April 2007

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Brian Anderson Trade Near?

Between Ozzie Guillen's words and actions, it's safe to say he does not like Brian Anderson.  I don't know if it's BA's attitude or something else, but he's had his chance and he's not getting another one with the White Sox.  He did get 365 ABs last year, so you can't say he didn't get a legitimate shot.  Anderson seemed to be making some progress offensively in July and August of '06, but regressed in September.

Nathaniel Whalen of the Daily Southtown reads between the lines, and thinks a change of scenery might make sense here.  Anderson's minor league record is still contributing to a healthy PECOTA projection: .265/.324/.447.  That's pretty good for a CF, especially if he's a plus defender.

In the past, the Giants and Rangers have inquired about Anderson.  I feel like the Marlins did too, but can't find a record of it.  The Fish in particular can afford to let Anderson develop at the big league level.  Perhaps the Padres, A's, or Nationals would get involved as well.  They haven't been major deals, but Jim Bowden has been Kenny Williams's most frequent trading partner over the years.




Jason Jennings Negotiations Tabled

According to Astros GM Tim Purpura, the team has curbed contract extension talks with impending free agent starter Jason Jennings.

A major factor preventing further talks is that Jennings is currently on the DL with elbow tendinitis.  The MRI showed a lack of ligament damage, but the Astros are going to want a test drive before throwing down $40MM+. 

Jennings began 2002 as the Rockies' fifth starter, but ultimately won the ROY with a 16 win season.  He managed to keep his arm healthy for the next four seasons while working in a pitchers' hell.  The Red Sox wanted to acquire him in May of '04, and the Padres inquired a few months later.  The Rockies decided to hang on to him, locking him up for $7MM over 2005-06. 

A broken finger cut Jennings's '05 season short; that was a rough year as Joe Kennedy beat him out for the Opening Day gig.  He hadn't really endured any arm injuries until now, though.  The Astros knew what they were getting into when they traded for him - Jennings threw a career-high 212 innings in '06.  It was a 90 inning jump because of the '05 injury.  He was a horse last year, averaging over 6.6 innings per start.  Rockies beat writer Troy E. Renck called him "one of the toughest players I have ever covered."

The Astros gave up a lot to get their #2, and now they could lose him after this season.  It was a curious move to surrender all of Jason Hirsh's cheap years; he was completely ready to step in and contribute.  Jennings is one of several free agent pitchers who will be under 30 in 2008.  The list also includes Carlos Zambrano, Mark Buehrle, Joe Kennedy, Kyle Lohse, and Byung-Hyun Kim.




Braves Extend John Smoltz

John Schuerholz, the Braves' "homeboy upstairs," came through with a contract extension for ace pitcher John Smoltz today.  A March report questioned whether Smoltz would remain a Brave, and the pitcher publicly considered moving on from the Braves last August.  But now he'll finish his career with Atlanta, which just feels right.

Basically Smoltz is guaranteed a fair-market $14MM next year, with additional options based on innings pitched.  He said in the past he wouldn't sign any more team-friendly deals, but this one does lean towards the Braves.  They're only obligated to him if he stays healthy and makes 30+ starts.  He probably could've gotten two years guaranteed on the open market despite his age.

Smoltz seems a lock for the Hall of Fame, as he'll have 200+ wins and 154 saves to his name.

There's one less free agent starter to be had; check out the updated list here.




Trading Rich Harden

Rich Harden's name first popped up in trade rumors in December.  John Delcos spoke with Mets GM Omar Minaya and indicated that the A's starter was surprisingly available, perhaps for a package of Lastings Milledge, Aaron Heilman, and Philip HumberKen Rosenthal later indicated that it was Dan Haren the Mets really wanted.  A confusing situation all around.

Buster Olney brought the rumor back to life today in his blog with some informed speculation.  He thinks that if Harden could stay healthy for a month or two, there could be a huge market for him at the deadline.  He's locked up at a reasonable price through 2009.

Olney speculates that the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, or the big money teams could make a play.  One source Olney spoke to liked the Devil Rays as a suitor.  Personally I think Kazmir/Harden would be a lot better on paper than in reality, much like Prior/Wood.  I have to admit that putting Elijah Dukes and Milton Bradley on the same team could be cool.  Sidenote: Dukes seems like a changed man.  He sounds like a normal guy now, hanging out and eating Red Lobster with his family

Acquiring Harden in exchange for top tier talent would certainly be a risky move for a GM.  One GM not afraid to take risks: Kenny Williams.  The White Sox have a great medical staff, too.




Let's Make A Deal: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Double A catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a rare player: a bona fide top prospect at the position.  The Braves might be able to maximize his value not by switching Salty or Brian McCann to first base, but by trading the minor leaguer.  Saltalamacchia is off to a hot start after a lost '06, and one team especially interested in acquiring a young catcher is the Tigers.

As a 22 year-old in Double A, Salty is at the perfect stage in his career as the Tigers would be able to exercise Pudge's 2008 option and have Saltalamacchia ready to take over in 2009.  So what do the Braves need?

So far Atlanta is getting on base well and hitting for power, and whatever regression Kelly Johnson experiences will be matched by Andruw Jones hitting his stride.  With a healthy Chipper Jones and an improved Jeff Francoeur, this team can hit.

John Schuerholz already went all-in to improve the bullpen, leaving starting pitching as the most glaring weakness.  It's looking good on the front end - two possible aces plus a solid third in Chuck James.  Still, giving 40% of the starts to Kyle Davies/Mark Redman/Lance Cormier is undesirable.

David O'Brien says there are no good pitchers on the trade market for Atlanta, but a month or two from now some opportunities will probably appear.  One nice fit could be Carlos Zambrano; Michael Barrett is a free agent after this season.  I'll discuss Rich Harden in another post, but the A's have Kurt Suzuki waiting in the wings. 

Back to the Tigers - I doubt Justin Verlander or Jeremy Bonderman can be had.  Could Nate Robertson plus a good prospect be enough to snag Salty?  The 29 year-old southpaw doesn't reach free agency until after 2009, and he's been a healthy 32 start guy.  Bring him over to the National League, and we could see the Ted Lilly/Bronson Arroyo/Kyle Lohse effect.

The White Sox have A.J. Pierzynski signed through 2008, which gels nicely with Saltalamacchia's ETA.  If Mark Buehrle has another solid month or two, the Braves might covet the lefty and his playoff experience.  Plus, an acquisition and possible extension could keep Buehrle away from the NL rival Cardinals.  Moving Salty to the Marlins for Dontrelle Willis could work as well.

Really, with a commodity like Saltalamacchia, one could devise many different scenarios where he's swapped for a frontline starter.   




Sockgate

This is another one of those "I know it's not a trade rumor, but..." type things.  Orioles play-by-play guy Gary Thorne asserted last night on the air that Curt Schilling's sock wasn't actually bloody, but was painted red for PR effect.  It sounds far-fetched, but Thorne insists he heard it from Doug Mirabelli.  Mirabelli angrily denied this.

Schilling has yet to respond to the allegation on his blog.  As an unbiased, mildly interested third party, I say it was blood.  I suppose if we really wanted to be sure they could run some tests on the sock fairly easily.  But then someone would be spending time and money to run tests on Curt Schilling's sock.  There has to be a better use of that scientist's time.




Cubs Done With Prior?

Three newspapers, one message: Mark Prior's future with the Cubs is in doubt.  You can ask Paul Sullivan, Gordon Wittenmyer, or Bruce Miles.

Prior recently had shoulder surgery with Dr. James Andrews, and he'll accrue no Major League service time this year.  You have to wonder if the Cubs sending Prior to Triple A initially was done with this in mind.  Now, Prior won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season.

Should the Cubs cut ties with Prior and non-tender him this winter, or should they invest just a few million more to see if he can rise up out of the ashes and pitch like a fifth starter?  As Wittenmyer writes, they'd have to pay him at least $2.86MM in '08.  Sullivan speculates that his salary would be close to what it is now, maybe $3.4MM or so.  Let's say he settles at $3.3MM.

Sometimes we see teams pass on their own players at perfectly reasonable prices, just to try something new.  I hope the Cubs don't do this here.  All that has happened with Prior, all the hope and disappointment - it's a sunk cost.  The question is whether the Cubs should invest another $3.3MM in this man to see if he can provide 150 decent innings in 2008.  I think the answer is yes.

His shoulder has been a problem for years, and now it will be clean of dead or scar tissue or whatever other crap has been floating around in there.  The money is a drop in the bucket for the Cubs, and if there's a 10% chance of getting two seasons of Chris Carpenter-type pitching, they have to do it.

Here is a list of starters who signed for between $3-4MM this offseason: David Wells, Steve Trachsel, Ramon Ortiz, and Tony Armas Jr.  In the offseason I would've argued that none of them had a shot at ascending beyond fifth-starterdom, but Ortiz is doing his best to prove that wrong.  Prior fits into this class but has more potential, as frustrating as he is.

Jim Hendry said he is just going to let the rehab process take place and make a decision on Prior down the road.  That's a perfectly reasonable approach.




Who's Catching For Mets In '08?

Paul Lo Duca's contract is up after this season.  As you may recall, Lo Duca's reps brought up the idea of an extension at the Winter Meetings in January, but the Mets didn't want to discuss it yet.  Lo Duca, 35, makes $6.25MM this season.

We know catchers don't age well; there's a decent chance Lo Duca tanks in 2008 (if not this year).  PECOTA might throw him another $5-6MM for '08, but that's about it.  The Mets are right to hesitate.

Assuming they cut him loose, they could look internally for their new backstop.  Ramon Castro might be able to start, or at least serve in a platoon.  Castro, 31, has hit a respectable .247/.328/.440 with 15 HR as a Met in 352 ABs.  But while Lo Duca has gotten a lot of grief in the New York papers, it's Castro with the true blemish on his record.  It didn't stop the Mets from signing him initially though; such offenses are often ignored by teams. 

Interestingly, Castro could back up Ivan Rodriguez for a second time if the Mets sign him this offseason.  Castro was behind Pudge in '03 for the Marlins.  Earlier this week, though, I predicted that the Tigers will exercise Pudge's $13MM option, if not extend him even further.     

The two legitimate free agent options for the Mets appear to be Michael Barrett and Jorge Posada.  Barrett is five years younger, and could post his best season in 2007.  Plus, the Cubs haven't really made any effort to extend his contract.  Jason Kendall will be out there as well, and he'd probably take a shorter-term deal. 




Miguel Cabrera's Trade Preference

Enrique Rojas's April 20th article on Miguel Cabrera slipped under my radar, but he snagged some interesting quotes from one of the game's best players.

Cabrera mentioned that if he was traded, he'd prefer to play with Albert Pujols on the Cardinals.  Now there's a 1-2 punch to be reckoned with.  That's Ruth-Gehrig-esque. Cabrera also said he wouldn't like to play for the Yankees because of the rules.  Additionally, he wants to remain at third base and continue to improve his defense.

Cabrera won't become a free agent until after the 2009 season.  His salary jumped from $472K in 2006 to $7.4MM after beating the Marlins in arbitration and setting a new first-year arb record.  If he and the Marlins go to arbitration again after this season, he'll probably set another record by topping $10MM.  $12-13MM seems an appropriate reward.  Pujols made $14MM in his fifth season in '06.

Cabrera is already taking up 24% of Florida's payroll; it could reach 40% in 2008.  The trade bounty could be otherworldly; Hanley Ramirez/Anibal Sanchez could pale in comparison.  I don't think the Cards have the players for a trade. 




Linebrink Long Shot For Phillies

What's the deal with Scott Linebrink?  Is he in line for a contract extension, or is he a top trading chip for the Padres?  MLBTradeRumors helps you sort it out.  A history of rumormongering:

  • 7/31/06: Gordon Edes writes of a three team deal where the Red Sox would've gotten Linebrink and Julio Lugo while giving up Mike Lowell and prospects.  This was a wild day though...even Alfonso Soriano to Boston surfaced at one point.
  • 1/26/07:  Buster Olney first brings up the possible Aaron Rowand for Linebrink deal.
  • 2/24/07: Tom Krasovic mentions past and present interested parties in the Phillies, Red Sox, and Mets.  He quotes Kevin Towers, who indicated that since a trade hadn't happened yet it probably wouldn't.
  • 4/21/07: Ken Rosenthal says the contract extension talks are on hold, as the Padres may consider Liney their best trading chip.
  • 4/23/07: Rosenthal says the Phils and Padres may revisit the Rowand/Linebrink idea, and that Linebrink is probably available.
  • 4/25/07: Todd Zolecki calls a Linebrink trade "remote at best," as he expects a contract extension.

The Padres are currently 6th of 16 in OBP (.335) and 6th in slugging (.420).  Their left field platoon has resulted in a .257/.402/.471 line so far in 70 ABs, with Jose Cruz Jr. providing the power.  San Diego's pen has been nasty (1.98 ERA) while their starting rotation has fallen short of expectations early on (4.85 ERA).  Clay Hensley and David Wells have been knocked around.










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