We'll start with the positive vibes: the Rays unearthed Carlos Pena from the free talent pool this year, and he's got a decent shot at besting the franchise home record of 34 (held jointly by Jose Canseco and Aubrey Huff). He could also top Canseco's team-best .563 SLG from 1999.
Pena, a Scott Boras client, is making just $800,000 this year. Talk about bang for your buck. He'll have about four years of big league service time after this season, meaning he's under team control and could go to arbitration. He's set to reach free agency after the 2009 season, in my estimation. Going to arbitration with him is the low-risk option, as the Rays would just be on the hook for one year. The two sides might be able to come to an agreement in the $4MM range, even.
Another option, suggested by Marc Topkin, is to sign Pena to a three-year deal with an option. Pena is loves Tampa Bay; he's up for the idea. A three-year pact would buy out the first year of free agency. Would $21MM be enough? Most commenters at D-Rays Bay seem in favor of a multiyear contract.
The negative vibes: what to do with Rocco Baldelli? He's locked in at $2.25MM for '08. Then he's got a $6MM club option with an unfortunate $4MM buyout for '09. The 2010 and 2011 options ($8MM and $9MM) must be exercised together and come with a $2MM buyout. Baldelli seemed ready to break out after a strong 92 game stint last year. But this season has been completely lost to injuries. B.J. Upton now owns center field, leaving Baldelli to share DH with Jonny Gomes if he can take the field.
I don't see how the Rays can trade Baldelli until he puts together a couple of healthy months to start 2008. That'd probably be at the expense of Gomes unless an outfielder is injured. Hindsight being 20/20, the Rays should've taken what the Braves were offering back in December.
UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal confirms the firing of both Garner and Purpura. Cecil Cooper will take over for the rest of the season.
790 AM The Sports Animal is reporting that the Astros have fired manager Phil Garner and GM Tim Purpura, with a press conference coming up.
Purpura and Garner pretty much received a vote of confidence from Drayton McLane back in May, but their tenures have come to a short end. Purpura was hired on November 1, 2004 and Garner on the following day. Garner had taken over from Jimy Williams as interim manager in July of that year.
It seemed Jason Isringhausen's career was in jeopardy less than a year ago, but he's fully returned to form and re-established himself as a successful closer. He's been ridiculously hard to hit this year, allowing a career-best 4.85 hits per nine innings.
The Cardinals hold a very reasonable $8MM club option for 2008, with a $1.25MM buyout attached. So there's no doubt Izzy will be donning Cardinal red once again next year. He'll probably reach his 300th save, too. The Cardinals may do that one better, though, giving him a contract to cover 2008-09 as they did Jim Edmonds. I admit I liked the Edmonds deal at the time, but the Cardinals could've minimized risk by simply exercising his '07 option and leaving waiting on '08. The same may apply here.
Additionally, it seems Cards reliever Russ Springer has scrapped retirement plans and would like to come back in 2008. It's known that Springer has his son attending a specific school in St. Louis and would like to keep him there. So look for the Cards to ink him for $3MM or so. Surely he could get a two-year deal on the open market, so the length will depend on Springer's plans.
Walt Jocketty already locked up Ryan Franklin, another member of the St. Louis pen having a fine season. Franklin is signed for 2008-09 for $5MM, with a club option for 2010.
Coming into the season, who would've thought the three righties would form perhaps the best relief trio in the game? The surprising nature of this speaks to the volatility of bullpens, which makes you wonder whether the Cardinals will want the same three pitchers under more expensive contracts in 2009.
Carlos Silva came up through the Phillies' farm system, switching to relief for his big league debut. He remained an innings-eating reliever throughout his Phillies tenure, though his hittable, low strikeout style was not suited to the pen.
In December of '03 the Phils sent Silva and Nick Punto over to the Twins for Eric Milton. The following season he racked up 14 wins as a starter. His pinpoint control has made him a very credible back-rotation guy, aside from a rough '06.
Joining Silva in the under-30 starting pitcher free agent class will be Jason Jennings, Joe Kennedy, Byung-Hyun Kim, Kyle Lohse, and Joel Pineiro. Silva's the most reliable choice, and he might be able to snag a four-year pact given the weak market. He's having a well-timed fine year with a 4.10 ERA in 164.2 innings.
The Phillies have been looking to reacquire Silva for some time now; I believe they had interest last winter after the Twins exercised his $4MM option. Now La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes of Philadelphia's continued interest. The Phils inquired before the July 31 deadline, and would still like to acquire Silva. Neal believes he has not yet been placed on waivers and would not clear them. It seems that Terry Ryan missed his chance to extract strong trade value for Silva, though he may have fielded offers and found two draft picks preferable.
I can't see Silva getting to the Phillies without the Braves, Dodgers, Rockies, Tigers, and Mariners first putting in a claim.
A couple of Ken Rosenthal new videos - Inside Pitch and Full Count - are up at FOXSports.com. Here's a summary of the rumor-related stuff.
- Rosenthal says Torii Hunter rejected a four-year, $56MM offer from the Twins. However, Hunter said today that he received no such offer. The Twins approached him about a contract extension, but he'll wait until the winter to negotiate. At any rate, Rosenthal believes Hunter will end up in the $18MM per year territory occupied by comparables Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells.
- Mike Piazza could be an option for the Tigers if Gary Sheffield's shoulder problems linger. Currently Sheff is looking to return in early September. Piazza has cleared waivers, so he can be traded to any team. He hasn't been hitting this month (.654 OPS).
- The Orioles have a couple of valuable trading chips in Kevin Millar and Steve Trachsel. Trax has cleared waivers; Millar is an unknown. Trachsel is back on the radar with a 2.53 August ERA (though he's whiffed only five in 32 innings).
- Rosenthal says the Marlins will almost certainly explore Dontrelle Willis trades this winter.
The Royals are considering re-signing designated hitter and former face of the franchise Mike Sweeney for 2008. Sweeney, one of baseball's nice guys, had this to say:
"I think this team is going to turn into a winning team real soon, and I definitely want to be here when it happens. Next year, rather than being tagged with being the $11 million man, I’ll be the guy who is getting $11 over the minimum."
If his back will allow it, Sweeney might try to play another couple of seasons in hopes of reaching the playoffs as a Royal. He tried yoga last winter and had the usual quotes about feeling great. In May he even talked about moving back behind the plate for '08. But he was again sidelined, this time with a knee injury that required surgery.
The Royals may try to eke a little bit of defensive value out of young Billy Butler by using him at first base next year. That'd allow them to sign Sweeney for half a million bucks or so. It's not like Butler would be putting in 150 games at first anyway; even 100 healthy games from Sweeney would be a surprise. There's a myth that Sweeney hits when he's out there, but a .252/.329/.423 line in 421 ABs since the start of '06 says otherwise. The average DH is hitting .264/.350/.433 this year. If the Royals retain Sweeney, it'd be purely for his clubhouse qualities. They could easily find a DH to match Sweeney, even by calling up their own free talent guy in Craig Brazell.
Bob Dutton's article notes that the Royals have a good $30MM to burn this winter, but want to focus on adding a starting pitcher. Here's another look at the list. There are a number of interesting plays the Royals should consider - Freddy Garcia, Matt Clement, Bartolo Colon, Kyle Lohse, and even Curt Schilling (if he'd do Tampa Bay, why not KC.) If they're looking to go young as they did with Gil Meche, I could see Lohse or Carlos Silva on a somewhat overpriced three or four-year deal. Yeah...I think Silva's getting four years. And Lohse is represented by Scott Boras.
Here's a random smattering of links and rumors for your enjoyment.
- Joba Chamberlain's slider gives a whole new meaning to the term "unhittable."
- There's informed speculation that the player to be named later going to Detroit in the Craig Monroe deal will be Clay Rapada.
- A source tells me the Braves have had internal discussions about trading Edgar Renteria in the offseason and giving the shortstop job to Yunel Escobar. The Cardinals, Tigers, and A's could be interested.
- Word on the street is that the Diamondbacks plan on re-signing first baseman/pinch-hitter Tony Clark for 2008. He's a good clubhouse guy with pop off the bench from both sides of the plate.
- The Red Sox signed Royce Clayton to a minor-league deal. Why? No one knows.
- Out with Brett Tomko, in with David Wells for the Dodgers. Jon Weisman reflects on a signing that never made sense. Funny to hear Wells wisecracking about his replacement while standing a few feet away from Tomko.
- Jose Guillen's now talking three years guaranteed for his next deal, and he's no longer in a rush. Talks are ongoing.
Wondering where all the posts have been lately? Like many in Illinois, my power has been out for a couple of days. I'm back in business, trying to catch up.
We'll start with Bob Wickman. He's been designated for assignment. Sometime during the next ten days, he'll be traded or claimed off waivers. The move was brought about both by Wickman's mediocre pitching and attitude towards pitching in non-save situations. This year, his control slipped and has luck on hits allowed ran out simultaneously. The result? Too many baserunners for a late-inning reliever. My guess is that the 38 year-old will retire now or after the season.
Rafael Soriano has been decent aside from home runs allowed, and he'll have first crack at ninth inning duties until Octavio Dotel returns.
UPDATE: Dan Graziano's source says Wells is close to signing with the Dodgers.
Back on Monday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe broke down the David Wells situation. At the time of his writing Wells seemed likely to retire. The sticking point is $1.13MM in incentives Boomer could've earned with San Diego - he wants his new team to pay up. Four clubs inquired, with the Rockies and Dodgers confirmed. When Ken Rosenthal wrote on the topic that same day, he said the Rockies would pass. The Mark Redman signing probably puts the nail in that coffin.
Breaking down the candidates:
- According to the L.A. Times today, the Dodgers still appear interested. Brett Tomko's stinker last night didn't hurt.
- The Mets could be one of the mystery teams.
- The Diamondbacks and Mariners appear to be out.
- I've speculated in the past that the Braves might consider signing Wells.
- The Phillies have a heightened need with Cole Hamels' injury.
- The Cardinals appear set with Joel Pineiro as their fifth starter for now.
A couple of days ago I wrote about the origin of MLBTR. Today let's discuss the first several months of the site.
I started off as a kind of wannabe Gammons with questionable journalism skills/methods. I wanted to break rumors, signings, and trades. I have to admit I emailed a few radio and newspaper personalities, received inside info from them, and posted it with attribution but without asking permission. Yikes. That was a long time ago though. I also invited strangers to email me with rumors, using mostly just my better judgment deciding whether the source was legit. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, and I think I was the first to post the Cameron/Nady trade. Everything that went on the site made it through my BS filter, and I even caught interesting rumors like this one.
The looser standards made for a good tabloid-type read, while also creating enemies quickly. Some folks were convinced I was making stuff up, because I hadn't done much to establish credibility. At that time I also allowed people to comment without logging in, creating a sort of Wild West where I had to delete obscene things all the time.
I liked it when people didn't have to log in to comment; I'd prefer not to have that barrier to contribution. However, the tipping point came on April Fool's Day last year. I knew many of my readers were Cubs fans, so I created a somewhat believable Carlos Lee-to-Chicago rumor as an April Fool's joke. I even monitored comments to delete any calling it out as an April Fool's joke. To me, this was funny, but in the end it created an unprecedented amount of venom from some people. So I made logging in required.
Gradually the site evolved and I focused more on passing along published rumors with my own analysis. The site became a one-stop shop for almost all legitimate trade and signing rumors, while also providing a place to speculate wildly in the comments with other rumor-junkies. You may have seen me still using my own sources once in a blue moon over the past couple of years; rest assured I have 100% confidence in those folks. I'd love to have a huge network of sources one day as the big guys do, but that takes years of paying dues. In the meantime I'm content to stick with the current approach.