April 2010

Odds & Ends: Stanton, Mariners, Indians, Salome

Friday night linkage..

  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball looked at interesting high school hitters in the 2010 draft.  Sickels portioned out the goodness in two parts: part one and part two.
  • Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post spoke to Larry Beinfest, Marlins' baseball operations president, who doesn't sound as though he's in a rush to call up Mike Stanton.
  • Rather than place Jesus Colome on waivers, the Mariners optioned Shawn Kelley to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for Cliff Lee.  M's manager Don Wakamatsu told Ryan Divish of The News Tribune (via Twitter) that there was "not a chance" that Colome could have cleared waivers.
  • The Indians have called up righty Hector Ambriz, whom they selected from Arizona in the Rule 5 draft, writes Dennis Manoloff of The Plain Dealer.  The Tribe had until May 8th, the end of his rehab assignment, to decide what to do with him.
  • Brewers catching prospect Angel Salome will be given additional time off following the birth of his child, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel.

Heyman On Fielder, Pujols, Adrian

Some tidbits from Jon Heyman on the early edition of MLB Tonight on the MLB Network,..

  • Heyman doesn't envision the Brewers getting a deal done with Prince Fielder.  While he was complimentary towards club owner Mark Attanasio, he doesn't see Milwaukee ponying up the $25MM a year that it will likely take to hang on to him.  This means that they'll have to trade him at the end of next year or let walk as a free agent.
  • Meanwhile, he believes that Albert Pujols is now in line to receive a contract worth $30MM per season, perhaps up to eight years.  The two sides tabled negotiations in March but will resume after the season.
  • Even though the Padres are currently in first place in the NL West, Heyman believes that the club will deal Adrian Gonzalez.  Heyman says it's unlikely that San Diego will allow their payroll to balloon in great excess of $50MM and therefore a re-up of Gonzalez won't fit in the budget.

Wagner To Retire At Season’s End

Braves closer Billy Wagner told manager Bobby Cox that he plans on retiring at the end of this season, writes Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The lefty says that he will not play out his $6.5MM option for 2011 which automatically vests if he finishes 50 games. 

Cox told Wagner that he believes that he still has the ability to play for a few more years, but the 38-year-old says that he wants to spend more time with his family.  Wagner, who turns 39 in July, will earn $7MM this season.

The fireballer is sixth on the all-time saves list with 386 and wants to reach 400, but he's only going to give himself the rest of 2010 to get there. 

Odds & Ends: Red Sox, Howard, Francisco, Mendoza

Links to check out as we await Cliff Lee's Mariners debut…

The Latest On The Unsigned Relief Pitchers

After looking at the latest updates on the remaining unsigned starting pitchers and position players, we have one more group to examine: the relievers. Earlier in April, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes named some relief pitchers who could be dealt this season, and that list is certainly more intriguing than the current free agent market. But for teams looking to take an inexpensive gamble, there are a handful of recognizable, if not overly exciting, names available. Here are a few:

  • Juan Cruz: After a disappointing stint in Kansas City, the 31-year-old was released by the Royals a week ago. Now that clubs won't have to assume the $3.25MM figure he's owed this season, the right-hander certainly looks more like a risk worth taking. In 2007 and 2008, Cruz appeared in 110 games for the Diamondbacks, posting a 2.88 ERA and striking out 12.6 batters per nine innings. It's unlikely he'd regain that form this year, but he could be a bargain at a league-minimum salary. The Diamondbacks don't appear interested in bringing him back though, and the Marlins, often willing to take on cheap bullpen reclamation projects, probably won't take the plunge either.
  • Russ Ortiz: The veteran righty elected free agency last week after being designated for assignment by the Dodgers. Although he pitched poorly for Los Angeles this April, allowing eight runs in seven innings, his career numbers as a reliever (3.33 ERA over 78.1 IP) are respectable. While there hasn't been any reported interest in him yet and he won't be an integral part of anyone's bullpen, he'll probably be able to land a minor league contract soon.
  • Russ Springer: We know Springer would like to pitch this year, preferably for the Cardinals, but we haven't heard much more than that lately. The right-hander was extremely effective in two seasons in St. Louis, posting a 2.24 ERA and 8.6 K/9 in 146 appearances in 2007 and 2008. His ERA rose to 4.11 last season, but his ratios were still excellent. Even at 41, Springer could be a worthy addition to quite a few bullpens around the league, but perhaps he's holding out for an offer from the Cards.
  • David Weathers: Like Springer, Weathers was reasonably effective in 2009 (3.92 ERA), despite turning 40 last September. However, his peripherals declined and there hasn't been a whole lot of reported interest in the righty this spring. The last we heard, Weathers was still open to pitching this season for a contender, though he'll probably retire if the right situation doesn't arise.

Other familiar unsigned bullpen arms include left-handers Eddie Guardado, Glendon Rusch, and Jamie Walker. Check out our complete list here.

Wilfrido Perez Clears Waivers

FRIDAY, 2:41pm: According to a team press release, Perez has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Double-A Bowie.

TUESDAY, 2:25pm: The Orioles have designated reliever Wilfrido Perez for assignment, according to a press release. The move clears a roster spot for Alfredo Simon, whose contract the Orioles selected from Triple-A Norfolk.

The 25-year-old Perez has spent his entire career in Baltimore's system. Last season, he closed games for the Double-A Bowie Baysox, recording seven saves and a 1.37 ERA in 24 appearances. The left-hander has struck 11.1 batters per nine innings over the course of his minor league career, but is off to a slow start as the Baysox' closer this year, allowing six runs and 13 baserunners in just five innings.

Free Agent Slow Starts

Yesterday we looked at free agents off to hot starts; now it's time to do the opposite.  Last year this list included Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia, but also Oliver Perez and Pat Burrell.

  • Rod Barajas, Mets.  Not much was expected from Barajas in the OBP department, but a .194/.224/.355 line isn't going to cut it.  Also, despite a three home run game and a .468 SLG, John Buck sits among the OBP trailers at .239.  I liked the Gregg Zaun signing, but he's hitting just .220/.299/.288.
  • Jerry Hairston Jr., Padres.  Versatility doesn't mean much when you're hitting .231/.242/.246.
  • Jonny Gomes, Reds.  I liked this bargain signing, but Gomes isn't doing much at .214/.254/.375.
  • Garrett Atkins, Orioles.  He's losing playing time given a .238/.262/.302 start.
  • Pedro Feliz, Astros.  The left side of the Astros' infield is really struggling offensively.  Infielders Orlando Cabrera, Jack Wilson, and Adam Kennedy are also excelling at making outs, while Mark DeRosa has shown no power.
  • Nick Johnson, Yankees.  Bizarre line for Johnson: .143/.385/.232.  Even when nothing else is working, Johnson is second in MLB in walks.  Chone Figgins has had a similar start. 
  • Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners.  He's better than .226/.293/.245, but many opposed this signing from the start.
  • Troy Glaus, Braves.  He's at .200/.300/.300, and the Braves have to be pondering alternatives.
  • Doug Davis, Brewers.  He's basically allowed an earned run per inning so far.
  • Todd Wellemeyer, Giants.  The team's fifth starter has a 6.33 ERA through four starts.
  • Trevor Hoffman, Brewers.  Hoffman leads baseball with four blown saves; at some point the Brewers have to try someone else in the ninth inning.
  • Jason Marquis, Nationals.  He made three ugly starts and headed to the DL with an elbow injury.
  • Rich Harden, Rangers.  He leads baseball with 23 walks allowed.
  • Vicente Padilla, Dodgers.  He sports a 7.06 ERA and a forearm injury.
  • John Grabow, Cubs.  With a 7.04 ERA, Grabow hasn't been the setup man the Cubs envisioned.  Brendan Donnelly, Octavio Dotel, and Bob Howry are also getting knocked around.
  • Mike Gonzalez, Orioles.  His terrible start led to a shoulder-related DL stint.

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Dye Thinks He Could Help White Sox

The White Sox rank 11th in the American League with four runs scored per game.  Their .309 OBP ranks 12th; their .390 SLG places 9th.  Like most teams, the Sox have several players hitting above their ability (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones), and several players below (Juan Pierre, Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Carlos Quentin, A.J. Pierzynski).  The Sox projected to have a below-average offense from the start, but if they just wait it out they'll improve on the current output.

Pierre has been particularly disappointing, as has the team's production from their DH rotation.  Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times believes free agent Jermaine Dye could help, and Dye agrees.  He wants to do more than just DH, potentially helping at outfield and first base.  Dye also clarified recent rumors, saying the Cubs' $3MM offer wasn't formal and he spoke last to the Brewers.  He added, "I'm not going to a bad team, and I'm not playing for $1.5 million."

It doesn't make sense for the Sox to bid much more than that, so money would be one issue.  Manager Ozzie Guillen isn't sure where he'd put Dye, and thinks the player might need a month to be ready (Dye says two weeks).  Whether or not there's a fit with the White Sox, Guillen wants to see Dye come back and play for a big league team.

2011 Contract Issues: Texas Rangers

The Rangers face three contractual options after the season:

  • Reliever Darren Oliver has a $3.25MM club option with a $500K buyout.  The salary becomes guaranteed with 59 appearances; Oliver is on track with ten so far.
  • Rich Harden and Vladimir Guerrero have mutual options, at $11MM and $9MM respectively.  These don't have much purpose, aside from pushing $2MM worth of buyouts to the offseason.  Vlad's $1MM buyout disappears if he declines the option.

The Rangers have a pair of free agents in Frank Francisco and Matt Treanor.  If they both leave, it'll free up around $4MM.  They'll also clear $6.75MM in buyouts and obligations paid to Kevin Millwood, Frank Catalanotto, and Vicente Padilla.  The Rangers will free up $12MM paid to Harden and Guerrero, less the $2MM in buyouts.  All told, they have roughly $20MM coming off the books if everyone but Oliver leaves.

Increases to players under contract total $5.225MM, with Ian Kinsler, Scott Feldman, and Colby Lewis getting small bumps.  First-time arbitration eligibles include Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, Darren O'Day, and Jarrod SaltalamacchiaJosh Hamilton, Dustin Nippert, and Ryan Garko are in the second-time group, while C.J. Wilson, Brandon McCarthy, and Chris Ray are eligible for a third time.  There will be some decent raises in that mix, especially Cruz, Hamilton, and Wilson.  Still, it appears the Rangers will have millions to spend even before raising payroll.

Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the info.

The Market For Chris Iannetta

Most of the attention this week went to the signing of Ryan Howard, but the strangest move may have been Colorado's decision to send Chris Iannetta to the minor leagues.

Iannetta, 27, had a tremendous 2008, hitting .264/.390/.505 in 407 plate appearances. His numbers dipped somewhat in 2009, falling to .228/.344/.460, but that was still good for an OPS+ of 103, which put him in the upper echelon of hitting catchers. The Rockies clearly thought highly of his future as well, signing him to a three-year, $8.35MM contract this winter, with a 2013 club option.

So why would the team send Iannetta down on the strength of 34 poor plate appearances? And what's more, they did so in favor of Miguel Olivo, who is nearly five years older and has never had a season that approached Iannetta's 2008. It boggles the mind.

But with Iannetta out of favor in Colorado, it is hard to imagine the Rockies wanting to spend $8.35MM over the next three years on their Triple-A catcher. So which teams should have the most interest in Iannetta?

  • The Mets make a whole lot of sense as a landing spot. With Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco as the current major league catchers, the future is not planned for behind the plate with either one. Josh Thole is a promising catcher at Triple-A (though off to a slow start), but Iannetta projects to be the far better hitter than Thole, and hitting is Thole's ticket to the big leagues. And the Mets have the money to take a chance on Iannetta's long-term deal: even if he pans out as a backup, that salary doesn't kill them.
  • The Red Sox could be a strong contender for Iannetta's services. Obviously, Jason Varitek doesn't figure to be on the roster for the long-term, and the throwing skills of Victor Martinez (just 2 of 29 base stealers thrown out) makes his future at catcher tenuous at best. Martinez is also a free agent after the season. The Red Sox can also afford to take on his salary, even as a backup; Varitek, the backup this season, makes $3MM.  But as ESPN's Jayson Stark noted yesterday, the roster becomes a mess if the Sox add a catcher. 
  • The Royals have Wil Myers as their catcher of the future, but he's currently in Low A ball.  Iannetta could bridge the gap, even with Jason Kendall signed through next year.

Of course, plenty of other teams could benefit from the addition of Iannetta. Whoever ends up with Iannetta, the only one likely to regret it is the team trading him.