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4:28pm: The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham wonders (via Twitter) if Mike Lowell will be traded to the Angels in light of Morales' injury. He notes that the Red Sox would likely have to eat a large portion of Lowell's salary.
2:16pm: ESPN's Mark Saxon tweets that the Angels are saying Morales' injury is not season ending, though he doesn't provide a timetable for the slugger's return. As Saxon points out in another tweet, Mike Napoli will start at first base today for the first time since his minor league days.
10:57am: Following one of the more unusual injuries in recent years, the Angels now face the problem of how to replace their most productive hitter. Kendry Morales, who was hitting .290/.346/.487 with 11 homers, fractured his leg while celebrating a walk-off grand slam last night, and could miss the rest of the season.
Robb Quinlan and Mark Trumbo are in-house candidates to step in for Morales, but the defending AL West champs will likely consider acquiring an impact player to boost an offense that, even with Morales, has hit just .248. After all, despite playing sub-.500 ball so far, they're very much in contention, sitting only 3.5 games out of first place.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes that the Angels have plenty of options when it comes to finding a new first baseman. He suggests that Paul Konerko and Lance Berkman are the two most attractive and realistic trade targets for the Angels, though he acknowledges that the club won't have much leverage, given their desperate need for a middle-of-the-order bat. The Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales agrees that Konerko could be a fit for the Angels, noting that the White Sox first baseman has a relationship with Mike Scioscia that dates back to their days with the Dodgers.
DiGiovanna names a handful of other possible targets for the Angels, including Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, Russell Branyan, and Prince Fielder. Obviously, some of those sluggers are less available than others. Jermaine Dye, Ryan Garko, and Carlos Delgado (when he's healthy) are a few more available, low-cost options the team could look at, according to DiGiovanna.
Even if the Angels decide to make a move, it may not happen for a month or two, coming closer to the trade deadline. However, in the wake of Morales' injury, it's safe to put them near the top of the list of teams who will be shopping for a power hitter this summer.
Last December, 39 players were non-tendered by their clubs, sending them in search of new employment. We're now two months into this season, and those who have found a home on a major league club have begun to settle into their new surroundings. Let's take a look at some of the notable names from that list and see how they've fared early on:
- Matt Capps signed a one-year deal with Washington for $3.5MM and has been tremendous so far. While he's slipped recently, allowing runs in four of his last five outings, he's still got a 2.96 ERA, an 8.51 K/9, and 17 saves.
- Kelly Johnson had a scorching April, mashing 17 extra base hits (nine homers) en route to a 1.154 OPS for the month. He's hit just .200 in May, but owns a .253/.357/.553 line for Arizona after signing for one year at $2.35MM.
- After being cut loose by the Royals, John Buck signed with Toronto for one year and $2MM. He's hitting .267/.315/.533, hitting eight home runs and throwing out 19.2% of thieves on the basepaths.
- D.J. Carrasco has increased his walks (3.64 BB/9) but his strikeouts as well (7.28 K/9) since being non-tendered by the White Sox and signing with Pittsburgh for $950K. The righty has notched 29.2 innings and a 3.94 ERA for the Buccos while allowing just one home run.
- Scott Olsen was non-tendered by the Nationals, but re-signed with club a day later for a $1MM base salary. After a rough start, the lefty strung together five great outings, though struggled in his last and was placed on the DL. Olsen has a 3.77 ERA, 6.7 K/9, and 2.93 BB/9 through 43 innings (eight starts) this season.
- Like Olsen, Jonny Gomes re-signed with his former team after being non-tendered. Gomes has been great for the Reds so far, hitting .307/.354/.543 through 148 PAs.
- After being non-tendered by Atlanta, Ryan Church signed with Pittsburgh for one year and $1.5MM. Plagued by some bad luck (.240 BABIP), Church is off to just a .208/.255/.354 start. The BABIP may explain the low average, but Church's normally keen eye has dissipated as well (4.9 BB%).
- A change of scenery wasn't what the doctor ordered for Garrett Atkins. Since finding a new home in Baltimore, the former Rockies powerhouse has hit just .214/.261/.294 with one home run.
- Ryan Garko signed with the Mariners after being non-tendered by the Giants, however he failed to make the team out of Spring Training and was waived. The Rangers claimed him, but he managed just three hits in 38 plate appearances before clearing waivers and being sent to Triple-A.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe examines the state of the designated hitter in his latest column, wondering if the game is better off with or without it. He also shares a few hot stove notes:
- Roy Oswalt would want to play for the Cardinals, but the Astros are unlikely to trade their ace to a division rival.
- Members of the Astros organization feel like Oswalt would prefer not to be dealt to an American League club, though he may be open to playing with his friend Jake Peavy in Chicago.
- There are a few clubs interested in Brian Bruney, who was released by the Nationals last week.
- Pedro Martinez is still mulling whether or not to make a comeback, and is staying in shape in the meantime. Cafardo says that the right-hander enjoyed pitching for the Phillies last year, but that it appears Pedro "has one foot under the mango tree."
- MLB.com's Cash Kruth passes along a quote from Giants' manager Bruce Bochy regarding the signing of Pat Burrell: "The thought of signing him to help us off the bench, give us a right-handed bat, some power, a good threat coming off the bench and help us late in games and maybe play against certain pitchers. Right now he needs some at-bats in the Minor Leagues, and we'll see where he's at in the next ten days or so."
- The Diamondbacks are leaning towards taking a pitcher with the 6th overall pick in next month's draft, according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. Scouting director Tom Allison has seen Ole Miss lefty Drew Pomeranz and Georgia Tech righty Deck McGuire in the last few days.
- The Astros and Roy Oswalt are in an uncertain state of limbo, writes Tyler Kepner of The New York times.
- The A's knew about Justin Duchscherer's hip troubles before signing him to a one-year deal this offseason, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The righty will earn the base pay of $2MM but now will not have the opportunity to earn up to $3.5MM in incentives.
- Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle speculates as to why the Giants are calling up Buster Posey today.
- Roberto Alomar is looking for a front office job and would like for it to be with Toronto, writes MLB.com's James Hall.
The Tigers will designate Dontrelle Willis for assignment tomorrow, according to the team's official Twitter feed. The move will free up a roster spot for Max Scherzer, who is being called up to start tomorrow's game.
Willis, still just 28, has been a disappointment since coming over from the Marlins prior to the 2008 season. Overall he posted a 6.86 ERA in 101 innings with the team, including a 4.98 ERA in 43.1 innings this year. He won just two games in a Tigers' uniform, missing time with everything from knee hyper-extension to forearm tightness to anxiety disorder.
The Tigers have ten days to trade, release, or waive the former Rookie of the Year, but are still on the hook for his $12MM salary this season.
The Orioles have called up injured reliever Jim Johnson from Triple-A, and immediately placed him on the major league disabled list according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun. Johnson was pitching in the minors when he came down with a case of elbow inflammation.
The move is significant because Johnson will now accrue service time and be paid a major league salary while on the DL, something he could not do on the minor league disabled list. He was headed toward his first year of arbitration eligibility after the season, so he'll continue to move closer to that career milestone despite not being on the field. Zrebiec says the team likely worked out a deal with Johnson's agent, Michael Moye, to allow the move to be made.
Johnson, 26, posted a 6.52 ERA and allowed 19 men to reach base in 9.2 innings this April before being demoted to Triple-A. He appeared in just one game with Triple-A Norfolk earlier this month before suffering the injury.
Major League Baseball's amateur draft will be held from June 7th-9th, so we're going to introduce you to some of the top players available between now and then.
College righthanders are always a hot target come draft day, and coming into the season the best one this class had to offer was Anthony Ranaudo of Louisiana State. He made a name for himself by winning the clinching game of the 2009 College World Series, giving the Tigers their first National Championship since 2000.
Despite all his promise, Ranaudo's season was derailed by a sore elbow that not only cost him a month of the season, but also some of his effectiveness. ESPN's Keith Law recently ranked him as the 20th best prospect in the draft, while Baseball America had him 23rd (sub. req'd for both). Expected to be no worse than a top five pick a few months ago, now it's a question of whether or not Ranaudo will even be selected in the first round. He owns an 8.02 ERA with a 39/21 K/BB ratio in 42.2 innings this season, and opponents are hitting .301 off him.
Looking beyond the stats, it's easy to see why scouts like Ranaudo. He towers over the competition quite literally at 6-foot-7 and 230 lbs., and MLB.com's Draft Report says he throws his fastball up to 93. He backs it up with an over-the-top spike curveball and an average changeup, and when he's right he commands everything well. After the injury, his stuff wasn't as sharp and the control wasn't there. The MLB.com link offers video.
Law said in this week's chat that Ranaudo's strong outing in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday "threw him right back in the first round mix," but it's unlikely to get him back in the top ten picks because of the injury and his price tag. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt provided a first hand report from that game. A Scott Boras client, Ranaudo will not be cheap, nor should teams expect a discount due to the injury and poor overall performance.
Baseball America's Jim Callis projected the Red Sox to roll the dice and select Ranaudo with the 20th overall pick in his latest mock draft (sub. req'd). Boston received that pick from the Braves as compensation for losing Billy Wagner. Ranaudo is the draft's wildcard, a team willing to gamble on his health could grab him, as could a team with extra picks (Angels, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Rays). It's entirely possible that the team who drafts him will be unwilling to meet his asking price, and Boras takes Ranaudo to an independent league next year before re-entering the draft, similar to what he did with Luke Hochevar.
The Giants have signed free agent outfielder Pat Burrell to a minor league deal, reports Mychael Urban of CSNBayarea.com. If the former first overall pick were to reach the majors, San Francisco would pay him the pro-rated portion of the major league minimum, or around $300K.
We learned that the two sides were discussing a deal just two days ago, though Burrell was reportedly mulling over some other options. Burrell was designated for assignment by the Rays before clearing waivers last week, unsurprising given his $9MM price tag. Since joining Tampa prior to the 2009 season, Burrell has hit just .218/.311/.361 in 572 plate appearances, and has been even worse against lefthanders, which was supposed to be his niche.
FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that if Burrell were to sign with the Giants, his contract would allow him to opt out after two weeks.
Let's dive into the latest edition of Full Count from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports..
- While Dan Haren's trade value isn't exactly peaking, the D'Backs have internally discussed moving the 29-year-old hurler. Another option would be to move No. 2 starter Edwin Jackson. The combined salary of the two pitchers is set to jump from roughly $12.8MM this season to $20.5MM in 2011. That increase could be too much for Arizona to handle, even with Brandon Webb's salary coming off of the books.
- The Brewers are once again drawing interest in outfielder Corey Hart. The Giants, Padres, and A's are among the teams that could use a boost in the outfield and Milwaukee will seek starting pitching in return. Rosenthal doesn't see the Giants as a fit because they won't part with any of their starters and their outfield situation has recently improved. Meanwhile, the A's and Padres want to be comfortable with their overall health and chances before they make any moves. If Jim Edmonds and Jody Gerut get healthy, Hart could be dealt. Hart is under team control through 2011, should his team choose to tender him a contract.
- The Rangers still believe that either Justin Smoak or Chris Davis will be their long-term answer at first base, but they could seek a veteran stopgap for the second half of the season. Paul Konerko is likely too rich for their blood. Cleveland's Russell Branyan would be a more economical solution.
The Rockies have released catcher Paul Lo Duca, writes Jack Etkin of Inside The Rockies. The veteran lost his spot on the Triple-A roster when fellow backstop Paul Phillips cleared waivers and accepted his minor league assignment. Phillips was DFA'd to make room for Chris Iannetta.
In 14 games for Colorado Springs, Lo Duca hit .233/.292/.302 with one HR. The 38-year-old, who spent 2009 away from baseball, played for Rockies manager Jim Tracy when Tracy managed the Dodgers.
Prior to Opening Day, the Mariners were said to be keeping an eye on Lo Duca.