September 2011

Ohio Notes: Thome, Sizemore, Phillips, Cordero

The Indians (80-82) edged out the Reds (79-83) for state bragging rights this season and the Tribe also went 5-1 against Cincinnati in interleague play.  As a result, the Cleveland notes lead off the latest edition of news from the Buckeye State…

  • "I would say that the percentage is higher of me coming back next year than not," Jim Thome tells's Zack Meisel.  The veteran slugger is known to be considering retirement.
  • GM Chris Antonetti says the Indians' payroll will be "significantly" higher next year, tweets's Jordan Bastian.  This doesn't necessarily mean Cleveland will be making big moves, however, as the Tribe have a number of players due healthy arbitration raises this winter.
  • Appearing on a Starting Blocks TV video, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer predicts that Grady Sizemore will return to the Indians next season.  The Tribe have a $9MM club option on Sizemore for 2012, or the team could buy him out for $500K.  Hoynes also writes that the Indians will have to make a quick decision about their center fielder given that Sizemore had his knee examined on Monday and teams have until just three days after the last game of the World Series to decide on player options.
  • Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer believes the Tribe should let Sizemore leave since he's too much of an injury risk.  Pluto suggets Cleveland should decline Sizemore's option and see if he would agree to return for something akin to a $3MM deal with lots of incentives.
  • In case you missed it, manager Manny Acta's option for the 2013 season was picked up earlier today by the Tribe.
  • Tim Belcher has stepped down as the Indians' pitching coach and will take a job in the team's baseball operations department.'s Jordan Bastian reports that "the Indians have known for months" that Belcher was thinking of resigning.
  • The Reds should "play the odds" and cut ties with both Brandon Phillips and Francisco Cordero, opines John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Erardi thinks the Reds must spend more efficiently and not sign two veteran players to big-money contracts.  He also suggests seeing what Aroldis Chapman could bring on the trade market.
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer thinks the Reds will again pursue an front-of-the-rotation pitcher this winter.
  • "This is going to be a strange offseason, I think," Bronson Arroyo says to's Mark Sheldon. "I don't think anyone in the locker room here has any idea what moves the front office wants to make." 

Pirates Notes: Doumit, Snyder, Ohlendorf

The latest from the Bucs, who are looking to keep their streak of losing seasons from reaching 20 next year…

  • The Pirates are expected to decline contract options on Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder and Paul Maholm, plus non-tender Ross Ohlendorf, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  Doumit will earn a $500K buyout and says he hasn't considered renegotiating his contract in order to possibly remain in Pittsburgh.
  • Ohlendorf tells Biertempfel that he'd like to return next season. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes listed Ohlendorf as "on the non-tender bubble" in his recent analysis of the Buccos' arbitration-eligible players.  Ohlendorf would receive just a modest raise from his $2.025MM salary in 2011, though Biertempfel believes that the Pirates can't afford paying that much to a pitcher who projects best as an extra bullpen arm.
  • With Doumit and Snyder possibly both gone, it could leave the catcher's job wide open for Michael McKenryBill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talked to McKenry about how the young backstop has developed this season.

Padres Notes: Qualls, Harang, Bell, Ready

The Padres' victory last night gave them a 71-91 record for the 2011 season and, as small consolation, the seventh overall pick in next year's amateur draft.  There won't be daily Adrian Gonzalez rumors out of San Diego this winter, but it will be an interesting offseason nonetheless for the Friars.  Here's the latest…

  • The Padres won't pick up Chad Qualls' $6MM option for next season, a source tells Dan Hayes of the North County Times (Twitter link).  San Diego will instead pay the $1.05MM to buy Qualls out but the club is still interested in bringing back the veteran right-hander.
  • Also from Hayes, no decision has been made yet about Aaron Harang.  The Padres and Harang share a $5MM mutual option for 2012; Harang would get a $500K buyout if the option isn't exercised.
  • "My gut feeling is that I will be here [in 2012],” Heath Bell tells Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.  "They have my number. They know I want to stay. I think they’re going to take advantage of that."
  • Randy Ready will not be returning as San Diego's hitting coach next season, according to a team press release.  The rest of the club's coaching staff will remain intact.
  • Dan Hayes hears from a source that Sean Berry and Phil Plantier are being considered for the hitting coaches' job next year (Twitter link).  Both men could end up being hired as GM Jed Hoyer said the Padres will have two hitting coaches next season, tweets Tom Krasovic of the Inside The Padres blog.
  • The Padres will focus on run prevention this winter and look to add starting pitching, writes's Corey Brock.  The club will also look to acquire some depth for the bench and, as always, some hitting.
  • Owner Jeff Moorad said the Padres lost $1.6MM in 2011, tweets Hayes.  Moorad also said he hopes to have a new TV contract for the team finalized by New Year's Day.

Braves Notes: Heyward, Chipper, Coaches, Reyes

The Braves will be facing extra pressure this offseason as the team tries to recover from its September collapse.  Here's the latest from Turner Field….

  • "There is some sentiment within the organization that Atlanta might be better off dealing Jason Heyward," writes ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required).  Heyward suffered through a difficult sophomore season and as a result, "there are voices within the franchise asking the question of whether he can be counted on" as a long-term building block.  I'd say that there's little chance the club gives up such a promising young talent, though as the Yunel Escobar trade showed, the Braves aren't afraid to deal a quality player if they feel the player isn't a fit.  The Braves would be selling low on Heyward, though they would still recoup a nice return given his reputation and impressive 2010 rookie season.
  • Chipper Jones says the team's September failure hasn't affected his decision to return in 2012, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Fredi Gonzalez confirmed that the entire Braves' coaching staff will return next year, reports's Mark Bowman.
  • The Braves don't require a major overhaul, opines Fangraphs' Eno Sarris, though he suggests a few position switches that could improve the team's defense.   
  • ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription req'd) agrees that the Braves don't need to shake up their roster and suggests that Atlanta could be one of the top suitors for Jose Reyes.  Bowden also notes that the Braves have fewer looming issues than their September collapse partners in Boston: "While age and a barren farm system dim the Red Sox's upside going into 2012, the Braves have a much brighter outlook."

Beane Expects To Stay Put; Stadium Verdict Upcoming

Billy Beane addressed both his own future with the A's and the club's future in Oakland today.  There has been speculation that Beane could leave the A's for another job, possibly with the Cubs, but Beane said "I plan on being here" in 2012.

In regards to the team's quest to have a new stadium built in San Jose, Beane said he expects a final decision to come soon.  Though Beane admitted that he has heard similar promises about a resolution to the stadium issue over the last two and a half years, he stated that "this time I'm going to believe it," which would indicate why he's publicly stating his confidence in a forthcoming decision.

Beane confirmed today that the A's were holding off on decisions about their 2012 payroll until the stadium issue was settled.  We heard about this last week, with the expectation being that if the team's move to San Jose is approved, the Athletics would look to cut payroll and enter an "all-out rebuilding mode."

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle was the first to tweet Beane's comment about staying with the A's, while Susan Slusser of the Chronicle had the information about the San Jose stadium (Slusser's tweets are linked).

Cubs DFA Berg, Schlitter; Zambrano Back On 40-Man

The Cubs have designated right-handers Justin Berg and Brian Schlitter for assignment, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  In a corresponding move, Carlos Zambrano has been placed back on the club's 40-man roster.

Zambrano was placed on the disqualified list on August 13 following a tirade following a rough start against the Braves and then shut down for the season after that 30-day suspension was up.  The MLBPA has a pending grievance on Zambrano's behalf looking to recoup some of the approximately $3MM in salary that Zambrano lost, since players aren't paid for their time on the disqualified list.  Zambrano is owed $18MM in 2012 and, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explored in August, the Cubs would probably have to absorb another bad contract if they wanted to trade the hurler.

Berg, 27, has made 60 appearances out of the bullpen for the Cubs over the last three seasons, compiling a 4.08 ERA in 64 innings and an even 27 strikeouts to 27 walks.

Schlitter, 25, was drafted by the Phillies in 2007 and came to Chicago in the Scott Eyre deal in August 2008.  He has eight Major League innings under his belt, all in 2010, and has a career ERA of 12.38.  Schlitter had been on the 60-day disabled list with an elbow injury that kept him in the Cubs organization through the 2011 season.  He was picked up on waivers by both the Yankees and Phillies last winter before being returned to Chicago because Major League Baseball judged his elbow to be a pre-existing injury.

Anthopoulos Talks Encarnacion, Francisco, Johnson

The AL East winner has had at least 95 wins every year since 2000 and the Blue Jays haven't had more than 87 wins during that stretch. Toronto finished fourth in the American League East with an 81-81 record this year, so they have some improving and developing to do before they make their first playoff appearance since 1993.

GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed the 2011 season this afternoon. Here are some highlights, from video on the Blue Jays' site:

  • Anthopoulos declined to discuss his contract in detail, but said he's happy in Toronto. "I expect to be here as long as they want me here," he said.
  • Anthopoulos likes the humility and drive to improve that first-year manager John Farrell showed this season. To see how Farrell and other new managers did in 2011, click here.
  • The Blue Jays haven't decided how they'll approach Edwin Encarnacion ($3.5MM option, $500K buyout) and Frank Francisco (free agent) after the season. I predicted this month that they'll pick up Encarnacion's option.
  • Kelly Johnson, who hits free agency in a month, did a "nice job" and is a possibility for the Blue Jays in 2012. The Blue Jays will reach out to his representatives this month.
  • The Blue Jays would like to improve their rotation, but won't likely be shopping for back-of-the-rotation types.
  • Anthopoulos says the Rays are arguably the best-run organization in sports and says they do "everything right."
  • Anthopoulos suggested that the Blue Jays don't have the internal pitching depth to improve the bullpen as much as they hope to, so expect him to acquire relievers via trades or free agent signings.

Indians Exercise Manny Acta’s 2013 Option

The Indians announced that they exercised their 2013 option for manager Manny Acta. Acta's three-year contract had been set to expire after the 2012 season.

Acta led the Indians to an 80-82 mark this year, an 11-game improvement over the 69-93 record the Indians had in 2010, Acta's first season in Cleveland. The Indians finished the '11 season with the third- youngest roster in MLB, one that included 11 players who made their Major League debuts in 2011.

The Indians contended for much of the season and remained in the race long enough to trade for summer reinforcements such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Kosuke Fukudome. Their attendance increased by about 450,000 fans this year.

Giants Notes: Pujols, Cain, Lincecum, Zito

Giants GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy discussed the 2011 season at a year-in-review press conference today and Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle has the details:

  • The Giants are going to focus on the pitching staff before addressing the offense this winter.
  • There are strong indications that the Giants won’t push for free agents Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, according to Schulman.
  • Sabean won’t rule out a long-term deal for Tim Lincecum, but negotiations with Matt Cain will be a higher priority, since Cain is eligible for free agency one year from now. Lincecum appears to prefer short-term deals anyway.
  • Barry Zito and non-tender candidate Jonathan Sanchez will be in Spring Training competing for the rotation, according to Sabean. This is the strongest indication yet that Sanchez will be tendered a contract this offseason. His salary will likely surpass $6MM in 2012.
  • Sabean and Bochy said Aubrey Huff didn’t do enough to get in shape last offseason and they have told him to do more this winter.
  • The Giants have said they want to upgrade in center field and the leadoff spot. They don’t consider Justin Christian to be the solution, so Schulman wonders if Coco Crisp could be a fit.
  • If the Giants don’t pick up Jeremy Affeldt’s $5MM option, they’ll renegotiate another deal with him. As I explained earlier in the month, Affeldt would be in position to command a multiyear deal in free agency if the Giants allow him to hit the open market.
  • The Giants will look to add second base depth, though they may not be willing to meet Jeff Keppinger’s asking price.
  • Sabean says the Giants will give Cody Ross "due consideration" as a free agent, according to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News (on Twitter).

In-Season Trades By The 2011 Playoff Teams

It's hard to fake your way through 162 games, so most MLB playoff teams have earned the right to play in October. Once every few years, a team in a weak division slips into the playoffs with a mediocre record, but teams like the 2005 Padres and 2006 Cardinals are exceptions.

Now that this year's postseason lineup has been determined, we have the chance to look back at the trades the eight playoff teams made this year. Here's a summary of the in-season acquisitions that made an impact for one of MLB's 2011 playoff teams (linked team names go to our Transaction Tracker):

National League

American League

All four National League teams added valuable contributors in midsummer trades. The Rangers improved their bullpen with a pair of highly-coveted late-inning relievers and the Tigers acquired Doug Fister, who posted a 1.79 ERA with a 57K/5BB ratio in 70 1/3 innings down the stretch and is arguably the acquisition of the season.

After months of rumors about the Yankees' interest in starting pitching, GM Brian Cashman remained quiet on the trade front. The Wild Card Rays were also inactive despite constant rumors about B.J. Upton, James Shields, Johnny Damon and others. Tampa Bay's midseason acquisitions came from the minor leagues, where Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore began the season.

The Yankees and Rays are not averse to trading players – Cashman nearly acquired Cliff Lee last summer and Friedman makes major trades just about every year. Similarly, the Tigers and Brewers aren't this aggressive every year – they simply saw potential upgrades on the market. If there's a lesson here it's that the significance of the trade market varies wildly from year to year and from team to team.