MM of the $31MM is deferred and will be paid out in $1.94MM doses over 2011-2026. I believe that is the first time MLBTradeRumors has referenced the year 2026.
Some interesting rumors coming from Cubdom, ideas that surprisingly don't seem too foolish. At least compared to last year, when the budget was spent on middle relievers, Jacque Jones, Glendon Rusch, and Neifi Perez.
The first one comes from the Chicago Tribune. Paul Sullivan indicates that the Cubs may turn their focus to Japanese hurler Hiroki Kuroda instead of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Not that Matsuzaka isn't the better pitcher; he certainly is. But Kuroda won't require a posting fee, and he posted the best ERA (1.85) in Japan's Central League. Kuroda also posted a 6.9 K/BB ratio, which is awesome. If Hendry can snag Kuroda for an under-the-radar two-year, $15MM deal it wouldn't be a bad move. Of course, it's not a guarantee that Kuroda wants to pitch in the United States as of right now.
Second, Joel Sherman names the Cubs as a strong possibility for Gary Sheffield. We've all read Sheff's comments, about putting up a huge stink if the Yanks pick up his option and then trade him. But as Sherman says, Sheffield has always been like this. He's still got a lot of reasons to play and play hard in 2007. It'd be a low-risk acquisition with .900 OPS potential. Maybe an Angel Guzman type does the trick? Maybe a little more, but it won't be requiring Rich Hill like some other sluggers would. From the Cubs' point of view, where would Sheffield play? Left and right field seem locked in with Matt Murton and Jacque Jones.
I'm trying to compile a list of GMs who basically refuse to work with Scott Boras, as well as teams with which he has a good relationship. I figured who would know this better than my faithful commenters? Please post a comment and we can compile the definitive list. Here's what I've got so far:
Likes Boras: Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Royals, Mariners, Angels, Diamondbacks, Yankees
Shaky Past But Might Be OK With Boras: Mets, Phillies, Rangers
Hates Boras: White Sox, Orioles, Padres, Marlins, Twins, Braves, Astros, Giants
I'll update the post as we sort this out.