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...
- Mets sign Jason Bay to a four-year, $66MM contract.
- Yankees acquire Curtis Granderson for three prospects.
- Phillies acquire Roy Halladay for three prospects.
- Red Sox sign John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5MM contract.
- Mariners acquire Cliff Lee for three prospects.
- Rays acquire Rafael Soriano for Jesse Chavez.
There's certainly no shortage of candidates, but one has to be the best of the best, right? What do you think it is?
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.
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.
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.
Let's check out some Phillies-related Friday night links....
- Todd Zolecki of MLB.com breaks down the club's 2010 payroll, projecting that it could eventually exceed $140MM, based on potential bonuses and buyouts.
- Zolecki also looks at the last remaining piece of the trade that sent Bobby Abreu out of Philadelphia: Jesus Sanchez. Zolecki writes that the Phils "just might get some talent in return for Abreu after all."
- In a team preview for Yahoo! Sports, David Brown presents five burning questions facing the Phillies, including whether the team sufficiently improved their bench this winter.
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.
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.
Links for Friday...
- Chad Jennings of The Journal News reports that Marcus Thames can opt out of his contract with the Yankees if he doesn't make the team out of Spring Training. Thames signed a minor league deal earlier this month that would pay him $900K in the big leagues.
- Alyson Footer, the Astros' Sr. Director of Social Media, tweets that the team has agreed to terms on a one-year deal with infielder Tommy Manzella worth $400K. He's expected to be the team's regular shortstop in 2010, and he has less than a month's worth of service time.
- Mike Aviles and Anthony Lerew agreed to terms with the Royals according to a team press release. Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star tweets that both deals are expected to be worth less than $500K. Both players are not yet eligible for arbitration.
- Meanwhile, the Marlins also agreed to terms with six of their pre-arbitration eligible players, reports MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
- Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun reports that Orioles' lefty Brian Matusz has changed agents, and is now represented by CAA Sports. He had a 4.63 ERA in 44.2 innings last year, and is widely considered to be one of the two or three best pitching prospects in the game.
- Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo spoke about the Livan Hernandez signing to MASNSports.com's Ben Goessling, and said that the righty isn't guaranteed a rotation spot.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports polled nearly 20 baseball people about Carl Crawford's next contract. Many of the agents and executives expect Crawford to command a five-year deal worth $12-16MM per season, but some think the left fielder could make as much as $18MM per year when he hits the open market, probably after 2010.
- Scott Rolen was happy to restructure his contract so the Reds could "free up some money to go out and be more competitive," according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Nationals pitcher Rafael Martin tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he agreed to his deal on February 8th (Twitter link).
- Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd told Tracy Ringolsby of FOX Sports that he wants his players to be driven by "more than money." O'Dowd also told Ringolsby that he did not shop Brad Hawpe this winter.
- The Mets are still looking at lefty and righty relievers, according to Newsday's Ken Davidoff (via Twitter).
- Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt tells Scott Lauber of the News Journal that he expects Placido Polanco to make a smooth transition to third base.
- Marlon Byrd tells USA Today's Bob Nightengale that he's uncomfortable being compared to friend and former teammate Milton Bradley.
- Big market clubs sent $433MM to small market clubs last year, according to Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball.
- The Red Sox don't generally use insurance on their long-term deals. Principal owner John Henry tells Rob Bradford of WEEI.com that "it isn't always easy to get paid," even once players are injured.
- Jose Julio Ruiz may be close to signing, but it won't be with the Nationals, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- Astros owner Drayton McLane, who has "a huge amount of confidence" in GM Ed Wade, would consider selling his team for $600MM or more, according to Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle.
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.
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?
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.
- 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.