March 2012

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Rays Place Matt Bush On Restricted List

The Rays placed former first overall selection Matt Bush on the restricted list, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune tweets. The move creates 40-man roster space for Tampa Bay.

Bush was arrested for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident earlier this spring. The 26-year-old spent last season at Double-A, posting a 4.83 ERA with 13.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 50 1/3 innings of relief. The Padres selected him first overall in 2004.

Players on the restricted list do not count toward a team's 25-man or 40-man roster. They do not accrue service time and they don't always get paid.



Braves Sign Livan Hernandez

2:25pm: The deal guarantees Hernandez $750K, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.

1:56pm: The Braves will sign Livan Hernandez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. The agreement, a one-year Major League deal, comes hours after the Astros released the veteran right-hander. The Braves have announced the signing.

Even with Tim Hudson sidelined on the disabled list, it seemed as though the Braves would have more than enough starting pitching this year. However, neither Randall Delgado nor Julio Teheran seized the fifth starter's job.

Hernandez posted a 4.47 ERA with 5.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 42.4% ground ball rate in 175 1/3 innings for the 2011 Nationals. The 37-year-old Praver/Shapiro client has averaged 216 innings and a 4.44 ERA since 1998, his first full season as a big league starter, and has completed at least 175 innings in each of the past 14 seasons. He earned $1.25MM in 2011.



Knobler On Inge, Donald, Jimenez

The latest rumors from Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (all links go to Twitter)...

  • The Tigers have tried hard to interest the Phillies in Brandon Inge without much success. Inge offers steady defense at third and has been learning second base this spring, but he earns $5.5MM in 2012.
  • The Phillies tried to re-acquire utility player Jason Donald from the Indians, but Cleveland preferred to keep him. The Phillies drafted Donald in 2006 and sent him to Cleveland in the 2009 Cliff Lee trade.
  • Teams inquired on Ubaldo Jimenez this spring, but the Indians don’t have interest in moving him, either.
  • Scouts are watching Diamondbacks left-hander Mike Zagurski, since there’s a sense the Diamondbacks might trade him.



Indians Near Extension With Asdrubal Cabrera

The Indians and Asdrubal Cabrera are on the verge of a two-year extension worth $16.5MM that would cover the 2013-2014 seasons, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

Cabrera, who is represented by Octagon, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.55MM this offseason. This new contract would buy out his final year of arbitration eligibility as well as one free agent season.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, batting .273/.332/.460 with a career-high 25 home runs and 17 stolen bases. Cabrera has made several notable highlight defensive plays over the past few seasons, but Ultimate Zone Rating hasn't been a fan of his defense at shortstop, pegging him at -12.6 runs below average per 150 games in 2011.

When examining Cabrera's extension candidacy this offseason (prior to his arbitration settlement), MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggested a four-year, $27MM would make sense for both sides. If the extension goes through at $16.5MM, Tim's $6.75MM average annual value would be close, though for one fewer year; the Indians would control Cabrera for three years at $21.05MM -- slightly more than $7MM per season.



Offseason In Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates locked up star center fielder Andrew McCutchen and added some decent veterans to the infield and rotation.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

  • Andrew McCutchen, CF: six years, $51.5MM. Includes a $14.5MM club option for 2018 with a $1MM buyout.

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Pirates GM Neal Huntington did his usual tinkering during the offseason, but he accomplished his biggest goal in March by locking up McCutchen potentially through 2018.  The Pirates acquired two of McCutchen's free agent years with an option for a third, also saving money on his arbitration years.  They gave McCutchen the same guarantee Justin Upton and Jay Bruce received, and the only contract of the three with a pair of club options, despite McCutchen's superior bulk credentials.  The team's timing was excellent, as McCutchen improved defensively last year and would have required more money had they waited.  I know there were intangible benefits to McCutchen's contract, but I'm mostly concerned with the value side, and the Pirates did well.

At 5.63 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011, the Pirates' rotation ranked last in the National League.  To remedy that deficiency, Huntington imported a pair of starters who were hot commodities four or five years ago in Bedard and Burnett.  The Pirates essentially gave Maholm's money to Bedard, likely trading innings for performance.  Bedard's shoulder surgeries have made him a comeback favorite for many years, but he actually didn't have to spend this offseason rehabbing an injury.  If the 33-year-old can find a way to provide 180 innings for the first time since '07, the Pirates will have found a huge bargain without risking much.

Before the Burnett trade pursuit began in earnest, Huntington placed multiple bids on free agent starter and Scott Boras client Edwin Jackson.  Jackson reportedly spurned a three-year offer from the Pirates in the $30MM range, as well as a one-year proposal worth less than $11MM.  Like many Boras clients, Jackson became focused on the idea of taking a one-year deal and re-entering the market after a year.  Three years wasn't his goal, and the Pirates didn't offer the largest one-year pact.  The Pirates don't have confederate money -- they simply didn't make Jackson the best offer.

By late February, Huntington found a suitable alternative in Burnett.  The Yankees were probably desperate to unload him, especially with private knowledge that Andy Pettitte would join the crowded rotation. In a reversal of roles the Yankees dumped two years and $13MM worth of Burnett's contract on the Pirates for a couple of non-prospects.  Burnett's Pirates debut will unfortunately be delayed due to a freak Spring Training injury, but the logic behind the acquisition was sound.  Burnett can provide innings and strikeouts with a touch of upside, at the reasonable cost of two years and $13MM.

Low-strikeout Pirates starters such as Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, and Kevin Correia will benefit from the addition of Barmes, one of the game's best defensive shortstops.  Barmes replaces Cedeno, who is something of a defensive enigma.  Barmes anchors a Pirates infield that will otherwise be populated by average or below-average defenders.

After throwing to eight different catchers in 2011, Pirates pitchers will also enjoy the consistency of having Barajas and Mike McKenry behind the plate.  Barajas will provide his usual blend of average defense, poor on-base skills, and some power.  Huntington hopes McLouth will rediscover some of the 2007-08 magic with a return to his original team.

The Bucs traded a quality reliever in Veras, but McGehee's right-handed stick pairs well with Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez at the infield corners.  Veras was a hard-throwing minor league signee with control problems a year ago, just as Juan Cruz is now.  The Pirates pen retains plenty of strikeout artists and could be a solid in 2012, especially if Evan Meek is fully recovered from last year's shoulder injury.

The Pirates had a decent offseason, though I'm not sure the 2012 team will be above-average at anything.  Rather than expecting to finish what they started over the first four months of 2011, a more realistic plan is to tread water until the farm system produces star-caliber players to surround McCutchen.



Giants To Release Mike Fontenot

The Giants have placed infielder Mike Fontenot on release waivers, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). The Giants agreed to terms with the arbitration-eligible Fontenot on a one-year, $1.05MM deal this offseason, and they'll save three quarters of that sum by cutting ties with him today.

Fontenot posted a .227/.304/.377 line in 252 plate appearances at second base, shortstop and third base last year. The Fielding Bible Volume III suggests Fontenot provides adequate defense around the infield. He'll obtain approximately $250K in termination pay from the Giants. Teams like the Phillies and Rangers could have interest in signing the 31-year-old.



Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Beane, Dodgers, Braves

On this date in 1993, Charlie Brown hit a game-winning homer off the great-granddaughter of Roy Hobbs. She claims to have let him hit the homer though, perhaps in an attempt to save face. It was his first dinger in 43 years. Charles Schulz created nearly 18,000 Peanuts cartoons, but Charlie didn't hit more than a handful of homers. Here's the latest from around the web...

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here. Only one email per week, please.



Astros Release Livan Hernandez

The Astros announced that they have released right-hander Livan Hernandez. The Astros had signed Hernandez to a minor league deal in January and would have owed the Praver/Shapiro client $100K if they had placed him on the Opening Day roster.

Hernandez posted a 4.47 ERA with 5.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 42.4% ground ball rate in 175 1/3 innings for the 2011 Nationals. The 37-year-old has averaged 216 innings and a 4.44 ERA since 1998, his first full season as a big league starter, and has completed at least 175 innings in each of the past 14 seasons. He earned $1.25MM in 2011.



Angels Notes: Abreu, Isringhausen

The Dodgers have generated most of the L.A.-related news this week, but there's plenty going on with the area's second team. Here are some updates regarding the Angels...

  • The Bobby Abreu trade appears to be dead or on hold, as the Angels have the veteran in today’s lineup, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears the deal fell apart (Twitter link). The Angels had discussed a trade that would have sent Abreu to the Indians.
  • Jason Isringhausen has made the Angels’ Opening Day roster, DiGiovanna reports. Isringhausen, who signed a minor league deal with the Angels last month, had also seriously contemplated retirement. The Angels will pay Isringhausen $650K in 2012.



La Russa To Join MLB

Longtime manager Tony La Russa will join Major League Baseball as a special advisor, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (Twitter link). La Russa's deal, which has yet to be announced, will pay him approximately $2.5MM annually.

La Russa announced his retirement soon after leading the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship. The former White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals skipper ranks third all-time in wins as a manager. There were rumblings that the 67-year-old might replace Joe Torre, another former player and manager, as MLB's executive VP for baseball operations. Torre ultimately rejoined MLB after pursuing ownership of the Dodgers.


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