January 2013

Quick Hits: Diaz, Tatis, Rhodes, Dodgers

It's hard to top January 31 when it comes to notable baseball birthdays.  Three of the game's biggest legends were born on this day: Nolan Ryan (celebrating his 66th birthday), "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks (his 82nd) and the late Jackie Robinson, who was born in 1919 in Cairo, Georgia.  Here are some news items from around the majors as we head into February…

  • The Tigers have "mild interest" in Cuban shortstop prospect Aledmys Diaz, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports.  At least ten teams (including the Cardinals, Twins and Athletics) are known to be interested in Diaz, though Major League Baseball is is investigating whether Diaz is younger than his alleged age of 23 years old.
  • Also from Sipple, it seems as if the Tigers will keep Jhonny Peralta, despite some trade rumors surrounding the shortstop this winter.
  • The Orioles watched left-hander Arthur Rhodes throw today at Camden Yards, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter link).  The 43-year-old Rhodes didn't pitch in 2012 but is looking to continue his 20-year Major League career.  Rhodes was drafted by the O's in 1988, played for the team from 1991-99 and currently lives in Baltimore.
  • The Orioles also recently worked out utilityman Fernando Tatis, Connolly tweets.  Tatis hasn't played in the majors since 2010 when he made 72 plate appearances for the Mets before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.  Tatis, 38, played for the Orioles in 2006 and has also suited up for the Mets, Expos, Cardinals and Rangers during his 11-year career.
  • The Dodgers could be looking to trade from its starting pitching depth, but Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times suggests the team should hang onto all eight starters given how many of them are battling injury problems.
  • The Dodgers' free-spending ways could come back to haunt them later in the decade, ESPN's Dan Szymborski writes (Insider subscription required).  It also puts pressure on the team to win sooner rather than later: "A disappointing year or two, and it wouldn't be shocking if the biggest member of the [ownership] consortium started to find the guaranteed cash from the TV contract a lot more appealing than playing high-stakes fantasy baseball."
  • ESPN Chicago's Jon Greenberg talks to sabermetrician Tom Tango, who has worked as a consultant to several teams but is now working exclusively for the Cubs.
  • MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith and Jason Martinez of MLB Depth Charts discussed the Braves, the Rays, Shaun Marcum and Alex Rodriguez on the latest edition of the Rosters & Rumblings podcast.

Chase Headley Discusses Extension Talks

Chase Headley avoided arbitration with the Padres by agreeing to a one-year, $8.575MM contract for 2013, and it has been widely assumed that the club would also explore a multiyear extension with its third baseman.  San Diego GM Josh Byrnes said that the two sides had tabled extension talks for now, and Headley confirmed that there was a significant gap between his demands and what the Padres were willing to offer.

We talked about a long-term contract briefly at the start of these negotiations,” Headley told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It was a quick discussion. We weren’t on the same page right from the start. This close to free agency, it has to be a good deal for us. You can’t sacrifice what’s fair.

If we can do something that makes sense, I’d love to stay a Padre.”

Headley, 28, has one remaining arb-eligible year and is set to become a free agent following the 2014 season.  Over 70.1% of voters in a recent MLBTR Poll said that the Padres would be wise to lock Headley up to a long-term contract, and while the team has had trouble keeping its top stars over the years, the Padres' new ownership group is known to want to reverse this trend, beginning with Headley.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggested earlier this offseason that Headley could command a four-year deal worth between $41-$50MM.

NL East Notes: McCann, Phillies, Oswalt, Mets

Here's the latest from around the NL East…

Alderson On Bullpen, Francisco, Wright, Collins

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson sat down with Kevin Burkhardt on SNY's Hot Stove show (video link) to discuss a number of topics, including…

  • Alderson confirmed that the Mets are still looking for relief pitching despite signing LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison to minor league deals over the last three days.  "We may even add a name or two [to the bullpen] between now and the beginning of Spring Training," Alderson said. "I'm encouraged about the depth and the options we have in the bullpen."
  • This positivity about the relief corps doesn't extend to Frank Francisco, as Alderson admitted he's worried about the incumbent closer given Francisco's struggles and injury issues in 2012.  "I don't know that we can have a lot of confidence in where we are [at closer]," Alderson said.  "I hope Frankie does something over the next few weeks to dispel that discomfort."
  • There could be competition for the closer's job during Spring Training, possibly involving a current reliever (Alderson mentioned Bobby Parnell) or a new acquisition.  "We've taken a lot of time to look at other possibilities and ways that we can shore this up.  We have added some pitching but more at the front end of the bullpen as opposed to the back end," Alderson said.
  • "If there's anyone deserving of an eight-year contract in New York with the Mets, it is and has been David Wright," Alderson said.  The GM admitted that he isn't comfortable giving out such long-term deals but said that Wright's performance, history with the team and his off-the-field contributions were all major considerations in Wright's extension.
  • Terry Collins is entering the last year of his contract as Mets manager and Alderson didn't give any hints that an extension could be forthcoming.  "I've talked to Terry and I think he's comfortable with his situation and I know that whatever happens this season, there will be a fair evaluation at the end," Alderson said.  He is "very comfortable with Terry" and noted that the team's win-loss record over Collins' two years as skipper isn't a major factor, though Alderson is troubled by how the Mets have faltered in the second half under Collins.
  • From yesterday, Alderson also took questions from Mets season-ticket holders.

Pirates Avoid Arbitration With McDonald, Walker

8:38pm: McDonald will earn $3.025MM while Walker's deal is worth $3.3MM, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports (Twitter link).

5:58pm: The Pirates have agreed to new contracts with right-hander James McDonald and second baseman Neil Walker, avoiding arbitration with the two players, MLB.com's Tom Singer reports (Twitter link).  Both players were arb-eligible for the first time and are both are represented by Hendricks Sports. 

McDonald, 28, held a 2.37 ERA through his first 17 starts in 2012 but a 7.52 ERA in his 13 outings and was even sent to the bullpen by season's end.  Since coming to the Pirates from the Dodgers in July 2010, McDonald has a 4.10 ERA, 2.07 K/BB ratio and a 7.8 K/9 rate in 72 games, all but one a start.  McDonald was looking for a $3.4MM salary while the Bucs countered with a $2.65MM offer.

Walker's contract will pay him in the neighborhood of $3.25MM in 2013, as Singer reports (Twitter link) that Walker will get around $300K more than what other arb-eligible second baseman like Daniel Murphy, Gordon Beckham and Ryan Roberts received from their teams.  Walker wanted a $3.6MM deal while the Pirates offered him a $3MM contract, so he should end up with around the midpoint between the two figures.

Like McDonald, Walker also had a roller-coaster of a season, posting a .648 OPS through May, then a .933 OPS over his next 52 games that included a whopping 1.097 OPS in July.  The Pittsburgh native fell off again down the stretch, due in part to a herniated disc in his back.  The Pirates discussed a long-term extension with Walker last offseason and could revisit the subject during Spring Training.  Walker, 27, has three more arb-eligible years left as a Super Two player. 

As MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows, the Pirates have now come to terms with all of their arbitration-eligible players.

AL East Notes: Rodney, Orioles, Lohse, Yankees

The Red Sox and Yankees each added a veteran bat today, as Lyle Overbay agreed to a deal with Boston and Travis Hafner came to terms with the Bronx Bombers. Here are some more items from around the AL East…

  • Dan Lozano, Fernando Rodney's agent, said his client was misquoted in a recent interview with Dominican newspaper El Dia, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.  El Dia reported on Wednesday that Rodney was close to signing a two-year extension with the Rays but Lozano said that no talks have taken place between the two sides.  Rodney is set to make $2.5MM in 2013, his last year under contract with Tampa Bay.
  • The Orioles are looking to add relief pitching and "are keeping tabs on some relievers that have yet to sign," The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reports.
  • Also from Connolly, he hears the Orioles would be interested in Kyle Lohse if the veteran's price significantly dropped.  It may be a longshot, as Connolly says the O's don't want to lose the first-round draft pick it would take to sign Lohse and even if Lohse was open to a one-year contract, he likely wouldn't sign such a deal in the AL East.
  • ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand fields several Alex Rodriguez questions in an online fan chat, as well as other Yankees topics like Curtis Granderson trade talk and Robinson Cano's future in the Bronx.
  • The Blue Jays aren't likely to make any more additions this offseason aside from minor league depth signings, writes MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm as part of a reader mailbag.
  • An AL East talent evaluator breaks down the division's teams with ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes.

Latest On Scott Rolen, Reds

7:02pm: Reds GM Walt Jocketty tells Fay that he hasn't spoken to Rolen's agents in a few days but, “I think there’s a chance we get something worked out.  We’re talking about the details — how much opportunity is there.”

4:17pm: After waiting for weeks to hear whether Scott Rolen will play in 2013, the Reds may have their answer. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer now hears that Rolen wants to play and suggests that money is an issue. The Reds don’t have much payroll flexibility and can’t pay Rolen the $6.5MM salary he earned in 2013.

There’s also the question of roster space. The Reds have indicated that Todd Frazier will get the chance to play third on an everyday basis and they’ve also signed infielder Jack Hannahan. That said, the Reds appear to be Rolen’s top choice. The Dodgers reached out to express interest, but "Rolen is not an L.A. kind of guy," according to Fay.

Rolen played in 92 games for the Reds in 2012, posting a .245/.318/.398 batting line in 330 plate appearances. ACES represents the seven-time All-Star.

AL West Notes: Kobayashi, Rangers, Trout, Wells

The Rangers and Nationals are waiting to hear if Nelson Cruz or Gio Gonzalez could face disciplinary action from Major League Baseball due to their possible connection to a clinic that sold performance-enhancing drugs, but though both teams are in limbo with these key players, ESPN's Jim Bowden doesn't think either team will jump quickly to find replacements until more facts are known.  As it happens, Bowden says both clubs were already looking to improve in those areas before the news of this PED scandal broke — the Nats were known to want pitching depth and the Rangers were in need of another power hitter.  Bowden suspects the Rangers will make a move for a big bat closer to the trade deadline.

Here are some more items from around the AL West…

  • The Angels are close to signing right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi to a minor league deal, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link).  Kobayashi, 34, has pitched out of the bullpen for Chiba Lotte and Hanshin for the last three seasons.  He last explored a move to MLB when he became a free agent following the 2010 season, when he was linked to the Pirates and Diamondbacks in rumors.
  • It wouldn't make sense for the Rangers to sign Michael Bourn to replace Cruz, argues MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, since "a five-year contract to cover a two-month need seems a bit extreme."  The Rangers didn't make a big push for a center fielder this winter since they like Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin as CF options.
  • The Angels haven't talked to Mike Trout's representatives about an extension for the young star, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports.  Trout is under team control through the 2017 season and is still two seasons away from arbitration eligibility.  Those arb years will get expensive if Trout continues his superb play but, as Gonzalez notes, big-market clubs like the Angels can afford pricey arbitration payouts and thus don't quite feel the pressure that smaller-market clubs have to lock up their young stars early.
  • Casper Wells has turned into something of an afterthought on the Mariners roster and could become trade bait if the M's were to add another outfielder like Bourn, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.  Wells struggled when given regular at-bats last season and Baker wonders if the club has given up on the player who was "possibly the front-liner" of the trade package the Mariners received in the Doug Fister deal.

Minor Moves: Garko, Golson, Haeger, Figaro

We’ll track today’s minor moves here…

  • The Rockies signed first baseman Ryan Garko and outfielder Greg Golson to minor league contracts, Baseball America's Matthew Eddy reports.  Garko saw regular time as the Indians' first baseman from 2006-09 but hasn't played in the majors since 2010, spending the 2011 season in Korea and last year with the Rays' Double-A affiliate.  Golson, picked 21st overall by Philadelphia in the 2004 draft, amassed 42 Major League plate appearances with the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees between 2008-2011 and hit .276/.309/.412 in 480 PA with the White Sox Triple-A affiliate in 2012.
  • Also from Eddy, the Red Sox re-signed knuckleballer Charlie Haeger to a new minor league deal.  Haeger last pitched in the majors in 2010 and has been in the Red Sox farm system since July 2011, though he missed all of last season with an arm injury.
  • The Brewers have signed right-hander Alfredo Figaro to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to MLB Spring Training, the team announced (via Mike Vassallo on Twitter). It took more than a month for the sides to complete the deal, since agent Barry Praver had to negotiate a departure from Figaro's Japanese team, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports (on Twitter). The 28-year-old returns to MLB after spending the past two seasons pitching in Japan for the Orix Buffaloes. He picked up some MLB experience with the Tigers before going to Japan, appearing in 14 games from 2009-10.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post

Reds, Miguel Olivo Nearing Deal

The Reds are nearing a deal with free agent catcher Miguel Olivo, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links). The Phillies, Astros and Dodgers also inquired on Olivo, who's represented by agent Martin Arburua.

Olivo, 34, played for the Mariners in 2012, appearing in 87 games. The right-handed hitter posted a .222/.239/.381 batting line with 12 home rune in 323 plate appearances. He hit for more power against left-handers than right-handers last year, which isn't surprising considering his career line of .270/.303/.477 against southpaws.

Olivo, an 11-year MLB veteran, earned $3.5MM in 2012. If the deal goes through he'll join a Reds roster that includes Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco. The free agent market for catchers won't include much depth if Olivo signs. Rod Barajas, Chris Snyder and Matt Treanor are among the remaining options, as MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker shows.

This post was first published February 1st, 2013.