Austin Kearns Rumors
The Diamondbacks have varying levels of interest in Austin Kearns, Brad Hawpe, Xavier Nady, and Jorge Cantu, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The team's interest in Nady and Cantu has been reported previously.
The D'Backs have added Melvin Mora and Geoff Blum to replace Mark Reynolds at third base, but they've still got openings at first base and left field. The team took a shot on Paul Konerko and is said to have interest in Derrek Lee as another first base possibility.
Jayson Werth is days away from free agency, so if the Phillies intend to re-sign their right fielder, they'll have to bid directly against other interested teams. There's a real chance Werth signs elsewhere this winter, so the Phillies are thinking ahead. Manager Charlie Manuel has acknowledged that he may pair Domonic Brown up with a more experienced player who can handle southpaws and play right field.
Brown, just 23, had no trouble hitting minor league pitching this year (.327/.391/.589 line) but he bats from the left side and the Phillies could ease him into the big leagues by limiting his exposure to left-handed pitching. Here are eight outfielders the Phillies may consider as platoon partners for Brown:
- Jeff Francoeur, 26 years old, non-tender candidate - Frenchy has his faults, but the 26-year-old can handle lefties. He has a .299/.343/.481 line against them in his career.
- Matt Diaz, 32 years old, non-tender candidate - Diaz has a .335/.373/.533 line against lefties in his career.
- Juan Rivera, 32 years old, trade candidate - The Angels will have to part with an outfielder if they sign Werth or Carl Crawford. Rivera, who spent most of the 2010 season in left field, has a career .288/.333/.499 line against lefties.
- Jose Guillen, 34 years old, free agent - He struggled against lefties this year, but boasts a .270/.327/.460 line against them in his career.
- Xavier Nady, 31 years old, free agent - Nady, who struggled through the 2010 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, has a .297/.367/.451 line against lefties in his career.
- Andruw Jones, 33, free agent - Jones would likely be able to find more playing time elsewhere, so he's not a natural fit in Philly, but his career (.261/.361/.501) and 2010 (.256/.373/.558) numbers against left-handers must have the Phillies salivating.
- Milton Bradley, 32, trade candidate - Again, Bradley seems like an unlikely target for the Phillies, but he has a .300/.382/.488 line against left-handers in his career and could be available.
- Willie Bloomquist, 32, free agent - He has a .272/.334/.366 line against lefties in his career - not much pop, but he's far more versatile than the players above. Bloomquist played all three outfield positions and all four infield positions this year, so Manuel could use him elsewhere if Brown wins the job outright.
- Austin Kearns, 30, free agent - Kearns has a career .261/.383/.416 line against lefties and may have trouble finding an everyday job.
- Ben Francisco, 29, on the Phillies - Francisco has a .267/.347/.460 career line against left-handers.
Diaz and Francoeur handle lefties well and can play right field, so they would be good fits for the Phils if they are indeed non-tendered. Rivera, Nady, Bloomquist and Kearns would also be legitimate options and none of the players listed figure to cost more than a few million on a one-year deal, so the Phillies are well-positioned to recover if Werth leaves and they consider alternatives to Francisco. Their biggest challenge will be helping Brown improve upon the .210/.257/.355 line he posted in 70 plate appearances this summer.
As the ALCS gets underway, let's look at some news from around the majors...
- Jason A. Churchill of ESPN.com (Insider subscription needed) proposes that if the Phillies can unload some big contracts, they could make a run at signing Cliff Lee this winter. Adding Lee to the current Roy Halladay/Roy Oswalt/Cole Hamels mix would create one of the all-time great rotations in baseball history, but this seems like a major longshot. If the Phils can really move Joe Blanton or Raul Ibanez like they can in Churchill's scenario, one would think they'd spend that freed-up money on more pressing needs than pitching.
- Writing for MLB.com, former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire strongly endorses Sandy Alderson for the vacant Mets GM job. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith profiled Alderson earlier today.
- Yoon Chul, the reporter who wrote that Shin-Soo Choo wanted a "transfer" to a winning team, has apologized to the Indians for "editing problems" that altered the meaning of the Cleveland outfielder's words according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Another Korean journalist, Jeeho Yoo, told the Tribe that Choo said "he wants to stay with one club for a long time and Cleveland would be his first choice."
- Jed Lowrie's strong second half has made him a candidate to either take over the starting shortstop's job from Marco Scutaro or to become trade bait for a club looking for a young infielder, writes Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com.
- Some conflicted early reaction to Seattle's pending hire of Eric Wedge: CBSSports.com's Scott Miller thinks "the Mariners could not have made a more uninspiring hire," while 710ESPN Seattle's Shannon Drayer gets great reviews of Wedge from former players and Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com looks back at the Rangers' 2007 trade of Mark Teixeira and how it was the starting point for the club's current success. Texas acquired Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones from Atlanta for the slugging first baseman --- safe to say the Rangers won that deal.
- Speaking of Teixeira, he cited teammate C.C. Sabathia as "arguably...the best free agent signing in Yankees history." The story from Marc Carig of The Star-Ledger cites Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Teixeira himself and others as candidates for that title, plus Yankees GM Brian Cashman posits that Orlando Hernandez might've been the best signing from a pure dollars-to-performance standpoint.
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle writes that the Astros can take some lessons from how the Rangers rebuild their franchise, and that the Astros have finally belatedly gotten started on their own youth movement.
- Austin Kearns tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson that he "would love to stay" in New York next season.
Most MLBTR readers said R.A. Dickey was the best minor league signing of the year when we voted earlier in the month, but the Mets fell out of contention long ago, so Dickey didn't have much of an impact on this year's pennant race. The five minor league deals below had lasting effects on the 2010 pennant race:
- Rays sign Joaquin Benoit - The reliever has a 1.39 ERA in 61 games with 11.1 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. Amazingly, Benoit has allowed just 28 hits in 58.1 innings.
- Reds sign Miguel Cairo - There are bigger stars on the Reds, but Cairo has batted .289/.352/.411 and played all four infield positions. Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty deserves credit for this find.
- Yankees sign Marcus Thames - Thames has hit .287/.352/.500 this year with 12 homers in 227 plate appearances.
- Giants sign Pat Burrell - GM Brian Sabean bought low on Burrell, who has responded with 17 homers and an .869 OPS in San Francisco. Burrell is playing the way he did in 2008 and without that kind of production, the Giants probably wouldn't be leading the NL West.
- Padres sign Chris Denorfia - Denorfia has hit .264/.332/.435 in 302 plate appearances for the Padres, who have seen outfielders Tony Gwynn and Kyle Blanks miss significant time with injuries.
Over at River Ave. Blues, contributor Steve H wonders if the Yankees will retain Austin Kearns in 2011. Has Kearns, he asked, done enough to warrant a large raise or a chance to hook on somewhere as a starter? If the answer to one of those questions is "yes" (particularly the first question), then the odds of him playing elsewhere next season increase.
The slugger has certainly impressed so far in New York, hitting .351/.415/.514 with 1 home run in 13 games. When combined with his time in Cleveland, his slash line reads .281/.360/.429 with nine homers in 97 games. Those numbers aren't too shabby for a guy making $750K this season. In fact, using his Wins Above Replacement metric, Fangraphs estimates that he would make $6.2MM in free agency with his play this year. No one would make the case for Kearns to command that kind of money on the open market this year, but the point remains that he has produced more than your average sub-$1MM player.
So, the question is..
Will Austin Kearns re-sign with the Yankees or go elsewhere?
In a move that has amused those who follow the New York Mets closely, Jeff Francoeur has gone public with his demands to be traded following New York's decision to platoon him with young outfielder Fernando Martinez.
Despite a season line of .241/.294/.385, Francoeur apparently believes a major league team would play him regularly at a position, right field, that averages production of .271/.344/.447. Indeed, Francoeur's line is well below the MLB average at second base (.266/.331/.393).
But we have yet to see how Francoeur's demand for a trade stands up to history. It isn't easy to find comparable performance among right fielders in recent years, and it's even harder to find any who were traded after performing as poorly as Francoeur.
Since 2000, just 31 of the 165 right fielders to amass at least 300 plate appearances posted an OPS+ below 100. Of those 31, only four checked in lower than Francoeur's 2010 OPS+ mark of 82: Richard Hidalgo's 2005 (81), Jeromy Burnitz's 2002 (80), Austin Kearns' 2008 (67) and Jeff Francoeur's own 2008 (72).
Kearns followed his 2008 with a similarly poor 2009 before the Nationals let him walk after last season. Burnitz followed 2002 with a half-season of a 139 OPS+ for the 2003 Mets, earning a trade to Los Angeles for Kole Strayhorn, Jose Diaz and Victor Diaz. Hidalgo never played in the majors again, and Francoeur followed his 2008 with a half-season of 68 OPS+ hitting in 2009, earning a trade to the Mets for Ryan Church.
In other words Jeff Francoeur is the only one from that group to be traded for anything at all. Incidentally, four of the 31 player seasons in right field below 100 OPS+ are from Francoeur. Only three others are on the list more than once: Juan Encarnacion (three times), Alex Rios (twice), Hidalgo (twice) and Burnitz (twice).
Encarnacion is an instructive comparison. His career OPS+ of 97 is better than, but similar to, Francoeur's 91. Encarnacion had additional value because he lacked a platoon split (amazingly, his OPS against both lefties and righties was .758) and had the ability to play center field.
In the middle of an 84 OPS+ season in 2004 at age 28, a year after he posted a 97 OPS+, the Marlins acquired Encarnacion as part of a six-player deal from the Dodgers. He went on to start 46 of Florida's remaining 58 games. His salary ($3.6MM) was roughly equivalent to the $5MM Francoeur earns in 2010.
So there is precedent. It happened one other time.
Among those under 100 OPS+ in right field, Alex Rios had a 96 OPS+ last year when the White Sox took him from the Blue Jays and agreed to pay his entire salary (at $61MM, many times as much as remains on Francoeur's deal). But Rios had three seasons of 120, 122 and 112 OPS+ in 2006-2008 under his belt, success Francoeur hasn't seen since his half-season debut in 2005.
Overwhelmingly, the players performing as poorly as Francoeur, or even demonstrably better, are simply let go, often never to surface again. Trot Nixon's 96 OPS+ in 2006 represented his last season as a regular player. So did Danny Bautista's 85 in 2004 and Derek Bell's 98 in 2000. Jose Guillen's 89 in 2000 got him sent back to the minor leagues by Tampa Bay, then released.
There's also that pesky question: who would Francoeur replace in another team's regular lineup? Of the 20 right fielders in MLB who have played more than half their games in right field this year, Francoeur ranks dead last in OPS+ with 82. The four closest to him? Jay Bruce (96), Ben Zobrist (98), Hunter Pence (102) and Ichiro Suzuki (107). It is safe to say Francoeur won't be replacing any of those players. He'd make a decent platoon partner with Bruce, but... right. Platooning led Francoeur to demand a trade in the first place.
In short, the answer to the title of this piece is: not reasonable at all. Not reasonable in light of his 2010 performance, not reasonable in terms of other right fielders, not reasonable comparatively through recent history.
Sunday night linkage..
- The three newest members of the Dodgers are happy to be in Los Angeles, writes MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.
- The Rangers were the biggest winners at the deadline, writes Scott Miller of CBSSports.com.
- Yunesky Maya tells Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald (Spanish link) that he has been training hard and "in about three weeks" the Nationals can save him a spot on the roster (translation courtesy of Nick Collias). Earlier today the Nats confirmed that they have inked the 28-year-old hurler to a four-year deal.
- Major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that a three-way trade was discussed in which Mike Lowell could have landed with the Yankees. In the discussed deal, the Red Sox would have sent Lowell to the Rangers, who would then send the veteran to the Yankees.
- Daniel Barbarisi of The Providence Journal writes that despite his strong first half, Clay Buchholz still couldn't bring himself to relax at the deadline.
- The Giants haven't talked to Carlos Delgado's people since this winter, tweets Mychael Urban of CSNBayArea.com.
- MLB.com's James Hall writes that Indians manager Manny Acta is happy to have July 31st in the rear view mirror. Jake Westbrook, Kerry Wood, Austin Kearns, and Jhonny Peralta were all shipped out in advance of the deadline.
- The future of Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is clearly in doubt, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
- Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos had his eye on center fielder Anthony Gose for quite some time, writes Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Anthopoulos finally got his man in exchange for first baseman Brett Wallace.
The Yankees acquired Austin Kearns from Cleveland for a player to be named later or cash, the Indians announced. This acquisition won't make the headlines the Yankees' other trade will, but the Yanks like Kearns for his right-handed bat, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). Kearns, 30, is hitting .268/.351/.413 this season and has a .799 OPS against lefties in his career. He'll earn $270K between now and the end of the season and hit free agency afterwards.
Jon Heyman of SI.com first reported that a deal was close, Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted that the Indians were getting a PTBNL and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the deal was complete (all Twitter links).
Despite their busy day, the Yankees are working on another trade, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter).
Kerry Wood is among the Indians drawing interest on the trade market, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Multiple teams are interested in the big right-hander, who has eight saves, 8.7 K/9, 4.3 BB/9 and a 6.27 ERA. Wood’s 2011 option vests at $11MM if he finishes 39 more games, but that seems unlikely given his current pace (16 finished so far). The Indians aren’t close to dealing Wood, but rival teams are interested in other players.
Jake Westbrook and Austin Kearns are drawing interest, though clubs are more interested in Westbrook than Kearns. Jhonny Peralta is drawing ‘little’ interest so far, even though many teams could use veteran infielders.
The Indians started trading early this year, shipping Russell Branyan back to Seattle, but the 2010 deadline will probably not compare to 2008, when they dealt C.C. Sabathia or 2009, when they dealt Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez.
The last-place Indians are poised to become sellers this month, and have already cashed in one of their trade chips, in Russell Branyan. Paul Hoynes and Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer discuss potential upcoming moves for the Indians in a series of articles:
- Although the Indians have pieces they'd like to deal, they haven't received a whole lot of interest from other teams yet, writes Hoynes. Unlike in the past couple summers, there's no Indian on the block nearly as appealing as Cliff Lee or C.C. Sabathia.
- Despite their holes in the infield, the Phillies aren't interested in Jhonny Peralta, according to a Hoynes source.
- One scout on Kerry Wood: "He's got a power arm, but I don't like him closing. He walks too many people. But his experience is valuable."
- In a separate mini-mailbag, Hoynes says that Wood needs consistent work to be effective, and that Chris Perez is ready to be the Tribe's full-time closer.
- There haven't been any trade talks concerning Wood, and there hasn't been much interest in Austin Kearns either, according to Pluto.
- Pluto writes that a few teams have inquired about Jake Westbrook, but that "it has to be a compelling trade" for the Indians to move him. They aren't just looking for salary relief.