December 2010

Odds & Ends: Aardsma, Rendon, Miner, Germano

Let's help ring in the New Year with some links..

  • "I've grown to really like that site," said David Aardsma to Kirby Arnold of The Herald. "I find out so much information about everybody – who we're bringing in, who we're looking at. So, it's kind of hard to miss it. In a way, I'm flattered they believe other teams would want me to be their closer." Welcome to the site, David!
  • Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon has been cleared to resume full baseball activities according to Joseph Duarte of The Houston Chronicle. Rendon suffered severe injuries to his right foot and ankle this past July, and is the early front runner to be the first overall selection in a loaded 2011 draft. 
  • The Royals see Zach Miner as a potential starter depending on how well and how quickly he comes back from Tommy John surgery, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Earlier today the Royals signed the right-hander to a minor league deal.
  • Indians reliever Justin Germano has accepted an assignment to Triple-A Columbus, writes's Jordan Bastian.  Meanwhile, the club's signing of Austin Kearns is not yet official due to the holidays.
  • Gabe Lacques of USA Today writes that there are no major gaps for the Tigers to fill.
  • Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues wonders what the next collective bargaining agreement could mean for the MLB draft.

Discussion: Yankees Possible Middle Infielder Options

Yesterday we learned that talks between the Astros and Yankees about Jeff Keppinger didn't get very far. The 30-year-old utility player appeared to be a fine fit for a team in need of bench help, but New York could instead turn to rookie Eduardo Nunez to fill the role. That, however, seems like a Plan B more than anything right now.

If the Yankees want to sift through other options on the open market they'll find that there isn't much left to choose from. Former Yankee prospect  Cristian Guzman is still available after posting a less-than-stellar .648 OPS with the Nationals and Rangers. Despite a solid body of work throughout his career, Julio Lugo disappointed in Baltimore last season, hitting .249/.298/.282 in 93 games. Both players offer average defense at shortstop (-0.2 and -0.4 career UZR/150, respectively) but Lugo has more experience playing second base. Those two are essentially the cream of the free agent utility infielder crop.

The Yankees have had trouble signing bench players in recent years in part because no free agent in their right mind would join the Yanks only to sit on the bench behind their impressive cast of regulars. They've had to trade for bench help as a result, grabbing the likes of Wilson Betemit, Jerry Hairston Jr., Eric Hinske, and Austin Kearns at the deadline in recent years. John Hickey of Sportspress Northwest writes that the Mariners need to make a deal if they hope to free up spending cash this winter, so perhaps a deal involving Jack Wilson and the $5MM left on his contract deal could make sense for both sides. 

GM Brian Cashman has started each of the last two seasons with young gloveman Ramiro Pena on his bench, so the team could go with him again if they feel Nunez needs more minor league seasoning. The Yankees have money to spend after missing out on Cliff Lee, but quality reserve players are tough to find these days. Overpaying for bench players is a good way to waste money, so don't be surprised if New York starts the season with Pena before making yet another in-season trade. What do MLBTR's readers think the Yankees will do with their bench during before Spring Training?

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

This Date In Transactions History: December 31st

The final day of the calendar year doesn't normally produce much hot stove news, but there have been plenty of moves made on this date throughout the years. Let's look back at some of the more notable ones, including a free agent signing with historic significance…

  • One year ago today the Phillies thought they were solidifying their bullpen by signing Danys Baez to a two-year contract worth $5.25MM. They instead received a 5.48 ERA with nearly as many walks (23) as strikeouts (28) in 47 2/3 innings in the first year of the deal.
  • Two years ago the Angels signed Brian Fuentes to a two-year, $17.5MM contract. He pitched to a 3.76 ERA in 93 1/3 innings with the Halos before being traded to the Twins last August. The 35-year-old southpaw is said to be seeking a deal on par with the three-year, $15MM contract the Angels gave Scott Downs
  • That same day, the Indians traded minor league pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub to the Cubs for Mark DeRosa. DeRosa hit .270/.342/.457 in 71 games with Cleveland before they traded him to the Cardinals for Chris Perez and Jess Todd.
  • The Dodgers signed Fred McGriff to a one-year contract worth $3.75MM back in 2002. The then 39-year-old slugger hit .249/.322/428 with 13 homers in 329 plate appearances that season.
  • Former Yankee Ramiro Mendoza signed with the rival Red Sox on the same day McGriff agreed to his deal. Mendoza didn't perform as well in Boston as he did in New York, pitching to a 5.73 ERA in 97 1/3 innings for the Sox.
  • One of the most significant contracts in baseball history was signed on New Year's Eve. On this date way back in 1974, Catfish Hunter signed a five-year contract worth $3.75MM with the Yankees, becoming the first star player to change teams via free agency. The deal also made him the highest paid player in baseball history at the time. Hunter posted a 3.58 ERA in 993 innings during his five years with the Yanks.
  • Other players involved in transactions on this date include Mark Hendrickson, Aaron Miles, Neifi Perez, Ray Fosse, Sandy Alomar, and Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.  

Nats Offer LaRoche Two-Year Deal

4:51pm: Jen Royle of MASN tweets that the two sides are discussing a multiyear deal in the $8-9MM per season range. Even the low end of that range would represent a higher average annual value than the $21MM LaRoche is reportedly seeking over three years. Royle confirmed that the annual payout being discussed is higher than what the Orioles talked about with LaRoche (Twitter link).

2:44pm: The Nationals have offered first baseman Adam LaRoche a two-year deal, Bill Ladson of has learned (via Twitter).  LaRoche lost a suitor just minutes ago when the O's and Derrek Lee came to terms on a one-year pact.

LaRoche, 31, has been said to be looking for a three-year deal in the range of $21MM.  With the O's seemingly out of the bidding, he may have to settle for less. He was the definition of a league average first baseman in 2010, hitting .261 with 25 homers and 100 runs driven in compared to the .263/25/91 average. It was LaRoche's third straight season with 25 homers on the nose.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Beltre, Braves, Dye, Wells

On this date in 1972, Roberto Clemente was killed when a plane carrying him and relief aid for people affected by a earthquake in Nicaragua crashed into the ocean off the coast of Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff. Clemente, 38 at the time of his death, was a .317/.359/.475 career hitter in 18 seasons with the Bucs, picking up 3,000 career hits on the nose. He was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 after voters elected to waive the traditional five-year waiting period. MLB honors Clemente's charity work each year by presenting the Robert Clemente Award to the player "who combines a dedication to giving back to the community with outstanding skills on the baseball field."

Here's the final batch of links for 2010…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

Discussion: The Nats’ First Base Backup Plan

After shocking the world by signing Jayson Werth, the Nats have been looking to make a second, albeit smaller, splash to fill their first base vacancy.  The club has talked extensively with Adam LaRoche but the two sides seem to have hit a wall as the SFX client seeks $21MM over three years.  They've also been linked to 35-year-old Derrek Lee who is willing to take a one-year deal.  Lee hit just .260/.347/.428 with 19 HRs in 2010 but finished out the year in solid fashion with the Braves.  Like LaRoche, Lee is also being looked at by the Orioles.

It seems likely that Washington will end up with either Lee or LaRoche at first base but they do have other options.  It has been said that the Nationals could look into signing Casey Kotchman as a Plan B.  The M's let the 27-year-old hit free agency back in November after he turned in a .217/.280/.336 slash line in 2010.  Kotchman made a shade over $3.5MM last season and can probably be had for less in '11.  His bat may be suspect but his career 8.8 UZR/150 at first base helps to offset his recent offensive shortcomings.

Kotchman might not be a real upgrade over Mike Morse at first base but he could be a nice complement to the burly slugger.  While Kotchman has always performed better against right-handed pitching, Morse has shown that he has a knack for hitting against lefties.  While he only made 99 plate appearances against southpaws in 2010, the 28-year-old impressed by hitting .295/.374/.625 with eight homers.

ESPN's Jason A. Churchhill suggests a different platoon option: ex-National Nick Johnson.  The oft-injured 32-year-old missed the bulk of 2010 with a wrist injury and predictably had his '11 option declined.  It's hard to say what kind of contract Nicky J will fetch on the open market but it's safe to say it'll be for less than the $5.5MM he made last season.  There isn't a great disparity in how Johnson hits against lefties and righties but he tends to hit for a little more power against right-handers. 

There's obviously a significant drop-off in talent after LaRoche and Lee in what remains of this year's free agent class but the Nats could fill their gap at first cheaply while addressing other needs.

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Renteria Wants To Play Two More Years

FRIDAY: ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas tweeted in Spanish yesterday evening that the Reds actually made an offer to Renteria "several weeks ago," and that if he hasn't signed yet, it's because of a difference in money between the two sides. On the other hand, the amount of years could also be an issue, since Renteria said in an interview yesterday that he's planning to play two more years, according to El Universal in Venezuela (link in Spanish). –Nick Collias

THURSDAY: GM Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that Arthur Rhodes’ agreement with the Rangers frees up money for the Reds. The club has spoken to the agents for Scott Podsednik and Edgar Renteria, since they are potential fits for the 2011 roster.

“What we’re looking for is veteran outfielder, preferably a left-handed hitting outfielder and an infielder who can back up at shortstop,” Jocketty told Fay.

Renteria suggested the Giants' $1MM offer showed a "lack of respect" from the team and the Marlins don't appear interested, so the Reds have a chance at signing the veteran infielder. Renteria played for the Cardinals from 1999-2004, while Jocketty was the St. Louis GM. Podsednik, who bats from the left side, has also drawn interest from the Angels this winter.

The Reds have spoken to other unnamed free agents and likely have about $4MM to spend, Fay writes. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes anticipated this week that the Reds needed a "lefty reliever, left-handed hitting outfielder/leadoff hitter [and] backup shortstop."

Royals Sign Zach Miner

The Royals have signed pitcher Zach Miner to a minor league contract, according to a team press release.  The 28-year-old missed all of 2010 after undergoing surgery on his right elbow in late May.

In four seasons for the Tigers, the right-hander registered a 4.24 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.  Miner has 35 starts to his credit but the bulk of them came in 2006 and 2008. 

Detroit designated Miner for assignment in late November but the two sides discussed a new deal soon after.  Miner gave the Tigs a solid 56.1% groundball rate in 2007 but that number slipped in '08 and '09.

Poll: Where Will Scott Podsednik Sign?

Recently we learned that the Reds have spoken to the agent for Scott Podsednik as they look to land a left-handed hitting outfielder.  The veteran would likely be affordable for the Reds though there is a decent-sized market for his services.  The Angels' interest in the 34-year-old is well-known and the Dodgers seemed open to retaining him earlier this winter.

Not only is Podsednik affordable, he also won't require a team to forfeit a draft pick as the Dodgers opted not to offer him arbitration.  After earning a modest $1.75MM salary last season, Scotty Pods hit a respectable .297/.342/.382 in 595 plate appearances.  It's slim pickins' on the free agent market now and the veteran now finds himself as one of the more attractive players available.  Where do you see Podsednik landing in the New Year?

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The Market For Rafael Soriano

While a handful of arguably inferior free-agent relievers signed surprisingly hefty three-year contracts this offseason, the market for closer Rafael Soriano has been conspicuously quiet.

Joaquin Benoit, Scott Downs and Matt Guerrier inked three-year pacts with the Tigers, Angels and Dodgers, respectively, and it begs the questions of with which team and on what terms Soriano will sign.

Soriano is the second-best remaining free agent on the market, and the Halos, Yankees and Orioles remain potential suitors, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLBTR. Soriano is seemingly in line for a big pay day, but the market for free-agent relievers is inflated this offseason, and Soriano's status as a Type A free agent is an additional deterrent for would-be suitors.

The Angels have invested a lot in their bullpen this offseason, having already signed Hisanori Takahashi and Downs. The Halos' first-round draft pick is protected, so they'd only be forfeiting it to the Rays, but they'd be committing a lot of money to their relief corps if they were to sign Soriano. To boot, Angels GM Tony Reagins said that he was done adding to the bullpen upon signing Downs. In a Soriano poll we conducted Dec. 11, 26 percent of voters thought that he'd end up with the Angels.

The Yankees seem like a logical fit for Soriano, but most reports indicate they're not especially interested. Soriano, along with Mariano Rivera and Joba Chamberlain, would give the Yanks a fearsome late-innings trio, or he could free up Chamberlain to rejoin their spotty starting rotation. It'd be a steep price to pay for a set-up man, and Soriano presumably wants to close (that will serve him well in his next contract negotiations), but the Yankees should never be dismissed — especially after they missed out on Cliff Lee earlier this offseason.

The Orioles could use a closer, but are they inclined to invest so heavily in a reliever when they are still probably a year or two away from seriously contending? Unless the market completely drops out on Soriano, this seems unlikely.

Soriano has already declined the Rays' aribtration offer, but he could always re-sign with them. However, Tampa Bay appears interested in Brian Fuentes, who is seeking a multiyear deal at $5MM per year.

Of course, Soriano could always sign a one-year deal and try his hand in free agency again in 2011-12, but that is an especially risky strategy for relievers, given the tendency for their year-to-year performances to fluctuate.

Something has to give here, and as Tim Dierkes speculated (with respect to Fuentes), there appears to be a buyer's market taking shape.

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