Brandon League Rumors
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.
The Mariners avoided arbitration with closer Brandon League, agreeing to a $5MM deal, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Matt Swartz had projected $4.2MM for the ACES client. League will be eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.
Jim Johnson is the current favorite to close games for manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles are open to trading Kevin Gregg and absorbing some of the $5.8MM he'll earn in 2012, Connolly reports. I find it hard to imagine a team taking on more than $1.5MM of Gregg's salary given the 53K/40BB ratio he posted in 2011 and the availability of other free agent relievers.
The Orioles discussed a Brandon League deal with the Mariners at the Winter Meetings and expressed interest in Seattle starter Jason Vargas at the time, according to Connolly. Jeremy Guthrie and Mark Reynolds also surfaced in the trade talks, Connolly reports. The Angels and Rays have also been linked to Cordero, who probably won't return to Cincinnati now that Ryan Madson is set to join the Reds.
Some baseball people believe the Mariners are willing to trade closer Brandon League, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, and sources say several teams have reached out to Seattle to express interest.
The Dodgers checked in on League during the Winter Meetings, according to the report, although their interest is not believed to be serious at this point.
The Mariners' decision to trade League may be held up by their possible negotiations with Prince Fielder, according to the report, as it could be hard to sell Fielder that they're serious about building a contender while simultaneously trading away a useful veteran coming off his best season.
League, 28, is a projected free agent after the 2012 season. He's eligible for arbitration for the fourth (he's a Super Two) and final time this offseason and is in line to make $4.2MM through that process, according to MLBTR's projected arbitration salaries. He has been a possible trade candidate since popping up in rumors prior to last season's non-waiver trade deadline, although Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said earlier this offseason that a trade was "not likely at all."
The Blue Jays, Twins, and Marlins added closers in recent days, and it's not clear whether the remaining teams with ninth inning openings are willing to spend big. The latest on several closers...
- There is "no interest" from Madson or Rodriguez in accepting arbitration, tweets Peter Gammons of MLB Network. However, one agent believes that if the Red Sox trade for Andrew Bailey, which is a "real possibility," Madson and K-Rod could be in trouble, tweets ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.
- The Angels are interested in trading for Seattle's Brandon League, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The Angels have also expressed interest in free agents Todd Coffey and Jason Isringhausen, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times, but they probably won't move on a reliever until C.J. Wilson decides what to do.
- There's lots of buzz that Ryan Madson and Francisco Rodriguez could accept arbitration with the Phillies and Brewers, respectively, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark. I still think Scott Boras will advise both to decline tomorrow night.
- The Rockies are willing to eat all of Huston Street's $8MM salary for prospects, tweets Stark. He says the Padres are a possibility. Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Twitter link) hears the Rockies would take on some "but not all" of Street's salary.
- Stark confirms yesterday's rumor that the Royals will listen on Joakim Soria, but they want a front-line starter in return.