September 2010

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Odds & Ends: Darvish, Feliciano, D'Backs, Blue Jays

As the Padres face a big uphill battle in San Francisco this weekend, we look at some news items....



Padres Could Put Bell Back On Trade Market

The Padres' late-season collapse has no doubt been tough to take for San Diego fans, but it could get even tougher when and if the Friars revert to their cost-effective ways.  San Diego's unexpected playoff push extended Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell's stays with the club, and while the Padres have no ready answer to replace Gonzalez at first base, their deep bullpen may lead to Bell's departure.

ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that San Diego "will at least consider" dealing Bell and installing Mike Adams as the closer going into 2011.  Bell agreed to a one-year, $4MM deal last winter to avoid arbitration, but Olney predicts that Bell could earn in the range of $6-$8MM next year, when he hits arbitration for the final time.  The Padres have the payroll space to pay Bell that much if they wanted to (as Cot's Baseball Contracts notes, the Friars have a measly $1.1MM committed to players for next season), but that type of outlay on a closer is a luxury that small-market teams usually can't afford.

Adams, meanwhile, made $1MM this season and is entering his second arbitration year.  After posting a 1.84 ERA, a 10.2 K/9 rate and a 3.78 K/BB ratio over his three years in San Diego, Adams is sure to earn a nice raise, but it will still fall below Bell's $4MM earnings from this season.  If the Pads were to offer Adams a two-year contract worth $5.5MM, Adams would probably accept to gain a bit of security in case he struggles finishing games.  MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently looked at how Adams' contract situation compared to that of Oakland's Michael Wuertz.

Bell is no stranger to the trade market.  His name popped up in multiple rumors when Joe Nathan was injured last spring and was even whispered to be on the block at the July trade deadline when San Diego was in first place.  If the Padres shop him around again this winter, the White Sox, Diamondbacks, Angels and Rays are a few of the clubs who could be looking for a proven closer.  The Braves and Cardinals could also be added to that list if Billy Wagner and Ryan Franklin both retire.



Huntington Non-Committal About Russell's Future With Bucs

It's not exactly a ringing vote of confidence when a GM refers to the issue of his manager returning next season as "the million-dollar question" (Twitter link) but that's just how Pirates general manager Neal Huntington referred to the club's situation with manager John Russell.  Speaking with Jim Bowden of FOXSports.com, Huntington said that the club would evaluate their major league staff after the season and didn't seem to hint as to whether or not Russell would be back in 2011 (both Twitter links).

Both Huntington and Russell had their contracts extended last winter, though there were some rumors that Russell could be fired back in June.  Russell has a 185-296 record in three years as Pittsburgh's manager, and while it's hard to entirely blame Russell given the team's lack of talent, the fact that the Pirates have the league's worst record this season doesn't help his case.  Russell was Huntington's first hire as the team's manager back in November 2007.

Should Pittsburgh decide to go in a different direction, they will be the seventh club (after the Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Mariners and Marlins) looking for a new manager this winter.  This number could rise if Milwaukee declines to pick up Ken Macha's option, the Mets fire Jerry Manuel, Tony La Russa leaves St. Louis and Joe Girardi doesn't re-sign with the Yankees.  One potential managerial opening is all but officially closed with Dusty Baker on the verge of re-signing with the Reds.



Chicago Notes: Konerko, Pierzynski, Zambrano

Both the Cubs and White Sox are playing out the string on 2010, but long-time stars from both clubs could be on the move this winter.  Here's an update on a few of them...

  • Paul Konerko talked to the media (including Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune) on Thursday about his pending free agency.  Konerko was non-committal about the idea of taking a hometown discount to remain in Chicago and said the White Sox have to make some organizational upgrades to match the division-winning Twins.  He was open to the idea of being a full-time DH, though he still wants to play first base.
  • Gonzales also notes that "there has been an assumption" that Konerko will go to the Angels to play for old colleague Mike Scioscia or to the Diamondbacks, as he lives in Arizona during the offseason.
  • Another pending White Sox free agent, A.J. Pierzynski, is more open to a return, writes Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com.  Padilla thinks Pierzynski could be brought back on a one-year, $4.5MM contract to give Chicago more time to polish Tyler Flowers in the minors, but you'd think Pierzynski could find a multi-year deal elsewhere.
  • Carlos Zambrano's red-hot second half (he's 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 10 post-All Star break starts) has been "the perfect showcase" to drum up a trade market for the right-hander, says CBSSports.com's Scott Miller.  As Miller points out, the Cubs' quest to deal Zambrano won't be easy given Zambrano's contract, but the team may be helped by the fact that the free agent starting market is short of ace-caliber pitchers aside from Cliff Lee.



Epstein On Injuries, Bullpen, Wood

Red Sox GM Theo Epstein appeared on WEEI's Dale & Holley radio show on Thursday morning to recap and discuss Boston's 2010 season.  WEEI.com's Jerry Spar and ESPNBoston.com both have partial transcripts of the interview, and here are some of the hot stove highlights...

  • In part due to the multitude of injuries that befell the club, Epstein admitted that the team's pitching and defense (the offseason focus on which led to the signings of John Lackey and Mike Cameron) were actually Boston's biggest weaknesses in 2010.
  • The Red Sox will "have to completely fix the bullpen" in the winter.  Epstein said that he pursued several midseason trades for relievers: "We were aggressive with our prospect proposals, and those guys weren’t moved. So, yeah, I would have loved to have made a trade for a reliever. I feel bad, I feel like we didn’t get it done."
  • In regards to three specific bullpen targets (Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes and Kerry Wood), Epstein said that Washington wanted Daniel Bard for Capps, the Twins were able to make a move for Fuentes first due to a higher waiver position, and the Yankees "were willing to take on just a little bit more of [Wood's] salary."
  • Epstein admitted that the team can improve the flow of communication between the medical staff and the players.  He didn't comment on whether or not the Red Sox were looking to make some changes to their training staff in the wake of their injury-filled season.



Free Agent Stock Watch: Jim Thome

Jim Thome needs 15 more plate appearances to reach 350 for the season, which would unlock an $0.1MM incentive bonus within the one-year, $1.5MM deal he signed with Minnesota in the offseason.  Thome has already hit two such plate appearance clauses, boosting his season total up to $1.7MM --- still a huge bargain for the Twins given Thome's team-leading 25 homers and .631 slugging percentage.

The future Hall-of-Famer said he might retire a champion if the Twins win the World Series, but in all likelihood, Thome will be back in 2011 to gun for the 600-homer club.  (Thome enters Thursday's action with 589 career long balls.)  With so many teams looking for offense this winter, here's what interested clubs should be considering when looking at Thome.

The Pros

  • Thome has a whopping 1.155 OPS against right-handed pitching.
  • Though he'll easily command more than he did in 2010, Thome is still a bargain compared to pricier DH options on the market like Adam Dunn, David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez.
  • He just missed out on Type B free agent status, so a team can sign Thome without draft pick compensation.
  • Thome is universally regarded as one of the most well-liked and well-respected players in the game.  This intangible factor shouldn't be ignored when a general manager is deciding whom to bring into a clubhouse, especially in the case of a young team looking for a veteran presence.

The Cons

  • Thome hasn't been anything but a DH or a pinch-hitter for the last three seasons.  His lack of a defensive position will limit his market to American League teams.
  • The 40-year-old Thome has battled nagging thigh and back injuries this season and can't be counted on to play every day.
  • Along those same lines, Thome's slash line against lefties this season (in 91 PA) is .238/.297/.476.  Thome will need to be paired with a right-handed hitting DH who can pick up the slack against southpaws.

The Verdict

It seems another one-year contract is in the cards for Thome, who probably wouldn't have it any other way given that he's toying with retirement.  Despite the fact that he's only suited for a platoon DH role, Thome will probably be able to get a deal worth as much as $5MM.  Such a total would still be a steal if Thome can replicate his 2010 campaign.

Which AL teams could take an interest in Thome?  Minnesota is the first choice; Thome has become a folk hero at Target Field due to his role in the Twins' AL Central title and the club already has interest in bringing him back.

Aside from the Twins, the Red Sox (if they don't pick up Ortiz's 2011 option), Tigers, Angels, Rays and White Sox could also give Thome a look.  Chicago pursuing Thome would be rather ironic, since it was the team's failure to pursue Thome last winter and subsequent lack of production from the DH role that was allegedly one of the factors in the Ozzie Guillen/Kenny Williams tension over the summer.  New York might also have an interest; if the Yankees stick to their plan of using the designated hitter spot to give Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada a break from playing the field, they could DH those two against lefties and sign Thome to start against righties. 

Baltimore, Oakland, Seattle and (if Adam Lind moves to first base) Toronto are teams who are looking for offense and might have an opening at DH.  If Thome is still looking for his first World Series title, however, he's more likely to sign with a contender.



Reds Will Sign Baker To A Multi-Year Deal

5:09pm: Baker tells John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the contract is a two-year extension.

11:29am: It’s not official yet, but Reds manager Dusty Baker will be back next season on a multi-year contract, according to Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News. Baker told McCoy that the sides are close to a deal and a confidante of Baker’s said it’s a matter of “dotting I’s and crossing T’s” at this point. 

The deal, which will probably be for three seasons, could be announced within the week, but it’s more likely that we’ll hear an official announcement after the postseason. Baker led the Reds to an NL Central title this year in his third season as the team’s manager. Prior to joining the Reds, Baker managed the Cubs for four seasons and led the Giants to the 2002 World Series.

The Reds have been discussing a contract with Baker since offering him an extension in August. The 61-year-old earned over $10MM on his current three-year deal and it would be a surprise to see the Reds offer less for another three-year term.



Odds & Ends: Brewers, Buehrle, Francis, Vazquez

Miguel Olivo never played a major league game for the A's, but he signed with Oakland as an amateur free agent 14 years ago today. Here are some afternoon links, including an update on Olivo...



MLBPA Confirms Offseason Date Changes

The MLB Players Association officially announced what MLBTR reported earlier in the week: that MLB and its players have agreed to make significant changes to the offseason calendar. Teams now have five days of exclusive negotiating rights with departing free agents instead of 15 and the deadlines for tendering contracts and offering and accepting arbitration have also been moved up. The date changes, which MLBTR reported in detail this Monday, will apply to the next two offseasons (2010-11 and 2011-12).

The Players Association also announced the implementation of “stricter rules” (for the MLBPA, MLB, clubs, players and agents) to guard against collusion and “restrictions on the abilities of the clubs, players and agents to conduct their free agent negotiations through use of the media."


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Diamondbacks Rumors: Reynolds, A’s, Drew

Tom Krasovic of AOL FanHouse hears that Arizona’s payroll will sit between $50-60MM next year. The Diamondbacks started the season with a $75MM payroll, but shed considerable salary with a flurry of midseason trades. They now have just shy of $20MM committed to the 2011 team (not including potential free agents or arbitration-eligible players). Here’s the latest on the Diamondbacks:

  • Krasovic hears that the D’Backs considered offering Mark Reynolds to the A’s for Kevin Kouzmanoff and Vin Mazzaro before Kevin Towers took over as the team’s GM.
  • The club also talked to the Tigers about exchanging Rick Porcello for Stephen Drew earlier in the summer, but Detroit wasn’t interested.
  • Krasovic wouldn’t be surprised to see the Diamondbacks sell high on Kelly Johnson, who is heading into his final season of arbitration.

 









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