October 2010

Odds & Ends: K-Rod, Gibbons, Ricciardi, Uehara

Links for Halloween Sunday, as we prepare to take in our last October baseball game of 2010….

  • SI.com's Jon Heyman says (via Twitter) the early feeling is that Francisco Rodriguez will be back with the Mets this year. There has been speculation that they would try to trade the closer following his late-season arrest, but that would have proven difficult with his contract. 
  • John Gibbons has informed the Mets that he's not a candidate for their managerial opening, tweets Bob Klapisch of The Bergen Record. The former Blue Jays' manager is happy with his role as Kansas City's bench coach.
  • The Mets are still trying to lure J.P. Ricciardi to their new front office, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin.
  • Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com notes that it doesn't appear as if the Orioles have made much of an attempt to keep Koji Uehara. Uehara finished 2010 as the team's closer, but he is scheduled to be a free agent in the not-too-distant future.
  • Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun recaps the Orioles' coaching situation, and tells us that if Don Wakamatsu doesn't land a managerial job, he'll likely be Buck Showalter's bench coach. Showalter would like the coaching staff to be finalized by mid-week.
  • Dave Eiland, who was fired as the Yankees' pitching coach last week, told Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger that a reported falling out between he and Joe Girardi was "totally, absolutely false," and "ridiculous."
  • How potential free agents have been performing, and continue to perform, in the postseason will have an impact on the Giants' offseason decisions, Brian Sabean tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe, and Pat Burrell are a few Giants who are facing possible free agency.
  • Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer reminds Phillies fans that if Jayson Werth signs elsewhere, it wouldn't be the first time the club has lost a star outfielder to free agency. As Brookover notes, things turned out pretty well for the Phils in 2007, when Aaron Rowand signed with the Giants after having a career year in Philadelphia.
  • In a piece for the Detroit Free Press, Josh Huebner explains why signing Carl Crawford should be the Tigers' number one priority this winter.
  • Derek Jeter will likely still be playing shortstop in New York in 2011, but as Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes, the Yankees view Eduardo Nunez as Jeter's eventual successor.

Amateur Signing Bonuses: Pirates

Let's move our amateur signing bonus to the Steel City…

  1. Jameson Taillon, $6.5MM (2010)
  2. Pedro Alvarez, $6MM (2008)
  3. Bryan Bullington, $4MM (2002)
  4. Brad Lincoln, $2.75MM (2006)
  5. Luis Heredia, $2.6MM (2010)

If there's any good that can come out of finishing with a below-.500 record for 18 straight years, it's that you'll have a ton of high draft picks. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they really didn't take advantage of those high picks until the last few years, as too many first rounders to count have flamed out since the team's last winning season. Neal Huntington has been dedicated to building the next great Pirates team through the farm system, so he's spent a ton of money on amateurs since taking over in late 2007. In fact, Pittsburgh has doled out close to $30.6MM on draft picks in the three years that Huntington's run the team, the most in baseball by more than $2MM.

Taillon was the best pitcher available in this year's draft class, high school or otherwise, so the Pirates gobbled him up with the second overall pick and gave him the second largest signing bonus in draft history, trailing only Stephen Strasburg's $7.5MM bonus. It's also the largest bonus ever given as part of a minor league contract. Taillon did not pitch after signing and will start his career next spring.

There was a bit of drama with the Alvarez signing after he was chosen second overall in 2008. Alvarez and agent Scott Boras agreed to a minor league contract worth $6MM, but the deal was struck two minutes after the August 15th signing deadline passed. The union filed a grievance on the player's behalf, and the issue was resolved a month later. Alvarez ultimately received the same $6MM bonus, though the second time around it came as part of four-year, $6.335MM major league contract. He reached the big leagues this summer and hit .256/.326/.461 with 16 homers in 386 plate appearances. Alvarez is expected to be a force in the middle of the Pirates' lineup for the next half-decade, at least.

Bullington was one of those dud draft picks we talked about earlier, taken with the first overall pick in 2002. The Pirates' brain trust famously referred to him as a solid mid-rotation starter not long after the draft (an opinion other teams agreed with), not exactly what you expect with the top pick. Even worse, Bullington failed to deliver on even those modest expectations. He pitched to a 3.32 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 288 innings in his first two pro seasons, then made his big league debut in September 2005 (two runs in 1.1 innings). Bullington missed the entire 2006 season due to shoulder surgery, and he was eventually lost to the Indians on waivers after being designated for assignment in July 2008. All told, he threw just 18.1 innings for Pittsburgh, posting a 5.89 ERA.

Lincoln was the fourth overall pick in 2006, but he ended up missing the entire 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2008 and pitched well enough in the minors to earn his first taste of the big leagues this June. In 52.2 innings with the Pirates (nine starts, two relief appearances), Lincoln pitched to a Halloween appropriate 6.66 ERA. He figures to get a long look in Spring Training.

The draft isn't the only place where Huntington has spent big, he's also given out some huge bonuses on the international market. They heavily pursued Miguel Sano before he signed with the Twins, though they did sign the 16-year-old Heredia this past August. Since his rights were owned by the Mexican team Veracruz, Heredia received just 25% of that bonus ($650K). The other 75% went to Veracruz ($1.95MM). He'll start his pro career next season.

It's worth noting that Tony Sanchez (fourth overall in 2009) and Danny Moskos (fourth overall in 2007) are right behind Heredia at $2.5MM and $2.475MM, respectively.

Week In Review: 10/25/10 – 10/31/10

While the baseball world enjoys Game Four of the World Series, let's review the week that was on the rumor circuit…

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MLBTR Originals: 10/25/10 – 10/31/10

The Rangers and Giants are providing plenty of action on the field, but at MLBTR we love everything that goes on off the field and behind the scenes. Here's a round up of our original content from the last week…

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Rakuten Hoping For $16MM Posting Fee On Iwakuma

We heard earlier in the month that the Rakuten Golden Eagles had committed to posting right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Patrick Newman from NPB Tracker tweets that the bidding will begin tomorrow, and the Golden Eagles are hoping for a posting fee of around $16MM-$17MM.

Any team looking to sign Iwakuma would have to then also negoitate the right-hander's contract. The 29-year-old posted solid numbers across the board this year with a 2.82 ERA, 6.9 K/9, and 1.6 BB/9 over 201 innings. That marked Iwakuma's fourth straight season posting an ERA of 3.40 or better.

At 29 years old (30 next April), Iwakuma likely still has several good years left in his arm. Newman has said recently that Iwakuma is the second-best MLB pitching prospect currently in NPB. A posting fee that high, however, will undoubtedly limit the number of interested teams, despite a thin market for free agent starting pitching this season.

There's also the risk factor of bringing on a Japanese starter. While some, like Hiroki Kuroda, deliver on the investment, no team wants to end up with a Kei Igawa situation on their payroll.

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Yankees Notes: Jeter, Rivera, Lee, Bullpen

The Yankees may be done for 2010, but general manager Brian Cashman's not taking much of a break to relax. ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand writes that Cashman will meet with co-owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner on Monday to discuss their plan of attack for 2011, and there will be plenty on the agenda:

  • The Yankees need to figure out what to offer Derek Jeter. According to Marchand, Cashman doesn't place any monetary value on Jeter's approaching milestones (such as 3,000 hits) and he's interested only in paying players for what they're worth in the win column.
  • The same issue presents itself with Mariano Rivera. Marchand feels that Rivera will top his 2010 salary of $15MM, but is uncertain as to how many years Mo will ask for and how many the Yankees are looking to offer. That's a lot to risk on someone who's over 40, but it's hard to argue with Marchand when he says Rivera "seems ageless."
  • There will also be discussions about what the club is willing to spend on Cliff Lee to pair him with C.C. Sabathia atop their rotation. Lee will be 33 next August, and is undoubtedly going to receive a mammoth contract this offseason. Marchand calls Lee the Yanks' #1 priority, but cautions against too lengthy of a deal. He speculates that as many as eight teams could be in the bidding for Lee.
  • Given the news of Damaso Marte's injury that will keep him out beyond the 2011 All-Star game, the group will also prioritize a list of left-handers to pair with Boone Logan in the bullpen for next season.

Valentine Leading Candidate For Brewers

A few weeks ago, we heard that Bobby Valentine was the favorite to manage the Marlins, but that's no longer the case. He's also voiced interest in the Cubs' managerial opening this past summer, and has been linked to the Mariners at times as well. However, according to this tweet from SI's Jon Heyman, Valentine is now the leading candidate to manage the Brewers.

Heyman informs us that Valentine is leading the way, followed by Joey Cora, Bob Melvin, and Ron Roenicke, in that order. In a separate tweet, Heyman says that Valentine has yet to receive an offer, and that Brewers' owner Mark Attanasio says no decision has been made.

As Heyman notes, if money becomes an issue, Cora may have a good chance of being hired. The 60-year-old Valentine has a career record of 1,117-1,072 as a manager for both the Mets and Rangers, but that experience would likely come with a higher price tag than a younger option like Cora.

Ranking Mets GMs All-Time

Well, it's official. Sandy Alderson is the 12th General Manager of the New York Mets, bringing joy to the corners of the globe patrolled by stat-savvy Mets fans, and misery among those who heard Alderson say he won't be active in the free agent market this winter.

The legacy he'll be competing against - 49 seasons, just two world championships, despite the riches associated with the largest market in the country – is a decidedly mixed one. Let's rank his 11 predecessors.

1. Frank Cashen

Cashen easily holds the top spot in Mets history. His tenure lasted over a decade. He drafted Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. He traded for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez (the latter for a paltry Neil Allen). He made an unpopular decision at the time, dealing Lee Mazzilli for Ron Darling, that proved to be a wise move. He even traded Calvin Schiraldi in a deal for Bob Ojeda prior to the 1986 season; Ojeda went 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA for the Mets, while Schiraldi served up the go-ahead home run to Ray Knight in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Now that's a good trade!

2. Bing Devine

Devine came to the Mets thanks to an overreaction from Cardinals' owner Gussie Busch. With the 1964 Cardinals trailing the Phillies by 6.5 games in August 1964, Busch cleaned house. By the time the Cardinals rallied to win the National League pennant, then beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, Devine had been scooped up by the Mets.

Devine is responsible for putting most of the 1969 Mets together, from drafting Ken Boswell, Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan, to trading for Jerry Grote and bidding for Tom Seaver's services. Devine went home to St. Louis before the 1968 season, but his work led to the only other championship in Mets history.

3. Johnny Murphy

Murphy was integral in shaping the team's player development system from the very beginning of the New York Mets, as one of original GM George Weiss' hires. He also finished what Devine started in 1968-69, trading for manager Gil Hodges, World Series MVP Donn Clendennon, and center fielder Tommie Agee. Only his premature death in January 1970 kept him from ranking even higher on this list.

4. Joe McIlvaine

This may seem high for a GM who didn't preside over a single playoff appearance, but consider that McIlvane took over the Mets following a 59-103 season. By his final season, 1997, the Mets checked in at 88-74. He traded Alan Zinter for Rico Brogna. He drafted A.J. Burnett in the eighth round of the 1995 draft. He signed a minor league free agent named Rick Reed, who promptly became a frontline starter. And he acquired John Olerud for Robert Person.

Only the trade of Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and Alvaro Espinoza stands out as a significant error. A large portion of the teams that made the playoffs in 1999 and 2000 should be credited to McIlvane, not Steve Phillips.

5. Omar Minaya

The recently-departed Minaya earns the nod over Phillips, based mostly on the amount of major league talent he leaves behind. Sandy Alderson inherits mid-career David Wright, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, along with young players like Ike Davis, Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey. Even Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay offer opporttunities for significant bounceback 2011 seasons.

Still, Minaya must take the blame for failing to properly leverage that talent in 2007 or 2008. Nor did he build an organization to overcome injuries suffered in 2009, and to a lesser extent, 2010. The modest return he received on star players led to his demise.

6. Steve Phillips

Phillips has undeniable strengths and weaknesses in his record. He traded for Mike Piazza, but he dealt Carl Everett for John Hudek. He signed Robin Ventura, but he traded for Mo Vaughn. He acquired Mike Hampton, but he traded Jason Bay for Steve Reed. So clearly, there's fuel for either side of the debate.

The Mets reached the NLCS in 1999 and the World Series in 2000 under his watch, and some of those who follow him on the list lack the positives on his resume, so here he is. But considering he took over an 88-74 team, and left the Mets at 66-95 in 2003, he cannot be ranked higher.

7. George Weiss

This feels too low. Weiss, the mastermind behind the great Yankee teams of the 1940s and 1950s, ran the Mets from 1962-1966. Under his watch, a significant number of the 1969 Mets came to the organization. Weiss also mentored Johnny Murphy, who ranks above him.

Ultimately, Weiss doesn't get credit for his Yankee work in these rankings. And on the field, the Mets lost 100 games four times, climbing all the way up to 66-95 in his final season.

8. Al Harazin

Poor Al. He followed the legendary Cashen, taking over a team that had seen better days. He spent plenty of money trying to avoid a downward cycle, and thanks to Bob Klapisch's book, will be known forever as the GM of "The Worst Team Money Could Buy". The shame of it is, few of his moves look genuinely awful in a vacuum.

He signed Bobby Bonilla, who gave the Mets four seasons of terrific offense, including two All Star appearances. He signed Eddie Murray to a two-year deal, and Murray produced well in both seasons. He traded Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds and Keith Miller for Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota. Saberhagen struggled with injuries as a Met, but also finished third in the 1994 Cy Young voting and pitched to a virtually identical ERA+ as he did in Kansas City.

But the 1992 Mets finished 72-90, the 1993 Mets 59-103. And his drafts were pretty uninspired – the three best players he drafted were Preston Wilson, Vance Wilson and Benny Agbayani. So let's not exaggerate – Harazin put together some poor teams.

9. Jim Duquette

The problem Duquette has isn't a laundry list of failures. But in his short tenure running the Mets, he has a few howlers, and very little to brag about on his record.

The three-year, $20.1MM contract to Kazuo Matsui – and the resulting shift of Jose Reyes to second base for the 2004 season – is one that Mets fans won't ever forget. The same goes for the trade of Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano. That Kazmir, after four strong seasons, including two All-Star appearances, has cratered due to injury isn't the point. His production represented far more than the Mets received from Zambrano, who hit the disabled list three starts into his Met career, and never performed well. That kind of return for a top prospect like Kazmir is simply unacceptable.

And the three major leaguers from his 2004 draft, one in which the Mets had high picks in each round: Philip Humber, Nick Evans and Mike Carp.

10. Bob Scheffing

Scheffing and his successor, seen below, presided over the Mets from 1970-1979. Scheffing held the job through 1974; McDonald took them the rest of the way to bottom. Who gets the edge here? Scheffing, narrowly.

That is not to say he didn't make a strong bid for that bottom spot. His drafts were generally busts, with the notable exceptions of Craig Swan and Lee Mazzilli. He traded a 24-year-old Nolan Ryan and three other players for Jim Fregosi, coming off of a season when Fregosi hit .233 and battled injuries. In his first season with the Mets, Fregosi hit .232 and battled injuries.

What went right? The team won a NL pennant in 1973, but did so with an 82-79 regular-season record. That's enough to give Scheffing the edge over McDonald.

11. Joe McDonald

McDonald took over a team that had won two NL pennants in the previous five seasons, and turned it into a team that lost 96 games or more in each season from 1977-1979. His best draft picks were Jody Davis, Mike Scott and Wally Backman, with only Backman enjoying success as a Met. He traded an in-prime Rusty Staub for a washed-up Mickey Lolich. And worst of all, he traded The Franchise, Tom Seaver, receiving very little in return: Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry.

By the time Cashen replaced McDonald (precipitated by a change in ownership), the cupboard was bare. How much of that was McDonald's fault is difficult to say – Seaver, for instance, got traded after warring with the team over his salary. But McDonald certainly didn't do more with less.

Put another way: if Alderson's tenure turns out like McDonald's, it'll probably precipitate another sale of the team.

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Amateur Signing Bonuses: Phillies

The Phillies are next in our series looking at the five largest bonuses each team has given to amateur prospects…

  1. Gavin Floyd, $4.2MM (2001)
  2. Pat Burrell, $3.15MM (1998)
  3. Brett Myers, $2.05MM (1999)
  4. Cole Hamels, $2MM (2002)
  5. Chase Utley, $1.78MM (2000)

Philadelphia managed to land an above-average big leaguer with each of those bonuses, but unfortunately Floyd developed into that player with another team. Taken fourth overall in 2001, he pitched to a 6.96 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9 in 108.2 innings with the Phillies before being traded to the White Sox (along with Gio Gonzalez) for Freddy Garcia in December 2006.

As the first overall pick in 1998, Burrell's deal paved the way for the mega-deals we see now. The $3.15MM bonus was part of a five-year, $8MM major league contract, an unheard of amount for a draftee back then. Burrell reached the big leagues less than two years after being drafted, and was a fixture in the Phillies' lineup for the better part of a decade. He hit .257/.367/.485 with 251 homers in seven years with Philadelphia before departing for the Rays as a free agent after the 2008 season.

Myers was the 12th overall pick in 1999 and made his big league debut in July 2002. He made 30+ starts every year from 2003-2006, and overall pitched to a 4.40 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 183 starts and 57 relief appearances with the Phillies. He, of course, signed with the Astros as a free agent last winter.

Hamels is yet another first round success story, reaching the majors less than four years after being drafted 17th overall. He owns a 3.53 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 149 career starts, taking home World Series MVP honors in 2008. More money well spent.

Might as well save the best for last. Utley was the 15th overall pick in 2000 and first reached the big leagues in 2003. He's a .293/.380/.514 career hitter at a premium up-the-middle position, earning five consecutive trips to the All Star Game (2006-2010) and three top eight finishes in the NL MVP voting (2006, 2007, 2009) in his career. Since Utley's first full season in '06, only Albert Pujols (42.6) and Joe Mauer (33.8) can top his 30.8 WAR. 

Cafardo’s Latest: Bautista, Varitek, Montero

Let's check out the latest from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe….

  • It's still up in the air whether Jose Bautista will go to arbitration this winter, or whether he'll sign either a one-year or multi-year deal with the Blue Jays. "Right now, there are no talks about a multiyear contract," said Bautista. "But I suppose we may hear something about that in December." MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith took an in-depth look at Bautista's arbitration case earlier this month.
  • Cafardo speculates that the Brewers and Jason Varitek could be a good fit, since Milwaukee could use a veteran to mentor Jonathan Lucroy. Of course, the Brewers are probably hoping that the recently-signed Mike Rivera will fill that role.
  • There is some doubt about whether Yankees prospect Jesus Montero will be able to handle a major league pitching staff. A "Yankee insider" tells Cafardo that he thinks Montero could be used in a big trade this winter, with Austin Romine waiting in the wings as a potential long-term backstop.
  • Cafardo names a few candidates to replace Dave Eiland as the Yankees' pitching coach, noting that Scott Aldred appears to be the front-runner.
  • Meanwhile, Curt Young looks like the favorite to become the Red Sox' next pitching coach. The Diamondbacks were "very interested" in Young, but ultimately ended up hiring Charles Nagy instead.