Braden Looper Rumors
As the Giants raise their World Series banner with an assist from the Say Hey Kid, here's some news from around the majors...
- The Brewers received cash, rather than a player to be named later, from the Blue Jays to complete the Carlos Villanueva trade, reports the team (and passed on by MLB.com's Adam McCalvy).
- The Cubs aren't considering trying to lure Braden Looper out of retirement, reports ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine. Looper retired when he didn't make Chicago's Opening Day roster. With right-handers Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells on the disabled list, the Cubs have a sudden lack of pitching depth, but the team will turn to internal options like Casey Coleman, who will start on Sunday.
- The Red Sox got their first win of the season today, but there's still plenty of talk about Boston's slow start. SI's Tom Verducci thinks there are legitimate reasons for worry, namely that Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka "have to suddenly reverse the downward trends of their careers in their 30s."
- Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com also questions Boston's pitching, pointing out that barring rebound years from Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka, "they’re essentially the same team as the Yankees — terrific offense, deep bullpen, weak back of the rotation." Rosenthal, however, thinks it is far too early in the season for the Sox and their fans to panic.
- Jack Wilson asked to be taken out of the Mariners' 7-3 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday, Seattle manager Eric Wedge told reporters today. Wilson implied that Wedge had removed him from the game, which upset Wedge, tweets Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The Twitter feed of the Brock & Salk radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle reports that Wedge described Wilson's actions as "unspeakable" and wouldn't discuss the veteran infielder's status with the club.
- Pirates right-hander Tyler Yates has a torn flexor tendon in his throwing elbow, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Yates hasn't pitched since 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, and Langosch reports that this latest injury might convince Yates to retire, a decision he's already considered earlier in his career.
- The Diamondbacks are looking at Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Danny Hultzen with the third pick in this June's amateur draft, says Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Sources on other teams think this trio will be the first three players taken in the draft, though perhaps not in that order. Arizona also has the seventh overall pick, and Piecoro notes that the D-Backs' priority with that pick is to draft a player they can sign. Vanderbilt's Sonny Grey and high schoolers Dylan Bundy and Taylor Guerrieri are some of the players Piecoro hears connected with this pick.
- Doug Davis held another workout today, tweets Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus. Five or six teams were present, down from the eight clubs that watched Davis throw two weeks ago.
Braden Looper retired after the Cubs informed him that he didn't make the Opening Day roster, according to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). The Cubs lured Looper out of retirement with a minor league deal that could have been worth $1MM back in January.
Looper, the third overall selection in the 1996 draft, last pitched in the majors for the 2009 Brewers. The 36-year-old retires with a 72-65 record, a 4.15 ERA and 669 strikeouts in 1176 innings as a Marlin, Cardinal, Met and Brewer. Baseball-Reference estimates that Looper earned over $24MM in his 12-year-career.
Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Mitchell Page, a former outfielder and hitting coach who passed away Saturday. Page was the runner-up to Eddie Murray in a close vote for AL Rookie of the Year in 1977 and, more recently, served as a hitting coach for the Cardinals and Nationals. Here are today's links:
- According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, scouts watching the Cubs this weekend "seemed more interested in what [Braden] Looper’s status was than whether the fat-salaried [Carlos] Silva could be had." If things don't work out with Chicago, however, Looper would likely just return to his family.
- One of the Yankees' Sunday roster moves involved returning Rule 5 pick Daniel Turpen to the Red Sox, as Chad Jennings of the Journal News notes.
- Jamie Moyer still intends to attempt a comeback in 2012, writes Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Moyer, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is realistic about the factors working against him: "I want to give this a chance and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, so be it."
- CBA talks are ahead of schedule, with the second round of collective bargaining set to occur in the next few weeks, according to MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom.
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post explains why the Nationals aren't considering releasing Nyjer Morgan.
- In another article for the Post, Kilgore says the Nationals are having trouble evaluating Rule 5 pick Elvin Ramirez due to health issues.
In a ceremony today at the White House for winners of the Presidential Medal Of Freedom, President Obama described Cardinals legend Stan Musial as "an icon, untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you would want your kids to emulate." Congratulations to Musial for adding this prestigious award to his overflowing list of lifetime achievements.
Let's look at the middle of the baseball map for news from the NL and AL Central divisions...
- Tony La Russa is facing sharp criticism over his comments that the MLBPA was pressuring Albert Pujols to sign a record-setting contract. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports calls La Russa's statement "excessive and nonsensical." Agent Scott Boras, speaking to Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy on MLB Network Radio today, said La Russa's comments were "really not well thought out" and lacking in evidence.
- Boras noted that he hasn't spoken "at length" with his client Matt Holliday about Holliday's recent statement that he would consider deferring money from his own contract if it meant St. Louis could keep Pujols. "Matt is very generous and Matt really wants the best for his team and he wants to win," Boras said. Thanks to Andrew FitzPatrick of SiriusXM for providing a transcript of Boras' interview.
- Ed Wade discussed Hunter Pence's leadership abilities, his club's bullpen depth, Brett Wallace's opportunity to win an everyday job and other Astros topics in a media Q&A session. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart has the partial transcript.
- Braden Looper tells MLB.com's Carrie Muskat that he would've retired if he hadn't been signed by the Cubs, since he and his family live in the Chicago area. Looper expressed his interest in pitching for the Cubs last winter and sat out the 2010 season after not finding an acceptable contract.
- Chris Antonetti says the chances of the Indians acquiring another starter are "slim," tweets Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Also from Hoynes, Orlando Cabrera's deal with the Tribe will become official once the infielder passes a physical over the next two days.
- Daniel Hudson talks to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune about the deal that sent the young right-hander from the White Sox to the Diamondbacks last summer.
- The Royals finalized their $300K contract with Dominican pitcher Darwin Castillo, reports Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. The team has yet to determine if the 6'5" right-hander will go to the Arizona Rookie League or pitch for the Royals' Dominican academy.
MONDAY: Looper's deal pays him $1MM if he makes the team and includes about $2MM more in incentives, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter).
Looper, 36, last pitched for the Brewers in 2009. He threw for the Cubs before the 2010 season, but ultimately decided to sit out. Looper converted to starting in 2007, making 97 starts over a three-year span. He limits walks and keeps the ball on the ground fairly well, and could find innings with the Cubs if one of their starting five gets injured.
Ojeda, 36, broke into the Majors in 2000 with the Cubs. He's also served as a middle infield backup for the Twins and Diamondbacks. Ojeda was non-tendered by Arizona at the December deadline after earning $825K in 2010.
In total the Cubs invited 21 non-roster players to Spring Training, including Reed Johnson, Todd Wellemeyer, and Scott Moore. The team decided to bring in multiple veterans they knew from previous stints.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told Bill Shaikin of the LA Times that he has inquired about free agent pitchers, without specifying which ones. Jarrod Washburn is coaching T-ball these days, but said he would consider offers to pitch this season. Former Dodger Pedro Martinez has said he would pitch for a contender and Braden Looper is another free agent option.
Colletti expressed confidence in his offense and suggested it will take pitching to improve upon the team’s 38-33 record.
"Unless something drastic happens to an everyday player — or more than one — I think our focus will continue to be on our pitching staff," Colletti said.
It would take at least a few weeks for any unsigned pitcher to prepare for major league action, but free agents will only cost money. Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren may be more appealing, but they would cost the Dodgers prospects and salary.
The Cardinals have begun searching for starting pitching, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny are on the mend, so GM John Mozeliak is on the lookout. Since Lohse and Penny have uncertain timetables as they recover from injuries, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan asked Mozeliak to look for help outside the organization.
The Cardinals could use arms soon, so they're not likely to pursue pitchers like Pedro Martinez, Braden Looper and John Smoltz, who have been inactive so far in 2010. La Russa and Duncan appear willing to discuss a reunion with Jeff Suppan, who was recently released by the Brewers. The club also appears interested in Kevin Millwood, according to Strauss, though the team would not likely be able to take on the remainder of Millwood's $12MM salary.
According to talent evaluators that spoke to ESPN.com's Buster Olney recently, this year's starting pitching trade market may not take shape for another couple months. For pitching-desperate teams that don't want to take on a salary dump, that means the few remaining arms on the free agent market might be their best bet. Let's take a look at the latest news on some of the more notable pitchers still available....
- Jarrod Washburn: The Diamondbacks were rumored to have a passing interest in Washburn, but not at his asking price. The last we heard from agent Scott Boras was that as many as five teams were after the 35-year-old, though that was nearly three weeks ago. It seems that Boras and Washburn still have a vastly different perception of the left-hander's worth than most GMs do. Could the Dodgers be a possibility? According to Sirius XM Radio's Jim Bowden (via Twitter), GM Ned Colletti is still looking for a pitcher at the right price.
- Pedro Martinez: It's looking increasingly likely that Pedro will once again only pitch a half-season. The Mets are considered a potential landing spot for the righty, but the Phillies might be the favorites. Martinez had a successful stint with in Philadelphia in 2009, and the two sides have been keeping in touch this year. The Dodgers could be in the mix too, though the 38-year-old still harbors bad feelings toward the organization, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
- Braden Looper: Although the 35-year-old righty threw for the Cubs recently, they're not expected to sign him. Looper is probably most valuable as an innings-eater starter, while the Cubs are in need of a setup man. There hasn't been a lot of concrete news about Looper lately, but the Rockies could potentially be a fit. Tracy Ringolsby of Inside the Rockies opined three weeks ago that Looper-to-Colorado would be a logical match, and if both Jorge de la Rosa and Jason Hammel head to the disabled list, the Rockies would be missing two crucial starters.
- John Smoltz: He may be a TBS analyst for now, but Smoltz still hasn't ruled out pitching this season. The Phillies were rumored to be interested, though you'd have to think it'd be a case of either Martinez or Smoltz for Philadelphia, rather than both. Like Pedro, the 42-year-old is more likely to pitch for a National League club if he returns, so once again the Dodgers make sense as a potential suitor.
WEDNESDAY, 2:31pm: MLB.com's Carrie Muskat tweets that the Cubs are not expected to sign Looper.
Looper is coming off of a disastrous 2009 season for the Brewers. He pitched to a 5.22 ERA, along with 64 walks and 100 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings. Worst of all was a league-high 39 home runs allowed.
However, with the Cubs' bullpen pitching to a 6.00 ERA entering tonight's game (and struggling again), Looper may be an upgrade over some of the pitchers out there right now.
Braden Looper's numbers aren't eye-catching, but the free agent righty remains useful. The 35-year-old made at least 30 starts for the third consecutive season last year, logging 194.2 innings. He pitched to a 5.22 ERA with 4.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. Those numbers suggest that Looper isn't going to dominate, but could help teams win.
The Diamondbacks, for example, could use rotation depth. For now, they're monitoring the trade market and don't appear interested in free agent starters like Looper or Jarrod Washburn, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
The D'Backs have relied on just four starters so far this year, but Kris Benson will join the rotation and start for them tomorrow. Recent history suggests Looper could outperform Benson, but the D'Backs have Kevin Mulvey and Billy Buckner to call on, too.
The Dodgers were interested in Looper on a minor league deal back in March, but they haven't been connected to him since. Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger struck out 12 Marlins in his only start this year, so the Dodgers have an intriguing fifth starter for now.
A glance around the majors shows that a number of other clubs could use starting pitching depth. Mitch Talbot and Jake Westbrook are having early control problems for the Indians; Doug Fister, Jason Vargas and Ian Snell are far from sure things in Seattle; the Nationals have a team ERA above 7.00 and are getting less than five innings per start from their rotation; with Chris Young out, the Padres could look to Looper instead of Tim Stauffer or Wade LeBlanc; the Mets could look to add pitching, too.
There are openings around the league now and more will surely emerge as the season develops, so it would be a surprise if Looper were unable to find work given his history of durability.