Alex Gonzalez Rumors
B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman all homered for the Rays tonight as Tampa Bay defeated Boston, 9-2, in the opener of a big four-game series. The Red Sox now have just a three-game lead over the Rays (and a four-game lead over the idle Angels) for the AL Wild Card.
Some notes from around the league....
- If Drew Storen is traded, Tyler Clippard shouldn't become the Nationals' closer since he's proven to be invaluable as the team's go-to reliever, argues Ben Goessling of MASNsports.com. It could be a moot point, though, since Goessling says it's "unlikely" that the Nats deal Storen.
- The Rays were the first team to discover Jacoby Ellsbury, drafting him in the 23rd round of the 2002 draft. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal talks to the scouts who pushed for Tampa Bay to pick Ellsbury, who instead decided to attend Oregon State.
- Frank Wren tells David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that no decision has been made about Alex Gonzalez's future with the Braves, but both the club and the shortstop sound open to Gonzalez returning in 2012. Gonzalez is popular in the clubhouse and would be an ideal bridge at shortstop to prospect Tyler Pastornicky.
- Mike Newman of Fangraphs profiles Braves minor league left-hander Ronan Pacheco, who "is simply too perfect an example of a pitcher who bucks just about every prospect stereotype on both the statistical and scouting sides to not discuss."
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America recaps this week's minor league transactions.
- David DeJesus "appears the least likely to return" of the Athletics' three free agent outfielders, writes MLB.com's Jane Lee. Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp are also free agents this winter and Willingham said earlier today that he would like to stay with Oakland.
- Angels GM Tony Reagins tells Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register that he doesn't regret giving Bobby Abreu the $9MM option for 2012 that vested in July.
Jim Hickey has one of the most important roles in the American League this year, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Rays pitching coach is responsible for rebuilding a Rays bullpen that was depleted by free agency. Hickey says he expects at least one of the team's unheralded arms to break out unexpectedly, adding that if there's going to be a 2011 version of Joaquin Benoit, he'd put his money on Juan Cruz. Here are some of Cafardo's other Sunday notes:
- Domonic Brown has struggled this spring and is now set to undergo surgery on a broken hand. As such, Mike Cameron remains a potential fit for the Phillies. Cafardo argues that "the only problem with a Cameron-Phillies hookup is that he may be a very valuable member of the Red Sox now that he’s completely recovered from abdominal surgery."
- Alex Gonzalez doesn't like changing teams as much as he has in the last two seasons, and would have liked to stay in Toronto. Now that he's playing in Atlanta, the shortstop tells Cafardo that he'd "love to stay here for a long time." Gonzalez will be a free agent at season's end.
- DeMarlo Hale was interviewed for two managerial openings this past offseason, and Cafardo wonders if he'll be hired away from the Red Sox next winter. "Right now," Cafardo says, "there doesn’t appear to be an obvious place for a managerial change next season."
The Braves exercised their 2011 options for Alex Gonzalez and Omar Infante, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter). The team also signed reliever Scott Proctor to a one-year deal. MLB.com's Mark Bowman reported earlier today that the reliever will likely earn a base salary of $750K or so in 2011. Proctor, who was arbitration eligible, will likely have the chance to earn more through incentives.
The options for Gonzalez and Infante cost just $2.5MM each - a reasonable price to pay for two infielders who exceeded expectations in 2010. Gonzalez, who arrived in the Yunel Escobar trade, batted .250/.294/.447 with 23 hom runs in 2010. He hit most of his homers in Toronto, but added six in Atlanta. The 33-year-old is a good defender with some pop who has a sub-.300 on base percentage in his 12-year MLB career.
Infante, 28, batted .321/.359/.416 this year and made his first All-Star team. He finished third in the league in batting average and played second, third, short, left and right, so picking up his option was just a formality; the Braves weren't about to let him hit free agency.
The Braves have three free agents and three option decisions; MLB.com's Mark Bowman has the latest.
- Of free agents Derrek Lee, Troy Glaus, and Eric Hinske, only Hinske has a chance of returning. Bowman expects him to survey the market first.
- Billy Wagner still hasn't changed his plan to retire.
- Bowman expects the Braves to announce later today that they've exercised their $2.5MM options on Alex Gonzalez and Omar Infante. They'll be declining on Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth.
- Scott Proctor, who is arbitration eligible, is expected to agree to a deal with a $750K base salary and incentives allowing him to approach $1MM. The Braves also have Jair Jurrjens, Eric O'Flaherty, Martin Prado, Peter Moylan, and Matt Diaz eligible for arbitration.
On this date in 2001, Fred McGriff invoked his no-trade clause to block a deal that would have sent him from the last place Devil Rays to the first place Cubs. The Crime Dog was born and raised in Tampa, but he relented and agreed to the deal 11 days later. Tampa Bay received Manny Aybar and Jason Smith in return for McGriff, who was unquestionably the greatest player in franchise history at the time.
Hear are some links with the deadline rapidly approaching...
- Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness scouts the starting pitcher and relief pitcher market for the Dodgers.
- Bleacher Report says the Giants would be filling one hole and creating another if they trade for Corey Hart.
- Disciples of Uecker feels it is unrealistic to expect the Brewers to retain Prince Fielder long-term.
- 1 Blue Jays Way chimes in on the Yunel Escobar-Alex Gonzalez swap.
- Meanwhile, Beyond the Box Score wonders how much Yunel Escobar's bad attitude cost the Braves.
- Royals Review takes a quick look at the trade history between the Royals and Yankees.
- El Lefty Malo tries to nail down Jonathan Sanchez's trade value.
- Yankeeist looks at some solutions for the Yankees' DH vacancy.
- Gear Up For Twins Baseball has some suggestions to help improve the Twins.
- River Ave. Blues wants to see the Yanks go for the kill and acquire Adam Dunn.
- Sports: A Game of Inches analyzes the Cliff Lee non-trade to the Yanks and his eventual move to the Rangers in a four part series (parts one, two, three, four).
The Braves sent Yunel Escobar north for a veteran who happens to lead MLB shortstops in home runs (Alex Gonzalez). It's a win-now move for Atlanta, though they also acquire a pair of intriguing prospects in the process. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays acquire a cheap, young shortstop who can play great defense and has a career OBP of .368. So does that make today's trade a win-win? Here's what the baseball writers are saying:
- Matt Eddy and Nathan Rode of Baseball America break down the prospects involved and explain that Tim Collins could become a "useful reliever" and Tyler Pastornicky could become a sound defender who hits at the top of the order.
- Many of Escobar's teammates wanted to see him traded, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney says this is a "tremendous trade for the Braves." GM Frank Wren told Olney that the Braves wouldn't have made the deal were it not for Gonzalez's affordable 2011 option (Twitter links).
- Danny Knobler of CBS Sports says Escobar was "not an Atlanta Braves type of player." Gonzalez is having a strong season and should fit in, so Knobler says he is an Atlanta Braves type of player, even if he's not a long-term solution at short.
- Mychael Urban of CSN Bay Area believes the Giants could have used Escobar (Twitter link). I wonder how many Tigers fans are thinking the same thing about their team.
- The Blue Jays took a risk and acquired Escobar now, because top players are rarely available when they're playing at their best, Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos explained to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian (Twitter links).
- Earlier in the season, an Atlanta Brave told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News that Braves manager Bobby Cox hates Yunel Escobar because of perceived lack of hustle.
- Joe Pawlikowski of FanGraphs says the deal "doesn’t seem nearly as bad for the Braves as it did at first glance," though the Blue Jays still won.
- R.J. Anderson of FanGraphs believes the trade "has to be looked upon as a pretty worthwhile risk for the Jays."
- Bryan Smith of FanGraphs says Jo-Jo Reyes doesn't mean much to the Braves, since they have so much pitching depth. Smith also suggests Tyler Pastornicky had considerable appeal for the Braves, since he runs and has raised his walk rate.
The Blue Jays acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar and pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes from the Braves for shortstop Alex Gonzalez and minor leaguers Tim Collins and Tyler Pastornicky, according to a team press release. The Jays designated Ronald Uviedo for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
The move comes as a big surprise, as Escobar was perhaps one of the more valuable commodities in the game when the 2009 season concluded. Just a few days ago, MLB.com's Mark Bowman wrote that the Braves "simply aren't willing to sell low on a guy who they still view as the game's top defensive shortstop." Escobar was worth over four wins last year, but his power has disappeared in 301 plate appearances this year. Escobar will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, so he'll be under the Jays' control through 2013. Escobar's attitude was a likely factor in the deal; Bowman wrote in June that "there's no doubt that Escobar's flamboyant approach to the game has continued to infuriate some members of the Braves organization." Back in February, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez went more in-depth on the attitude angle.
Gonzalez will replace Escobar as the Braves' starting shortstop as they enter the second half with a four game lead in the NL East. He doesn't get on base, but he's already hit 17 home runs on the season and continues to play strong defense. Gonzalez is owed another $1.23MM this year and has a $2.5MM club option for 2011. Braves GM Frank Wren told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "This trade improves our club for the second half of the season."
Reyes, a 25-year-old southpaw, has spent most of the season at Triple A. His strikeout and walk rates are strong in his fourth stint at the level, but he's had problems with home runs and hits. Baseball America regarded Reyes as the Braves' eighth-best prospect heading into the 2007 season, calling him a "thick-bodied lefthander who does a good job of keeping hitters off balance." He's dealt with injuries, including Tommy John surgery in '04.
Collins, a 20-year-old lefty, was ranked 19th among Blue Jays prospects by Baseball America heading into this season. The 5'7" southpaw "gets outs with a solid fastball that tops out at 93 mph and a true 12-to-6 curveball that he spins really well." Working in relief, Collins has a 15.3 K/9 in 43 Double A innings this year. Pastornicky, a 20-year-old shortstop, was ranked 17th. He's described as a player who "doesn't have flashy tools but gets the most out of what he has." In the best case, he'll become a line drive top of the order hitter with solid defense, indicates BA. As for Uviedo, the Jays had acquired him from the Pirates in the June Dana Eveland deal. BA described him as rail-thin and homer-prone heading into the '09 season, but praised his fastball and slider.
My take: this is certainly a win-now move for the Braves, who are confident Gonzalez will provide more over the next few months than Escobar would have. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, managed the rare feat of acquiring three-plus years of a shortstop with star potential without giving up much.
Four years ago today, the Rays sent Aubrey Huff and cash to the Astros for Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot. The Astros finished 1.5 games out in '06 despite Huff contributing 13 home runs, and GM Tim Purpura chose not to offer arbitration after the season. On to today's links...
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Yankees have no plans to acquire a starting pitcher - "Cliff Lee was a special case." Speaking of Lee, he told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that the trade from the Phillies did not sour him on the team, and he's not opposed to any club once he reaches free agency.
- The Blue Jays had a scout at this weekend's Cardinals-Astros series, reports Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss wonders if shortstop Alex Gonzalez could be a match for the Cards, and he notes that the Jays have had previous interest in Brendan Ryan.
- Mariners president Chuck Armstrong and CEO Howard Lincoln weren't aware of the full extent of pitcher Josh Lueke's 2008 trouble with the law, reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Lueke went to Seattle as part of the Lee trade.
- Talking to WEEI's Alex Speier, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein explained that in the case of Casey Kelly and other prospects, he'd rather challenge them against advanced competition than allow them to compile numbers and trade value at more age-appropriate levels.
- In the same article, Speier notes that the Red Sox have agreements, pending physicals, with a pair of international free agents. One is a righthanded pitcher, the other an outfielder.
- As part of an extensive Q&A with Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, Commissioner Bud Selig says he would not consider contracting the Athletics or Rays if their ballpark situations are not resolved.
When the Blue Jays targeted free agents last offseason, they wanted to complement their young pitching. Not necessarily with veteran starters, but with established catchers and proven defenders. Halfway through the 2010 season, the Blue Jays’ free agent signings appear to have helped with the development of starters like Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. But free agent additions John Buck and Alex Gonzalez have contributed on offense, too.
Buck and Gonzalez have paired up for 30 home runs - 14 more than they combined to hit all of last season. It isn't exactly what the Blue Jays expected, but GM Alex Anthopoulos won't complain about a player who leads all MLB shortstops in home runs (17) at a bargain salary ($2.75MM).
“[Gonzalez has] been great, he’s certainly been more than we could have hoped for,” Anthopoulos told MLBTR Saturday. “We certainly wouldn’t have expected to have this number of home runs so early.”
And Anthopoulos, who spent about $11MM on major league free agents in his first offseason as the team’s GM, was expecting moderate power from Buck. So far, the backstop has exceeded the team’s expectations.
“I don’t know that we saw the All-Star game coming,” Anthopoulos conceded.
Buck has 13 home runs this season, second only to Mike Napoli among MLB catchers. But Buck didn’t join the Jays to hit home runs. He wanted to work with the Blue Jays’ pitchers.
“I can let them know that they can learn from each outing even if it’s a terrible outing, which I think they’re doing,” Buck said.
The Blue Jays appealed to catcher Jose Molina for two reasons. First of all, he wanted a big league job. And like Buck, Molina wanted to guide the Jays’ pitchers through the ups and downs of a major league season.
“We try to help the staff to become better and I think that’s what we’ve been doing,” Molina said. “I mean sometimes it’s going to work, sometimes it doesn’t, but I think the main thing is that [the pitchers] keep their focus every day.”
Molina (.751 OPS, $0.8MM salary) and Buck (.813 OPS, $2MM salary) have been pleasant surprises at the plate, but Anthopoulos says he signed the pair because of what they can do behind the plate. Though Gonzalez had flashed power with the Marlins (23 homers in ’04) and Reds (16 homers in ’07), his defense appealed to the Blue Jays front office, too.
“In this division you can’t give away outs,” Anthopoulos said. “We’re going to run young starters out, which was really going to be the core of this team, so having a plus glove at [shortstop] was important.”
Anthopoulos signed one more major free agent in his rookie offseason. The Blue Jays front office determined that Kevin Gregg’s second half slow-downs (3.84 first half ERA, 4.41 second half ERA) could have been related to knee issues that no longer appeared serious. They signed Gregg for $2.75MM and he has generally been effective, saving 20 games and posting a 3.71 ERA with 9.8 K.9 and 4.8 BB/9.
Gregg is a trade candidate, since the 44-44 Blue Jays trail the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox. Lots of Blue Jays, including Anthopoulos’ recent additions, could appeal to other clubs, but Gregg is one player who isn’t thinking about the rumors.
“I could care less,” Gregg said. “I like it here, I like all the guys, I like everything that we’ve got going here. I wish our record was a little bit better, but I still think we’ve got the potential to win a lot of games.”
Let's dive into the latest edition of Full Count from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports..
- The Padres are seeking a durable starting pitcher as they approach the deadline. The Padres know that they need a bat but their offense is so weak that they fear a lack of quality starting pitching might derail them faster than a lack of hitting. Durable starters are hard to come by on the trade market, but the Diamondbacks' Edwin Jackson could be a fit.
- The Marlins changed skippers thinking that they were a better team than they've shown, but that hasn't been the case thus far. Unless they rally, the club will end up as sellers. Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, and Ricky Nolasco all hold value. Nolasco's name hasn't come up much, but he could be one of the better starting pitchers on the market. Uggla and his big bat are still sought after, even though his salary could rise to about $10MM in arbitration next season.
- Toronto's Shaun Marcum could still be a trade chip, even after going on the disabled list with inflammation of the right elbow. The club expects him to be back before the All-Star break and if so, he should be one of the better starters available. The Jays could be active sellers as they have several more attractive pieces. Relievers Scott Downs and Jason Frasor are both potential free agents. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez and outfielder Jose Bautista could also get some bites.
- Nats GM Mike Rizzo told Rosenthal that the club is getting interest in five or six players in trade discussion. While Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham are getting all the buzz, Cristian Guzman and Adam Kennedy could be attractive to teams in need of infield help. Matt Capps could be a trade chip as well now that he has recovered from his slump. They control the closer through next season, though they may look to cash in on his value while it is peaking.