March 2010

Odds & Ends: Gaudin, Stairs, Lowell, Darvish

Links for Monday…


Helping Jarrod Washburn Find Work

Piggybacking on this afternoon's Jermaine Dye discussion, let's run through the reasons why Jarrod Washburn is still a free agent:

  • He's 35-years-old, and he posted a 7.33 ERA with a .940 OPS against in eight starts following his trade to Detroit. His season ended in mid-September with a knee injury that required surgery.
  • He's extremely homer prone, giving up one long ball for every 7.2 innings pitched or so over the last four seasons. While his walk rate was solid at 2.51 BB/9 last year, he doesn't miss many bats (5.1 K/9) and will give up more than his fair share of hits.
  • Despite turning down a $5MM offer from the Twins, Washburn maintains that it's not about the money. He's also indicated that he would prefer to play near his Wisconsin home next season.

Solutions:

  • Lighten up his salary demands, and accept an offer from a team regardless of their proximity to his home. There are plenty of unsettled rotation spots out there, so there should be interest in a guy who hasn't made fewer than 25 starts in a season since 2000.
  • Embrace a move to the bullpen. Being lefthanded is already a good start, but being able to shutdown lefties (.178/.224/.311 against last year) adds some validity to the idea.

On the day he was traded, Washburn had the second lowest ERA (2.64) in the American League and was on his way to helping a contender make a playoff run. Instead, he finished the season on the surgeon's table, and teams would rather roll the dice with questionable in-house options than meet Washburn's asking price.


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Helping Jermaine Dye Find Work

Why is Jermaine Dye still a free agent?  Let's run through the reasons:

  • He's 36 years old, leading some to speculate that a permanent decline set in last season.  It's true that Dye was useless at the plate for the season's final two months, but we're talking about fewer than 200 plate appearances.  Veteran hitters have bounced back from worse.
  • He's an indisputably poor defender.  In a February interiew with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Dye had yet to fully come to grips with this fact: "No doubt, I've probably slowed down a little bit (defensively), but not enough to not be getting (attractive) offers."  Dye talked about his willingness to play first base or left field. 
  • He's been asking for too much money.  Dye already turned down offers of $2MM and $3MM.  Pride may be an issue.  In the Rosenthal article Dye talked about how "it's not about money with me" but "there are still guys getting money that I feel I'm better than."

Solutions:

  • Embrace a designated hitter/fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter role.  Dye's former teammate Jim Thome gracefully accepted a reduced role and salary after a season comparable to Dye's.
  • Dye needs swallow his pride, drop his price, and take a minor league deal.  It's not fair, but he probably wouldn't need to spend a ton of time in the minors.  Two of his former employers, the White Sox and Royals, could use a good backup plan at DH. 

On August 1st, Dye was hitting .281/.357/.533 with 23 home runs in 389 plate appearances.  He had an $11.5MM salary and a starting right field job.  Eight months later Dye is reportedly considering retirement; that would be a shame.


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Brandon Moss Designated For Assignment

The Pirates designated Brandon Moss for assignment to make room for waiver claim Hayden Penn, reports MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch.

Moss, 26, hit .236/.304/.364 in 424 plate appearances for the Pirates last year, playing both outfield corners.  Moss is out of options, so he'll have to clear waivers if he's to be sent to the minors.  He joined the Pirates at the '08 trade deadline along with Craig Hansen, Bryan Morris, and Andy LaRoche, with the Pirates giving up Jason Bay.

Pirates GM Neal Huntington recently admitted to WEEI's Alex Speier that in hindsight, there was a better deal on the table for Bay.  Moss and Hansen have not panned out, and as Speier says, "the value of the deal for Pittsburgh will be determined largely by what happens with LaRoche and Morris."


Nationals Claim Chris Coste

12:53pm: The Nationals claimed Coste, reports Brian Costa of the Newark Star-Ledger.

7:53am: The Mets placed catcher Chris Coste on waivers, reports Adam Rubin (via MetsBlog).  Coste signed a big league deal worth $650K back in December.  Rubin says Coste is likely to accept an assignment to Triple A if he clears waivers.

Coste, 37, hit .224/.301/.317 in 230 plate appearances for the Phillies and Astros last year, catching 352 innings.  Coste went 3 for 14 with a walk this spring.

On Saturday, ESPN's Jayson Stark said the Mets were hoping to move an excess catcher like Coste or Omir Santos for Triple A pitching depth.  The Mets have Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Santos, Josh Thole, and Shawn Riggans on the depth chart.


Pirates Claim Hayden Penn

The Pirates claimed pitcher Hayden Penn off waivers from the Marlins, tweets Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.  Penn is out of options, and the Marlins weren't able to get him through.

Penn, 25, posted a 4.11 ERA, 8.0 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 in 70 Triple A innings last year.  The Marlins acquired him a year ago from the Orioles for Robert Andino.  Penn was a highly-regarded prospect four years ago, as Baseball America said he had "three plus pitches that he throws for strikes."  Nice pickup by Neal Huntington.


Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Dodgers

Next in our Offseason In Review series, the Dodgers.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Summary

GM Ned Colletti chose to let key free agents Wolf, Garland, and Hudson leave, replacing them with cheaper options.  Let's take a look at the team's biggest moves.

Wolf earned $8MM in 2009 and pitched like an ace for the Dodgers.  He'd signed one-year deals three years in a row and was a near-lock to turn down an arbitration offer from the Dodgers.  Colletti reportedly feared a $15MM reward for Wolf, but said, "Our decision was made strictly from a baseball perspective."  The misstep cost the Dodgers a pair of draft picks.  Hudson was also a Type A free agent, but the choice not to offer him arbitration was defensible.  The Dodgers have more than enough options to replace him.

So, Colletti missed out on the #36 and #65 picks in the 2010 draft.  The Dodgers will survive.  Colletti's first big move of the offseason was to shave $3MM off the '10 payroll and $5MM off for '11 by unloading Pierre on the White Sox.  Colletti went on to allocate $11.5MM to free agents, most of which will be paid in '10.

With a million bucks in innings incentives dangling, I think Padilla will have a decent year.  Brett Myers and Jon Garland, who signed for similar dollars, don't seem any better or worse.  Carroll's two-year deal was unnecessary.  The 36-year-old is a useful player, but if you're pinching pennies there are better ways to spend $3.85MM.  Saving the money for midseason acquisitions would've been a better move.

Colletti deserves praise for adding 2011 cost certainty with the Ethier, Broxton, and Kemp deals.  He chose the right players and didn't overpay.

The Dodgers' offense appears respectable, with no clear area for upgrade.  Getting sufficient innings out of the Billingsley-Kershaw-Padilla-Kuroda front four is a concern, though few teams are satisfied with their rotation depth.  Colletti may need to make a deal this summer.


Rosenthal On Lowell, Cain, Cristian Guzman

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports supplies his latest hot stove buzz…

  • Rosenthal's source says the Rangers' interest in Mike Lowell is "light," and the Red Sox don't expect any team to make a suitable offer.  Yesterday, ESPN's Jim Reeves said the Rangers keep coming back to Lowell in their search for a right-handed hitting role player.  Rosenthal notes that the Red Sox will not release Lowell, who is owed $12MM.
  • With Matt Cain locked up, Rosenthal sees a weak 2012 free agent class for starting pitching.  Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, and Wandy Rodriguez appear to head the group, though C.C. Sabathia has the option of electing free agency and voiding the remaining four years and $92MM on his Yankees contract.  Of course, a lot can change in two seasons.  The larger point: there's a better selection of free agent starters after the 2010 season than after 2011.
  • The Rangers looked into trading for Washington's Cristian Guzman before acquiring Andres Blanco from the Cubs.  Guzman is currently projected to serve as an $8MM utility man for the Nationals.

Phillies Release Brad Wilkerson

The Phillies released outfielder Brad Wilkerson and 11 other minor leaguers, tweets MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.  Wilkerson was thought to have retired, but he signed a minor league deal with no Spring Training invite back in February.


Rangers Searching For Backup Corner Infielder

The Rangers are looking to acquire a backup corner infielder before Opening Day, writes Jim Reeves of ESPN.com.  Manager Ron Washington had hoped that one of the club's young players – such as Matt Brown or Max Ramirez – would step up to fill the role, but that has not happened.

One Rangers source said that the team keeps coming back to Boston's Mike Lowell.  The same source indicated that Texas believes that they can basically get Lowell for the same player they agreed to deal over the winter, Max Ramirez.

Kevin Millar is also on the Rangers' watch list, though he may earn himself a bench spot with the Cubs.  Wes Helms of the Marlins and Fernando Tatis of the Mets could also fit the bill as corner infielders off of the bench.  Meanwhile, "super-utility" players like Houston's Geoff Blum and Kansas City's Willie Bloomquist are likely too rich for Texas' blood.