December 2012

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Roberto Clemente: A Remembrance

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk paid tribute to Roberto Clemente who lost his life 40 years ago today in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico. Clemente was on a mission of mercy delivering emergency supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. David Maraniss, in his biography Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball‘s Last Hero, wrote, "The mythic aspects of baseball...usually draw on cliches of the innocent past. (Clemente's myth) arcs the other way, to the future, not the past, to what people hope they can become." (h/t Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). Here are more remembrances of the first Latin American inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

  • David Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes Pirates' second baseman Neil Walker can thank Clemente for being born. Tom Walker, Neil's father, was a pitcher for the Expos and wanted to accompany his friend Clemente on that fateful flight. Clemente told Tom Walker to go enjoy New Year's Eve instead.
  • FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi tweeted a quote from Tom Walker, "If there had been 6 seats on the plane I would have gone. There were 5."
  • Alfredo R. Berrios of ESPNDeportes.com offers his own recollections of that night in 1972 and those of other Latin American sportswriters and sportscasters who covered Clemente.
  • Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today discusses Clemente's impact throughout Latin America. Ortiz adds Clemente's athletic legacy may have waned in Puerto Rico, but his dignity and devotion to those less fortunate continues to resonate. 
  • Jim Lachimia, in a special to MLB.com, spoke with Roberto Clemente Jr. about his father.
  • MLB Network has posted a video, hosted by Bob Costas, paying respect to Clemente's life and the lives he impacted in baseball and around the world.



Quick Hits: Royals, Stanton, Draft, Mets, Nationals

Earlier tonight, the Royals announced the signing of Miguel Tejada to a minor league contract. Whether or not the deal includes an invitation to Spring Training will be announced at a later date, the Royals said in a release. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star tweeted the addition of Tejada could make Tony Abreu or Irving Falu expendable. Dutton added Falu has options remaining while Abreu doesn't (Twitter link). As the East Coast drops the ball on 2013, let's enjoy another round of MLB news and notes: 

  • Dutton projects the Royals' payroll to be in neighborhood of $83MM and it's hard for him to see it go much higher (via Twitter). The Royals could free up some salary by moving Luke Hochevar or Bruce Chen, but Dutton doesn't sense any urgency from the club to move either one. Another possibility, although less likely, is Chris Getz (Twitter links).
  • The Mariners have contacted the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. However, one source Morosi spoke with doubts a trade will occur. 
  • Baseball America's Jim Callis has updated the 2013 amateur draft order. There are four potential compensation free agents remaining on the market (Michael BournAdam LaRocheKyle Lohse, and Rafael Soriano). If they change addresses, their former club will get a pick at the end of the first round and their new team will forfeit their top choice (unless it's one of the top 10 overall).
  • Within the same piece, Callis remains surprised the Mets were able to obtain Noah Syndergaard from the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade. By adding Travis d'Arnaud and Syndergaard, which Callis projects as the Mets' second and third best prospects, the club has boosted their farm system into the top 20.
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post listed the Nationals posting the best record in baseball as the club's top storyline in 2012.



AL East Notes: Yankees, Pimentel, Santos, Orioles

It was on this day in 1974 that the first real "free agent" signing in modern baseball history was made by (who else?) the Yankees when they inked Catfish Hunter to a five-year, $3.75MM deal.  Hunter was freed from his previous contract with the A's after an arbitrator ruled that the club has breached the terms of the right-hander's deal, thus paving the way for Hunter to sign with New York.  The deal was a record for its time, as Hunter was earning three times as much money as any other Major League player.

Here are some items from around the AL East...

  • The Yankees have learned several lessons in 2012 including Alex Rodriguez is less dependable than ever and their fiscal cliff is real, according to LoHud.com's Chad Jennings.
  • Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel was part of the trade package the Red Sox sent to the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan deal.  WEEI.com's Alex Speier looks at Pimentel's career arc and wonders if his departure could signal a change in how the Sox value their prospects in terms of their trade value.
  • Sergio Santos spent almost all of the 2012 season on the DL but his ability to provide depth at closer will be a major factor in the Blue Jays' playoff drive in 2013, writes Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star.  Santos was expected to be the Jays' closer last year but Casey Janssen stepped into the job and performed well, making him the incumbent late-game choice heading into next season.  Griffin thinks Santos will be the choice to take over the job if he stays healthy, though I don't see the Jays making a switch unless Janssen struggles.  Just a reminder that you can keep track of all the closer news on MLBTR's sister Twitter feed @CloserNews.
  • If the Nationals re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche but miss out on free agent southpaw J.P. Howell, MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko suggests that the Nats and Orioles could match up on a trade.  In Kolko's proposed deal, the O's would send one of their several left-handed relief options to Washington as part of a package in exchange for Michael Morse, who would be expendable for the Nats if LaRoche was back in the fold.
  • In other AL East news from earlier today, we learned the Rays are in the market for more relief pitching.

Edward Creech contributed to this post.



Phillies Notes: Halladay, Kendrick, Hairston, Stanton

The Phillies saw their streak of five consecutive NL East titles ended by the Nationals in 2012. But, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes there is optimism since the Phillies won 60% of their games after July 31 despite the health issues of Roy Halladay and Carlos Ruiz, trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and not having a reliable setup man for Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies, however, enter the new year with several question marks which Zolecki says centers around the health of Halladay and Chase Utley, the continued recovery of Ryan Howard, and how much offense new acquistions Michael Young and Ben Revere will contribute. For more news and notes on the Phillies, Zolecki opened his inbox

  • Zolecki, when asked about the health of Halladay, quoted GM Ruben Amaro Jr. who recently said, "He's going to start throwing off the mound here very shortly. I guess he's working down there with Kyle Kendrick pretty extensively. He's doing well, but we don't know what kind of Doc we're going to get until Doc's down firing in Spring Training."
  • Speaking of Kendrick, Zolecki believes he's a lock for the starting rotation as long as he remains healthy.
  • Scott Hairston would be the best fit to fill one of the corner outfield vacancies. Zolecki notes the Phillies have tried to acquire Hairston in the past. Zolecki also mentioned Alfonso Soriano, who he thinks would slot in nicely hitting behind Utley and Howard.
  • If the Phillies acquire a right-handed outfield bat, look for Darin Ruf to open the season at Triple-A.
  • The Phillies don't have have enough top-tier talent to tempt the Marlins into trading Giancarlo Stanton to the City of Brotherly Love.



Royals Agree To Sign Miguel Tejada

The Royals have announced, via Twitter, the signing of infielder Miguel Tejada to a minor league contract. Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press, who first reported the agreement, has been told by both Tejada and his agent it is a MLB deal and the contract is worth $1.1MM plus $400K in performance bonuses (all Twitter links). ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas reports the deal will be converted to a Major League contract as soon as there is an opening on the Royals' 40-man roster (Twitter link in Spanish). Rojas also tweeted (link in Spanish) that Tejada told ESPNDeportes.com he's been given guarantees by the Royals he will make the team as a utilityman and second baseman.

"I'm very pleased with this. The contract with the Royals is a done deal. I'm going to try to help this team and their younger players. I'm so happy because this is what I was aiming for, a chance to get back to the majors," Tejada told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Tejada signed a minor league contract with the Orioles last May. The 38-year-old requested his release after appearing in 36 games at Triple-A Norfolk with a slash line of .259/.325/.296 covering 151 plate appearances. Tejada last appeared at the MLB level with the Giants in 2011 posting a .239/.270.326 hitting line before being released.

The Diamondbacks and Marlins had also shown interest in the SFX client this offseason.



Quick Hits: Red Sox, Indians, Perez, Eaton

It was on this day 40 years ago that the baseball world lost one of its greatest stars.  Following a massive earthquake that devastated the country of Nicaragua, Roberto Clemente helped organize a relief effort for victims of the disaster and accompanied one of the aid packages on its flight on New Year's Eve 1972 to ensure that the goods reached the proper hands.  Tragically, Clemente's flight crashed off the shore of Puerto Rico, costing the Pirates superstar his life at the age of 38.  Clemente was posthumously honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal and a Congressional Gold Medal by then-president Richard Nixon and the U.S. Congress, and given immediate entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as the BBWAA waived its usual five-year waiting period.

Here are some news items as we pay tribute to Clemente and look ahead to 2013...

  • Counting arbitration raises and the $13MM they have tentatively agreed to pay Mike Napoli, the Red Sox 2013 payroll will almost exactly match the club's 2012 payroll, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
  • Speaking of arb raises, you can follow all of the arbitration cases and settlements on MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, which has now been updated with the salaries of players who have already come to agreements.
  • The Indians have "liked" Jason Kubel dating back to his days with the Twins, so Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer figures the Tribe probably discussed Kubel in their previous negotiations with the Diamondbacks this winter.  Hoynes doesn't think the Indians should deal Asdrubal Cabrera for Kubel (a reader's suggestion) but he agrees that Cleveland could use Kubel's power.
  • Also from Hoynes' reader mail piece, he thinks the Indians will take care of other business before considering re-signing Travis Hafner, and that Chris Perez will return in 2013 unless the Tribe gets "a big return" in a trade for the closer.
  • Kubel isn't a fit for the Mets and the team doesn't have the prospect depth to get Justin Upton, but Michael Baron of Metsblog.com wonders if the Mets could make a play for another Diamondbacks outfielder in Adam Eaton.  While I agree that Eaton would be a good fit for the Amazins, it would take a lot to convince Arizona to part such a talented, controllable player.
  • Peter Moylan appears to have little chance of returning to the Braves, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as GM Frank Wren said the team's bullpen was set after trading for Jordan Walden.  Moylan has a career 2.59 ERA over seven seasons with Atlanta but has appeared in just 21 games over the last two seasons due to a lower back injury and rotator cuff surgery.  The right-hander was non-tendered by the Braves in October.
  • FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi lists the Padres, Orioles, Yankees and seven other teams who still have significant roster holes to fill in January.  In a seperate list, Morosi names his top 10 baseball newsmakers of the past year.



The Key "Non-Moves" Of 2012

As the cliche goes, sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make.  Some teams greatly benefited by standing pat on certain trades or signings during the past year while others may have hurt their prospects for the 2012 season and beyond by not striking when the iron was hot.  Here is a list of some of the most intriguing non-moves (the good and the bad) of 2012...

* Giants don't sign Tim Lincecum to a long-term extension.  San Francisco signed five of their biggest stars to multiyear extensions last offseason, handing out five-year deals to Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, a three-year deal to Pablo Sandoval and two-year contracts to Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong.  As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith pointed out in August, four of those deals already look like winners for the Giants, especially given the club's World Series victory two months later.  The one exception was Lincecum's two-year, $40.5MM contract, which suddenly looked like a mistake given how Lincecum struggled in 2012, though "the Freak" seemed to rediscover his form pitching out of the bullpen in the postseason. 

While Lincecum's $22MM salary in 2013 is a short-term concern, the Giants may have escaped larger pain given how they were exploring longer-term, nine-figure contracts with the two-time Cy Young winner last offseason.  Lincecum's stated preference for short-term deals may cost him millions unless he rebounds next year.  If he doesn't, then the Giants can part ways with Lincecum and free up payroll space for another acquisition or for extending Buster Posey.

* Reds don't move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation.  It's always been a matter of when, not if, the Reds would shift Chapman to starting pitching to see if his electric arsenal would translate into being a staff ace.  There were hints Chapman would make the room last spring, but after Ryan Madson underwent Tommy John surgery and was lost for the season, the Reds kept Chapman in the bullpen and eventually slotted him into the closer's job.  The rest was history.  Chapman delivered one of the most phenomenal seasons by a closer in baseball history (1.51 ERA, 5.3 K/BB ratio and 122 strkeouts in 71 2/3 innings) and the Cincinnati rotation didn't miss him, as the Reds' durable five starters combined to make 161 of 162 possible starts. 

One can't help but wonder, however, that the Reds might've gotten further than the NLDS if Chapman had been a starter and delivered anything close to his relief performance.  Now that Cincinnati has re-signed Jonathan Broxton, it looks like we'll finally see Chapman as a starting pitcher in 2013.

* Pirates don't sign Mark Appel.  The Stanford right-hander was considered to be a candidate for the first overall pick of the 2012 amateur draft but fell to the Pirates at #8, possibly due to the expected salary demands from Appel and adviser Scott Boras.  As you would expect, the lower draft standing didn't lower Appel's price tag and the Bucs weren't able to reach an agreement with Appel by the signing deadline, which Boras blamed on a lack of dialogue between Appel and the Pirates before the draft. 

This was the first high-profile instance of the collective bargaining agreement's new draft signing rules coming into play.  Pittsburgh could've gone over slot to sign Appel without any penalty in past years (as ESPN's Keith Law pointed out) whereas under the new rules, the Pirates would've risked losing future draft picks for exceeding their draft cap to sign Appel.  The end result is that Appel will again be one of the top prospects heading into next year's draft, and the Pirates will receive the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft (considered by some pundits to be a relatively weak class) as compensation for not signing Appel last summer.  Taking the risk on Appel left the Pirates without a top prospect for the year, a setback for an organization that needs as much blue-chip talent as possible.

* Rays don't trade pitching depth before or during the 2012 season.  The Rays finished three games out of a wild card spot in 2012, a deficit that could've been surmountable if Carlos Pena hadn't been a bust or if Evan Longoria hadn't spent three months on the DL.  Still, Tampa Bay could also have upgraded its offense by dealing from its surplus of starting pitching but the team instead chose to stand pat.  You can't blame the Rays for being cautious given how valuable their trove of controllable young arms are, especially given how the Rays' financial situation requires them to get as much value as they can out of a talented player.  You wonder if their close call in 2012 prompted their big move for 2013, as Tampa pulled the trigger earlier this month on the blockbuster trade that sent James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals in exchange for four prospects, headlined by the highly-touted Wil Myers

* Diamondbacks keep Justin Upton.  We're entering our third calendar year of Upton trade rumors and the D'Backs are seemingly no closer to dealing their talented right fielder.  They're in no particular rush (Upton is contracted through the 2015 campaign) though the longer the Snakes wait, the more other teams may question if there's something to Arizona's apparent lack of belief in Upton's ability or makeup.  Upton's good-but-not-great 2012 season (a .785 OPS) lessened his trade value slightly and if he puts up similar numbers next year, he could be seen as something less than a truly elite player, which will again lessen Arizona's return in a potential deal. 

If the D'Backs really had doubts about Upton, they perhaps should've dealt him even before the 2012 season when his value was at its peak, as now they're left with a player who is having to play under the cloud of these rumors.  For instance, the Rangers have refused to deal either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to the D'Backs in possible Upton trades, and you suspect Texas would've moved either player for Upton had Arizona made their offer in spring of 2012.

* Phillies keep Cliff Lee after the Dodgers claim him on waivers.  Money was no object to the Dodgers in their quest to improve their team, including putting in a claim on Cliff Lee when the southpaw was on waivers in August.  The Phillies pulled Lee back, a decision that over two-thirds of readers disagreed with in an MLBTR poll shortly after the Dodgers made the claim.  Lee is guaranteed $87.5MM through 2015, a total that includes a $12.5MM buyout option for 2016 (the 2016 option vests for $27.5MM if Lee hits certain innings totals and is healthy), which is a major commitment for a pitcher who turns 35 next season. 

While Lee is still effective, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is already facing a bloated payroll filled with several aging, seemingly declining players.  Letting the Dodgers take Lee wouldn't have necessarily triggered a rebuild, but rather allowed Philadelphia to reload on fresh talent to contend next season.  It would've been tough for Amaro to let go of an ace for nothing but the payroll relief could've helped the Phillies beyond just next year.  This particular move will be revisited and discussed quite a bit if the Phils and/or Lee struggle in 2013.

* Padres keep Chase Headley.  The third baseman was having a very good year in 2012 that didn't really become great until after the July trade deadline has passed.  Headley was the subject of many rumors heading into the deadline and had a .791 OPS on July 31.  Once it was confirmed that he was still a Padre, Headley exploded with a 1.020 OPS in his final 57 games, finishing with a career-best 31 homers and a .286/.376/.498 line for the season. 

Headley is a Super Two player with two more years of arbitration-eligibility left and while an extension may be unlikely this winter, San Diego's new ownership group has been eager to show that they can afford to keep star players from leaving.  The Padres could lock up Headley and keep a rare star who has shown he can hit at Petco Park, or they could still explore trading him now that his value is at its highest.  Either way, it looks like the Friars made a smart move by hanging onto Headley at the deadline.

* Cubs keep Matt Garza.  This may have been a non-move that was forced by circumstance, rather than a conscious decision by the Cubs to stand pat.  Garza was the subject of many rumors heading into last July's trade deadline and he may well been dealt had he not suffered a stress reaction in his pitching elbow in late July, an injury that sidelined him for the last two months of the season.  Garza has begun throwing again and says he will be ready for Opening Day.  If he's healthy, the trade winds will undoubtedly again swirl around Wrigley Field as Garza is just a year away from free agency. 

The Cubs will get lesser value for Garza now or in July than they would've last year (when Garza was still controllable for a full year and two months) but one wonders if the club will look to move Garza at all.  The signing of Edwin Jackson was a sign that the rebuilding Cubs may be looking to contend sooner rather than later, and if Garza is healthy and effective in early 2013, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer could look to extend the righty.  A trade would only be pursued if Garza indicates that he wouldn't be willing to re-sign, or the Cubs could simply trade Garza at the deadline and then try to bring him back in free agency. 


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Los Angeles Notes: Dodgers, Angels, Federowicz, Wells

"The Los Angeles Dodgers ushered in 2012 with a divorce settlement," writes Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles in his recap of the busy year at Chavez Ravine, as the team's "year of courting" with its disillusioned fanbase grew to resemble "some obscene Hollywood wedding."

Here's the latest news on both the Dodgers and Angels...

  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has always preferred to have a veteran backup catcher, which is why Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times wouldn't be surprised to see the team add an older backstop to compete with Tim Federowicz for the backup job behind A.J. Ellis.  Federowicz, 25, has a .781 OPS in 2008 minor league plate appearances but just 20 Major League PAs over the last two seasons.
  • The Angels don't have much backup outfield depth beyond Vernon Wells, writes Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.  Since the Halos will have to eat the large majority of Wells' contract in a trade anyway, Fletcher argues that the team should hold onto him to see if he can contribute anything as a reserve.
  • Between adding Josh Hamilton and addressing their biggest problem at the back of the bullpen, MLB.com's Richard Justice wonders if the Angels have done enough to now be considered World Series favorites.



Royals Sign Endy Chavez

The Royals have announced the signing of outfielder Endy Chavez to a minor league contract.  Chavez is represented by Peter E. Greenberg & Associates and is the third veteran outfielder the Royals have signed this month, following their minor league contracts with Xavier Nady and Willy Taveras

Chavez (who turns 35 in February) signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal with the Orioles last offseason and hit .203/.236/.278 in 169 plate appearances for Baltimore in 2012.  Chavez spent most his 64 games as a defensive replacement in left and right field and it's likely he'll fill a similar backup role in Kansas City.  On paper he fits as a left-handed hitting complement to Jeff Francoeur in right field, but Chavez's career .676 OPS against right-handed pitching is even less than Francoeur's much-maligned career numbers (.702 OPS) against righties.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report the signing, with ESPN's Jerry Crasnick adding that it was a minor league deal and that the Giants also had interest in Chavez's services (both links are to Twitter).



Marlins Not Interested In Dariel Alvarez, Aledmys Diaz

The Marlins have "zero interest" in Cuban prospects Dariel Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz, a source tells MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.  We heard earlier in the week that Miami's interest in Alvarez, a 24-year-old outfielder, was "lukewarm" at best and that the club wasn't planning to attend Alvarez's workout for scouts this Saturday.

The Marlins are often linked to players from Cuba and other Latin American countries with the reasoning that such players would be help attract fans from south Florida's large Hispanic population.  Last offseason, for instance, the Fish pursued Albert Pujols and Yoenis Cespedes before both players signed with the Angels and Athletics, respectively.  As Frisaro points out, however, the Marlins' current rebuilding process doesn't leave room for spending on international free agents.  It's unknown if Alvarez or Diaz will command the type of money that Cespedes got from the A's last winter, but they will both apparently be out of Miami's price range.

The two prospects were profiled last month by MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.  Diaz, a 22-year-old shortstop, is the more Major League-ready of the two and already has several teams interested in his services, Sanchez reported.  Diaz turns 23 on January 8 and at that age, he won't be subject to the CBA's guidelines for international signings.









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