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No offseason is truly quiet at the Boras Corporation, which usually represents a top free agent or two and always prepares for arbitration cases and extensions. But to this point, the 2011-12 offseason has been relatively slow for the Newport Beach-based agency — at least in terms of actual deals. As MLBTR's Transaction Tracker shows, the Boras Corp. has found modest two-year contracts for Bruce Chen and Willie Bloomquist and one-year deals for Andrew Brackman and Gerald Laird.
It won’t be quiet for much longer. Four of the top five remaining free agents on MLBTR’s top 50 list — Prince Fielder (2), Edwin Jackson (6), Ryan Madson (14) and Carlos Pena (16) — are Boras clients. In total, five of the 17 unsigned free agents from MLBTR’s top 50 list are Boras clients, including the top three. Johnny Damon (39), and unranked free agents such as Ivan Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, J.D. Drew, Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Spilborghs, Jason Varitek, Rick Ankiel, Mike Gonzalez and Kevin Millwood join Fielder, Jackson, Madson and Pena on Boras’ list of unsigned clients.
The Boras Corp. hasn’t brokered a deal in recent weeks, but Boras has grabbed headlines on MLBTR and elsewhere by invoking names such as Bonds, Foxx and Gehrig while discussing Fielder and comparing Jackson to Yu Darvish. Though we can debate the validity of the comparisons, there’s no denying Boras now represents the best hitter available, the best starter available, the best closer available and a host of complementary players. Boras has waited the market out for this long, but with Spring Training in the not-so-distant future, it seems inevitable that the quiet offseason will soon pick up and many of Boras’ clients will agree to deals by the end of January.
We'll keep track of the day's minor moves right here…
- The Giants signed right-hander Boof Bonser to a minor league deal, his agency, Reynolds Sports, announced on Twitter. Bonser has a 5.18 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 416 2/3 career innings and hasn't pitched at the Major League level since 2010. Bonser underwent Tommy John surgery early in the 2011 season and likely won't be ready to pitch for San Francisco until midway through the 2012 campaign. The Giants selected Bonser, now 30, with the 21st overall pick of the 2000 draft.
On this date in 1998, the Tigers traded Luis Gonzalez to the Diamondbacks for Karim Garcia. Gonzalez would hit 224 home runs in eight seasons with Arizona, including 57 homers during the team's 2001 Championship season. Here are tonight’s links…
- Jim Bowden ranks the top ten contracts in baseball (from a team perspective) at ESPN.com and Rays players (Matt Moore, David Price and Evan Longoria) occupy three of the top four spots.
- The Brewers started negotiations with Norichika Aoki in the $1-1.5MM range, according to a Sanspo report relayed by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. Milwaukee won the bidding for the Japanese outfielder with a bid of $2.5MM earlier this month.
- The Chiba Lotte Marines announced that they signed former big league first baseman Josh Whitesell, according to a Sponichi report passed along by Newman.
- Newman also relays a Sponichi report indicating that Softbank is working to acquire former big league lefty Renyel Pinto. The Orioles had some interest in Pinto this offseason.
- Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus lists ten prospects who will look to turn their careers around in 2012 after disappointing 2011 campaigns. Wilmer Flores of the Mets, Aaron Hicks of the Twins and Jose Iglesias of the Red Sox appear on the list.
- Dave Cameron of FanGraphs attempts to determine which active players are future Hall of Famers and considers Major Leaguers such as Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Carlos Beltran and Joey Votto along the way.
The Giants won the 2010 World Series with an unspectacular offense and won 86 games in 2011 with one of the lowest scoring offenses in the game, but they're the exception, not the rule. Each of the five highest scoring MLB teams won at least 90 games in 2011, while the Giants were the only one of the five lowest scoring teams to avoid 90 losses.
Here's a look at what baseball's five lowest scoring teams have done to improve their offenses so far this offseason. Team name links go to a summary of the teams' moves on MLBTR's Transaction Tracker and 2011 run totals are in parentheses (for reference, the average MLB team scored 694 runs this past season):
- Mariners (556) - GM Jack Zduriencik has added a number of former Major Leaguers on minor league deals and traded for John Jaso. The Mariners can expect more offense from Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Franklin Gutierrez and others in 2012 and they may make an addition or two before Spring Training.
- Giants (570) - The Giants traded for Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera, who have both been above-average offensive players in the recent past. The Giants could improve considerably with a full season of Buster Posey and possible improvement from Brandon Belt.
- Padres (593) - The Padres traded for Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal earlier this month. Both could conceivably add to the Padres' offense in 2012, and Alonso could have an impact from day one. GM Josh Byrnes has also added role players John Baker and Jeremy Hermida.
- Pirates (610) - The Pirates signed shortstop Clint Barmes, catcher Rod Barajas and outfielder Nate McLouth and traded for infielder Casey McGehee. However, none of the four acquisitions posted an OPS+ of 100 or better in 2011, so it would be unreasonable to expect a surge in scoring based on these additions.
- Astros (615) – Former GM Ed Wade added a handful of players on minor league deals and waiver claims and Jeff Luhnow traded for Jed Lowrie after becoming Houston's new GM.
The Giants are best-positioned to make a significant offensive jump in 2012, in my opinion. Not only do Pagan and Cabrera provide possible upgrades, Posey's return and Belt's upside will likely invigorate the offense that finished last in the National League in scoring in 2011.
The Athletics completed their third major trade of the offseason this afternoon, sending Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to Boston for Josh Reddick and prospects Miles Head and Raul Alcantara. Here’s the latest on the AL West, starting in Oakland…
- A’s assistant GM David Forst says no more moves are imminent though there are still players of interest for the A’s, according to MLB.com’s Jane Lee. Right-handers Fautino De Los Santos, Joey Devine and Grant Balfour and left-hander Brian Fuentes are now possible closers for the team, Lee writes.
- Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times explains why Prince Fielder will sign for more than three years and how the Mariners' TV deal impacts their ability to spend on free agents. Agent Scott Boras discussed Fielder’s value earlier today.
- The last four digits of the Rangers' $51.7MM bid for Yu Darvish were 3411, tweets Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun. Rangers president Nolan Ryan wore #34 as a player and Darvish wears #11.
The Red Sox officially replaced Jonathan Papelbon earlier today, acquiring Andrew Bailey (and Ryan Sweeney) from the Athletics for Josh Reddick and two prospects. Let's round up the latest from Boston, starting with GM Ben Cherington's conference call following today's trade, courtesy of WEEI.com's Rob Bradford…
- "We’re going to continue to work," said Cherington about the team's pursuit of starting pitching. "We’re actively considering and looking at starting pitching options also, but we haven’t found one yet where we feel like the acquisition cost is the right one. That doesn’t mean that it won’t come. It just hasn’t come yet."
- Cherington said they are comfortable with Bailey's injury history, which includes Tommy John surgery several years ago and another minor elbow procedure in 2010. Talks about the right-hander started way back during the season, when they were looking for bullpen help during the summer.
- Sweeney will be in the right field mix, as will Mike Aviles and Darnell McDonald. Cherington said they've tried to acquire Sweeney in the past.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says the trade "looks like a steal" for the Red Sox, calling it the finest moment in Cherington's young career as GM.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports echoes what Cherington said in the conference call, that the Sox are exploring all avenues for rotation help (Twitter link)
Edwin Jackson may not be an ace, but he’s the top free agent starter available at this point in the offseason. Agent Scott Boras told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that Jackson is a safer bet than Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish.
“If someone were to say that Yu Darvish would come in, average 200 innings, less than a 4.00 ERA and be a solid two or three starter, they would be elated,” Boras said. “The reality is, that is exactly what Edwin Jackson has done.”
Jackson, 28, posted a 3.79 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 with a 43.8% ground ball rate in 199 2/3 innings for the White Sox and Cardinals this past season. The hard-throwing right-hander has averaged 208 innings per season with a 3.96 ERA since 2009, but has a career ERA of 4.46 with 6.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 since he debuted with the Dodgers on his 20th birthday in 2003. Jackson ranked sixth on MLBTR’s list of top free agents entering the offseason, and he’s the top pitcher on the market now that Darvish and C.J. Wilson are unavailable.
Boras suggested the market for Jackson continues to develop as new general managers take in information about potential additions. Boras argued that no Japanese pitchers have averaged 200 innings with an ERA under 4.00 in their first three seasons in MLB, but Hideo Nomo accomplished just that with the Dodgers.
5:12pm: The Cubs and Blue Jays continue to discuss a Garza deal, Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN.com tweets. The Cubs seem to be prioritizing young starting pitching in talks about Garza, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. One executive told Heyman that the Yankees and Blue Jays have what it takes to acquire Garza.
12:53pm: Trade talks for Cubs starter Matt Garza are heating up, writes David Kaplan of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago. Kaplan says the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox are involved, but the Cubs' asking price is "incredibly high."
Yesterday, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith took an in-depth look at Garza's contract situation; he's under team control through 2013. Cubs president Theo Epstein said on Friday that Garza is "exactly type of pitcher we want to build around," but he'll listen on everybody. So far this winter trade values have been established for Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, and Trevor Cahill, but all of them came with at least four years of team control.
Agent Scott Boras told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that Prince Fielder hasn’t signed because the process of acquainting MLB owners with the first baseman and his many accomplishments has been time consuming. As always Boras has some memorable quotes, so let's move on to some highlights from his talk with Rosenthal:
- “It takes a bit longer because these are ownership decisions,” Boras said of the negotiations' slow pace. “I’ve got to sit down with owners. There are a lot of them interested in Prince.”
- Boras pointed out that attendance is up in Milwaukee and suggested Fielder can increase the value of a franchise by attracting fans to the ballpark and obtaining an improved local TV deal.
- The agent argued that sluggers like Fielder have “retention value and attraction value” that helps franchises keep their stars and attract new ones. “When you have that guy in the middle of the lineup, it’s, ‘Oh yeah, I want to play with him,’” Boras said. “Jeff Kent won an MVP hitting behind Barry Bonds. Ryan Braun won an MVP hitting in front of Fielder.”
- Boras made it clear that Fielder’s market isn’t limited to teams with vacancies at first base. “Prince is not in any way a normal free agent,” he said. “Owners will move players off their teams that already occupy positions to get him.”
- Fielder has personally met with several owners.
- Boras repeated that Fielder is a viable option for teams that aren’t poised to contend in 2012.
- Fielder’s leadership ability is unparalleled, according to Boras. “The man in the batter’s box and the man in the locker room are two very different people," he said. "The man in the locker room is an ambassador, a very sincere and understanding man. In the batter’s box, he is out there, literally uncaged.”
The Red Sox have acquired Andrew Bailey from the Athletics in a trade that will send Josh Reddick to Oakland and Ryan Sweeney to Boston, the teams announced. First base prospect Miles Head and right-handed pitching prospect Raul Alcantara are going to Oakland in the deal.
Bailey (pictured) figures to replace longtime closer Jonathan Papelbon at the back of Boston's bullpen in 2012. The 27-year-old right-hander posted a 3.24 ERA with 8.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 37.1% ground ball rate in 41 2/3 innings in 2011 after recovering a forearm strain that sidelined him early on in the season. MLBTR projects a $3.5MM salary for Bailey in 2012. The two-time All-Star and 2009 AL Rookie of the Year is under team control through 2014.
Reddick, 24, posted a .280/.327/.457 line in 278 plate appearances for the Red Sox this past season. The left-handed hitter got his first extended shot at Major League pitching in 2011, after posting a .278/.332/.500 line in parts of five minor leagues seasons. Reddick has big league experience at all three outfield positions and figures to get the chance to play every day in Oakland. He's under team control through 2016 and won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 campaign.
Sweeney, 27 in February, played all three outfield positions for the Athletics in 2011, posting a .265/.346/.341 line in 299 plate appearances. He has experience in parts of six big league seasons and will remain under team control through 2013. Sweeney's career UZR/150 of 9.2 suggests he's an above-average defender, and his numbers in right field are particularly impressive. MLBTR projects a 2012 salary of $1.6MM for Sweeney through arbitration.
Sweeney's a left-handed hitter who has a solid career line of .296/.352/.402 against right-handed pitching. However, GM Ben Cherington may want to pair him with someone who can hit left-handers given his career .233/.306/.289 line against southpaws. Ryan Kalish and Darnell McDonald (.285/.348/.451 career line against lefties) are internal candidates for the Red Sox to consider and right-handed hitting free agents Ryan Spilborghs and Cody Ross could also be fits.
The Red Sox selected Head, now 20, in the 26th round of the 2009 draft. He has posted a .274/.351/.446 line in 861 minor league plate appearances over the course of the past three seasons, but has yet to reach Double-A. Alcantara, who recently turned 19, has a 2.72 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 as a starter in 125 2/3 minor league innings. However, he has just four appearances above Rookie Ball.
Bailey will join the recently-acquired Mark Melancon in a new-look Red Sox bullpen. Boston may move Daniel Bard to the rotation and Alfredo Aceves might also start, but Matt Albers, Scott Atchison, Bobby Jenks and Franklin Morales are candidates to contribute out of the bullpen in 2012.