April 2011

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Pirates Notes: Paul, Bowker, Cedeno

Free agent addition Kevin Correia makes his sixth start as a Pirate tonight and he carries a 3.48 ERA into Pittsburgh's contest with the Rockies and their high-powered offense. Here's the latest on the Pirates...

Pirates Return Josh Rodriguez To Indians

The Pirates announced that they returned Rule 5 selection Josh Rodriguez to the Indians. Rodriguez, who had been designated for assignment last week, will head to Triple-A, according to the Indians. It cost $25K for Cleveland to accept the 26-year-old infielder back from Pittsburgh.

Baseball America ranked Rodriguez 24th among Pirates prospects before the season and suggested that he could become a big league utility player. In 364 plate appearances at Triple-A last year, he hit .293/.372/.486 and played shortstop. In 14 plate appearances for the Pirates this year, Rodriguez collected a single and a walk while playing second and short.

Free Agent Stock Watch: April 2011 Edition

We're just four weeks into the season, so prospective free agents still have lots of time to establish their value before hitting the open market. Cliff Lee, who went on to become last offseason's most highly coveted free agent, had made just one start at this point last year. Adrian Beltre also started slowly; he was homerless with a .772 OPS last April before heating up and re-establishing his free agent value.

Other free agents used April as a springboard for standout walk years. Carl Crawford (.941 OPS, 7 steals) and Jayson Werth (.987 OPS) used the first month of the season to establish themselves as top free agents in 2010. With that in mind, here's a look at what ten members of this year's free agent class have done over the course of the first four weeks of the season:

  • Albert Pujols - It took him a few games to heat up, but Pujols has 7 homers, 18 RBI and a .258/.321/.485 line. It's nothing special, but he has been unlucky on balls in play and has hit like his usual self since the middle of the month.
  • C.C. Sabathia - Sabathia can opt out of the four years and $92MM remaining on his contract after the season and the way he's pitching, he may be able to obtain more guaranteed money that way. Sabathia is putting together another phenomenal season, with a 2.25 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.
  • Prince Fielder - Fielder leads the NL with 23 RBI and has a .326/.415/.565 line. Agent Scott Boras figures to be asking for Mark Teixeira money ($180MM) and then some this offseason.
  • Jose Reyes  - Reyes has a robust .321/.359/.459 line with 8 stolen bases and 11 extra base hits. If he keeps this up, could ask for $100MM-plus this winter.
  • Jimmy Rollins - Rollins, 32, has a .271/.346/.354 line so far this season. He's getting on base at a respectable clip, but he has never had a season with a slugging percentage this low. It seems unlikely that Rollins will have another 30 homer season, as his slugging percentage and isolated power have been in decline since 2007.
  • C.J. Wilson - Wilson's 3-0 record and 3.51 ERA look good and he's striking our nearly a batter per inning (8.4 K/9). He has a career-best walk rate so far (2.4 BB/9) after struggling with walks for years.
  • Carlos Beltran - With 3 homers and a .280/.359/.488 line, the 34-year-old Beltran is off to a strong start. Seemingly healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, he is now playing right field (though agent Scott Boras insists he can still handle center).
  • Mark Buehrle - Buehrle, 32, has a 5.12 ERA, but his peripheral stats suggest that his ERA should fall closer to his 3.87 career mark. Buehrle, who averaged 33 starts per year over the course of the last decade, leads the league with six starts in 2011.
  • Jonathan Papelbon - Elite relief pitching is arguably the biggest strength of the upcoming free agent class, so it remains to be seen whether Papelbon will have much leverage this winter. He's off to an excellent start, with 5 saves, a 1.93 ERA, 11.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
  • Heath Bell - Bell would like to stay in San Diego, but the Padres may not be able to afford him. If he keeps pitching like this - 0.90 ERA, 5 saves, 6.3 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 - someone else will be happy to pay for his services. His strikeout rate has dipped, but it's early.

Note that I haven't included Robinson Cano, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and others whose teams could exercise options for 2012.

Astros Designate Joe Inglett For Assignment

The Astros designated Joe Inglett for assignment to create roster space for Clint Barmes, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. Barmes was hit by a pitch in Spring Training and has now recovered from a fractured hand.

Inglett hit .208/.208/.250 in 24 plate appearances for the Astros, who acquired him from the Rays this spring. The 32-year-old appeared in 102 games for the Brewers last year, hitting .254/.331/.401 and playing second base, left field and right field. He has also played shortstop, third base and center field over the course of his six-year MLB career. The left-handed hitter has a .286/.345/.397 line in the majors.

Barmes has not appeared in a big league game for the Astros since they acquired him for Felipe Paulino last November. He hit .235/.305/.351 in 432 plate appearances for Colorado last year, playing short, second and third.

Quick Hits: Padres, Snider, Wheeler

Let's take a look at some tidbits from around the majors on this Thursday evening..

  • Be wary when considering radar gun readings.  Former Padres GM (now Diamondbacks GM) Kevin Towers told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that the club would tinker with the pitch speeds from time to time.  Every time Brad Penny pitched for the Dodgers in San Diego, the club would dial down the radar gun to frustrate him.
  • The Blue Jays caught some off guard by demoting promising outfielder Travis Snider earlier today.  MLB.com's Todd Wills writes that the club sent him to Triple-A to make adjustments to his swing.
  • Red Sox newcomer Dan Wheeler is still working to carve out a niche for himself in the bullpen, writes Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.  Last year with the Rays, Wheeler posted a 3.35 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.

Dodgers Notes: O'Malley, McCourt, Broxton

Here are some Dodgers tidbits, including items on their Tinseltown drama..

  • Tom Schieffer said he spoke to McCourt by phone today and expects to meet with him at Dodger Stadium tomorrow, tweets Bill Shaikin of the LA Times.
  • A prominent Dodgers executive told David Vassegh of 570 KLAC that former owner Peter O'Malley has two big time investors to buy the Dodgers.  The plan would be for O'Malley to run the organization again.
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has been on a speaking binge in New York City after spending the last year saying very little to Dodgers fans in Los Angeles, opines T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times.
  • Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets that Tom Schieffer on his way to Dodger Stadium for first time since he was appointed as the Dodgers trustee on Monday.
  • Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton believes that he can regain his All-Star form, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  The club doesn't neccessarily have to go out-of-house if they choose to go in another direction with the closer role.  The Dodgers called on Vicente Padilla to close out a 5-4 win over the Florida Marlins on Wednesday.

Yankees Notes: Silva, Millwood, Colon, Felix

C.C. Sabathia starts for the Yankees tonight, which means the questions about their rotation can rest, if only for a day. Here's the latest on the Yankees, with an emphasis on their rotation...

  • According to Cashman, Carlos Silva, who was signed by the Yanks to a minor-league deal after he was released by the Cubs, hasn't been assigned to a minor-league club, writes Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.  In fact, he hasn't even thrown to a hitter yet.
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Marc Carig of the Star Ledger that he will review video of Kevin Millwood pitching in the minor leagues before deciding whether to promote the right-hander to the Major Leagues (Twitter link). Millwood can opt out of his contract with New York this Sunday.
  • Paul Swydan of FanGraphs identifies some warning signs on the horizon for the resurgent Bartolo Colon, but maintains that the right-hander could help the Yankees form a devastating rotation.
  • The Yankees can probably forget about acquiring the reigning Cy Young winner for now. Felix Hernandez told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he’s happy playing for the Mariners and isn’t looking for a trade. A number of executives tell Morosi they expect King Felix to stay put this season, partly because he’s under team control through 2014.

Heyman On Lincecum, Cano, Votto, Weaver, Dodgers

Ryan Braun's $105MM, five-year contract extension through 2020 seemed like it came out of nowhere, but a ton of other young stars also appear to be in line for new deals, writes Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated.  Heyman runs down the 20-somethings that could get hefty contract extensions and touches on a few other things in today's column..

  • Giants ace Tim Lincecum won't be a free agent until after the 2013 season, but San Francisco would be wise to lock him up before his arbitration numbers get out of hand.  A third Cy Young season could potentially bring Lincecum from $14MM into the $25MM range and possibly to $30MM in '13.  Heyman expects a deal to get done, even if it costs the club a fortune.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes touched on the Lincecum situation here and here, and will have much more on the topic next week.
  • Similarly, there's no reason to think the Yankees would let Robinson Cano leave in the prime of his career.  The Bombers have options for 2012 and '13 at $14MM and $15MM, respectively, and will obviously exercise them. Look for the Yanks to get a deal done with the second baseman, but only after the Scott Boras client files for free agency.
  • Reds slugger Joey Votto will hit the open market after 2013 and it would be wise for the club to lock him up as the youngster continues to improve.  This winter he signed a three-year, $38MM to take care of his arbitration years, but his rate will presumably rise after that deal is up.  Heyman believes that the Reds will lock up Votto, just as they did with Jay Bruce.  This winter, Cincinnati signed the right fielder to a six-year, $51MM deal.
  • Even though the Marlins' poor attendance would seem to indicate that the club doesn't have the funds to sign Josh Johnson to a new deal, they are on their way to a brand-new facility in the near future.  Putting that aside, they're still in the black. His $39MM, four-year deal goes through 2013 but his next contract should easily top that.
  • If you're a Halos fan looking to purchase a Jered Weaver jersey, you may want to reconsider.  Heyman writes that the right-hander is all but a goner in two years.  Agent Scott Boras is talking his client up and the Angels don't have a history of keeping their top free agents anyway.  It's possible that the next Dodgers owner, assuming there is one, could talk the Simi Valley product into a homecoming.
  • It may come as a surprise to some, but Heyman predicts that Andre Ethier will remain with the Dodgers beyond 2012.  GM Ned Colletti is believed to want to lock up Ethier along with Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.  Even though the Dodgers' situation is probably too messy for anything to get done right away, they have to act fast to keep the 29-year-old. 
  • You can also expect the Dodgers to work something out with Kemp, who is also a free agent after 2012. 
  • Of the 33 players that Heyman profiles, he expects most to get new deals done with their respective clubs.  Some of the players that we may see elsewhere: John Danks, Shin Soo-Choo, Jonathan Sanchez, Justin Morneau, Grady Sizemore, and Shaun Marcum.
  • TV magnate Burt Sugarman is one name believed to be in the mix among potential buyers of the Dodgers.  Investment banker Jason Reese and billionaire Ron Burkle are also in the mix.  Burkle is teaming with former Dodgers great Steve Garvey.

Draft Prospect Q&A: Anthony Rendon

As the 2011 Draft draws closer, MLBTR will be introducing you to a handful of the top eligible prospects with a series of Q&As. The series includes four of the top college pitchers in the nation and a top college position player. Here's another position player to watch.

Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon is considered the top college position player in the 2011 draft and he remains a candidate to be the first overall pick this June. Both Baseball America and ESPN.com have reported within the week that it appears Rendon will either go first overall (to the Pirates) or second (to the Mariners) with UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole going to the other team.

Rendon entered the season as the top prospect in the draft after being named Baseball America's Player of the Year in 2010 and the publication's Freshman of the Year in 2009. Ankle and shoulder injuries have slowed Rendon down this year and limited his time at third base, where he is considered an excellent defender. The 20-year-old Houston native shines at the plate as well and has a .350/.552/.552 line with 62 walks so far this season.

I spoke to Rendon earlier today about his injuries, the team he rooted for growing up and the hype surrounding the draft. Here's a transcript of our conversation:

Ben Nicholson-Smith - Not to start off on a bad note, but I’ve got to ask you about your injuries. Your ankle and your shoulder injuries - have those been the biggest challenges that you’ve had to face as a player this year? 

Anthony Rendon - Yeah, definitely. You want to keep on playing the game that you love, so it’s always going to be on your mind, but it’s part of being a player - actually getting over those injuries to be stronger when you come back and I feel like I’m doing that.

BNS - How are you feeling now? 

AR - I feel good. The ankle’s fine. I’m still on my throwing program with my arm, so I’m just trying to get it back stronger so I can go back 100% on the field and not have to worry about it down the road.

BNS - Is that the goal - just to be able to go out there and basically relax? 

AR - Oh yeah, definitely. That’s a whole part of the game. When you play you’re supposed to be relaxed, you’re not supposed to be tense out there and you’re not supposed to be thinking about too many things. If you think about things too much, you’re not going to be as great as you can be because you can forget about other aspects of the game and it can hurt you in the long run or you might make an errors.

BNS - One of the things I hear a lot is that you’re a strong defender. How do you go about preparing defensively and improving yourself on the field? 

AR - I like to get loose out there, I like to get free out there, but at the same time, you’ve got to be prepared so you can read the hops and stuff like that. I like to take practice seriously and I like to have fun out there and just focus on little things because when little things add up - just keeping your head down on a ground ball or keeping a free hand on top to guard against bad hops - those little things add up.

BNS - A few years ago the Braves drafted you and you were a 27th rounder back then. It’s pretty apparent that the industry sees you as a completely different player now than you were back then, but do you see yourself differently? 

AR - I do see myself differently. I’ve changed physically and mentally. Back in high school I was probably about 5’10” and 165 pounds and I’ve grown since then [Rice's website lists him at 6'0", 190 pounds] because we’ve got such a great strength program. And ... it’s not only the physical, but the mental aspects, too. Handling the problems that may arise, the different issues and the different aspects of the game. I’ve learned the game a lot more. I can kind of predict what’s going to happen next or what the other team’s going to do in a certain situation, so I’ve actually started to appreciate the game more and learn the ins and outs of the game instead of just going out there and playing. 

BNS - Are you in touch with any of the guys who have come through [the Rice] program like David Aardsma or Lance Berkman? Any of the current big leaguers who went through the same things that you did? 

AR - It’s not that much, but I’ll talk to Berkman every now and then ... we’ll talk about baseball and he’ll just keep us laughing the whole time. [He has gone through] pretty much the same thing as what we’re going through now, so we just talk about the game and how he is and how the program is.

BNS - Were you an Astros fan growing up, coming from Houston?

AR - Yeah, definitely. They’re the hometown team. They haven’t always been the greatest team, so some of the years you get mad at them because they haven’t done so well, but deep down they’re the hometown team. 

I remember growing up, watching [Jeff] Bagwell and his weird stance and [Richard] Hidalgo and his arm in right and left field. I definitely enjoyed watching the Astros growing up. My Dad would take my brother and I - though I only went to one game at the Astrodome [before the Astros moved].

BNS - In terms of talking to guys like Berkman, have they given you any advice about the draft, because it’s obviously going to be a different experience for you this year than it was a few years ago.

AR - You know the funny thing is you try not to worry about the draft too much, so that hasn’t been a topic that we’ve talked about. But the people that I’ve talked with say ‘just take it one step at a time.’ 

One of the things one person told me was ‘don’t let your highs get too high or your lows get too low.’ It’s just baseball, it’s just a game. With the draft if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

BNS - Are you trying to embrace all of this coverage and all of this buzz or are you trying to ignore it as much as possible?

AR - I mean you can’t ignore it with everything out there and it is a lifelong dream to play professional baseball so it’s not just that I can’t ignore it, I don’t want to ignore it. It’s what I want to do. I want to play baseball, it’s why I’ve been playing for the last 17 years of my life. So you can’t ignore it and if anybody tells you differently they’re lying. But you can’t get ahead of yourself and I’m not in the pros. If it happens, it happens. I can’t get ahead of myself and think about pro ball right now. We’re still trying to make it to the College World Series. 

BNS - In terms of developing as a player, what are your goals for the rest of this season and potentially further on? What kinds of improvements might you want to make?

AR - I want to get faster. I tell everybody that. I’ve never been the fast guy on the field, so I want to bring a little speed.

And obviously I’ve got to treat my body better or something like that. Drink more milk or something. I’ve been injured for the past year, so maybe I should start taking some vitamins or something. I think I can take care of my body more, because I don’t want to be known as the guy who’s injury-prone. I don’t want to be that guy, I just want to be a reliable guy that plays every day.

BNS - What about all the walks that you’re drawing? I know they’re pitching around you, but how do walks fit into your offensive game?

AR - It definitely has a big impact. I mean I’m not trying to walk. As a hitter, I want to hit the ball every time I go up there, so that’s what I’m looking forward to doing. But it definitely plays a big part in my game.

Once you get so many walks, you can’t get into that rhythm. If they walk you intentionally one at bat and you only see four balls outside, you can’t get a read on his arm angle or pick up little tendencies, so you really get out of rhythm. 

BNS - Have you allowed yourself to think about what you’re going to do on the day of the draft?

AR - We’re going to be playing baseball actually, so I can’t be worried about the draft, we’re going to have a game to win!

Marlins Considering Run At Mark DeRosa

THURSDAY, 2:25pm: The Marlins have had internal discussions about third base options, but never discussed possible deals with the Giants, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com.

WEDNESDAY, 3:59pm: DeRosa is headed to the DL, according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (on Twitter). Though the repaired tendon in his wrist is fine, the area around it is inflamed. If the Marlins are going to make a run at DeRosa, it probably won't happen for a few weeks at least.

12:44pm: The Marlins "have begun weighing the merits of making a run at" Giants infielder Mark DeRosa, reports Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  DeRosa could be a solution for the Fish at third base for the remainder of the season, after which his contract is up.

DeRosa, 36, is hitting well in a small 20 plate appearance sample this season.  With a crowded outfield and no openings at second base or the infield corners, the Giants may consider DeRosa expendable.  Not only could they get a useful player back, but they could also clear a portion of DeRosa's $6MM salary.  An extra $2-3MM would be helpful to the Giants, who may have limited payroll flexibility in the 2011-12 offseason unless they move some salary.

The Marlins considered giving the third base job to top prospect Matt Dominguez out of Spring Training, but instead sent him to Triple-A on March 24th.  Eight days later Dominguez fractured his elbow.  As a whole, Greg Dobbs, Donnie Murphy, Emilio Bonifacio, and Wes Helms are hitting .286/.353/.416 on the season while manning third base for the Marlins.

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