October 2010

New York Notes: Wright, Ricciardi, Eiland

One New York team hired a new general manager this week, while the other locked up its on-field manager for three more years. Here are a few other Mets- and Yankees-related items of interest….

  • David Wright is enthusiastic about the Mets' new GM, as he tells Dan Martin of the New York Post. "I'm really looking forward to working with him," Wright said. "And I'm excited for what he brings to the table." One of the major decisions Sandy Alderson will face this winter will involve whether or not to shop Wright, who hopes to remain a Met.
  • Many people around baseball think J.P. Ricciardi would be a good fit as the Mets' scouting director, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. A source tells Harper that Ricciardi expressed interest in such a position during talks with Alderson.
  • Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger discusses how the Yankees plan to balance their desire to get younger with their desire to retain their veteran stars.
  • After an ESPNNewYork.com story suggested a rift between Joe Girardi and Dave Eiland led to the pitching coach's dismissal, Eiland told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that the report was "ridiculous and simply not true."
  • Ken Davidoff of Newsday tweets that Carl Willis will return to the Mariners as Seattle's pitching coach, meaning he's not a candidate for the Yankees' vacancy.

Odds & Ends: Crawford, Indians, Lopez, Brewers

A few links to check out after the Rangers picked up their first World Series win in franchise history…

  • Torii Hunter is at the World Series for TV work, though he did mention liking the idea of Carl Crawford in an Angels' uniform according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). Hunter wouldn't confirm if he's been lobbying the soon-to-be free agent outfielder.
  • In a mailbag piece, Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer answers questions about the Indians chances of signing quality free agents and whether or not Javier Vazquez is a fit for them.
  • FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal tweets that Giants' lefty reliever Javier Lopez will fall short of qualifying for free agency this offseason by just five days of service time. It's a shame he won't be able to cash in on his dominant postseason (5.2 innings, one hit, one walk, six strikeouts).
  • Rosenthal also says that the Brewers are just doing their due diligence, and are expected to name a manager shortly after the World Series (Twitter link).
  • Mark Gonzales of The Chicago Tribune lists the hurdles the White Sox would have to clear if they want to acquire Colby Rasmus. He also noted that St. Louis had people watching ChiSox prospects at a recent Arizona Fall League game.
  • Chad Jennings of The Journal News provide an offseason to-do list for the Yankees.
  • MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli tweets that the announcement of the Orioles' coaching staff is being held up by Don Wakamatsu. He'll be their bench coach unless he lands a managerial gig elsewhere.
  • Joel Sherman of The New York Post explains what impressed him about Sandy Alderson's introductory press conference yesterday.
  • Meanwhile, Newsday's David Lennon wonders if Alderson's hiring will boost ticket sales (via Twitter). Mets' attendance has dropped from an average of 51,165 fans per game in 2008 to 32,401 in 2010 despite the opening of CitiField last season. Obviously the economy is part of the problem.
  • Jennings also passed along a lengthy quote from Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who explains his desire to make his team younger without sacrificing their ability to be competitive.
  • Richard Justice of The Houston Chronicle compares the path the Rangers and Giants took to the World Series to some of the moves the Astros made a few seasons ago.

Non-Tender Candidate: Andrew Miller

There is no commodity in baseball more precious than young power pitching, and that goes double if the player happens to be lefthanded. That's the case with Andrew Miller of the Marlins, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft and one of the key pieces in the December 2007 trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.

It's easy to forget that he's still just 25 years old, but it seems like Miller had lived a baseball lifetime. He made his big league debut a few weeks after signing his first contract, throwing 10.1 innings of low-pressure relief down the stretch for Jim Leyland's club. After a brief minor league tune-up the next year, Miller found himself in the Tigers' rotation at midsummer, posting a 5.63 ERA in 13 starts. The next year he was in Florida, and in his three seasons with the Fish he's pitched to a 5.89 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in 220 innings.

Miller has been bouncing back and forth between the majors and minors throughout his career as he's struggled to find consistency with his delivery and command, and as a result he's now out of options. If the Marlins want to sent him to minors next year, he'll have to first be exposed to the other 29 teams on waivers. There's a chance that will be a non-issue though, because Florida may opt to simply non-tender Miller this offseason.

Thanks to the major league contract he signed out of the draft, Miller earned a touch over $1.79MM in 2010. That original deal expired after 2009, though it paid him $1.575MM that season, which was used as a base for his 2010 compensation. Considering how poorly he's pitched, not to mention the system in general, Miller wouldn't have come close to a seven-figure salary in either of the last two years if he was a regular player with less than three years of service time. Given their financial restraints, it's not tough to see why the Marlins may opt to pass on paying Miller close to $2MM in 2011.

Despite all that, it's tough to walk away from a young lefty that still touches the mid-90's with his fastball. The Kevin Towers led Padres wanted Miller in a potential Heath Bell trade last year, and I'm sure general manager Michael Hill would be able to drum up some trade interest if he looks around. That would be preferable than a non-tender, since at least Florida would get something other than payroll relief in return.

What do you think the Marlins will do with Miller this offseason? Click here to vote and here to see the results. Thanks in advance.

Mets Offered Takahashi One-Year Deal

Most of the news regarding the Mets and southpaw Hisanori Takahashi has been about extending their deadline to work out a new deal, but now David Waldstein of The New York Times brings some actual contract news. The team offered Takahashi a one-year deal heavy with incentives, but the lefty wants two or three years guaranteed. That offer was made before Sandy Alderson took over as GM, however.

The 35-year-old Takahashi did everything the Mets asked of him in 2010 and then some, working as both a starter and reliever, and even filling in as closer when Francisco Rodriguez was on the disqualified list. In 122 innings, Takahashi put up a 3.61 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. Before that he spent nine years with the Yomiuri Giants.

We heard the two sides were discussing a new contract last week, and they have since agreed to push the deadline to get a new deal done back to November 5th. If no deal is reached by then, the Mets would not be able to re-sign Takahashi to a major league contract until after May 15th because of an obscure rule (Rule 8(i)(2), to be exact). 

Diamondbacks To Pursue Paul Konerko

Long-time White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko went to high school in Scottsdale and still makes his offseason home in the area, and if the Diamondbacks have their way he'll be playing there year-round as well. ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine reports Konerko will be an offseason priority for the D-Backs once the free agency period opens in another week or so.

Arizona received good but not great production out of Adam LaRoche in 2010 (.261/.320/.468 with 25 homers), and this report seems to indicate that they will buy out his $7.5MM mutual option for $1.5MM rather than pick it up. Konerko had a monster season, hitting .312/.393/.584 with 39 home runs in 631 plate appearances. New GM Kevin Towers expressed an interest in cutting down on his team's strikeouts, something Konerko would certainly help with; he struck out 62 fewer times than LaRoche in 16 more plate appearances. 

The 34-year-old Konerko told reporters back in September that he could retire if he's unhappy with the way his offseason shakes out, but I'm sure playing close to home will be an interesting option. Konerko has also said that contract length isn't much of a priority because he isn't sure how much longer he wants to play. He just wrapped up five-year deal that paid him $12MM annually. 

Amateur Signing Bonuses: Athletics

Let's take a trip to the Bay Area and continue our amateur signing bonus series…

  1. Michael Ynoa, $4.25MM (2008)
  2. Mark Mulder, $3.2MM (1998)
  3. Grant Green $2.75MM (2009)
  4. Renato Nunez, $2.2MM (2010)
  5. Michael Choice, $2MM (2010)

The Athletics are undeniably a small market team, but they spend like financial powerhouses when it comes to young talent. Ynoa, formerly known as Michel Inoa and arguably the most hyped Latin America pitching prospect of all-time, had a deal in place with the Yankees for $2.7MM before agent Adam Katz stepped in and raised the price. He ended up signing with Oakland for the largest bonus ever given to an international prospect, nearly doubling the previous record (Wily Mo Pena's $2.44MM). Ynoa missed a big chunk of the 2009 season with elbow soreness, then managed just nine innings (six hits, five runs, four walks, eleven strikeouts) this season behind needing Tommy John surgery that will cost him most of 2011.

Mulder was the second overall pick in 1998 reached the big leagues less than two years later. He pitched to a 5.44 ERA in 154 innings as a rookie in 2000, then finished second in the Cy Young voting thanks to a 3.45 ERA, 6.0 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 229.1 innings the very next season. Mulder was a horse for the Athletics (3.92 ERA in 1003 innings from 2000-2004) before being dealt to the Cardinals for a package highlighted by a 24-year-old righty named Dan Haren.

Green (13th overall) and Choice (tenth) are Oakland's last two first round picks. Green hit .318/.363/.520 in his full season as a professional in 2010, Choice .266/.377/.587 in 130 plate appearances after signing. Nunez was the team's top international signing this summer, agreeing to his deal on July 2nd, the day the signing period began. He'll begin his career next season. The A's also signed another top Latin American prospect this year in 16-year-old catcher Argy Raga. His bonus is unknown, however.

Mariners Hire Eric Wedge As Manager

SATURDAY, 5:20pm: SI.com's Jon Heyman tweets that Wedge will be paid close to $1.9MM per year through the life of the contract. He was likely the Pirates' top choice for their managerial opening as well.

MONDAY, 12:09pm: The Mariners announced Wedge's hiring today, with a press conference to take place tomorrow.  Said Wedge: "With the fan support, the ballpark, the ownership and management, the Mariners are in a great position to be very successful."

FRIDAY, 7:34pm: Wedge's deal is for three years, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

3:45pm: The Mariners will hire Eric Wedge to be the team's next manager, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). Wedge, the 2007 manager of the year with the Indians, beat out Bobby Valentine, John Gibbons, Lloyd McClendon, Cecil Cooper and others for the job. The Blue Jays and Pirates were among the teams who were reportedly considering Wedge for their managerial vacancies.

The highlight of Wedge's tenure in Cleveland came back in 2007, when the Tribe made it to the ALCS before losing to Boston. The 42-year-old led the Indians to a 561-573 record in seven seasons. 

Back in April of 2004, the Indians traded Milton Bradley to the Dodgers when it became clear that he was no longer a fit in Cleveland. Wedge perceived a lack of hustle from Bradley, and that perception contributed to the trade. The two will be reunited in Seattle, but Wedge no doubt convinced Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik that his relationship with Bradley will be workable.

Gabe Gross, Jeff Larish Declare Free Agency

Outfielder Gabe Gross and infielder Jeff Larish declared free agency after being outrighted off the Athletics' 40-man roster according to a team press release. Righthanders Jon Meloan and Justin Souza were also outrighted, but remain in the organization.

Gross, 31, hit just .239/.290/.311 in 243 plate appearances this year after signing a one-year, $750K deal last offseason. Despite the down year, Gross said he would return to the A's in 2011 "with bells on." Larish, 28, was claimed off waivers from the Tigers in August and hit .175/.277/.333 in 65 plate appearances with Oakland.

Neither Meloan nor Souza appeared in the big leagues this year. The former didn't pitch at all due to Tommy John surgery, the latter managed a 4.33 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 in 49 relief innings, mostly at the Double-A level level. 

Hiroyuki Nakajima Hasn’t Given Up On Being Posted

SATURDAY: Newman passes along another report (via Twitter) saying that Nakajima hasn't given up on being posted just yet. He wants to meet with Seibu Lions management again and try to get them to change to their minds.

FRIDAY: Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will not be posted, according to reports passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (on Twitter). He had been drawing interest from MLB teams including the Orioles and Mariners, but those clubs will have to look elsewhere for middle infield help. Nakajima would have added some pop to the otherwise ordinary group of shortstops available via trade or free agency.

The 28-year-old hit .314/.385/.511 with 20 home runs in 579 plate appearances in Japan this year.  In an article for Fangraphs, Newman suggested Nakajima is a line drive hitter whose power could fade in the majors. 

Amateur Signing Bonuses: Yankees

Next up in our amateur signing bonus series, the soon-to-be no longer defending champs…

  1. Andrew Brackman, $3.55MM (2007)
  2. Gary Sanchez, $3MM (2009)
  3. Wily Mo Pena, $2.44MM (1999)
  4. Ian Kennedy, $2.25MM (2006)
  5. Slade Heathcott, $2.2MM (2009)

The Yankees are no strangers to spending money, and that goes for the amateur players as well. Brackman was considered one of the best talents available in the 2007 draft but fell to the 30th overall pick due to bonus demands and injury concerns. The Scott Boras client signed his big league deal right at the deadline and had Tommy John surgery almost immediately after the ink dried, which New York knew he needed. Brackman returned from the procedure at the start of the 2009 season, and has thrown 247.1 innings with a 4.77 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 as he climbs the ladder.

Sanchez received one of the largest bonuses among international free agents last year, and hit .329/.393/.543 in 196 plate appeared in the low minors this season, his professional debut. Heathcott was the team's first round pick in 2009 (29th overall), the pick they received as compensation for failing to sign Gerrit Cole in 2008. Like Sanchez, he made his pro debut this season, hitting .253/.354/.344 in 362 plate appearances at the Single-A level.

Despite being just 17-years-old at the time, the Yankees signed Pena to a major league contract worth a total of $3.7MM. His bonus stood as the record for international prospects for nearly a decade. Pena had originally signed with the Mets the previous summer, but MLB questioned the validity of the deal and it was eventually voided. He was with the Yankees for just over two full seasons (.234/.299/.391 in 541 Single-A plate appearances) before being traded to the Reds for Michael Coleman and former Yankee farmhand Drew Henson before the 2001 season.

Kennedy zoomed up the minor league ladder after being the 21st overall pick in 2006, making his big league debut just a year after signing. He spend most of his Yankee career in the minors (1.95 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 in 248.2 innings) and also missed most of 2009 due to an aneurysm near his pitching arm, though he did throw 59.2 innings with a 6.03 ERA with the big league team. The Yanks shipped him to Arizona last offseason in the Edwin JacksonCurtis GrandersonMax Scherzer blockbuster.

We're not counting veterans of the Japanese or Cuban leagues in this series even though they have zero MLB experience, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Hideki Matsui and Jose Contreras received $8.5MM and $6MM signing bonuses, respectively.