August 2007

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Livan Hernandez Hopes To Pitch With El Duque

Livan Hernandez, half-brother of Orlando, were all set to pitch together as Expos in 2003 until El Duque succumbed to a shoulder injury.  Livan, a free-agent-to-be, mentioned recently that he still aims to pitch with his half-brother.

El Duque is signed through 2008 as a Met; could they make room for Livan in next year’s rotation?  Duque, Oliver Perez, and John Maine are locked in.  Tom Glavine’s status is in question; Livan could conceivably fill Glavine’s rotation spot.  If Glavine reaches 200 innings this year, he’ll have a $13MM player option for ’08.  It might be hard to turn that down.

The market is weak enough where a past-his-prime innings eater like Livan Hernandez might be a hot commodity.  If he’s looking for a 3/36 type deal, the Mets would probably pass.



What’s In Store For Oakland?

Susan Slusser’s recent article for the San Francisco Chronicle had some interesting rumor tidbits.

  • The Dodgers see the Esteban Loaiza handover as something of a small gift from the A’s.  The team’s talked about sending someone to Oakland – Brett Tomko was mentioned – but ultimately Oakland moved Loaiza only for salary relief.  However, the goodwill between Ned Colletti and Billy Beane from the deal could result in positive offseason discussions about Joe Blanton.  The Dodgers could sweeten a Blanton package beyond what’s necessary, in rememberance of the Loaiza gift.
  • The Tigers haven’t asked about Mike Piazza, and the Twins had only mild interest back in July.  But that might be one last salary the A’s try to unload before tonight’s trade deadline.
  • Interesting thought from Buster Olney the other day – is it time to shop Eric Chavez?  His plus defense might play well in L.A., New York, or Boston.  Olney speculates that the A’s might ask the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw…can’t see that one happening.  Chavvy makes $11MM in ’08, $11MM in ’09, $12MM in ’10, and a $3MM buyout in ’11.  His limited no-trade clause allows him to block trades to the Blue Jays, Nationals, Devil Rays, Mets, Twins, Brewers, Marlins, and Indians.
  • Slusser writes in another article that the A’s will slice their ’08 payroll by roughly $15MM.




Cubs Acquire Steve Trachsel

The prodigal son returns – Chicago radio stations are reporting that the Cubs have acquired starter Steve Trachsel for third baseman Scott Moore and reliever Rocky Cherry.  Apparently the two minor leaguers were able to slip through waivers, or perhaps Baltimore won claims on them.

The obvious question – where does Trax fit into the Cubs’ rotation?  It’s hard to picture him outpitching Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis, or Sean Marshall.  Zambrano, Lilly, and Marquis are locks given their contracts, and Hill has the best ERA on the staff. 

Marshall doesn’t seem to be ailing; his last three starts have been respectable.  He tossed 147.3 innings last year and is on pace for about 157 this year.  That’s a reasonable increase, so limiting his innings doesn’t seem a reasonable reason to yank him.  Maybe we’re looking at a six-man rotation?

For a minute I thought maybe this was a block waiver claim, but then I remembered Trachsel cleared waivers.  The Cubs must consider him an upgrade over Marshall.  Marshall did have two rough outings to start the month; maybe that swayed Jim Hendry’s thinking.  Or maybe he just wanted some insurance and someone to use in the upcoming doubleheader.



White Sox Targeting Eckstein

According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, shortstop David Eckstein is the #1 target of the White Sox this offseason.  An Eckstein signing would then result in the team paying $300K to buy out Juan Uribe‘s $5MM option for ’08. 

Eckstein signed a three-year, $10.25MM deal with the Cardinals after being non-tendered by the Angels in December of 2004.  He’ll be 33 heading into the ’08 season, and injuries have been increasing over the years.  Another three-year pact for $15-18MM would be fairly risky for the White Sox.  Especially for a player whose value is tied so closely to his batting average.

A coworker of mine, Mike, mentioned that the Sox might be trying to assemble an all-grinder type team.  They could conceivably have Eckstein, Darin Erstad, Jerry Owens, and Aaron Rowand in the lineup next year.

However, they won’t be signing Rowand if, as Cowley claims, he demands a contract similar to Torii Hunter‘s.  Ken Rosenthal recently talked to an exec who set the floor for Hunter at 5/75, with 6/102 certainly within reach.  I imagine the White Sox will top out with an offer around 3/33, a little more than Eric Byrnes received.  I could be wrong though.   



2008 Non-tender Candidates

On Wednesday, the non-tender deadline will occur.  Basically, that’s when teams decide whether to offer a contract to the unsigned players on their 40-man roster.  Players not tendered a contract become free agents.  Past non-tenders include David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Joel Pineiro, Ryan Franklin, Ryan Spilborghs, and David Eckstein.  Usually at least a few useful guys are unearthed.

Here’s my initial crack at a list of non-tender candidates.

Ben Broussard
Emil Brown
Brian Bruney
Kiko Calero
Neal Cotts
Joe Crede
Brendan Donnelly
Morgan Ensberg
Johnny Estrada
Mark Hendrickson
Reed Johnson
Jason Lane
Felipe Lopez
Kevin Mench
Miguel Olivo
Scott Podsednik
Mark Prior
Horacio Ramirez
Juan Rincon
Cory Sullivan
Josh Towers
Claudio Vargas
Matt Wise

  • Note that I tried to limit the list to names I found interesting.  I came across some additional candidates but left them out as they didn’t seem worthy.  No need to debate the worth of Jae Seo (on the list) vs. Kirk Saarloos (not on the list).
  • Comment fodder: Any interesting names I missed?  Which player will turn out to be the best of the non-tender class?  Who will get the biggest free agent contract?

Dodgers Receive Loaiza On Waiver Claim

Given the $8MM+ owed to 35 year-old starter Esteban Loaiza, Billy Beane chose to hand him over to the Dodgers solely for salary relief.  The Dodgers basically inherit Loaiza on a one-year, $7MM deal for 2008, which is less than he’d cost on the open market.  If healthy he’s a more than credible fourth starter.  He had great success for the Nationals in the NL back in ’05. 

Loaiza slots into the fourth slot for the rest of the season, behind Chad Billingsley but ahead of David Wells.  Ned Colletti did a fine job adding two respectable starters for nothing.  One consequence of the acquisition is that the Dodgers are likely to turn Randy Wolf loose rather than exercise his $9MM option, according to Ken Rosenthal. 

You can read a history of Loaiza’s ailments and misdeeds since the A’s signed him here.



Mariners Close To Extension With Guillen

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Mariners are close to completing a three-year contract extension with right fielder Jose Guillen.  The deal would replace Guillen’s ’08 option, running from 2008-10.  Guillen’s bounced back from Tommy John surgery to hit .293/.360/.467 with 19 HR and 83 RBIs so far this year.

Geoff Baker said recently that the Eric Byrnes contract might serve as a model, so Guillen might be in line for about $30MM.  As I mentioned in this post, Wladimir Balentien seems to be the odd man out in Seattle’s outfield.  And in order to give Adam Jones a regular job next year, Raul Ibanez, Jose Vidro, and Richie Sexson would have to rotate between the first base and DH spots.  More likely, Jones doesn’t play every day unless someone gets hurt.  Remember, the Ms had a chance to dump off Sexson’s contract and chose not to.

U.S.S. Mariner doesn’t like the idea of a Guillen extension.



Renck’s Latest Rockie Rumors

Rockies beat reporter Troy E. Renck had the scoop on all kinds of Rockie rumors yesterday; I’m just now getting to it.  Let’s look at some highlights from his column.

  • Renck suggests the Rox take a look at Bob Wickman.  Meanwhile, the Phillies actually inquired but aren’t expected to work out a deal.  The Indians will take a pass.
  • Renck mentions that the Rockies have "long coveted" catcher Paul Lo Duca.  Lo Duca should be there for the signing this winter.
  • The Rockies will have around $45MM tied up in Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Brian Fuentes, and Aaron Cook for 2008.  Even if the team raises its $55MM payroll, someone has to go.  By the way, locking up Holliday long-term will cost a king’s ransom.  He’s a Scott Boras client.
  • Given the burden of Todd Helton‘s contract and his no-trade clause, he may be immovable.  But a .400 OBP is still valuable any way you slice it, so perhaps the Red Sox or Angels will get re-engaged.  Renck believes Atkins and Fuentes are the main trading chips to clear payroll though.  The Angels and Twins could still use Atkins while the Phils, Red Sox, and Yankees have inquired on Fuentes in the past.  Atkins for a Kevin Slowey or Scott Baker just makes too much sense.



Dodgers Interested In Loaiza

According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dodgers have "genuine interest" in Oakland starter Esteban Loaiza.  The 35 year-old righty has been excellent in two starts against the Blue Jays since coming off the DL.

Loaiza was coming off a fine 34-start 2005 season for the Nationals when the A’s signed him to a three year, $21MM pact. I wasn’t high on the deal at the time, though it’s more palatable given some of the starting pitching deals that followed.

Loaiza pitched for Mexico in the WBC in March of ’06.  He reached April with a marked decline in velocity, and the A’s blamed his early struggles on the tournament.  Spasms in his non-throwing shoulder surfaced later that month.  On the first of May he hit the DL with a strained trapezius muscle.

He returned in June to mediocre results, but his velocity had returned.  He snagged a DUI later that month, driving 120 mph in his Ferrari while drunk.  The incident prompted the A’s to ban alcohol in both the home and visitor clubhouses.  Loaiza was healthy but awful in July of ’06.  In August he was surprisingly lights out in winning four starts with a 1.48 ERA.  Loaiza even touched 95 on the gun in a start that month.  He ended up making a couple of playoff starts – one decent, one lousy.

This spring, tightness in Loaiza’s pitching shoulder and a bulging disc in his neck surfaced.  His rehab was delayed due to a torn meniscus in his knee, which he had surgery for in June.  He finally returned this month, and is working in the 86-88 mph range.  With $8MM due next year, it’s possible Loaiza cleared waivers.  However, we only have speculation on that currently.  A switch back to the NL would not be a bad move at this stage in his career, and the Dodgers are still short on starting pitching even with David Wells in tow.