January 2007

White Sox To Sign Erstad

Pending a physical, the White Sox will sign center fielder Darin Erstad to a one-year deal with an option.  The Sox don’t have much certainty in left or center field, so Erstad will have plenty of opportunity.  The average AL CF hit .275/.334/.437 in ’06, which is probably out of Erstad’s reach.

Brian Anderson seems to have fallen out of favor with Chicago, leaving Ryan Sweeney as Erstad’s main competition in center.  Scott Podsednik is expected to hold down left field again once he recovers from groin surgery, though he’ll have to hold off Josh Fields.

To hear PECOTA tell it, the Sox should go with Sweeney and Anderson at the same time above all other options.

Blue Jays Sign Tomo Ohka

UPDATE: The Blue Jays signed Ohka to a one-year deal with incentives.  He’s guaranteed $1.5MM and can double it by reaching incentives.

The Washington Post reports that Tomo Ohka will likely decide on a team today or tomorrow.  The Nats are unlikely, and he’s leaning towards Toronto.  Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Ohka now only wants a one-year deal.  Looks like he couldn’t get three years so he’d rather re-enter the market in ’08 after a hopefully solid year.  The Pirates are definitely out of the running.  The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review mentions that the Mets are still in on Ohka.

The Bucs, however, have turned their focus to Tony Armas Jr.  Several teams are interested in him, with the Pirates in the lead.  Though he’s not particularly good, he is relatively healthy and on the right side of 30.  Beggars can’t be choosy.

Cano Hands Over His Number

It’s kind of cheesy, but I suppose worth a mention.  The Yankees recently asked/told second baseman Robinson Cano to hand over his #22 in the event that Roger Clemens signs with them.

Clemens’s agent replied to the gesture by saying that Clemens will make a decision well after spring training at the earliest.  I wonder if the Red Sox will respond by having Wily Mo Pena give up #22?

Rockies Remain Open To Helton Trade

When the Rockies spoke to the Angels about a possible Todd Helton trade in December and at the winter meetings, it represented a change in philosophy regarding their expensive first baseman.

Rockies owner Charlie Monfort publicly admitted yesterday that the Rockies are exploring trading Helton because allocating 30% of payroll to one player isn’t wise.  Dan O’Dowd, the game’s second worst GM according to Dayn Perry, will have his work cut out for him.  Helton is due $90 million over the next five seasons (an AAV of $18MM).  PECOTA values him at just $31.7 million over that same time period.  There seems to be no way the Rockies can unload Helton’s salary without eating $30MM or so.

Erstad Options

According to Ken Rosenthal, free agent center fielder Darin Erstad is expected to choose a team this week.  The 32 year-old has a slight chance at signing with the Angels or Cubs, but is more likely to choose between the Marlins or White Sox.

It appears that Florida is Erstad’s best shot at regular playing time, given that his competition is Alex Sanchez.  With Chicago Erstad would split time with Brian Anderson and perhaps Ryan Sweeney.

Rosenthal reports that the Cubs hope to acquire a young, cheap CF to hold the fort until Felix Pie is ready.  This comes despite the recent proclamation that Alfonso Soriano would play center. Pie has an interesting PECOTA projection – Baseball Prospectus forecasts a .289/.342/.481 line from him as a 22 year-old in the Majors.

D-Rays Willing To Trade Upton, Young?

According to Mike Berardino of the Sporting News, the Rays have been willing to discuss trades for both Delmon Young and B.J. Upton this winter.  (Berardino also writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel).  Apparently Upton’s attitude and shaky defense scare rival teams more than Young’s attitude alone.

It’s tough to envision Young going anywhere.  Despite the bat-throwing, the 21 year-old has star written all over him.  He’s got some interesting comparables, according to Baseball Prospectus.  The most similar player is the very solid former Astros and Reds CF Cesar Cedeno.  His list also includes Rocco Baldelli, Orlando Cepeda, Elijah Dukes, Ruben Sierra, Milton Bradley, Sammy Sosa, Hank Aaron, and Jeff Francoeur.  I didn’t know PECOTA used attitude as a variable (Dukes, Bradley).

PECOTA is less enthused with Upton, likening him to Carlos Febles.  However, his list is quite impressive overall, with Alan Trammell, Willie Randolph, Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, and Tim Raines.  At 22, Upton still has plenty of time to find a position and blossom into a star.

Latest On Ohka

Ah, the Tomo Ohka saga.  What could be more exciting in late January?  Football just can’t compete.  The Pirates have "escalated efforts" to snag the righthander, which I suppose means an increased offer.  An Ohka signing for the Bucs would probably push Shawn Chacon out of the rotation, never a bad idea.

The Nats, Blue Jays, and…wait for it…a mystery team are the contenders for Ohka.  My guess is that Ohka wants a Jason Marquis type deal. 

Cubs Still Close On Floyd

The Cubs are still close to an agreement with Cliff Floyd, though you have to question the word "close" when it’s been that way for more than a month.  The Daily Southtown has some new info on the situation today, though.

Jeff Vorva reports that the deal may include a player option for 2008.  Additionally, the Pirates and several AL West teams have shown interest in Floyd.  I think the A’s have been connected to him before.

Rockies Sign Brian Lawrence

According to the Denver Post, the Rockies have agreed in principle to a one-year deal with a club option for 31 year-old righty Brian Lawrence.  Lawrence is likely to join the rotation as soon as he proves healthy, which will probably lead to a trade of Josh Fogg or Byung-Hyun Kim.

The Rockies’ newly acquired promising young arms, Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz, won’t fit into the rotation unless both Fogg and Kim are dealt.   

Utley Gets Seven Year Extension

Chase Utley agreed to a seven-year, $85MM contract with the Phillies today.  It buys out three arbitration years and keeps him a Phillie through 2013.  The deal covers Utley’s age 28-34 seasons.

PECOTA compares him to the 1985 version of former Blue Jay Willie Upshaw.  Upshaw was finished at 31, however.  A few other comps on his list include Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell.  PECOTA only has the next five seasons projected, but it says Utley is worth $95 million over those seasons alone.