May 2010

Marlins Interested In Willis; Mets Are Not

11:32pm: The Marlins have "mild interest" in Willis and are debating bringing him back to Miami, according to Capozzi.

9:00pm: Don't expect the Marlins or Mets to pursue Dontrelle Willis. As Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post (via Twitter) and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News report, neither NL East team is interested in the former Rookie of the Year. The Mets have an expensive, struggling left-hander of their own in Oliver Perez, so it's not a surprise to hear that they aren't interested in Willis.

Martino reports that the Mets are not interested in the recently-designated Nelson Figueroa, either. The team apparently prefers its own pitchers to Figueroa or Willis. The D'Backs, however, are looking for pitching depth and are interested in Willis.


Odds & Ends: Angels, Willis, Oswalt, Jones

Memorial Day linkage, as Ubaldo Jimenez continues to amaze…


Brewers Will Call On Kameron Loe

The Brewers are looking to improve their pitching staff, so they aren't about to let a potential solution hit free agency. They will call Kameron Loe up from the minor leagues tomorrow, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Loe had a clause in his contract that would have allowed him to ask for his release if he wasn't in the majors by Saturday, June 5th. 

The Brewers have yet to announce corresponding roster moves, but it looks like they'll cut a pitcher to make room for Loe. Jeff Suppan, in the midst of a disappointing season, could be the odd man out for the Brewers.

Loe, 28, last appeared in the majors in 2008 with the Rangers. He has a 3.16 ERA as a starter in Triple A this year with 5.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. The Brewers signed Loe to a minor league deal this winter after he spent 2009 pitching in Japan.



Heath Bell’s Trade Value

When we looked at Heath Bell's trade value a couple months ago, we assumed the Padres would be sellers this summer. They didn't appear ready to contend, and Bell – effective and affordable – seemed like a natural trade candidate.

The surprising Padres are 30-20, so they're not about to start handing veterans over for salary relief and prospects just yet. But that doesn't mean Bell will be a Padre at the end of the year. The Padres could consider dealing him this summer, not for top prospects but for major league reinforcements.

The Padres should have some flexibility as the season progresses, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney. The team opened the season with a $38MM payroll, so it would be a surprise to see them add significant salary. This is speculation, but the Padres could decide to deal Bell, who makes $4MM and will earn more through arbitration next year, in exchange for some offense.

Bell has a 1.17 ERA and 14 saves. His walk (2.7 BB/9) and strikeout (11.7 K/9) rates are outstanding. Few teams can afford to deal a reliever like that, but the Padres don't have your average bullpen. As a group, Bud Black's relievers have posted a 2.96 ERA and struck out more than a batter per inning. Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica, Mike Adams and Joe Thatcher have dominated. When active, Tim Stauffer and Adam Russell have been excellent as well.

Other than Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein, Nick Hundley and Scott Hairston, the Padres have not been doing much at the plate. As well as they have played, the Padres could use some offense (14th in the NL in runs) and Bell could help them get some. There's no indication that the Padres are thinking of moving their closer, but that's one way the team could find some offense this summer.


D’Backs Interested In Dontrelle Willis

The Diamondbacks are interested in Dontrelle Willis, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Agent Matt Sosnick told Piecoro that Arizona is "one of the places [Willis] would rather play." Willis would prefer to play for an NL team on the West Coast, but the Tigers, who designated the lefty for assignment, still have some say in where he goes. They have discussed a trade with the Diamondbacks, who are interested in Willis as a starter.

The Tigers have about a week to determine Willis' future. They could trade him, release him, or put him on waivers. If the D'Backs trade for Willis, the Tigers will pay the vast majority of his $12MM salary. Willis, 28, has a 4.98 ERA this year with 6.9 K/9 and 6.0 BB/9. He never found his control in parts of three seasons with the Tigers, but a return to the NL could help the former Rookie of the Year.


Free Agent Stock Watch: Jamie Moyer

By the time Jamie Moyer negotiates his next contract, he'll be 48 years old. He's older than Ruben Amaro Jr. and a number of other general managers around the majors, but those executives may be calling Moyer up in a few months. Sure, the lefty made his major league debut before players like Pablo Sandoval and Andrew McCutchen were born, but age hasn't been an obstacle for Moyer before. He signed a Julio Franco-esque multi-year deal back when he was 46.

Nobody would be interested in Moyer if he were no longer useful, but he can still pitch. His 81 mph fastball doesn't intimidate anyone, but he relies primarily on off-speed pitches. Plus, Moyer's fastball has been just as slow for most of the last decade. He doesn't walk anybody (1.8 BB/9) or strike anybody out (4.5 K/9) and thanks to some good luck on balls in play, he is allowing less than a hit per inning this year. All told, the lefty is averaging more than six innings per start and has a 4.26 ERA.

That kind of production led to one-year deals worth about $5MM for veteran starters like Doug Davis, Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla last winter. For Moyer to command a similar deal next year, he has to keep pitching well and he has to want to play. He said before the season that he's open to playing in 2011 and if he keeps pitching like this, major league teams will probably be more than willing to accommodate.


Strasburg To Debut June 8th

Mark your calendars, Stephen Strasburg will make his major league debut June 8th, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson. The right-hander will test his stuff against a major league offense for the first time in Washington next Tuesday against the Pirates. 

The Nationals put off the top draft pick's debut long enough to eliminate the chance that he goes to arbitration four times. Strasburg will not pick up more than 118 days of service time this year, so he will not be a super two after 2012.

Strasburg appears to be ready for big league hitters less than a year after being drafted. He has a 1.43 ERA in ten starts and has allowed just 28 hits and 12 walks in 50.1 innings. His upper-90s fastball has helped him strike out 60 batters this year.


Free Agent Stock Watch: Manny Ramirez

It's never just about the numbers with Manny Ramirez. Whether it's dreadlocks, PED suspensions or oddly-timed high fives, the Dodgers' left fielder stands out. When Manny becomes a free agent after the season, numbers will only tell part of his story, but agent Scott Boras is probably hoping for a little more production in the season's final four months.

It's not that Manny has played poorly. His .289/.395/.443 line is considerably better than average, though his defense has been underwhelming once again. This year has fallen short of the monster seasons we're used to seeing from Manny, but that .395 on base percentage would be 18th-best in the majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Despite his injury history, Nick Johnson (who doesn't have Manny's power) turned a high OBP into a 5.75MM guarantee last winter.

That's a lot less than the $20MM Manny will pocket this season, but let's face it: 38-year-olds who don't play defense aren't going to command $20MM contracts in this market. Boras can point to Manny's drawing power (he could reach 600 homers next year), his on-base skills and his power and that would presumably be enough to develop interest in Ramirez.

If it were as simple as comparing Manny to other DH-types like Johnson, Hideki Matsui and Vladimir Guerrero, Ramirez would appear to be in line for a modest one-year deal, perhaps in the $7-8MM range. But if we've learned anything about Manny, it's that he's tough to predict. Does he still want to play five more years? Does he want to return to Cleveland? Is this really his last season in a Dodgers uniform? Until those questions are answered, predicting the market for Manny isn't much easier than predicting his next quirky move.


Rosenthal On Cardinals, Silva, Yankees

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports leads his latest column by noting that the Angels' problems extend beyond the loss of first baseman Kendry Morales.  On the business side, I wonder how Morales' abbreviated 2010 will affect his first-time arbitration payday after the season.  A few other hot stove notes from Rosenthal…

  • Rosenthal would not be surprised to see the Cardinals add a starting pitcher.  They've got payroll flexibility but a reluctance to move more prospects.  In my opinion, that points toward an acquisition of someone like Jake Westbrook.
  • Carlos Silva has surpassed all expectations, and you have to credit Cubs GM Jim Hendry for saving money and getting a useful player for Milton Bradley.  Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said to Rosenthal, "We didn't see any flashes of him doing what he's doing now. It just didn't feel like it was going to work here."
  • Rosenthal finds it likely that the Yankees will attempt to acquire a bat as well as bullpen help.
  • Could Phillies first base prospect Jonathan Singleton become trade bait?  Rosenthal spoke to one scout who raved about Singleton, who the Phillies drafted out of high school in the eighth round last year.  Singleton, ranked 20th among Phils prospects heading into the season by Baseball America, is off to a strong start in Low A.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jon Garland

Padres righty Jon Garland is currently tied for fifth in MLB with a 2.15 ERA through his first eleven starts.  Let's take a closer look Garland's work and see if he's improved his stock in the upcoming free agent market.

Garland's rate of 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings is hardly inspiring, yet it'd mark a career high.  His 4.0 walks per nine rate would be his worst since 2001.  So what exactly is he doing well?

Garland is getting lots of groundballs; his 53.3% rate is a career best.  On a related note, he's allowed just five home runs in 67 innings.  Despite his low strikeout rate, Garland is preventing hits so far.  His 7.5 hits per nine, .258 batting average on balls in play, and 80% left on base rates are not sustainable.  Garland has particularly taken advantage of PETCO Park by preventing hits, stranding tons of baserunners, and getting extra grounders.  Garland figures to allow hits at a higher rate from here on out, though he could balance that by cutting walks.

Assuming the walk rate comes down, Garland has made positive strides that may carry over to future seasons.  More strikeouts and grounders always help.  He's improved his stock at least slightly, and will get a $300K buyout if he declines his end of a $6.75MM mutual option for 2011.  Represented by LSW Baseball, Garland could seek the two-year, $15MM deal Jason Marquis received.  LSW's 2011 free agent group includes several other resurgent players, such as Paul Konerko, Brett Myers, and J.J. Putz.