January 2012

Orioles Sign Pat Neshek, Ronny Paulino

The Orioles announced that they signed right-hander Pat Neshek and catcher Ronny Paulino to minor league contracts. The team also signed Korean left-hander Seong-Min Kim to a minor league deal.

Neshek, 31, pitched 24 2/3 innings for the Padres in 2011. The sidearmer posted a 4.01 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 8.0 BB/9 and was granted free agency after the season. The Mets non-tendered Paulino in December after he posted a .268/.312/.351 line in 248 plate appearances last year. The seven-year veteran stopped 20% of stolen base attempts against him in 2011. He'll provide depth behind Matt Wieters and Taylor Teagarden.

Kim, who turns 18 in April, stands 5'11" and throws a fastball, curveball, change-up and slider, according to the team. “We are glad to sign a player that our scouts feel is one of the top amateur left-handed pitchers in South Korea,” Orioles executive VP of daseball operations Dan Duquette said in a statement. “Kim has an excellent curveball and very good control.”

The Orioles also signed former Braves right-hander Oscar Villarreal, former D'Backs catcher John Hester and former Athletics utility player Steven Tolleson to minor league deals.

Rangers Extend Ron Washington

The Rangers and manager Ron Washington agreed to a two-year extension through 2014, John Blake of the Rangers tweets. The 59-year-old Washington has led the Rangers to the World Series in consecutive seasons. His previous contract, an extension signed after the 2010 season, ran through 2012.

Washington, a former big league infielder and coach, has a 427-383 record in five seasons as the Rangers' skipper. The club has increased its regular season win total every season under Washington, leading up to last year's 96-66 record.

Taylor Buchholz Plans To Sit Out 2012 Season

Reliever Taylor Buchholz currently plans to skip the 2012 season, agent Dave Pasti tells Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  Buchholz has been battling depression and anxiety.  Pasti noted, "If he signs with anyone, it would be with the Mets.  They way they handled the situation with Taylor meant a lot to him. The Mets really cared about him. As of right now, Taylor is taking the year off. He's feeling great, but not ready to get back into baseball. He's taking it one day at a time."

Buchholz, 30, joined the Mets a year ago and was granted free agency in November.

Angels Sign Francisco Rodriguez

The Angels re-signed reliever Francisco Rodriguez to a minor league deal, report Alden Gonzalez and Spencer Fordin of MLB.com.  Don't confuse this Rodriguez with K-Rod, who closed for the Angels from 2002-08 and is now with the Brewers. 

Rodriguez, 28, tossed 13 2/3 innings in the Majors in 2011 as well as ten in the minors.  In the offseason, he was designated for assignment and became a free agent after clearing waivers.

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The Worst Extensions From Two Offseasons Ago

Nearly a billion dollars across 112 contract years was committed to 33 players with less than six years of Major League service time during the 2009-10 offseason extension period, spanning October 2009 through April 2010.  Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, and Justin Upton each signed deals worth at least $50MM.  Two years removed from this extension period, which contracts now appear the most regrettable?

  • Howard's five-year, $125MM extension begins with the 2012 season, the beginning of which he'll miss due to a torn Achilles tendon.  Ruben Amaro's deal was panned at the time and only looks worse now.
  • Mauer's eight-year, $184MM extension began with a whimper, as he was limited to only 82 games and showed no power at the plate in 2011.  Bill Smith technically gets credit for this one, but any $100MM+ deal goes beyond the GM level.
  • Amaro signed Joe Blanton to a three-year, $24MM deal prior to the 2010 season.  Due to an elbow injury, Blanton didn't provide his usual innings in 2011.  He's penciled into the 2012 rotation to finish off the contract.  The main player the Athletics received for Blanton in '08 was Adrian Cardenas, who was recently designated for assignment.
  • Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd signed Huston Street to a three-year, $22.5MM deal two years ago.  Street was decent for 105 2/3 innings for the 2010-11 Rockies, but they unloaded him to San Diego last month in a salary dump.  It seems the Rockies decided Rafael Betancourt could handle the ninth inning at setup man-type money.
  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik locked up center fielder Franklin Gutierrez to a four-year, $20.5MM deal.  At the time, locking down the arbitration years of a defensive-minded player did not seem necessary, since the arbitration process rewards power numbers for position players.  The Mariners still may benefit from getting one or two of Gutierrez's free agent years, if he bounces back.
  • Adam Lind's extension was the first authored by GM Alex Anthopoulos, and the initial returns are ugly.  It's a team-friendly deal with steady arbitration salaries and three club options, but the bottom line is the team guaranteed $18MM to a player who may not have a future as a regular.
  • Mark Reynolds' three-year, $14.5MM extension was a Josh Byrnes deal.  Home runs pay in arbitration and defense may be largely ignored, but a .210 batting average affects earnings negatively.  Since the contract only covered arbitration years, it was probably best to just let the process play out.
  • In addition to Mauer, then-Twins GM Bill Smith locked up starter Nick Blackburn for four years and $14MM, plus a club option.  Like many of the players on this list, Blackburn may have seemed at the time like a nice guy to have around, but going year-to-year made more sense.
  • As a non-tender candidate with the Royals, Mark Teahen's three-year, $14MM extension from White Sox GM Kenny Williams was surprising from day one.  The Blue Jays took him off their hands to facilitate the Edwin Jackson deal that led to their Colby Rasmus acquisition, and will pay Teahen $5.5MM to not play for them in 2012.
  • Athletics GM Billy Beane guaranteed $12.5MM to Brett Anderson, at the time a record for a pitcher with less than two years of service.  Because of Anderson's elbow issues and eventual Tommy John surgery, it turns out guaranteeing him at least $8.5MM for his first two arbitration years was a mistake.  The club option on Anderson's first free agent year (2015) might still be a plus, but they'd have to overpay at $8MM for his third arbitration year in 2014 to have the chance to realize that.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels rewarded Scott Feldman with a two-year, $11.5MM deal, covering the pitcher's last two arbitration years.  I suppose the main benefit was a $9.25MM option on the righty's first free agent year, but that's not looking valuable now.
  • There are a few more multiyear extensions from the 2009-10 offseason worth less than $10MM that proved unnecessary.  The overall point is that teams often don't win by guaranteeing multiyear earnings of arbitration eligible players.  To evaluate extensions this winter, one must estimate the amount of the arbitration savings compared to going year-to-year, and also determine the value of potential free agent seasons.  For non-stars or players with one good year under their belts, year-to-year is usually the way to go.  
  • Perhaps the Mauer and Howard contracts demonstrate that letting a star reach or finish his contract year has its benefits, even if it increases the risk of losing the player to free agency.  On the other hand, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez both currently have three-year commitments worth $60MM or less with their original teams, as opposed to seven or eight-year free agent deals signed this winter in excess of $160MM.

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Victor Martinez Out For Season With Torn ACL

January 30th: Martinez had "microfracture surgery and repairs to both the medial and lateral meniscus in his left knee on Friday," announced the Tigers.  The Tigers expect him to have ACL reconstruction surgery in about six-to-eight weeks, which will sideline him for all of 2012.  After losing Martinez, the Tigers moved quickly to sign Prince Fielder to a nine-year deal.

January 17th: Catcher/designated hitter Victor Martinez suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during his off-season conditioning last week, according to the Tigers.  Surgery is anticipated, which the Tigers say would cost Martinez the 2012 season.

The Tigers are holding a conference call in about a half hour, at which point we should hear about their plans to replace Martinez after the unfortunate injury.

Yankees In Serious Talks With Bill Hall

The Yankees are in serious talks with utility man Bill Hall, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Rosenthal thinks Hall could reprise a 2010 Red Sox-type role, and notes that the 32-year-old works out in the offseason with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.  No deal is imminent and Hall is still considering a couple of teams, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

Hall began the season as the Astros' starting second baseman, but finished with a .211/.261/.314 line after adding a stint with the Giants.  He received the contract on the strength of his 2010 season, in which he hit 18 home runs in 382 plate appearances.  Hall seems highly likely to sign a minor league deal this offseason.

Cubs Sign Trever Miller

The Cubs signed lefty reliever Trever Miller to a minor league deal, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.  The deal includes a spring training invite, and the Praver/Shapiro client will make $800K if he's in the big leagues.

Miller, 38, posted a 3.80 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 5.1 BB/9, 0.84 HR/9, and 38% groundball rate in 21 1/3 innings for the Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Red Sox in 2011.  Miller began 2011 with the Cards and was traded to Toronto as part of the July Colby RasmusEdwin JacksonMarc RzepczynskiOctavio Dotel eight-player deal.  His inclusion was mostly a salary dump, as the Jays designated him for assignment less than a month later.  After Miller was released, then-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein signed him to a minor league deal.  Epstein is now the Cubs' president of baseball operations. 

The Cubs' trade of Sean Marshall to the Reds created an opportunity in their bullpen for lefty relievers, especially if Travis Wood makes the Opening Day rotation.  The Cubs also have lefties Jeff Beliveau, John Gaub, Scott Maine, and James Russell on their 40-man roster.  Aside from Miller, the Cubs' non-roster invitees include Justin Berg, Manny Corpas, Rodrigo Lopez, Jason Jaramillo, and Bobby Scales.

After the Miller signing, the free agent market for left-handed relievers still includes Mike Gonzalez, Arthur Rhodes, and Hong-Chih Kuo, among others.     

Retirement Candidates

Jorge Posada, Orlando Cabrera, Craig Counsell, and Adam Everett retired this offseason, as MLBTR's free agent tracker shows.  Which other unsigned free agents may be leaning toward calling it a career?

  • Milton Bradley: The Mariners released him on May 16th, and we haven't heard anything since aside from off-the-field issues.  I've heard that while he has not retired, as of now it does not look like Bradley will play in 2012.
  • J.D. Drew: About a week ago, Jon Heyman wrote that Drew is "very likely to retire."
  • Jason Kendall: In July, we learned that Kendall was out of the picture for 2012 after re-tearing two tendons in his right rotator cuff.  Kendall's career might be over, wrote Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe at the time.
  • Derrek Lee: This month Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggested a kind of "forced retirement" is possible for Lee, who has reportedly been picky so far this offseason.
  • Jason Varitek: The catcher is mulling retirement, wrote Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald this month.
  • Javier Vazquez: Reports this month continue to indicate that Vazquez will retire.  The 35-year-old would be finishing on a high note.
  • Tim Wakefield: He told John A. Torres of Florida Today that retirement is possible, though the knuckleballer hopes to return to the Red Sox.

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