February 2010

Discussion: Best Move Of The Offseason

With Felipe Lopez finally catching on with the Cardinals, essentially every big name free agent is off the market (no disrespect to Jermaine Dye and Jarrod Washburn). That allows us to sit back and reflect on all of the offseason's moves, and try to figure out which one was the very best.

Here are some candidates…

There's certainly no shortage of candidates, but one has to be the best of the best, right? What do you think it is?

Joe Beimel Considering Mets’ Offer

SATURDAY, 11:19am: Joel Sherman of The New York Post tweets that Beimel is still seeking something similar to the $2MM he earned in 2009, but the Mets aren't going there.

FRIDAY, 5:20pm: Joe Beimel has confirmed that he is weighing a contract offer from the New York Mets, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. We heard earlier in the week that the Mets would like to add a left-hander like Beimel (or Ron Mahay) to their bullpen at an affordable price ($1MM or less), and it seems they've extended an official proposal to Beimel.

"We've been talking to them for a good part of the offseason. I am still just being patient, waiting for the right deal," said Beimel.

A patient approach to free agency is nothing new for Beimel, who waited until March 18th to sign with Washington last spring. The 32-year-old lefty pitched 71 games for the Nationals and Rockies in 2009, compiling an overall 3.58 ERA in 55.1 IP.

Cardinals Sign Felipe Lopez

The Cardinals officially signed free agent infielder Felipe Lopez to a one-year contract today. The deal is worth $1MM in base salary, plus easily attainable performance bonuses that could be worth up to $1.2MM. Lopez fired Scott Boras recently, and is now represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

The Cardinals have been linked to Lopez for much of the offseason, despite recent reports that the team was unlikely to add a free agent infielder. Talks between the Cardinals and the utility infielder had intensified over the last couple days.

One likely factor contributing to St. Louis’ increased interest in Lopez is shortstop Brendan Ryan‘s recovery from right wrist surgery. Ryan is attempting to work his way back to full health by Opening Day, but still can’t throw a ball properly or swing a bat with both hands, writes MLB.com’s Matthew Leach. Lopez would also provide insurance in case rookie third baseman David Freese struggles in his first full-time starting role.

The 29-year-old Lopez is coming off a season in which he hit .310/.383/.427 in 680 plate appearances for the Brewers and Diamondbacks. He also enjoyed one of the finest stints of his career in St. Louis in 2008, when he posted a .385/.426/.538 line in 169 plate appearances for the Cardinals. Since being released by the Nationals in early August of 2008, Lopez has been a .325/.392/.450 hitter in 849 plate appearances. UZR rates his defense as above average at second and third, but below average at short.

Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported that the two sides were close to an agreement, while ESPN’s Buster Olney confirmed the deal. SI.com’s Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweeted the contract details. 

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

Red Sox Still In On Ruiz

Earlier this week, the Blue Jays appeared to be taking the lead in the race to sign Cuban first base prospect Jose Julio Ruiz. But don't count out the Red Sox yet, says ESPN's Jorge Arangure, Jr. in a recent blog post.

Arangure cites a "source knowledgeable about the situation" as saying that the Red Sox are still actively pursuing Ruiz as a low-cost preemptive replacement for David Ortiz, and that the interest is mutual. Ruiz is eyeing Boston, the source says, because he believes he would soon have the opportunity to take Ortiz's spot, even if it means playing in the minors in the short term. This seemingly conflicts with Ruiz's agent Jorge Luis Toca's quote earlier this month that "the idea is to find a team where he'll have the best opportunity to rise the quickest," but on the other hand, Ortiz's slow start in 2009 didn't make him look like a huge roadblock. The team holds a $12.5MM club option for Ortiz in 2011, which if declined could make for an easy transition.

The Red Sox are said to be looking at the 25-year-old defector much in the same way that they looked at Ortiz when he was released by the Twins at age 28: a big (Ortiz is 6'4"; Ruiz is 6'3") lefty masher whose stats "augur an eventual breakout season." To wit, Arangure quotes the Latin American scouting director of a National League team as saying, "Ruiz is a David Ortiz-looking dude." Ruiz was also favorably compared to Carlos Delgado when he first defected in June of 2009. 

Of course, none of this is to rule out the possibility that the Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Arangure quotes "sources close to" the Padres first baseman as saying that while the Red Sox are not actively pursuing him at the moment, Gonzalez considers a trade to Boston "inevitable."

Other links from the threshold between major league baseball and world baseball…

  • The Braves signed 21-year-old Nicaraguan shortstop Ivan Marin to a minor league contract on February 10, reports Oscar Gonzalez at La Prensa.
  • Cuban pitcher Juan Yasser Serrano held a private tryout for the Rays last Wednesday, according to the Cuban baseball blog Las Avispas.
  • Former major leaguer Randall Simon has signed with the Rockford Riverhawks of the independent Northern League, reports baseballdeworld.com. Simon hasn't logged a big league PA since 2004, but he has remained active in Europe, most recently in the Italian Baseball League and for the upstart Dutch national team in last year's World Baseball Classic.

Phillies Links: Payroll, Jesus Sanchez, Bench

Let's check out some Phillies-related Friday night links….

Shin-Soo Choo Hires Scott Boras

We can add another name to our list of Scott Boras' clients. Shin-Soo Choo has hired Boras to be his agent, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).

Choo will be arbitration-eligible after this season and eligible for free agency after the 2013 campaign. The Indians have talked recently about wanting to extend Choo, one of the franchise's core players, to a long-term deal after he hit .300/.394/.489 with 20 homers in his first full MLB season. Given the Indians' small payroll, reaching a long-term agreement with the lefty slugger could be a little more challenging with Boras now on board.

Arturo Lopez Designated For Assignment, Clears Waivers

FRIDAY, 4:32pm: Rubin reports that Lopez has cleared waivers and will return to Mets' camp as a non-roster invitee.

WEDNESDAY, 3:48pm: The Mets designated lefty Arturo Lopez for assignment to make room for Rod Barajas, tweets Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News.  Lopez, 27, posted a 3.82 ERA, 6.2 K/9, and 3.8 BB/9 while allowing just one home run in 61.3 Triple A innings last year.  The Mets had claimed Lopez off waivers from the Padres in June.

Odds & Ends: Thames, Manzella, Royals, Marlins

Links for Friday…

Discussion: Chad Gaudin & Sergio Mitre

The Yankees head into the 2010 season with the front four spots of their rotation set, but with an open competition for the final spot. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are the front runners for that spot, but manager Joe Girardi maintains that others like Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Alfredo Aceves will be give a chance to win the job.

Both Gaudin and Mitre are out of options, and the Chan Ho Park signing means there's only spot left open in the bullpen for these two. Something will have to give.

Gaudin, 27 in March, will earn $2.95MM in 2010 and will become a free agent after the season. In 31 games (25 starts) for the Padres and Yankees, he posted a 4.64 ERA with an 8.5 K/9 and a 4.3 BB/9. He has experience starting and relieving, and has thrown at least 90 innings in each of the last three seasons.

Mitre, on the other hand, with earn $850K in his age-29 season in 2010, and still has another year of arbitration eligibility ahead of him. After missing the entire 2008 season with Tommy John surgery, Mitre posted a 6.79 ERA in 12 games (nine starts) last year, striking out just 5.6 men per nine innings. He should improve as he gets further away from his surgery.

Since both Gaudin and Mitre are out of options, they would need to clear waivers before they could be sent to the minors. Since the Yankees only have room for one of them on their pitching staff, the other could become trade bait. Can you think of any potential fits of either Gaudin or Mitre? Maybe the Dodgers since they need a fifth starter? 

Heyman On Pujols, Torre, Blalock, Lopez

Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt told Jon Heyman of SI.com that he wants to keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis for life, even though the first baseman will likely require a historic contract when he becomes a free agent, presumably after the 2011 season.

"We all have our financial limitations," DeWitt said. "It depends on how the contract is structured. We feel there's an area that could work where it would be affordable to us."

Pujols says he wants to finish his career as a Cardinal and the executives who watch him believe he's in line for big money. Some suggested Pujols could command a contract worth as much as the $275MM deal Alex Rodriguez signed with the Yankees. Here are the rest of Heyman's rumors:
  • The Dodgers continue to work on a one-year extension with Joe Torre. Don Mattingly appears "likely" to take over as Dodgers manager after 2011.
  • The Marlins have Hank Blalock on their radar and the Rays are also in the mix. 
  • The Cardinals haven't ruled out making an addition and Felipe Lopez seems like a fit. Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says (via Twitter) that the Cardinals are interested in Lopez, but not 'in' on him.