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Brandon League Rumors
After an arduous start with the Dodgers, Brandon League has settled in nicely as the team's closer, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. The right-hander turned his season around thanks to 18 scoreless appearances out of his last 19, giving him a 0.44 ERA during that stretch. Here's a look at the news and stories making headlines on the final Sunday of the regular season…
- Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki has exceeded all expectations for Washington after the team acquired him from the A's at the non-waiver trade deadline, writes Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. The 28-year-old's strong performance has come on both sides of the ball, especially with his bat. "He's gotten clutch hits," Ryan Zimmerman said. "I think we all knew he was a better hitter and his track record shows he was a better hitter than what he was doing this year.
- Thanks to a strong campaign replete with increased playing time, Mets outfielder Scott Hairston heads into the offseason looking for a deal that will allow him to continue to expand his role in 2013, says Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Hairston will be able to use his 1.9 Wins Above Replacement as a negotiating chip as he looks to become an everyday player for the entirety of the season. "I pretty much played in every role possible, and the last few weeks or so I've been playing every day," Hairston said. "It's just one of those things where I really don't know what's going to happen. I'm just going to prepare myself this offseason as if I'll be playing every day."
- The resurgence of Nate McLouth hasn't been an easy endeavor for the former All-Star, but the hard work has the scrappy outfielder playing a major role in the Orioles' success, writes Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun. "It's part of the path that God has laid out for my life. And I don't question it. Were the last couple years tough? Heck yeah they were. But I know I am stronger and better because of it," McLouth said.
The Mariners have traded Brandon League to the Dodgers for prospects Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom, the team announced. Earlier today we heard that a number of contenders had interest in Seattle's former closer as they looked to bolster their bullpens.
League, 29, is owed approximately $1.8MM for the rest of the season before becoming a free agent this winter. He's pitched to a 3.63 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings this year, plus his usual sky-high ground ball rate is down to just 46.9%. The Dodgers have lost Matt Guerrier and Todd Coffey to injury this season, so League will add some late-inning depth.
Landry, 22, is hitting .328/.358/.559 with eight homers and 15 triples in 376 plate appearances for Los Angeles' High Class-A affiliate this season while spending most of his time in center field. Bawcom, a 23-year-old right-hander, owns a 2.03 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 48 2/3 relief innings split between Single-A and Double-A this year. Neither player ranked among the team's top 30 prospects in Baseball America's Prospect Handbook before the season.
2:02pm: The White Sox, Rangers, Giants, Dodgers, and other clubs are in on League, writes Scott Miller of CBS Sports.
11:19am: The Giants are still involved on Mariners reliever Brandon League, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, adding along with colleague Ken Rosenthal that the Dodgers inquired. Yesterday afternoon, Morosi tweeted that the Mariners were discussing League with multiple teams.
League, 29, has a 3.63 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.20 HR/9, and 46.9% groundball rate in 44 2/3 innings this year. He's allowed just one home run despite the lowest groundball rate of his career. League has $1.71MM remaining on his contract and will be eligible for free agency after the season. His earning power was hurt a bit by the loss of the Mariners' closing job in late May.
5:15pm: The Giants and Mariners have definitely discussed League, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). It's still not clear where League will be traded, though, according to Morosi.
4:06pm: The Mariners were discussing League with multiple teams as of this afternoon, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter).
3:03pm: There's some scuttlebutt in high circles that the Giants are the team getting League, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter). But it's not a sure thing.
2:52pm: The Braves and Rangers aren't in the mix for League, Crasnick tweets.
2:46pm: The Angels and Mariners are in talks for League, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports. The Mariners could be close to trading League to the Giants or the Angels, Gonzalez writes.
2:05pm: The Mariners are close to trading Brandon League to an unknown team, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports (on Twitter). The Giants, Angels and Mets are known to have some interest in the right-hander.
League is earning $5MM this year and will hit free agency this offseason. The 29-year-old has a 3.05 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 46.4% ground ball rate in 42 1/3 innings for Seattle. He lost the closer's job in May, but has pitched to a 1.96 ERA with twice as many strikeouts as walks since the beginning of June. His fastball averages 95.2 mph, according to FanGraphs.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
A look at the latest out of Queens and the Bronx..
- A source tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) that Padres third baseman Chase Headley is not out of question for the Yankees. Headley could play at third until Alex Rodriguez and could replace Nick Swisher if he leaves via free agency next year, Rosenthal tweets.
- The Yankees and Padres haven't exchanged names in Headley talks, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- Although Mets GM Sandy Alderson is fielding calls for Tim Byrdak and Scott Hairston, he is more likely to retain the pair, a person familiar with the club's thinking told Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
- Martino adds that the Mets have inquired on Mariners righthander Brandon League, according to a baseball source, but their interest in him and other high-profile relievers has fizzled. That source expects a quiet few days from the Mets as the deadline approaches.
- Before the Mariners traded Ichiro to the Yankees, they were deep in talks with the Giants and White Sox, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter).
- The outfielder liked the idea of playing for the Giants, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle adds (via Twitter).
The Giants and Angels are among the teams that have shown interest in Mariners right-hander Brandon League, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Giants are seeking relievers more aggressively than any team, Morosi reported earlier today. The Angels and Braves are also actively seeking bullpen help (Twitter links).
League is earning $5MM this year and will hit free agency this offseason. The 29-year-old has a 2.98 ERA with 5.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 45.1% ground ball rate in 42 1/3 innings for Seattle. He lost the closer's job in May, but has pitched to a 1.71 ERA with twice as many strikeouts as walks since the beginning of June. His fastball averages 95.2 mph, according to FanGraphs.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe ranks the top ten managers in baseball. Don Mattingly of the Dodgers tops the list as he has the club off to a surprising 38-22 record, putting them four games above the Giants in the NL West. Robin Ventura (White Sox), Terry Collins (Mets), Bobby Valentine (Red Sox), and Buck Showalter (Orioles) round out the top five. Here's more from Cafardo..
- Only Kevin Towers knows for sure if the inconsistent Justin Upton could ever be available in a deal. However, a few baseball evaluators wouldn’t mind tempting the Diamondbacks with a package. Arizona doesn't need pitching, so the Red Sox can't use someone like Clay Buchholz to get him.
- The Phillies may be more interested in Will Middlebrooks than Kevin Youkilis, a major league source told Cafardo. However, it doesn't look like the Red Sox would have interest in dealing Middlebrooks.
- The Orioles' new six-year, $85MM deal with Adam Jones has led to speculation on how the Red Sox will approach Jacoby Ellsbury, who can be a free agent after the 2013 season. However, there's reason for both sides to wait. As an Oregon native who shuns the spotlight, Ellsbury may want a quieter market. The Sox, meanwhile, would want to see Ellsbury stay healthy for a while before committing 6-8 years to him.
- While the Mariners haven’t given indications that they will sell off veteran pieces, teams are targeting them as a seller. The M's have already received some inquiries for Brandon League.
- The Rays have to be looking for a middle infielder, which are extremely hard to come by. Tampa Bay is anxious to upgrade from the defensive play of Sean Rodriguez.
- The Red Sox really like Jorge Soler, but they don’t appear to be the front-runners for him.
The new playoff system may or may not impact the number of buyers and sellers this summer, but there's one thing about the trade deadline that won't change: pitching will be in demand. It is every year and in all forms — starters and relievers, right-handers and left-handers, aces and innings-eaters — there's a market for all of them.
A popular target for clubs looking to add bullpen help is the proverbial "closer on a bad team." The Rangers were 14.5 games out when they traded Eric Gagne to the Red Sox in 2007 and the Nationals were 13.5 games out when they traded Matt Capps to the Twins in 2010, just for example. The upcoming free agent class is littered with closers, but two of them have seen their trade value drop because of poor performance in recent weeks.
Brandon League, Mariners
League saved 37 games and was an All-Star a year ago, but this season he's pitched to a 4.43 ERA with a 44.4% ground ball rate that is well below his career norm (60.3%). Manager Eric Wedge removed the 29-year-old right-hander from the closer's role following last night's blown save, already his fourth of the season. He told reporters (including Larry Larue of The News Tribune) they'll instead "match up with what we think works" in the ninth inning.
Grant Balfour, Athletics
Three poor performances (two blown saves) in late-April and early-May cost Balfour his job as closer, and now he's working the seventh inning in Oakland thanks to Ryan Cook's emergence. The 34-year-old veteran has a 4.09 ERA in 22 innings, though his strikeout (7.0 K/9) and walk (3.3 BB/9) rates are both trending in the wrong direction for the second straight season.
Both League and Balfour are scheduled to become free agents after this season, though Balfour's contract includes a $4.5MM club option ($350K buyout) for 2013. With pitchers like Jonathan Broxton, Huston Street, and Francisco Rodriguez providing quality rental bullpen help alternatives on the trade market, the Mariners and A's could be left with nothing to show for their free agent-to-be relievers.
Photo via US Presswire.
- The Rangers offered left-hander Robbie Ross to the Mets in a package of players for Carlos Beltran last summer, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter link). The Mets ultimately passed on Ross and obtained Zack Wheeler from the Giants.
- The Rangers would do well to sign Josh Hamilton to a short-term deal at a high average annual value, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. A four-year $100MM deal could work, Rosenthal suggests. The MLBPA views drug and alcohol-related contract provisions as unenforceable, according to Rosenthal, who offers a short history of related disputes between teams and players.
- The Angels aren't seeking outside catching help now, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com tweets. They'll rely on internal options such as Bobby Wilson until Chris Iannetta returns from wrist surgery one or two months from now.
- Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner says the Mariners should shop Brandon League before his value drops because Seattle's bullpen could manage without him and rival teams would be interested in potential trades.
- Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak was once a top prospect, but ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden says we should adjust our expectations for him and accept that he’s not going to be a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Older ballplayers are showing a lot of life so far this season, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Veterans Paul Konerko, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, and Jamie Moyer have all looked sharp in the month of April. Ortiz lost 25 pounds to get himself into shape for this season and plans to keep up the hard work as he hopes to play for another two seasons. Here's more from Cafardo..
- The Angels have inquired on A’s pitcher Grant Balfour and he is becoming one of the more sought-after bullpen pieces. The Halos have also shown interest in Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates and the Mariners' Brandon League, but Balfour seems the most logical.
- If the Twins don’t turn things around by the trade deadline, Carl Pavano will be a highly sought-after pitcher. The right-hander is earning $8.5MM in the final year of his contract and has limited no-trade protection. Jason Marquis, Matt Capps, and Francisco Liriano could also be used as chips to land prospects.
- Teams probably have their eye on Astros right-hander Brett Myers. Many teams, such as the Angels and Red Sox, could use the 31-year-old’s arm right now. He has also shown that he can pitch in a big market with his time in Philadelphia.
- If Tigers outfielder Delmon Young is convicted of a hate crime, it will be interesting to see whether the the club void his contract. They would be within their rights to do so under the collective bargaining agreement. The 26-year-old earns $6.75MM this year and can become a free agent after the season.
- The A's are a good bet to land Brandon Inge.
- Most baseball people feel there’s no way the Red Sox let Aaron Cook hit the open market by not calling him up May 1. The 33-year-old will earn the prorated portion of $1.5MM if he is called up to the majors.