January 2010

Odds & Ends: Carroll, Wang, Hudson, Fielder

Sunday night linkage..

  • Despite their budget constraints, Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times expects the Rays to upgrade their roster.  Topkin mentions several quality free agents who may have to accept minor league deals such as Jim Edmonds, Rocco Baldelli, and ex-Ray Jonny Gomes as proof that the market is rife with valuable players.
  • At the Mariners Fan Fest event, pitcher Mark Lowe told the crowd in attendance that he keeps up on all of the latest transactions with MLBTradeRumors (video from MLB.com, :40 mark).  Dave Sims – the television voice of the M's – followed that up with his own mention of MLBTR.  Thanks guys!
  • Tim brings us the terms of Jamey Carroll's contract with the Dodgers via Twitter.  Carroll will earn $1.35MM in 2010 and $2.5MM in 2011.  The 35-year-old could also earn up to $525K per year in plate appearance incentives.
  • The Dodgers are among the teams that have reviewed Chien-Ming Wang's medical records, according to a tweet from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  Recently, ESPN's Jayson Stark pegged the Dodgers as a possible destination for the 29-year-old.
  • Washington GM Mike Rizzo and Orlando's Hudson's representative haven't talked in a couple of days, according to MLB.com's William Ladson (via Twitter).  Furthermore, Rizzo says that if Hudson has brought his price down, it's news to him (also via Twitter).
  • In response to a fan asking how much he thinks Prince Fielder will sign for, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy writes that he doesn't think he will sign at all and will instead opt to hit the open market after the 2011 season (via Twitter).
  • Jon Weisman of the Los Angeles Times writes that the Dodgers' rumored signing of Reed Johnson likely means that Ronnie Belliard will get the nod over Blake DeWitt at second base.  Weisman's reasoning is that the roster, as it stands now, would feature an all right-handed bench without DeWitt's inclusion.  Weisman wonders if this overload of righty sluggers means that the Dodgers will pursue another free agent backup outfielder.

Odds & Ends: Hudson, Wang, Brewers, Cabrera

Some links for your Sunday…

Fielder Discusses Contract Situation

It's good to be Prince Fielder. At 25 years old, he's one of the most feared bats in the National League, entering the second year of a two-year, $18MM contract, and according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Anthony Witrado, he's worry-free when it comes to his next contract.

Fielder addressed several reporters today at Brewers On Deck, a day-long fan festival held in Milwaukee. While it's no secret that his agent, Scott Boras, aims for every dollar possible for his clients, Fielder says he's not yet concerned with the situation, and that ultimately, it's not Boras' decision:

"In the end, it's my decision. But as my agent, he's going to make sure that I have the most information possible about what's going to benefit me and my family. That's what it's about first. My family has to be happy, and then I go from there. There's no urgency right now as far as that."

Fielder owns Brewers single-season records in home runs (50 in 2007), walks (110 in 2009), and RBIs (141 in 2009). McCalvy writes that the historical significance of those numbers matters to Fielder. While Boras may be dreaming of the open market with dollar signs in his eyes, if you ask the big man himself, he's happy where he is and would like to stick around:

"I came up here and I love it here. My thing is I want to stay here as long as possible. For now, I'm here for two more years anyway. All that other stuff, hopefully, will work out."

Fielder is under team control through the 2011 season, as he'll be eligible for arbitration one last time after the 2010 season. It's tough to imagine that the Brewers would want to go through that process, as it could be a record-setting case. For comparison, Mark Teixeira received $12.5MM through his final year of arbitration, a 39% raise from the prior year. That type of raise would put Fielder somewhere around $14.5MM for 2011.

There have been no deadlines set on working out an extension to this point. If he were to reach the open market, Fielder would join a group potentially including Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, and Ryan Howard. Now that's what I call a free agent class!

All-Star Free Agents Remaining

Matt Holliday and Jason Bay have signed, but the free agent market is still littered with former All-Stars. Most of these players won't make another All-Star team, but lots of them can still be useful contributors. Take John Smoltz, for example. He lost his first All-Star Game to Nolan Ryan two decades ago, in 1989. Like many players below, Smoltz is past his prime but could help teams win. 

They're not the best players around, or even the best free agents, but here's the complete list of free agents who have been selected to at least one All-Star Game. These 37 players have been chosen for the Midsummer Classic 92 times in total:

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Cafardo On Damon, Ohman, Sheffield, Wang

Scott Boras tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he has seen some "very creative proposals" for Johnny Damon's services. The market for Damon seems limited, but teams like the Blue Jays, Tigers and A's could be fits at some price. Here are the rest of Cafardo's rumors:

  • The Blue Jays, Orioles and Royals seem most aggressive in their pursuit of reliever Will Ohman.
  • Gary Sheffield is considering two unidentified teams and waiting for offers from them.
  • Boras is trying to find interest for Jeff Weaver. 
  • There's interest in Chien-Ming Wang, but teams aren't offering the two-time 19 game winner much money.

Olney On The Damon Negotiations

When the offseason began, Johnny Damon was not interested in seeing offers for deals that would pay him less than the $13MM he made in 2009, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. The Yankees offered Damon $14MM over two years ealier in the winter and lowered the offer to $6MM for a single year recently.

Olney says those two offers are similar to or better than offers Damon has seen from other clubs. Several prominent teams were interested in Damon, but some decided to pass since they weren't confident he could maintain his level of production outside of Yankee Stadium.
The A's, who were connected to Damon this week, are moving on from Damon to address other needs, Olney writes. They're pursuing Gabe Gross, for example.

Odds & Ends: Indians, Mets, Verlander

As Tommy John's long-lost brother Elton once said, Saturday night's alright for fighting…and also for posting news links.

  • The Tribe's quiet offseason is recapped by Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, who also looks at how busy the other AL Central teams have been in comparison.
  • MLB.com's Marty Noble outlines how he would have handled the Mets' offseason if he had been the GM, both if the team's goal was to contend or to rebuild (Noble's preference).
  • Steve Kornacki of MLive.com thinks Justin Verlander's reported five-year, $75MM offer from the Tigers "is too sweet a contract for Verlander to pass on," even without the sixth year that the pitcher wants.
  • Mark Sheldon of MLB.com passes along some tidbits from Dusty Baker on the Reds Winter Caravan.  Baker said that reliever Mike Lincoln (who last started a major league game in 2000) was a contender for the No. 5 spot in the Reds' rotation, and that the club had considered moving top prospect Yonder Alonso to catcher.  John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer sums these ideas up as candidates for the "sometimes-managers-say-the-darnedest-things file."
  • MLB.com's Bryan Hoch believes the Yankees have finished their roster tinkering before spring training, and talks to Yankees manager Joe Girardi about New York's offseason moves.
  • Chuck Greenberg, the incoming general managing partner of the Texas Rangers, is profiled by Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News. 
  • MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch was all over the Q&A sessions with Pirates management during the team's PirateFest event.  Here is her latest transcript of a similar sessions with various Pittsburgh players.
  • Jon Heyman of SI.com tweets his guesses about the destinations of some of the free agent infielders left on the market.  He sees Orlando Hudson in Washington, Orlando Cabrera in Cincinnati and Felipe Lopez in St. Louis.
  • Count the White Sox out of the running for Johnny Damon or Hank Blalock, says Scott Merkin of MLB.com, since both are too costly for the limited space left in the team's budget.  When asked about the possibility of Damon in Chicago, Sox GM Kenny Williams rhetorically asked, "Who is his agent?"

Marlins Reach Agreement With Derrick Turnbow

SATURDAY, 10:16pm: Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Turnbow's deal is worth $600K if he makes the team, plus an additional $50K in incentives.  Damon Lapa, Turnbow's agent, said "there were offers with significantly more money….But Derrick realizes he's at a point in his career where the choice he makes is more important than income potential."

FRIDAY, 10:35am: The Marlins reached an agreement on a minor league deal with reliever Derrick Turnbow, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

Turnbow, 32, hasn't been effective in the Majors since 2005 with the Brewers, a season that prompted Doug Melvin to give him a three-year, $6.5MM extension.  Amid a rotator cuff injury, Turnbow logged a total of 30.6 pro innings the last two years.  He requested his release from the Rangers' Triple A club in May.  The Marlins have resurrected the careers of many relievers, but Turnbow wil be a challenge.

The Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Cardinals were among the other teams interested in Turnbow.  Earlier this month, he auditioned for at least 16 clubs.

Discussion: Carlos Lee

Since their team won the NL pennant in 2005, Astros fans have had reason to feel frustrated.  A roster that has included the likes of Lance Berkman, Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt and future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio has averaged just under 79 wins per year since that World Series appearance. 

This unimpressive stretch of play has led some fans to argue that club should give up on its hopes of contending over the next few seasons and focus on re-stocking its minor-league system.  However, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes pointed out in his Offseason Outlook piece last October, this is a team that "could contend with the right free agent additions."  In the wide-open NL Central, the Astros seem to be perpetually just a player away from a playoff berth.  Even in 2006, when the club finished 82-80, they still finished just 1.5 games behind the eventual World Series-champion Cardinals.

This winter has provided the same mixed message from Houston, following its 74-88 record in 2009.  Owner Drayton McLane spoke about the importance of developing young talent in an interview with The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice last June, but the Astros' offseason moves (trading for reliever Matt Lindstrom and signing free agents Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliz) make it seem like Houston is once again reloading rather than rebuilding.

If the Astros ever did commit to a rebuild, however, the most obvious candidates for a deal would be their three biggest contracts: Berkman, Oswalt and Carlos Lee.  Houston has $2MM buyouts on Berkman's contract in 2011 and Oswalt's contract in 2012, but most people agree that these two iconic Astros seem destined to retire with the franchise. 

That leaves Lee, who is owed $18.5MM per season through 2012.  The outfielder has performed well in his three years in Houston (.305/.354/.524) but may be showing signs of a decline.  His 26 homers and .831 OPS last season were his lowest totals in each category since 2002 and 2005, respectively.  MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says that between Lee's big contract, poor defense (a -4.6 UZR/150 according to Fangraphs), full no-trade clause and a desire to stay in Texas due to his ranch business, Lee is "about as untradeable as they come."

Let's speculate, for a moment, that Lee could be persuaded (probably through a cash bonus) to leave the ranch behind and agree to a deal.  Houston would almost surely have to eat at least half of Lee's remaining contract in any trade, but for a big-market AL team that could afford to pick up the other half, Lee would be an intriguing DH option.

Perhaps the best fit is Chicago.  Much has been written about Ozzie Guillen's DH-by-committee plan for the upcoming season, and the White Sox seem committed enough to the idea to pass on signing Jim Thome.  But if the Sox find themselves in a pennant race and their platoon of designated hitting options (Omar Vizquel?  Really?) isn't working out, then they could make a play for an everyday DH.  Lee would fit that bill and, since he spent the first six seasons of his career with the White Sox, might be amenable to waive his no-trade clause to return to a familiar location.

This scenario is, admittedly, a longshot.  It's much more likely that, no matter if the Astros choose to keep aiming for contention or commit to a proper rebuilding process, Lee will be a constant in the Astros' outfield.  You could say that Lee is Houston's answer to Vernon Wells — an unwieldly contract that is too big to trade and also takes up enough of the payroll to hamstring the team from making other moves.

Orioles Designate Dennis Sarfate For Assignment

SATURDAY, 8:08pm: Kubatko reports that Baltimore is trying to deal Sarfate rather than lose him for nothing if another team makes a waiver claim.  "Several teams" are interested in the reliever, according to Sarfate's agent.

WEDNESDAY, 3:39pm: The Orioles designated pitcher Dennis Sarfate for assignment to make room for Miguel Tejada, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN.  Oddly enough, Sarfate came to the O's in the December '07 Tejada deal with the Astros.

Sarfate, 29 in April, struggled in 35.6 innings between the Majors and Triple A this year.  He had shoulder surgery in September of '08 and a circulatory finger problem in the summer of '09.  The injuries seemingly caused his mid-90s velocity to disappear, but Kubatko says Sarfate was hitting 97 recently in the Mexican Winter League.