September 2012

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Free Agent Stock Watch: Edwin Jackson

When the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson to a one-year, $11MM contract a few days before the start of Spring Training, it was widely considered to be one of the best free agent deals of the offseason. They had just added a workhorse starter with a 3.96 ERA from 2009-2011 to a staff that already included Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann. The pitching rich got richer.

Uspw_6510102Jackson, 29, is now scheduled to hit the free agent market for the second time in as many years. He dumped Scott Boras in favor of the Legacy Agency in July, perhaps an indication that he was unhappy with only getting a one-year contract. Jackson passed on a lucrative three-year offer from the Pirates to join a club that many believed was poised to break through and become a contender, a belief that proved to be true. But still, he didn't get a long-term deal.

This season has been similar to the last three for Jackson. He's pitched to a 4.13 ERA in 30 starts and 183 innings while keeping his walk rate down (2.8 BB/9), his ground ball rate up (47.2%), and enjoying a boost to his strikeout rate (8.0 K/9) after a full year in the NL. Jackson is limping to the finish though, as his ERA has jumped exactly half-a-run this month. He allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 1 1/3 innings last night, and has allowed at least four runs in four of his five September starts. His fastball velocity, which averaged 94-95 mph from 2007-2011, is suddenly more 92-94 these days.

One bad month usually isn't enough to sabotage a player's free agent stock, and Jackson will have the postseason to prove that September is just a poorly-timed slump. The free agent pitching market will be headlined by Zack Greinke, but Jackson leads a group of second-tier arms that will include Ryan Dempster, Hiroki Kuroda, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, and Anibal Sanchez. More than 3,500 MLBTR readers say the Nationals should make Jackson a qualifying offer (in the $13MM range) after the season, a move that frankly feels like a no-brainer. It'll entitle them to draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere, and in the worst case they get him back for another year.

Jackson is almost certainly going to seek the multi-year contract he was unable to land last offseason, and he should have no trouble finding suitors. Big market teams like the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, and Yankees could turn to him to supplement their rotations while smaller payroll clubs like the Pirates, Royals, Blue Jays, Indians, and Orioles figure to show interest as well. Pitching is always in high demand, especially when you're talking about a just turned 29-year-old who is right smack in the prime of his career.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.



Millwood Unsure About Future Plans

Kevin Millwood just wrapped up his 16th season as a big leaguer, but at this point he is unsure if he wants to continue playing next year. The 37-year-old right-hander told MLB.com's Greg Johns that he'll go home for the winter and decide on his future after spending some time with his family.

"I'm going to go home and just relax and play with my kids and see what happens, see how I feel and see what pops into my head," said Millwood. "I don't have any definite plans right now on next year, but I'm sure at some point in the offseason it'll hit me on what I want to do ... I started playing 10 days after I graduated from high school and this is what I've done for nearly 20 years. So all the sudden to not do it anymore would be a pretty big shock to the system."

Millwood admitted that he was more certain about his desire to continue playing at this time last year. He signed a minor league deal with the Mariners in January, then made the club out of Spring Training and pitched to a 4.25 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and a 44.7% ground ball rate in 28 starts and 161 innings. Millwood missed time with a groin strain in June while a sore shoulder ended his season about two weeks ago. Seattle still got a bargain considering his $1MM salary.

If he does decide to return next year, Millwood will likely have to settle for another low base salary minor league contract and again earn a rotation spot in Spring Training. He has played for four teams (Rangers, Orioles, Rockies, Mariners) in the last four years after lengthy stints with the Braves and in Texas earlier in his career.



Rosenthal On Indians, Tracy, Haren, Farrell

Here's a look at the latest Full Count from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports..

  • The Indians plans to entertain trade offers for Shin-Soo Choo, Justin Masterson, and others won't change if they hire Terry Francona as manager.  The Tribe doesn't have to shed payroll and their commitments for 2013 are minimal.  The idea of acquiring additional young talent would make sense anyway as Francona helped develop several young stars in Boston.  It's just another reason as to why Tito would almost certainly get a long-term contract.
  • There's only a 50/50 chance that Jim Tracy will return as the Rockies skipper, despite his "handshake agreement" for 2013.  With the Rockies' plan to hire Mark Wiley as the pitching coordinator, it may serve them to also get a pitching-minded manager.
  • The Angels much decide whether to exercise club options on Dan Haren ($15.5MM) and Ervin Santana ($13MM).  The Halos could decline both and make qualifying offers to both hurlers, putting them in position to potentially rake in draft pick compensation.  It would be something of a gamble to risk having one or both back one a one-year, ~$13MM deal, but neither pitcher would be overly tough to trade on a one-year pact.
  • Omar Vizquel's critical comments of John Farrell have shed light on what has become a tough situation in Toronto.  Farrell could be even more open to parting ways with the club and the Blue Jays might be on the same wavelength.  Rosenthal opines that the only thing left to sort out might be the club's compensation deal with the Red Sox.



Orioles Claim Steve Pearce Off Waivers

The Orioles announced that they have claimed Steve Pearce off of waivers from the Yankees.  The first baseman/outfielder was designated for assignment by the Yanks on Tuesday.

The move marks the second time that Pearce has gone from the Yankees to the Orioles in 2012.  The O's purchased the 29-year-old from New York in June and designated him for assignment in July.  The Astros claimed him shortly thereafter but traded him back to the Yankees a month later.

Pearce owns a .234/.309/.369 slash line across six big league seasons with a .266/.343/.464 line against left-handers.



Indians Will Interview Terry Francona Next Week

Terry Francona will interview for the Indians' managerial position either Wednesday or Thursday of next week, reports Nick Camino of WTAM 110 (on Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that Francona is "excited" for the opportunity (Twitter link).

The Indians dismissed manager Manny Acta a few days ago and Sandy Alomar Jr. is serving as his interim replacement. Francona has strong relationships with GM Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro following his 2001 stint with Cleveland as a special assistant to the GM. Rosenthal hears those relationships are an "overriding factor."

In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney says he doesn't believe Francona will end up managing the Tribe. His work with the Red Sox put him in an "elite salary class," perhaps upwards of $3MM annually, which may be too pricey for the Indians. Francona could also seek a job with a team closer to contention, though yesterday MLB.com's Peter Gammons said a comfortable environment could be more important at this stage of his career.



AL East Links: Hardy, Farrell, Blue Jays, Red Sox

The AL East is one of two divisions with a pair of 90-win teams (NL East is the other), but the Rays can make it three 90-win teams if they win four of their final five games. Here's the latest from Tampa Bay's division...

  • "I always said I signed that deal because I saw that there was potential with this team and organization," said Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy to Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com when asked about the three-year contract extension he signed last summer. "To be honest, I didn't think it was going to happen this quick. I saw a process that was headed in the right direction."
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports explains why the Blue Jays should trade manager John Farrell to the Red Sox for a Major League player this offseason. Boston is known to have managerial interest in their former pitching coach.
  • Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star lays out a five-step plan to help the Blue Jays improve going into next year. Unsurprisingly, one of the first steps is to secure a better starting rotation.
  • The Red Sox are on the verge of landing a protected first round draft pick, writes Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal. The bottom nine teams will have their first rounder protected from free agent compensation this offseason.



Minor Moves: Juan Gutierrez

We'll keep track of any minor transactions throughout the day right here...

  • The Royals have re-signed Juan Gutierrez according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy. The 29-year-old right-hander pitched to a 4.79 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 167 1/3 innings with the Diamondbacks from 2007-2011 while briefly serving as their closer. Gutierrez posted a 10.45 ERA in 20 2/3 minor league innings this year while battling injury. Kansas City originally signed him last December.

Also, rank the free agent catchers below from 1 to 12.

Click here to view the survey results.



Quick Hits: Peavy, Rizzo, Byrnes, Utley, Rockies

At the beginning of the season, it seemed farfetched that Jake Peavy would get another multi-year contract for 2013 and beyond, but that matter will soon be a front-burner issue for the White Sox, writes Buster Olney of ESPN.com.  It's hard to say what the 31-year-old might get on the open market as Olney notes that this time last year, few predicted that Mark Buehrle would land a four-year, $58MM contract from the Marlins.  The Dodgers, Cubs, Angels, and others will have money to spend this winter while the Royals are known to be looking for someone to anchor their rotation.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • The Nationals hold club options for 2014 and '15 on General Manager Mike Rizzo's contract, people familiar with the deal told Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post.  That effectively means that Rizzo has just one guaranteed year remaining with the club.  Kilgore writes that the GM may use the club's success as leverage to get yet another contract extension, but the Nats don't appear to be in a rush to get that done.
  • While Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes believes that the club will increase its payroll for next season, he cautioned that a good chunk of that will go to arbitration raises for Chase Headley, Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Will Venable, and others, writes Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com.  Byrnes also talked about what he learned in his time with the Diamondbacks and the evolution of Carlos Quentin over that span.
  • The Phillies have been toying with the idea of shifting Chase Utley to third base for the 2013 season, but GM Ruben Amaro is shutting the experiment down, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Now, the Phillies will likely have to turn to the open market for a solution at third, but there aren't a ton of appealing options in this year's free agent class.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland.com sat down with Rockies GM Bill Geivett for a lengthy discussion on the unique challenges faced by the club thanks to the altitude of their home ballpark.  The Rockies turned to a unique pitching experiment this season that will continue in 2013 and are looking into other ideas that could affect the way they build their roster going forward.



East Notes: Red Sox, Aviles, Vizquel, Guillen

Here's a look at the latest out of the AL and NL East..

  • Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles isn't thrilled about his reduced role but still hopes to remain in Boston next season, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.  Despite that, Aviles insists that he won't dwell too much on his baseball future as a great deal of his focus will remain on his family at home.
  • Blue Jays shortstop Omar Vizquel made it known earlier this summer that 2012 will be his final major league season and the 45-year-old hasn't had a change of heart.  The veteran reiterated today that he plans on retiring as a player effective Wednesday, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • In a session today with Spanish-language reporters, Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen opined that it would be unfair if he is dismissed after just one season at the helm in Miami, writes Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post.  Earlier this week, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote that Guillen's job appears to be in "serious peril".
  • Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told ESPN 98.7's Michael Kay that he wished he had listened to a particular piece of advice from former pitcher Al Leiter over the winter, writes Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.  Leiter later told Kay that his advice was to work to get pitcher Josh Beckett on his side as he can be difficult at times.  Beckett, of course, would later be a part of the club's massive payroll purge in their deal with the Dodgers.



This Date In Transactions History: Tim Salmon

Had MLBTradeRumors been in existence during Tim Salmon's strongest years, it's unlikely that you would have seen him featured prominently on the site.  For the most part, it was difficult to picture the outfielder known as Mr. Angel donning another uniform.  On this date in 2006, Salmon announced that he would end his career with the only franchise that he had ever known. 

Salmon quickly made a name for himself in the majors as he hit .283/.382/.536 with 31 homers in his first full season in 1993, earning AL Rookie of the Year honors with 100% of the first-place votes.  The right fielder didn't let up in the years that followed and finished seventh in MVP voting in both 1995 and 1997, seasons in which he posted an OPS of 1.024 and .911, respectively.  Injuries would limit Salmon to just 98 games in 1999 - his lowest total since becoming a full-time major leaguer - but he bounced back in spectacular fashion in 2000, matching his career-high of 34 home runs.

The strong season came at the tailend of his four-year, $16.5MM deal with the Halos.  The lifelong Angel wasn't short on suitors, but quickly chose to stay put with the Angels on a four-year, $40MM extension.  Salmon's 2001 regular season was somewhat forgettable and it stayed that way thanks to his strong bounceback in 2002, culminating in the Angels' 2002 World Series championship.

The veteran would later reach another crossroads in his career where he may have entertained the idea of playing elsewhere.  After missing all of 2005 thanks to a pair of significant surgeries, Salmon hooked on with the Angels in Spring Training with the hope of auditioning himself for other clubs.  However, the veteran's play earned him a spot with the club in 2006 in which he saw 54 games at DH with a handful of appearances in the outfield.  On September 28th, Salmon announced that he would call it a career after 14 big league seasons. 

On a day in which the Braves are paying tribute to their own longtime superstar, it seems fitting to also reflect on the career of another lifelong franchise pillar who plied his craft on the opposite coast.  While Chipper Jones' body of work is obviously quite different from Salmon's, it's rather remarkable that the outfielder never received an All-Star nomination throughout the course of his lengthy career.  However, he will always be remembered fondly by Angels fans for his power bat, his resilience in the face of multiple setbacks, and his instrumental role in the club's 2002 championship.









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