With the World Series set to finish up this week, the month of November promises plenty of hot stove activity. As October comes to a close, let's turn back the calendar a year and take a look at November 2008 to get an idea of what kind of action we can expect in 2009.
- Tim kicked off the month by posting MLBTR's top 50 free agents of the offseason. Scrolling through the list with the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to spot plenty of surprises. And who knew then that the Yankees would end up with three of our top five free agents?
- A.J. Burnett opted out of his contract with the Blue Jays early in November, but had yet to sign by the end of the month. He was waiting on a five-year offer that he eventually got from the Yankees.
- It looked like the St. Louis Cardinals were the frontrunners to acquire Matt Holliday, but, in a surprise move, it was the Oakland A's that dealt for the outfielder. Of course, it was a brief stay in Oakland for Holliday, who ended up in St. Louis a few months later.
- The Houston Astros signed LaTroy Hawkins, who turned out to be a key piece in their bullpen. He cut his 2008 ERA nearly in half in 2009. Jeremy Affeldt did the same thing for the San Francisco Giants, who signed him to a two-year deal in November.
- The Yankees acquired Nick Swisher from the White Sox, in a deal that looked lopsided then and looks even more lopsided a year later.
- The Florida Marlins made a few moves, including trading Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nationals. They also dealt Kevin Gregg to the Cubs, signaling the end of the Kerry Wood era in Chicago.
- Mike Mussina announced his retirement, while Greg Maddux looked likely to call it quits too. Maddux officially announced his retirement in early December, and I have to admit that I missed watching him pitch this season.
- The Yankees made a big offer to C.C. Sabathia, but not as big as the one he later accepted from them. By the end of the month, the Angels had emerged as players for C.C. as well. It's easy to forget that the Angels were heavily involved in both the Mark Teixeira and Sabathia talks, before losing out on both to New York.
- After winning the World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies got some bad news, learning that Chase Utley would miss 4-6 months following hip surgery. Utley ended up making a speedy recovery from the surgery, returning for Opening Day 2009.
- The Kansas City Royals acquired outfielder Coco Crisp from the Boston Red Sox.
- Rumors that didn't pan out? There were quite a few, including Casey Blake to the Twins, Mark Teahen to the Cubs, and Andy Pettitte to the Dodgers.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune looks at a few hot stove topics from around the league in his latest article. Here are some of his thoughts:
- He speculates that the Seattle Mariners' interest in Aroldis Chapman stems from their desire to still have a front-line starter if they eventually decide to move Felix Hernandez.
- Rogers is skeptical that the two Chicago teams have the resources to compete seriously in the Chapman sweepstakes. Be sure to check out MLBTR's complete Chapman review.
- With Tim Hudson on the verge of re-signing with the Braves, Ken Rosenthal indicated that Javier Vazquez or Derek Lowe could be shopped for a bat. Rogers suggests it'll be Vazquez that's put on the trading block.
- Bobby Valentine could be out of the mix for a major-league managerial spot this season, as the Washington Nationals look likely to give Jim Riggleman their full-time gig.
- Rogers thinks it's "wishful thinking" to expect new Padres GM Jed Hoyer to deal Adrian Gonzalez to Hoyer's former employer, the Boston Red Sox.
Despite belting a crucial home run in Game 2 of the World Series, Hideki Matsui will not start tonight in Philadelphia. The 35-year-old DH's knee issues have been much-discussed this season, as he has yet to play a single inning in the field. Tonight's Yankees lineup, which has the ice-cold Nick Swisher starting in right field, once again raises questions about Matsui's future.
When we last looked at Matsui's offseason prospects, his situation was a little different. It still looked obvious that the Yankees would retain Johnny Damon and cut ties with Matsui, given Damon's strong campaign and the health problems that prevented Matsui from playing in the outfield.
The Yankees' decision is a bit more complicated now though. Damon has struggled down the stretch, posting a .631 OPS in September and hitting just .220/.250/.360 in the playoffs so far. Matsui, meanwhile, posted a .900+ OPS in each of the last three months and has hit .278/.422/.472 in the postseason. Throw in the fact that Damon is a year older than Matsui, and not a strong defender (he recorded a -11.9 UZR/150 in left field this season), and the gap between the two players isn't nearly as wide as it looked earlier in 2009.
Matsui said recently that he's comfortable with the Yankees, despite being unsure if they'll want him back. He has also insisted he's healthy enough to play in the outfield, or even to try first base, opening up the door for a National League team to take a chance on him this winter. It's still hard, however, to envision a team like the New York Mets committing millions of dollars to Matsui when he has yet to be given the chance to play defense.
If you were the GM of your favorite National League team, would you be confident enough in Matsui's knees to offer him a deal, or is Matsui staying in the American League in 2010? If so, will he be in New York or with another AL team? And what about you, Yankees fans: Do you still prefer Damon to Matsui, heading into next season?
Happy Halloween! Remember to drive carefully tonight. Let's check out some links...
- As expected, Cito Gaston announced Saturday that he will step down as Blue Jays manager after the 2010 season and begin a four-year tenure as an organizational consultant. "I think maybe I can probably help the organization as far as being an advisor," Gaston said (via MLB.com's Jordan Bastian). "It's something that I want to do in my life -- just step back and maybe do something different besides manage."
- Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune believes the Cardinals are deserving of the title "Franchise of the Decade" for the way they've consistently put together winning teams while working with a middle-of-the-road payroll.
- Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay.com breaks down several trades from Tampa Bay's past. "Like middle-school history teachers always say," he writes,"'You can't know where you're going until you know where you've been."
Free agent left-hander Aroldis Chapman is quickly racking up face time with MLB clubs, meeting with several different teams in the past few days and drumming up interest all over the league. On Friday, he chatted with Orioles international scouting director John Stockstill in New York about the possibility of beginning his professional career in Baltimore.
Are the Orioles to be taken seriously as possible suitors for Chapman? It depends on who you ask. Stockstill said Friday, after his meeting in NYC with the highly touted 21-year-old, that there is some mutual interest. "He's willing and interested to come and visit Baltimore," Stockstill said, while also telling MASN's Roch Kubatko, "I think we have an offer in mind."
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the club is truly prepared to buck up, especially if the price is in the $40-$60MM range. As Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun points out, the O's passed on Dominican shortstop Miguel Angel Sano earlier this month, and he signed with the Twins for only $3.15MM. "If they would balk at Sano at that price," Schmuck writes, "what makes anybody think they'll be a real player at $40 million for Chapman?"
"I'm sure a lot of people would like to see the Orioles boldly go where they haven't gone before and pony up the big money it will take to sign Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman," Schmuck continues, "but I wouldn't hold your breath."
12:50pm: According to Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune, a Cubs source "quickly responded to the report by saying the rumor has 'no legs at all,' adding the team has not discussed the possibility of bringing Wells to the North Side."
9:45am: We've heard plenty of talk that the Cubs will try to trade disgrunted outfielder Milton Bradley this offseason, and somewhat surprisingly there's been plenty of interest in his services. Most believe the Cubs might have to take on another bad contract in return, maybe someone like Pat Burrell, but Bob Elliott of The Toronto Sun tosses a new name into the rumor ring: Vernon Wells.
"It's early on, but we think this one has some legs," said one Cubs official. "But they aren't the only team we are talking with."
Wells has hit just .276/.324/.439 since signing his big contract, which still has five years and $107MM left on it (including a still-to-be-paid portion of his signing bonus). Bradley is owed just $21MM over the next two years, and Elliott indicates that the "Cubs' idea is to split the difference on monies owed," which works out to each team absorbing $43MM.
Looking it from the Blue Jays' point of view, they would probably love to go through with this deal because they'd be saving a boatload of cash while picking up the player with a shorter commitment. Things don't appear to add up for the Cubbies, who would be taking on a ton of money while added another long-term, untradeable contract to Alfonso Soriano's. Not sure this one passes the sniff test, but crazier things have happened.
The Giants had a pretty busy day yesterday, re-signing second baseman Freddy Sanchez to a two-year deal, and outrighting lefty Noah Lowry, making him a free agent. Henry Schulman of The SF Chronicle has some more Giants' rumors for us this morning...
- GM Brian Sabean says he sees a "later-developing market. We don't have a relative sense of urgency like last year, which will play in our favor."
- Schulman says San Francisco is expected to make a run at free agent outfielder Jason Bay.
- Sabean also said the team has had "some level of conversation" with each of their potential free agents, most notably Juan Uribe, Randy Winn, and Bengie Molina. Yesterday we learned that Uribe informed the Giants that he intends to test the market.
Meanwhile, Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News notes that several of the Giants' core players are eligible for arbitration this winter, including Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Sanchez, and Ryan Garko. If Lincecum takes home another Cy Young Award this year, that would be the most awesome first year arbitration case in history.
In today's blog post at ESPN.com, Buster Olney indicates that there is belief among general managers that the "financial restructuring that has been occurring across the landscape is about to hit the arbitration-level players like a tidal wave." He mentions underperforming, but well paid players like Garrett Atkins and Kelly Johnson are prime non-tender bait, especially since their clubs have replacements ready and it's unlikely they'll be able to trade them. Make sure you check out MLBTR's list of non-tender candidates.
Olney also talks about some bad contracts the Cubs could acquire in exchange for Milton Bradley, adding that this morning's Vernon Wells rumor "would be a stunner" if it happened. Some of the players he mentions as possible fits include Carlos Silva, Derek Lowe, Gary Matthews Jr. (who said he wants out of Anaheim), Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, Oliver Perez, and Dontrelle Willis, among others. Any other ideas?
Here's a few links to end the night...
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Astros GM Ed Wade said the team "is talking with LaTroy Hawkins, who wanted to see who the manager was going to be first." Hawkins will be a free agent this offseason for the fourth time in as many years.
- Juan Uribe has informed the Giants that he plans to test the market, according to Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News.
- MASNSports.com's Roch Kubatko reports that the Orioles outrighted three players off their 40-man roster, including southpaw Rich Hill. Meanwhile, MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince says the Indians outrighted three players as well.
- Tom Krasovic reports that Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen interviewed for a front office position with the Padres. Hazen has held the position with Boston since 2006, and used to play in San Diego's minor league system.
- Here's this week's edition of Baseball America's minor league transactions. Lots of new names hitting the free agent pool, including Jack Taschner and Edgar Gonzalez.
Once the World Series ends, teams get an exclusive 15-day window to negotiate with their own free agents before they truly hit the open market, and as Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun notes, lefthander Mark Hendrickson hopes the Orioles take advantage of that window.
"We won't wait just for the purpose of waiting," said Joe Urbon of CAA Sports. "They have an exclusive window to talk and try to get something done and I would hope that they'd use it because I know that's what Mark would like.
"There has been indications and a vibe that there is an interest in the Orioles in having him back and Mark has made it clear that he has an interest in staying. It has to work on both sides. That includes fit and role and economics. I don't see any reason that all three things can't be accomplished."
The former Philadelphia 76er, Sacramento King, New Jersey Net, and Cleveland Cavalier pitched to a 4.37 ERA in 105 innings this season, mostly out of the bullpen for the O's. He earned $1.5MM in 2009, but FanGraphs values his performance at $2.2MM. It was also the fourth straight year Hendrickson's value has declined.