December 2009

Athletics Re-Sign Justin Duchscherer

The A's re-signed righty Justin Duchscherer to a one-year deal today.  His contract has a base salary of $2MM, with another $3.5MM in incentives for games started and innings pitched.  The A's aren't allowed to offer Duchscherer arbitration if he's a Type A free agent, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX SportsESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick first reported the agreement on December 24th.  Duchscherer also drew interest from the Pirates, Red Sox, and Rockies, among other teams.

Duchscherer has spent nearly all of his major league career in Oakland, after the Rangers traded him to the Athletics in the spring of 2002. The 32-year-old proved dominant as both a starter and reliever, when healthy, posting a 2.82 ERA in 214 appearances for the A's.  Duchscherer missed the '09 season due to elbow surgery and depression, as explained by Crasnick in this article.

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.


The Market For Jose Valverde

Jose Valverde and Juan Cruz have a lot in common. The two relievers were born within months of each other in the same country; they both pile up big strikeout totals; they even anchored Arizona's bullpen together for a couple seasons. Now Valverde's Type A status is limiting interest from potential suitors, just as Cruz's did a year ago.

Valverde has struck out over a batter per inning every year of his major league career, so he'd be a difference maker in any bullpen. The only season in which he has allowed more hits than innings pitched came in 2006 when he surrendered 50 hits in 49.1 innings. His fastball has been extremely effective and consistently hits the upper nineties.

The 31-year-old right-hander is one of the top free agents available, but he hasn't generated much buzz this offseason, partly because he'll cost teams a high draft pick. He could return to the D'Backs, who are keeping an eye on him, and it's too early in the winter to rule out a surprise bidder, but so far the market doesn't appear to have developed.

The Marlins, Pirates and Tigers could use closers, but as ESPN.com's Buster Olney recently pointed out, those three teams seem unlikely to spend big on Valverde or any other reliever. Plus, Valverde would cost the Tigers and Marlins their first round picks and the Pirates would have to give up a second rounder to sign him. The Nationals and Orioles were connected to Valverde earlier in the month, but they've moved on and signed Matt Capps and Mike Gonzalez, respectively.

The market for Valverde doesn't look good now, but there's some hope for him: Cruz did sign a multi-year deal in the end.


Mets Rumors: Bay, Molina, Delgado, Pineiro

Sean Casey tells Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that he likes the Jason Bay deal for the Mets. Casey, who played with Bay in Pittsburgh and Boston, expects the left fielder to adjust well to New York. Here are some more Mets-related rumors:

  • The Mets aren't nearing an agreement with Bengie Molina, who is looking for a three-year deal. We've been hearing for a while now that the Mets aren't interested in committing to Molina for that long. They're comfortable with a one-year deal that includes a vesting option, according to McCarron's source.
  • As ESPN.com notes, Yorvit Torrealba could be a solution for the Mets if there are no hard feelings between the two sides. The Rockies don't appear to have room for Torrealba now that they're reportedly close to signing Miguel Olivo.
  • The Mets are still interested in Carlos Delgado, who could start playing winter ball this weekend.
  • Joel Pineiro is still on the team's radar, but the Mets haven't spoken to his representatives this week. 


Orioles Rumors: Bordick, Chapman, Waters

Mike Bordick signed a one-year deal to become a minor league coach with the Orioles, according to Dan Connolly and Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. The former Oriole says he wants to emphasize situational hitting and "small ball." 

Baltimore's search for pitching has them interested in Cuban prospect Aroldis Chapman. So far, team president Andy MacPhail says the O's have only spoken with the lefty's representatives in "generalities." The O's have yet to make the Hendricks Brothers a formal offer and have not heard from the agency recently. The Marlins, A's, Red Sox and Yankees are among the many teams interested in Chapman.

And Chris Waters is one left-hander who won't be signing with Baltimore. The Brewers agreed to a minor league deal with the former Oriole, who was designated for assignment last month by the Orioles. The 29-year-old has a 5.07 ERA in parts of two seasons with the O's.

Carlos Zambrano’s Availability

THURSDAY, 8:23am: Hendry tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that Zambrano is likely to return to the Cubs next year:

"I fully expect him to come back in 2010 and pitch like the old Big Z."

WEDNESDAY, 9:56am: The availability of Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano is in question.  Zambrano, 28, has a full no-trade clause and at least $53.75MM remaining on his contract over the next three years.  Zambrano's agent Barry Praver has spoken out multiple times about trade rumors, recently telling the Chicago Tribune:

Jim [Hendry] has not approached us about Carlos waiving the no-trade provision of his contract, nor is Carlos interested in waiving it.

Of course, one wouldn't expect the Cubs GM to involve Praver unless an agreement is close.  But Zambrano's desire to remain in Chicago is an important point.

A couple of sportswriting buddies, Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman, seem to disagree on Zambrano's availability.  Sherman wrote today in the New York Post that "two AL officials say the Cubs are definitely dangling Zambrano," while acknowledging Zambrano's unwillingness to approve a trade.  Heyman, on Twitter, called the Zambrano trade rumors a "time waster."  Not sure if we get a vote, but MLBTR's source says there's "nothing to it."


Matt Holliday Rumors: Wednesday

10:42pm: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Holliday and the Cardinals are "working toward an agreement" that is "gaining momentum."  Due to this progress, a deal is possible next week.  Goold says multiple contract structures have been discussed – five guaranteed years with a higher salary, and even an "eight-year framework."

7:21pm: Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports that Holliday didn't accept a contract offer of at least six years and "presumably" worth more than $100MM offered by St. Louis "in the past couple weeks."  Heyman also tweeted that Holliday "is still talking to multiple teams." 

3:20pm: ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Cardinals' offer to Holliday "is believed to be over $100MM" (guaranteed, he tells me).  Additionally, Ringolsby replied to my email and clarified that he's been told the Cards' eight-year, $140MM offer is guaranteed both in years and dollars.

1:55pm: Talking to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, MacPhail moved quickly to shoot down Ringolsby's report of the Orioles making an eight-year, $130MM offer for Holliday.

1:01pm: Tracy Ringolsby's FOX Sports column today contains information on Matt Holliday's current contract demands as well as a couple of offers that have been made.

Ringolsby says Holliday wants to top the $18MM average salary of a four-year, $72MM deal the Rockies once offered.  But if you look at our post from Monday, you'll see that the Rockies' reported offers are all over the map.

Ringolsby says the Cardinals "made a proposal that could reach $140 million over eight years."  This fits with Joe Strauss' mid-December article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that said the Cardinals offered "around $15 million-$16 million a season for up to eight years."  In both cases the vague wording makes me wonder whether the offer was eight years guaranteed, or just five years plus options as some have suggested.  I have an email out to Ringolsby for clarification.

Ringolsby adds that the Orioles made an eight-year, $130MM offer to Holliday.  What's more, he says Andy MacPhail "did discuss the possibility of arranging a meeting between himself, Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Holliday in Austin, Texas, where Holliday is living in the offseason."  If true, the Orioles could be more serious about Holliday than previously thought.


Odds & Ends: Hudson, Wallace, Chapman

A few notes as we head into the final day of 2009….

  • ESPN.com's Insider news page passes on some Orlando Hudson-related speculation from Buster Olney on the Mike And Mike In The Morning radio show.  Olney "wouldn't be surprised" if the Mariners got into the bidding for the veteran second baseman, adding that Hudson would "be a perfect fit in what they're doing" in Seattle.
  • Andrew Stoeten of the Drunk Jays Fans blog runs down some of the highlights of Keith Law's appearance on Toronto's FAN 590 station this afternoon.  Law opined on the type of free agents the Blue Jays should sign, said the Jays should focus on scouting and noted that if Brett Wallace wasn't going to be used at third base, "you can probably play him opening day." 
  • Chad Jennings of the LoHud.com Yankees blog says Aroldis Chapman "might be this winter’s most intriguing available player, period."  He brought up Chapman with Yankees senior vice-president of baseball operations Mark Newman, who said the Cuban left-hander would start the year in Single-A or Double-A if he signed with New York.  Newman was impressed by Chapman's workout session two weeks ago, but noted that Chapman is "not where (Stephen) Strasburg was."
  • Mike Lowell underwent surgery today to repair the injured right thumb that prevented him from being dealt to Texas.  Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that Lowell had a 95-percent tear in his thumb's radial collateral ligament but is expected to be ready for spring training.  This latest surgery will almost surely, as Newsday's Ken Davidoff surmised last week, put an end to the Lowell trade rumors unless Lowell proves himself to be healthy in Grapefruit League action.

Discussion: Los Angeles Dodgers

Ever since the news of Frank and Jamie McCourt's divorce proceedings broke last October, Dodgers fans have been wondering (and dreading) if the ownership dispute would impact the team's operations.  The first two months of the offseason have been quiet enough in L.A. to make it look like the Dodgers are themselves also still waiting to see how things will play out with the McCourts and have thus been in a holding pattern in regards to next season's payroll.

This isn't to say that Los Angeles hasn't been active.  The Dodgers traded Juan Pierre to the White Sox, were involved in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes, tried to acquire Aaron Harang from Cincinnati and signed utilityman Jamey Carroll.  But, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports pointed out today, the club is playing even-steven with its offseason moves in order to steady the budget.  For instance, the Dodgers saved $8MM over the next two seasons by dealing Pierre, and spent $3.85MM of those savings to sign Carroll.  Acquiring another notable free agent (such as Rosenthal's example of Joel Pineiro) would require L.A. to make another move to free up the cash to sign the right-hander.

We've already seen a bit of penny-pinching from the team this winter when they didn't offer arbitration to any of their free agents, passing on the chance to acquire compensatory draft picks for Type A free agents Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf out of fear that Hudson or Wolf might accept the offer.  The bright side for Dodgers fans is that the team is at least keeping the payroll stable, rather than shifting into outright cost-cutting mode.  Rosenthal notes that there are no plans to deal any of L.A.'s young stars before their arbitration years — trading the likes of Andre Ethier, for example, would be "counter-productive" given Ethier's reasonable arbitration number and Manny Ramirez's slight decline. 

This stand-pat strategy will force Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to be creative in filling the holes on a club that has lost the NLCS to Philadelphia in each of the last two seasons.  Rosenthal said that George Sherrill is "a candidate to be traded," but L.A. wouldn't save much money from the deal and getting rid of Sherrill would weaken their bullpen. There is also a need to sign a veteran like Pineiro to anchor the otherwise young starting rotation.


Odds & Ends: Mariners, Gomes, Holliday, Bay

Links for Wednesday…


Diamondbacks Sign Kelly Johnson

The Diamondbacks signed second baseman Kelly Johnson to a one-year, $2.35MM deal today.  They'll also retain his rights for 2011 as an arbitration-eligible player.  The impending agreement was first reported yesterday by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.  This morning SI's Jon Heyman tweeted that an agreement had been reached, and Piecoro later added the contract value.  Piecoro also wrote yesterday that signing Johnson could make Augie Ojeda expendable.

Johnson, 28 in February, lost the Braves' starting second baseman job to Martin Prado in July and hit .224/.303/.389 overall.  He spent time on the DL for right wrist tendinitis.  MLBTR learned earlier this month that the Pirates, Cardinals, and Astros also had interest in Johnson, who was non-tendered by the Braves on December 12th.