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Andrew McCutchen Rumors
Happy birthday to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who turns 33 on December 17. Utley is looking to rebound from his most disappointing full season in the majors, as he posted just a .769 OPS and didn't play until May 23 due to an unusual knee injury.
Some news from around baseball as we head into the weekend…
- Carlos Beltran has at least one offer worth $10MM per year on the table, tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. With the Rockies out of the picture after signing Michael Cuddyer, Beltran's known market includes the Blue Jays, Cardinals and two mystery teams.
- Responding to fans on his Twitter feed, Omar Vizquel says he plans to play in 2012, isn't returning to the White Sox and would "go now" if the Giants offered him a one-year deal (all links are via Twitter).
- Pirates players and officials took part in a Q&A period at today's Piratefest fan event and Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was there to tweet some pertinent hot stove information. Manager Clint Hurdle said the team is still interested in re-signing Derrek Lee and team president Frank Coonelly said the Pirates were prepared for the cap on draft signings in the new collective bargaining agreement.
- Reggie Willits intends to play in 2012 and has discussed opporunities with MLB teams, tweets MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
- GM Neal Huntington said the Pirates want to keep Andrew McCutchen "as long as we can (but) we've got to be smart about it" (via Biertempfel's Twitter account). McCutchen's name was floated in trade rumors earlier this winter but they were quickly shot down by Bucs management.
- The Tigers should keep pursuing Gio Gonzalez, writes John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press, even though he doesn't think the Tigers would deal the Athletics' asking price of prospects (Jacob Turner, Drew Smyly and Nick Castellanos) "for any one player."
- The Rule 5 draft is losing relevance and could soon be abandoned "in history's dustbin," writes Baseball America's John Manuel.
- The Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Padres and White Sox are "the five most intriguing sellers" in baseball according to FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, who lists each club's biggest trade chips and what teams could fit as trade partners.
7:03pm: A high-ranking Pirates person told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the team hasn't entertained offers for McCutchen to this point and has no plans to do so. Kovacevic's piece strongly suggests McCutchen is staying in Pittsburgh.
5:20pm: Andrew McCutchen is not untouchable, but he's about as close as it gets. The Pirates will at least listen to offers for the center fielder, though they would have to be blown away to move him, according to ESPN.com's Keith Law.
The Pirates discussed a potential extension with McCutchen earlier in the year, though talks slowed later in the summer. McCutchen posted a .259/.364/.456 line in 678 plate appearances this past season, setting a career high with 23 home runs. The 25-year-old made his first All-Star team, posting an OPS over .800 for the third time in as many big league seasons.
Justin Upton may be the best comparable for McCutchen, both in terms of trade value and contract discussions. The Diamondbacks listened to offers for the right fielder last offseason, ultimately holding on and enjoying MVP-caliber production. Upton signed a six-year, $51.25MM contract in 2010 that could serve as a model for the Pirates. McCutchen narrowly missed super two status this offseason and is under team control through 2015.
The division has been clinched, but the NL Central games today are still very much worth monitoring. The Brewers are a game up on the Diamondbacks in the race for first-round homefield, while the Cardinals need to win today's rubber match against the Cubs to stay on the Braves' heels in the Wild Card race. Here are the rest of today's items of interest out of the NL Central:
- Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that today's contest could be Albert Pujols' last home game as a Cardinal. Strauss goes on to preview the upcoming Pujols negotiations, noting that the Cards aren't currently inclined to top the nine years and annual figure of $22-$22.5MM they offered last winter.
- Strauss goes on to say that the Cardinals are "wary of bidding against themselves," meaning they likely wouldn't increase last year's offer until they have a better idea of their competition for Pujols.
- Extension talks will resume between the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen this winter, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Biertempfel hears from team and industry sources that the Pirates will likely offer a six-year deal with a club option.
- Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times ranks the best of the upcoming free agent class, with the NL Central duo of Pujols and Prince Fielder occupying two of the top three spots.
15 years ago today, the Mariners' acquisition of third baseman Dave Hollins was completed when they sent a 20-year-old first baseman named David Ortiz Arias to the Twins. Arias had just hit .322/.390/.511 for the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. By the following year Ortiz had dropped the Arias in his name and earned a September call-up. Ortiz posted a .266/.348/.461 line in 455 games spanning 1997-2002 with Minnesota, battling wrist and knee injuries. After the '02 season the Blue Jays reportedly expressed interest in Ortiz, but ultimately the Twins non-tendered him in lieu of a raise from his $950K salary. New Red Sox GM Theo Epstein signed Big Papi for $1.25MM, and the rest is history. Today's links…
- The Pirates are far apart in contract talks with Andrew McCutchen, reports ESPN's Jim Bowden. Bowden feels that a six-year deal in the $47-49MM range, plus a club option, would be a fair compromise. In my opinion, there's a good case to be made for a McCutchen contract to exceed the $51.25MM Justin Upton received over six years in March of 2010. McCutchen has played in over 100 more games than Upton had at that point, their offensive lines are very similar, and McCutchen plays center field.
- ESPN's Keith Law discusses MLB's European presence and what must be done for further growth.
- Answering a question from Craig Heist of WTOP about playing in Washington, Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said he'd love to remain in Tampa Bay but otherwise would like to play for the Nationals with old friend Ryan Zimmerman. You can follow Craig on Twitter here; MLB.com's Bill Ladson transcribed the discussion. Upton is heading into his last arbitration year and projects for a $7MM salary.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo names 20 young, next generation GM candidates. To check out MLBTR's top 20 plus honorable mentions, click here.
- Mike Cameron was consistently one of the best players in baseball when he was on the field, writes Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.
- The Orioles will try Chris Davis at third base for the rest of the season, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. The 25-year-old was a key piece of the July 30th Koji Uehara trade with Texas. With Mark Reynolds getting comfortable at first base, it's conceivable that the Orioles will sit out the corner infielder bidding this winter.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports chronicles how Joey Gathright went from being managed by Jose Canseco as a member of the independent league Yuma Scorpions to a minor league deal with the Red Sox.
After Yovani Gallardo struck out ten Cubs en route to another Milwaukee victory, the club's division lead reached double digits for the first time this season, with the Cardinals now 10.5 games back. The Brewers will send Zack Greinke to the hill today as they look to sweep the Cubs and continue chipping away at their magic number (19). Let's check out the rest of the morning's updates from the NL Central….
- Although the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen were discussing a possible extension earlier this year, talks remain at a standstill for now. The outfielder's agent, Steve Hammond, told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that "it's time to focus on playing baseball and winning games" and that further extension discussions could happen later.
- A raise and increased payroll flexibility wouldn't necessarily convince Andrew Friedman to leave the Rays for the Cubs, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. "Don't think because this is a glamorous situation he's going to want to jump to it," said manager Joe Maddon. "That's not true."
- Aramis Ramirez tells Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune that, having never reached free agency before, he's unsure what to expect if it happens this winter.
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle wonders if the delay in approving new Astros ownership is the league's way of saying it has "lingering doubts" about Jim Crane.
The latest from around the NL Central…
- Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez is likely to clear waivers Tuesday, in the opinion of SI's Jon Heyman (Twitter link). The Yankees have no interest, tweets ESPN's Andrew Marchand, and Heyman says the Diamondbacks don't either. Rodriguez is a bargain this year with $1.4MM remaining, but then is owed as much as $36MM over the next three seasons.
- Jose Tabata's $15MM contract was about shared risk, explained Pirates GM Neal Huntington to Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I'm still trying to determine what agency collected the commission on the team-friendly deal.
- It'll require compromise to get a deal done with Andrew McCutchen, Huntington told Sanserino. This is much different than the Tabata situation.
Tom Haudricourt of The Journal Sentinel reports that MLB has suspended Brewers right-hander Mark Rogers 25 games for a second positive test for a stimulant in violation of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Rogers' season was already over due to carpal tunnel syndrome, however. Here's the latest from baseball's only six-team division. ..
- The Pirates are working on a long-term extension for Neil Walker after locking up Jose Tabata, but Rob Biertempfel of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that talks about a deal for Andrew McCutchen have stalled. Both sides are willing to continue negotiations, but they haven't made any progress in weeks.
- The Astros put both Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers on waivers recently, and SI.com's Jon Heyman says he doesn't expect either player to be claimed (Twitter links). Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe disagrees though, saying claims should be made on both pitchers (Twitter link).
- "At this stage of my career, it's safe to say that if I'm not thrilled with the opportunities out there for me after this season, this would be it," said Lance Berkman of the Cardinals to Joe Strauss of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, hinting at retirement. "I'd love to come back but I also recognize they have some big decisions to make with some pretty big guys. Right now, I'm not assuming anything."
- Roger Hensley of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked various scribes if they believe Tony LaRussa will come back to manage the Cardinals next season, and got mixed answers.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote about Francisco Rodriguez and the seamless transition he's made from Mets closer to Brewers setup man.
Let's check out a handful of Pirates-related links, as Kevin Correia and the Bucs look to get back to .500 today against the Mets….
- Extension talks between Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates haven't progressed recently, reports Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. According to Kovacevic, both sides appear open to a deal, and an offer that buys out a year or two of the outfielder's free agent years may still be on the table. Money is a separator, however.
- We heard yesterday that teams are hoping to take advantage of the Pirates' lack of backstop depth by making Pittsburgh overpay to acquire a catcher. Manager Clint Hurdle discussed this dilemma with Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Everybody knows the situation we're in. So, when you ask, we're getting some sticker shock…. It's the nature of the industry, like the shark that smells blood."
- More from Hurdle on the team's need for catching help: "I know [GM Neal Huntington is] working overtime, I'm making calls, everyone's trying to check on who's available. We remain guardedly optimistic. We don't want to sacrifice the future for a fit right now, but the realism of the fit is pretty sincere…. I'm looking at how we are going to cover the next 35 to 40 games."
- Despite the Pirates' pitching woes over the last two decades, there are reasons to be optimistic about the arms in the organization, writes Bob Cohn of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Pirates have won just one of Paul Maholm's eight starts this year, but the left-hander and his 3.60 ERA aren't to blame. Pittsburgh has averaged 1.5 runs per game with Maholm on the hill, including last night's shutout at the hands of the Dodgers. Here's the latest on the Pirates…
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com explains that he believes the Pirates should move now to lock Andrew McCutchen long term. Since McCutchen hasn't fully realized his potential, the Pirates could save on an extension and pay him Justin Upton money ($51.25MMM) instead of Carlos Gonzalez money ($80MM). Plus, it would be a positive for fans and other players, Bowden argues. The Pirates have discussed a long-term deal with their center fielder and hope to sign him for five years or more.
- Tim Dierkes says he expects a six-year deal for McCutchen, who probably won't have to settle for less than $52MM.
- Pirates prospect Luis Heredia is just 16 years old, but he looks closer to 20, according to Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News. The right-hander retired rehabbing catcher Carlos Ruiz in extended Spring Training, much to the delight of his mother.
- John Grupp of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review chronicles Jose Ascanio's long path back to the Pirates roster. The right-hander, who was acquired as part of the 2009 Tom Gorzelanny trade, is back in Pittsburgh after a two-year absence.
The Pirates are talking to center fielder Andrew McCutchen about an extension, tweets SI's Jon Heyman, and they're insisting on at least a five-year deal. That's another way of saying they want to buy out at least one free agent year, which comes as no surprise. As noted in our agency database, McCutchen is represented by Steve Hammond of Aegis Sports Management.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported eight days ago that the two sides are in talks but no agreement was imminent. I mentioned at that time that I expect a six-year term, and I feel that McCutchen deserves $52MM or more based on comparable contracts.