April 2012

Quick Hits: Young, Cook, Dodgers, Cashman, Beltran

It was on this day in 1956 that Frank Robinson hit his first Major League home run, en route to 586 career homers and a legacy as one of baseball's all-time greats.  Today, the Orioles are honoring Robinson with a statue at Camden Yards that will be unveiled before tonight's game with the A's.

Some notes from around the Majors…

  • The Reds have made it a priority to establish a strong bond with their fans — and hopefully increase attendance — by retaining popular players like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips, explains Tyler Kepner of the New York Times.
  • Former Expos/Nationals closer Chad Cordero told reporters, including Bill Ladson of MLB.com, that he'd like to make a comeback next season (Twitter link).
  • Delmon Young could be activated from the Tigers' restricted list by Tuesday or possibly even Monday night depending on the outcome of his evaluation by a counselor on Monday, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told reporters, including Chris Iott of MLive.com.  If Young is judged to require treatment for anger management and/or alcohol abuse, however, he would be sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time.
  • Bobby Valentine told reporters (including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford) that the Red Sox are considering using Aaron Cook as a reliever.  Cook can opt out of his contract if he is not called up to Boston's Major League roster by May 1 and the Sox have no clear spot for Cook in the rotation.  Cook has made just one relief appearance in the last eight seasons but recently said he's open to the idea.
  • There's no language in Cook's contract that would preclude a trade, notes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, although he adds there's no reason to think the Red Sox would want to do that (via Twitter).
  • The sale of the Dodgers to the Magic Johnson/Stan Kasten/Mark Walter ownership group is expected to be closed by Monday, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
  • "This is a massive decision gone wrong right now," Yankees GM Brian Cashman told ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews in regards to the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero deal and Pineda's subsequent season-ending shoulder injury.  "So all scrutiny is fair….Our fans are right to be upset about this. I'm devastated by it," Cashman said.
  • Besides the Cardinals, Carlos Beltran said the Indians pursued him the hardest in the offseason, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (via Twitter).  Beltran said he ultimately chose to sign with St. Louis because he wanted to play for the World Series champions and remain in the National League.
  • The Brewers have transferred Chris Narveson to the 60-day DL and called up reliever Vinnie Chulk to take Narveson's spot on the 40-man roster, the team announced via TwitterMike McClendon was optioned to Triple-A in another corresponding move.  Narveson will undergo shoulder surgery on Tuesday that will sideline him for the rest of the 2012 season.

MLBTR's Dan Mennella contributed to this post.

Trade Candidate: Erik Bedard

Uspw_6215474Few could have foreseen Erik Bedard's relatively disappointing career arc after his brilliant breakout campaign as an Oriole in 2007. The left-hander was worth 5.4 WAR that year, striking out more than a batter per inning, and he finally seemed to have harnessed his nasty raw stuff in a way that would translate to a stretch of dominance.

But the cruel reality of injuries intervened in literally every season since then, reducing Bedard to that frustrating type of player who is effective during his fleeting stretches of relative health. Now with the Pirates after quietly signing a one-year contract with them as a free agent this offseason, Bedard is looking like a strong in-season trade candidate — with that all too familiar caveat: if he can stay healthy.

Such a trade would not be new territory for Bedard. Last season, the Red Sox acquired the southpaw from the Mariners in an interesting three-way swap that netted Seattle a decent prospect in outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Even within the context of that trade, Bedard showed his best and worse: He turned in several strong second-half outings for the Red Sox, but he also missed roughly three starts due to various injuries during the team's brutal September collapse. So, the upside is there, but so is the risk.

Bedard has gotten off to a decent start this season (he struck out nine in five innings during his start today), and more importantly, he's been healthy. If he can continue to take the hill every fifth day over the next month, Bucs GM Neal Huntington would be wise to start phoning starting-needy contenders, especially considering that Bedard's modest $4.5MM salary shouldn't be a deterrent for most suitors. The Yankees, for one, might fit that bill, depending upon how they handle their beleaguered rotation in the coming weeks.

Even if Bedard were to yield a medium or low probability prospect with a high upside — a la Robinson — it might be worth it for the rebuilding Pirates to pull the trigger during another season that surely won't end in a postseason berth.

Bobby Abreu Links: Angels, Wells, Trout, Yankees

Here's some of the fallout from last night's news that the Angels had released 17-year veteran Bobby Abreu….

  • There's already moderate interest in Abreu, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
  • Abreu doesn't have any hard feelings about his release, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.  “There’s not really any bitterness — it’s just a tough situation here,” Abreu said. “I’m going to wait and see what happens. I’m going to talk to my agent, make some calls, see who’s interested. I’m going to keep working and be ready.”
  • The Angels released the wrong player in dropping Abreu and keeping Vernon Wells, opines Fangraphs' Paul Swydan.  Abreu is set to earn $9MM in 2012 while Wells is owed $63MM through 2014 but Wells' contract is already "a sunk cost."  Swydan argues that Abreu is better suited for a pinch-hit role than Wells and, as a left-handed bat, Abreu brought balance to an otherwise right-handed Angels outfield.
  • The Angels' busy Friday (releasing Abreu, calling up Mike Trout and elevating Scott Downs to the closer's job over Jordan Walden) is a sign that the team is already feeling the pressure of high preseason expectations, writes ESPN Los Angeles' Mike Saxon.
  • Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog thinks the Yankees might have an interest in Abreu as at least a short-term fix while Brett Gardner is on the DL.  New York tried to acquire Abreu for A.J. Burnett in the offseason, before Burnett blocked the deal to avoid playing on the west coast.

This Date In Transactions History: Billy Martin

George Steinbrenner believed that April is not too soon to fire a manager, apparently. Because on this day in 1985, the late owner dismissed skipper — and Yankees legend — Yogi Berra after a sluggish 6-10 start, in favor of Billy Martin, another former Yankees great. Martin's intensity was in, and Berra's ease and charm was out.

Martin's hiring marked his fourth stint as Yankees manager — and there would later be a fifth, incredibly. But for all the on-again-off-again drama, the move worked. The notoriously fiery Martin reversed the Bombers' fortunes, guiding them to a 97-64 finish in the old AL East, although that was only good enough for a second-place finish behind the frontrunning Blue Jays, as the Wild Card(s) didn't exist back in that Stone Age. Subtract Berra's 6 wins and 10 losses from that final record, and you're left with an impressive 91 wins and 54 losses under Martin's stewardship — 37 games over .500.

Of course, we now know managers only influence their teams' records so much, excepting for absurd ineptitude, and it's worth mentioning that Martin had plenty of talent on his roster. The 1985 Bombers had a few star-caliber players in Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, as well as a handful of strong complementary types like Willie Randolph. The big three combined for 20.4 WAR, according to FanGraphs, while the pitching staff was led by Ron Guidry (5.1 WAR) and a strong bullpen.

Despite the relative turnaround, things didn't end well for the Yanks. Martin's confrontational style got the best of him during a disappointing September stretch run, when was involved in an off-field fight with pitcher Ed Whitson that resulted in Martin suffering a broken arm.

With his Yankees having fallen short of the postseason, Martin's antics were difficult for Steinbrenner to digest, and he was once again fired in the offseason. Of course, Martin would return again, in 1988, his final year as a manager before his death on Christmas Day in 1989.

Rosenthal On Dodgers, O’Malley, Cook, Angels

Here's the latest pair of video news updates from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports…

  • Even once their new ownership group takes over, the Dodgers "might not be as active at the trade deadline as a lot of people think."  While the team will now have the financial resources to absorb a big contract, the Dodgers' minor league system isn't very deep and they want to keep their few quality prospects. 
  • Peter O'Malley is "making a strong push" to buy the Padres and wants to have a deal arranged by the All-Star break.
  • The Nationals would've preferred to give Bryce Harper more minor league seasoning but their hand was forced due to their lack of production in left field, plus Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse going on the DL.
  • The Red Sox "aren't optimistic" they can convince Aaron Cook to stay put, as Cook is eager to pitch in the majors again.  The veteran right-hander can opt out of his contract on May 1 if he isn't called up to the Red Sox Major League roster before that date.  With Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront pitching well, Boston doesn't have a spot in the rotation for Cook unless, as Rosenthal notes, the club "does something" with Clay Buchholz.
  • Bobby Abreu is only the latest high-priced member of the Angels to have his contract eaten by the team under Arte Moreno's ownership.  The Halos have also let go of Kevin Appier, Scott Kazmir, Gary Matthews Jr. and Justin Speier in recent years, and those four plus Abreu amounted to around $60MM in dead money.  This doesn't mean that the Angels will release Vernon Wells, however, as Wells' contract alone would cost the team more than those five players combined; counting this year, Wells is set to earn $63MM through the 2014 season.

2013 Vesting Options Update

As the calendar gets ready to flip over to May, let's check in on the players who have vesting options for the 2013 season…

  • Jason Bartlett, Padres – $5.5MM option vests with 432 plate appearances. Bartlett currently has 61 PA and has come to the plate at least 432 times in each of the last five seasons.
  • Alex Gonzalez, Brewers – $4MM option vests with 525 PA. Gonzalez has 66 PA at the moment and has eclipsed 525 PA in both 2010 and 2011.
  • Kevin Gregg, Orioles – $6MM option vest with 50 games finished. Gregg has finished three games this season but is a release candidate given his poor performance (7.94 ERA).
  • Brett Myers, Astros – $10MM option vests based on unknown starting or relieving milestones.

Chipper Jones has an option worth $9MM+ that will vest with 123 games played, but he's already rendered the option moot by announcing his plans to retire after the season. Chipper has played in a dozen of the Braves' first 20 games.

Poll: What’s Next For Bobby Abreu?

Having lost five in a row and eight of their last ten games, the Angels remade their roster a bit last night by releasing Bobby Abreu and calling up top prospect Mike Trout. Trout will play everyday as the team hopes he injects some life into their season, but Abreu’s situation is a little less rosy.

The 38-year-old outfielder/DH was hitting just .208/.259/.333 in 27 plate appearances before being cut loose. Although his power output has steadily declined with age, Abreu still offers one of the game’s best batting eyes and has stolen at least 20 bases every year since 1998. Abreu also has a track record of durability, having played in no fewer than 140 games every season since breaking into the league full-time. His ability to hit left-handed pitching has disappeared later in his career, and defense was never his strong suit.

The Halos are on the hook for Abreu’s $9MM salary, less the pro-rated portion of the league minimum if another team signs him to a Major League contract. He was vocal about his dislike for his reduced role, and the Angels were “trying feverishly” to trade him at the outset of the season. They appeared to have a taker in the Indians before the deal fell apart. Now that he’s available on the open market for the most minimal of costs, what does the future hold for Abreu?

Diamondbacks Option Albaladejo To Triple-A

The Diamondbacks have optioned Jonathan Albaladejo to Triple-A according to the team's transactions page. Arizona had designated the right-hander for assignment earlier this week, though his unique optional waivers situation keeps him on the 40-man roster. It's a procedural move similar to what the Athletics and Jerry Blevins went through multiple times last season.

Albaladejo, 29, allowed two hits in an inning of work last week, his only appearance of the season. He spent last season with the Yomiuri Giants and prior to that he had pitched for the Yankees and Nationals. Albaladejo owns a 4.10 ERA in 74 2/3 career innings and was part of the trade that sent Tyler Clippard to Washington five years ago.

Quick Hits: Abreu, Dodgers, Padres, Harper

Friday Night Links..

  • There doesn't seem to be any natural fit for Bobby Abreu now that the Indians have Johnny Damon, tweets Buster Olney of ESPN.com.  Scouts don't think that the veteran can play in the outfield anymore and might have to start out in Triple-A.
  • Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter) says that Abreu would not fit with the Dodgers or any other National League team except as a pinch hitter and he can't play defense regularly.
  • The O’Malley group has signed documents to gain access to the Padres' financial information and apparently has raised sufficient equity to buy the club, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  It appears that the group values the club at less than half of the Dodgers’ $2.15 billion sale price, and perhaps significantly less.
  • The Nationals' promotion of Bryce Harper looks like a panic move to Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) rather than a well thought-out developmental plan.

Angels Release Bobby Abreu

The Angels announced that they have released veteran Bobby Abreu.  The outfielder was in the final season of his three-year contract extension with the Halos and is set to make $9MM.

The move will help pave the way for the promotion of Mike Trout, who is on his way from Triple-A, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).  Manager Mike Scioscia says that Trout "will play", DiGiovanna tweets, while MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez tweets that it seems that the 20-year-old will play everyday.

The slugger has been outspoken about his reduced role with the club since the offseason and there has been a great deal of speculation that his tenure with the Angels was coming to an end.  The 38-year-old was said to be warming up to his backup role at the start of the season but Jerry Dipoto & Co. were said to be "feverishly" shopping him.

The Halos appeared to have a taker for Abreu in late March when they had advanced discussions with the Indians.  The deal apparently fell apart over how much of Abreu's $9MM salary would be covered by the Angels.