Aaron Heilman Rumors

Pirates Looking At Free Agent Relievers

6:49pm: The Pirates' interest in Chan Ho Park appears to be cooling, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch.

4:34pm: The Pirates have inquired on Aaron Heilman as a reliever, MLBTR has learned. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter) that the Pirates are not targeting Matt Guerrier.

1:42pm: The Pirates are showing interest in and making offers to a number of free agent relievers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  He says they were in on J.J. Putz before he reached an agreement with Arizona and are looking at guys like Kevin Gregg.  I'm told the Pirates showed lukewarm interest in Hiroyuki Kobayashi, only on a minor league deal.

The Pirates already have Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan as closer candidates, so it appears they're trying to once again build a late-inning reliever surplus.  It worked well with Octavio Dotel this year.

National League Free Agent Arbitration Decisions

12 National League free agents were offered arbitration on November 23rd.  Four of those – Jorge de la Rosa, Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba, and Juan Uribe – have new contract agreements.  Another three – Kevin Correia, Octavio Dotel, and Trevor Hoffman – have already decided to decline.  The remaining five NL free agents offered arbitration will have their decisions noted here and in our tracker.

National League Free Agent Arbitration Offers

11 National League teams have free agent arbitration offer decisions to make, and we'll group them in this post.  For a fantastic customizable chart with all 65 Type A/B free agents and their decisions in real-time, click here.

Odds & Ends: Heilman, Overbay, Delgado, Reds

As Nationals fans cross their fingers about Stephen Strasburg, here's some news from around the majors…

  • Aaron Heilman is looking forward to his first taste of free agency, reports MLB.com's Andrew Pentis.  Heilman said that he and his agent hadn't had any talks yet with the Diamondbacks about a new contract.
  • Lyle Overbay thinks he has a chance of returning to the Blue Jays next season, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.  Given the Overbay trade rumors we've been hearing all year, this would certainly be a surprise, especially since the Jays have given Adam Lind a few starts at first recently.
  • Carlos Delgado has been placed on the seven-day disabled list by the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, reports Sportsnet New York's Ben Wagner (via Twitter).  Delgado is experiencing soreness in his back and left hip, not his twice-operated on right hip.  The slugger signed a minor league contract with Boston on August 7.
  • Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News thinks the Reds should "make signing Bronson Arroyo a priority," implies that 2010 is Ramon Hernandez's last year in Cincinnati and gives some other opinions in a fan mailbag.
  • Was Khalil Greene the biggest loss for the Rangers this season?  Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News thinks so, given the team's ongoing depth problems.
  • Ricky Nolasco's contract extension talks with the Marlins may be on hold.  Josh Friedman and Craig Mish of The Ticket 790AM radio report (via Twitter) that the Florida right-hander may miss the rest of the season with a partially-torn meniscus. 
  • Dontrelle Willis has been promoted to Triple-A Fresno, and Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News tweets that Willis is a candidate to join the Giants when the rosters expand on September 1.
  • LaTroy Hawkins will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.  It's unknown if the scope will reveal more severe damage, but Hawkins says he plans on pitching in 2011.  Since signing a two-year, $7.5MM contract with Milwaukee last December, the injury-plagued Hawkins has made just 18 appearances for the Brewers, posting an 8.44 ERA.

Twitter Rumors: Lowell, Ross, Dotel, Heilman

A home for today's random Twitter rumors…

Dan Haren Rumors: Friday

The D’Backs have started exchanging names with teams about possible Dan Haren trades and the Tigers, Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals and Twins appear to have varying degrees of interest in the righty. That’s just the abbreviated version of what we heard yesterday, but there’s more. The D’Backs’ asking price? High-quality major league-ready pitching. With that in mind, here are today’s Dan Haren rumors, with more to come:

  • Updating his earlier story, Magruder quotes Hall, the D'Backs CEO, as saying: "There are some other teams involved that have deals of at least equal value out there. I would not categorize the Yankees as a front-runner."
  • In a piece for FOXSportsArizona.com, Jack Magruder notes that the Yankees aren't one of the teams that require Haren's approval. Magruder also suggests a trade with the Yanks could involve New York taking on other players that the D'Backs would like to move, such as Aaron Heilman, Chad Qualls, or Chris Snyder.
  • D'Backs' CEO Derrick Hall tells Piecoro (Twitter link) that there's no clear front-runner for Haren and reiterates "nothing [is] imminent." However, most reports still indicate that the Yanks are the favorite. AOL FanHouse's Frankie Piliere (via Twitter) and Morosi both hear that Ivan Nova could be a key piece in a Haren trade with New York.
  • Expanding on his earlier tweet, Price hears that nothing is imminent between the Yankees and Arizona, but that the D'Backs "seem determined" to move Haren before his next start on Tuesday.
  • According to Rosenthal, the Yankees appear to be the front-runners for Haren now, with the D'Backs telling clubs that they're in "advanced negotiations" with one team. Ed Price of AOL FanHouse adds (via Twitter) that the Cardinals may be out of the Haren sweepstakes.
  • The Yankees are actively talking to the D’Backs about Haren, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. If the Yanks can acquire Haren for prospects, Stark says they are poised to accelerate talks.
  • The Cardinals aim to add an innings-eater this summer, though not necessarily an ace, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • The Tigers and Twins, who both have interest in Haren, are on his no-trade list, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Haren would also have to approve a trade to the Rays or Reds. Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported that the Twins were on Haren's list. 
  • The D'Backs have told rival teams that they are intent on moving Haren before the deadline, according to Olney (via Twitter).
  • MLB executives tell ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that the D’Backs seem much more willing to deal Haren these days. Some talent evaluators believe the Tigers would have a tough time building an offer for Haren without including pitching prospect Jacob Turner.
  • A D'Backs source tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that expectations have shifted and it seems more likely that the D'Backs will trade Haren.

What The Elias Rankings Mean For Trade Candidates

Many of this year's trade candidates share a distinguishing characteristic: they are about to become free agents. After the season, their teams will decide whether to offer arbitration and have a chance at top picks in next year's draft. A player's ranking can contribute to or detract from his trade value, so let's take a look at some of this year's trade candidates and see where they place under our reverse-engineered Elias rankings

We'll start with some trade candidates who project as Type A free agents. If these players decline arbitration offers to sign elsewhere, their former teams will receive two top picks in the 2011 draft. These players are sometimes more inclined to accept arbitration, since their Type A status can intimidate would-be suitors who don't want to surrender a pick (just ask Juan Cruz and Orlando Hudson).

It's important to note that teams don't necessarily give first rounders up to sign the players below. The first 15 picks are protected and sometimes teams sign more than one Type A player. Say the Red Sox sign Adam Dunn (75.8 ranking) and Scott Downs (74.6 ranking) and both were offered arb. The Nationals would get Boston's top pick and the Blue Jays would get their second-best pick because Dunn ranks higher than Downs. In that instance, Downs only costs the Red Sox a second rounder.

Once a team signs one Type A free agent, the cost of signing a second and a third drops, since the club is giving up lesser picks. Rafael Soriano (88.9), Vladimir Guerrero (88.6), Carl Crawford (85.5), Javier Vazquez (79.0) and Adrian Beltre (78.9) could all get arbitration offers this winter, so Type As, especially lower-ranked players, don't always cost a first rounder. With that in mind, here are some trade candidates who currently have Type A status:

  • Cliff Lee (91.8) – He is getting an arbitration offer and turning it down. Lee's Type A status boosts his trade value.
  • Jayson Werth (86.0) – Same goes for Werth.
  • David DeJesus (78.3)- Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs argued yesterday that the Royals shouldn't offer arbitration, since DeJesus would accept. It's entirely possible that the Royals can get more value for DeJesus in a trade, but I don't think DeJesus would necessarily accept arbitration. He will easily be a top-five outfielder if his team lets him hit free agency instead of picking up his $6MM option. And if he accepts? The team has an above-average outfielder on an affordable one-year deal.
  • Adam Dunn (75.8) – He will get an arbitration offer and will probably turn it down. Dunn's Type A status boosts his trade value.
  • Scott Downs (74.6) – Earlier this week, I suggested the Blue Jays could offer Downs arbitration and either collect the picks or pay him $5MM or so in 2011. There's a good chance that Downs accepts an offer of arbitration, but the chance at two top picks probably makes that a risk worth taking. 
  • Miguel Tejada (74.4) – It's hard to imagine teams forfeiting picks to sign Tejada. It seems unlikely that a team would offer arbitration. Tejada's Type A status doesn't affect his trade value (and he is only a couple points away from becoming a Type B).
  • Ted Lilly (74.3) – Lilly will be a top free agent starter after the season, so the Cubs will likely offer arbitration. Lilly's Type A status boosts his trade value.

And here are some players who currently project as Type B free agents. These players will bring their former teams a supplementary round pick if they decline arbitration to sign elsewhere. But teams don't have to give up their picks to sign Type Bs, which makes these players appealing as free agents.

  • John BuckJ. P. Arencibia is Toronto's catcher of the future, but it's easy to imagine the Blue Jays (or another team) offering Buck arbitration after the season. It worked last year, when the Jays got a supplemental rounder for losing Rod Barajas. Buck wouldn't make much through arbitration, so his Type B status boosts his trade value.
  • Jose Guillen – It's extremely hard to imagine the Royals offering arbitration. His Type B status does not affect his trade value.
  • Mike Lowell – Same goes for Lowell.
  • Kevin Millwood – And for Millwood.
  • Jason Frasor – Frasor makes only $2.65MM this year, so he wouldn't be making an overwhelming amount even if he accepted arbitration. Obtaining a pick for Frasor would be a plus, so his Type B status helps his trade value.
  • Derrek Lee – Given Lee's struggles and salary, it's hard to imagine his team offering arbitration.
  • Cristian Guzman – Guzman makes $8MM this year and though players aren't guaranteed raises via this kind of arbitration, Guzman isn't even worth his current salary on the open market. An arbitration offer seems unlikely, so his status doesn't affect his trade value.
  • Octavio Dotel –  Like Frasor, Dotel could see an offer of arbitration, depending on how he finishes the season, so his Type B status helps his trade value. The Pirates have a $4MM option for Dotel that becomes mutual if he is traded.
  • Aaron Heilman – It seems unlikely that the D'Backs would feel comfortable offering Heilman arbitration, given his inconsistent performance in 2010, so his status doesn't help his trade value.

Rosenthal On D’Backs, Dunn, Blue Jays, Morgan

In his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that it's unlikely the Diamondbacks make a huge splash before the trade deadline. With interim GM Jerry DiPoto not expected to hold the position past this season, Rosenthal is skeptical that the D'Backs would give him the reins to blow up the roster. Although Arizona could trade potential free agents like Adam LaRoche, Chad Qualls, and Aaron Heilman, Rosenthal thinks the team probably won't move Dan Haren, Kelly Johnson, or Stephen Drew. Here are a few other notes from the piece:

  • According to a rival club offical, the Nationals were asking the White Sox for either Gordon Beckham or Carlos Quentin in exchange for Adam Dunn.
  • If the Blue Jays don't receive satisfactory offers for their free-agents-to-be, the club may take the same approach they did last year, when the departures of Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas earned them draft picks. Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and John Buck all project to be Type As or Bs, and could potentially net the Jays multiple 2011 compensation picks.
  • When teams call the Jays to talk trades, Toronto's young starting rotation is the most frequent topic of conversation.
  • Some members of the Nationals organization wouldn't mind trading Nyjer Morgan to open up center field for Roger Bernadina.
  • Within seven to ten days, the Marlins should make a decision on whether or not to be sellers.
  • If Buck Showalter lands the Baltimore managerial job, former Orioles such as Bill Ripken and B.J. Surhoff would be candidates to join his staff.

No Fire Sale Coming For D’Backs

Even with his club 15 games below .500, Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes doesn't expect to hold a fire sale in the coming weeks, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Although recent reports have indicated that the D'Backs will continue trading, and are considering major moves, Byrnes tells Piecoro that he isn't predicting any "monster" deals.

"We'll explore a lot of possibilities and see where we end up," said Byrnes. "I do think a lot of our players are guys we value and want to keep and I think if we're going to make trades, we'll have to get the type of things – particularly young pitching depth – that would make sense to us."

Piecoro notes that the Diamondbacks will still probably field offers on "just about anybody," but the players most likely to be dealt are Adam LaRoche, Aaron Heilman, and Chris Snyder. If the team does decide to move players like Kelly Johnson and Stephen Drew, they'll likely demand a top pitching prospect in return. Presumably, the D'Backs would have to be blown away by a package of multiple young arms to consider trading Dan Haren.

D’Backs Wary About Making Bullpen Moves

It's becoming conventional wisdom around baseball that it's foolish to commit too much money to closers and/or set-up men since most relievers see their effectiveness vary wildly from year to year.  While this logic may be sound, it can also leave a team's hands somewhat tied (and its fans frustrated) when the present bullpen isn't producing.

Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic spoke to Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes about the Snakes' relief woes.  Going into Friday's play, Arizona's staff ERA from the seventh inning on stood at an NL-worst 5.71 in such situations, and right-hander Esmerling Vasquez is the only D'Backs reliever with an ERA under 4.63.  Most of the attention has focused on closer Chad Qualls, who has blown two saves already and has a 7.36 ERA in 13 appearances.

Byrnes said changes could be made if things become dire, be it calling up "guys in the minors; [or] maybe we make a trade."  But Byrnes also preached patience, noting that "it's hard to stay the course with it, but sometimes that's the best thing to do."

Byrnes told Piecoro that "as far as major trade or a major expenditure [for a reliever], [it's] probably something we want to be very careful about."  Piecoro notes that the club considered acquiring the likes of Matt Capps, Rafael Soriano and former D'Backs closer Jose Valverde over the winter, but the price for Soriano and Valverde was judged to be too high, while Capps would only sign if he was guaranteed the closer's job.  The Diamondbacks instead picked up Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman, which MLBTR's Tim Dierkes was "not enthused" about, and chose to keep Qualls as the closer after his solid 2009 season (24 saves and a 3.65 ERA in 51 appearances).  These moves look ripe for second-guessing at the moment given that Qualls, Howry and Heilman have all tough starts while Capps, Soriano and Valverde have pitched extremely well.

Arizona has a 14-15 record but is just four games behind the division-leading Giants.  Given that a hot two weeks can put a club on top of the tightly-stacked NL West, Byrnes might be forced to roll the dice on another reliever should his club still have a shot at first place come the summer.  D'Backs fans demanding that the Snakes blow up their bullpen and bring in reinforcements, however, should be careful what they wish for.  The team's last midseason deal for a reliever saw them pick up Jon Rauch in July 2008 and he subsequently put up a 6.56 ERA for Arizona that season.