Brandon Lyon Rumors
A quick rundown of some of the day's items...
- In an appearance on WEEI's Dale & Holley Show, ESPN's Keith Law said that the Red Sox are the clear front-runners if and when Adrian Gonzalez hits the trade market. "I really think that Boston could top anybody if Adrian Gonzalez becomes available, and he will," Law said. The transcript of Law's appearance is available here.
- It looks like Washington might still be the only team interested in Kris Benson. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that the Indians have no interest in the right-hander.
- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark polled "20 baseball wise men" to get their take on the offseason moves. The panel picked Seattle and Arizona as the most improved teams in their respective leagues, while Cleveland and the Dodgers were the least improved. John Lackey was named the winter's best free agent signing, while Brandon Lyon's deal with Houston was considered the worst.
- Giants infielder Freddy Sanchez underwent shoulder surgery on December 23, but the news of the procedure didn't come out until almost a month later. Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News believes the club wanted to keep Sanchez's condition a secret in order to help them sign Juan Uribe to a more team-friendly contract. Uribe signed a one-year, $3.25MM deal on January 5.
- MLB.com's Jim Street answers some Mariner-related questions in a fan mailbag. Some topics of note include the possibility that the M's could deal one of their surplus outfielders, and Chad Cordero could also be trade bait if he doesn't make the Seattle bullpen but otherwise appears recovered from shoulder surgery.
- Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs thinks "Arizona overpaid a bit" in the arbitration settlement between the Diamondbacks and Edwin Jackson, but also notes that "there is reason to believe this deal is fair to both sides."
- Miguel Olivo took less money to play in Colorado because he wanted to be on a contending team, reports Troy Renck of The Denver Post.
- "It's decision time" for teams to negotiate with players entering the last year of their contracts, says USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
- Wandy Rodriguez and the Astros had their arbitration hearing today, and The Associated Press reports that a decision should be reached by tomorrow. Rodriguez wants $7MM, while Houston has countered with an offer of $5MM.
- Jane Lee of MLB.com breaks down the dollars and reasoning behind Oakland's quick flip of Willy Taveras earlier this month.
- There are no new developments between Jonny Gomes and the Reds, but John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the two sides are still talking. GM Walt Jocketty is hopeful the team and player "can get something done this weekend."
- Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at some of the issues facing the Pirates this spring, and notes that the club's young players could be helped without the pressure to win starting jobs.
Since their team won the NL pennant in 2005, Astros fans have had reason to feel frustrated. A roster that has included the likes of Lance Berkman, Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt and future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio has averaged just under 79 wins per year since that World Series appearance.
This unimpressive stretch of play has led some fans to argue that club should give up on its hopes of contending over the next few seasons and focus on re-stocking its minor-league system. However, as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes pointed out in his Offseason Outlook piece last October, this is a team that "could contend with the right free agent additions." In the wide-open NL Central, the Astros seem to be perpetually just a player away from a playoff berth. Even in 2006, when the club finished 82-80, they still finished just 1.5 games behind the eventual World Series-champion Cardinals.
This winter has provided the same mixed message from Houston, following its 74-88 record in 2009. Owner Drayton McLane spoke about the importance of developing young talent in an interview with The Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice last June, but the Astros' offseason moves (trading for reliever Matt Lindstrom and signing free agents Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon and Pedro Feliz) make it seem like Houston is once again reloading rather than rebuilding.
If the Astros ever did commit to a rebuild, however, the most obvious candidates for a deal would be their three biggest contracts: Berkman, Oswalt and Carlos Lee. Houston has $2MM buyouts on Berkman's contract in 2011 and Oswalt's contract in 2012, but most people agree that these two iconic Astros seem destined to retire with the franchise.
That leaves Lee, who is owed $18.5MM per season through 2012. The outfielder has performed well in his three years in Houston (.305/.354/.524) but may be showing signs of a decline. His 26 homers and .831 OPS last season were his lowest totals in each category since 2002 and 2005, respectively. MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says that between Lee's big contract, poor defense (a -4.6 UZR/150 according to Fangraphs), full no-trade clause and a desire to stay in Texas due to his ranch business, Lee is "about as untradeable as they come."
Let's speculate, for a moment, that Lee could be persuaded (probably through a cash bonus) to leave the ranch behind and agree to a deal. Houston would almost surely have to eat at least half of Lee's remaining contract in any trade, but for a big-market AL team that could afford to pick up the other half, Lee would be an intriguing DH option.
Perhaps the best fit is Chicago. Much has been written about Ozzie Guillen's DH-by-committee plan for the upcoming season, and the White Sox seem committed enough to the idea to pass on signing Jim Thome. But if the Sox find themselves in a pennant race and their platoon of designated hitting options (Omar Vizquel? Really?) isn't working out, then they could make a play for an everyday DH. Lee would fit that bill and, since he spent the first six seasons of his career with the White Sox, might be amenable to waive his no-trade clause to return to a familiar location.
This scenario is, admittedly, a longshot. It's much more likely that, no matter if the Astros choose to keep aiming for contention or commit to a proper rebuilding process, Lee will be a constant in the Astros' outfield. You could say that Lee is Houston's answer to Vernon Wells --- an unwieldly contract that is too big to trade and also takes up enough of the payroll to hamstring the team from making other moves.
MLB.com's Brian McTaggart writes in his latest piece about Jose Valverde's struggle to find a multi-year contract, or even a one-year deal equivalent to the $10MM salary he was likely to receive had he accepted Houston's offer of arbitration.
McTaggart describes Valverde, 30, as the latest in a tradition of arbitration-eligible players who turn down the offer, only to find the marketplace a far colder place.
Valverde's problem isn't effectiveness- he pitched to a 2.33 ERA last year as Houston's closer, and has posted better than a strikeout per inning every season he's been in the majors- but rather finding a team willing to pay him and give up a draft pick, since Valverde is one of three remaining Type A free agents who were offered arbitration (Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are the others).
McTaggart writes, "The hard truth for Valverde is that although he is the most talented and accomplished of the available closers, it may very well be that turning down arbitration from the Astros -- and the likely $10 million salary that he would have netted for 2010 -- was a bad gamble. He may end up having to accept a one-year deal anyway, as Wagner did, and potentially at significantly less than he would have made in arbitration."
The Astros moved on, signing Brandon Lyon to a three-year, $15MM deal to close. As for Valverde, his destination is still to-be-determined. If/when his price comes down, he could be one of the real bargains of the winter.
Some links to start the weekend...
- MLB.com's Joe Frisaro says that Mike Jacobs isn't a fit to return to the Marlins. The team's second best prospect is first baseman Logan Morrison, who is on the cusp of the big leagues after spending most of 2009 in Double-A.
- Milton Bradley continues to hamstring the Cubs this offseason, writes Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune.
- Tommy Bennett at Beyond The Box Score compared John Lackey to A.J. Burnett, and doesn't think he deserves a bigger contract than the Yanks' hurler.
- The Astros will make the Brandon Lyon signing official today, according to MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
- Curious about what the 2010 draft order looks like following the recent signings? Check it out.
Some more links for your Thursday night...
- John Tomase of the Boston Herald says the Red Sox believe Adrian Beltre to be "one of the most game-changing defenders in the majors."
- Two GMs tell Tom Verducci of SI.com that they were shocked to see the Astros commit $15MM to Brandon Lyon.
- Verducci reports that the Yankees called the Tigers about Curtis Granderson before the World Series began.
- The Nats still plan on adding multiple veteran starters, according to Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.
- Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News says the Rangers have to be "extremely selective with multi-year deals, stock a good farm system, fill in with low-risk, high-reward short-timers and churn regularly." So far, Sherrington likes Jon Daniels' strategy.
- MLB.com's Ian Browne expects Mike Lowell to be a positive presence in the Texas clubhouse.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti tells MLB.com's Ken Gurnick that he's "not close" on any deals.
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Steve Kornacki of MLive.com that there's a chance Phil Coke starts in Detroit.
- The D'Backs don't appear to have much money to spend, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
- Marlins president Larry Beinfest tells MLB.com's Joe Frisaro that "there is still some stuff simmering." The club hopes to trade Dan Uggla, according to Frisaro.
- Orioles starter Brian Matusz told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that he grew up watching Kevin Millwood pitch for the Braves. Now, the two will be teammates.
- Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times reports that the Dodgers turned down a Japanese club that wanted to buy Eric Stults' contract.
- Brian Cashman told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that Juan Miranda could potentially DH for the Yanks next year.
The Phillies are moving on to other bullpen options, now that the Astros have signed Brandon Lyon. Scott Lauber of the News Journal reports that the Phils have had conversations with the representatives for Octavio Dotel and J.J. Putz. They're negotiating with Chan Ho Park, but Lauber hears that other teams might be interested in Park as a starter, which he would prefer.
Lyon had been linked to the Phillies for weeks before former Phillies GM Ed Wade signed him to a $15MM deal with the Astros. As Amaro tells Lauber, the Phillies were interested until the end.
"We were in there pretty deep,” Amaro said. “Ed stole him from us.”
The Phils also had productive talks with John Smoltz, who seems willing to pitch in a small ballpark for the chance to win another title. We heard earlier in the week that the Nats are also interested in Smoltz.
Post-Winter Meetings links for Thursday...
- ESPN's Keith Law calls the Astros' signing of Brandon Lyon "hobbling," but likes the Rays impending acquisition of Rafael Soriano. He says the Soriano situation shows that if a team has a borderline call with a Type A free agent, they should offer arbitration.
- ESPN's Buster Olney says Randy Wolf would've re-signed with the Dodgers for a two-year deal in the $14-16MM range.
- Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun says the Blue Jays talked to the Nationals about pitcher Craig Stammen but "he does not appear to be available."
- The Cardinals touched base with Scott Boras before leaving Indianapolis, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cards still haven't made an offer to Matt Holliday.
- ESPN's Mike Salk heard that John Lackey is the Mariners' top priority.
- The Hanshin Tigers signed reliever Randy Messenger for about $600K, says NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman. Messenger will replace Scott Atchison, who signed with the Red Sox.
- The Big Lead did a Q&A with new Yankee Curtis Granderson.
- Surprisingly, Ken Davidoff of Newsday writes of an "increasing expectation around MLB" that the Yankees will eventually re-sign Hideki Matsui.
- Crasnick talked to one exec who says Scott Boras wants three years and big money for outfielder Rick Ankiel.
- The Royals talked to the Dodgers about Juan Pierre, writes ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, but the Dodgers would have to eat too much money to make it work.
- ESPN's Jayson Stark says the Phillies are now looking hard at John Smoltz as a possible "back-of-the-bullpen weapon." Smoltz's agent apparently told the Phils that the pitcher has no problem with Citizens Bank Park.
- ESPN's Buster Olney heard "the Yankees are in the process of negotiating with Johnny Damon's camp." He adds that the Yanks "intend to use market forces to pressure Damon to make a decision quickly." I'm sure Scott Boras will love that.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin plans to visit free agent lefty Mark Mulder in January to discuss a possible contract, says Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports says there have been no Felix Hernandez negotiations this week after an initial four-year offer from the Mariners.
- Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times that they'll tender contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players. No big surprise, though it's a large group of players.
- Scott Lauber of the News Journal talked to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who said Astros GM Ed Wade stole Brandon Lyon from the Phillies. The Astros committed three years and $15MM to Lyon despite holes at shortstop and third base.
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy says the Brewers upped their offer to Craig Counsell this morning and GM Doug Melvin is confident they'll get it done. The Reds are still in the mix for Counsell, says MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
- La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune heard last night that Twins infielder Alexi Casilla is available.
The Hot Stove never sleeps...
- With Brandon Lyon headed to Houston, Steve Kornacki of MLive.com expects the Tigers to intensify their efforts to re-sign Fernando Rodney.
- Speaking of Lyon, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs calls his signing by the Astros "the latest act in a joke that’s gone on far too long." Ouch.
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson says that the Nationals' agenda hasn't changed; they're looking for quality pitching and a backup infielder.
- The Angels will be among the teams at Aroldis Chapman's workout next week, reports Mike DiGiovanna of The LA Times.
- The Dodgers have interest in re-signing righty Jeff Weaver, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. The 33-year-old Weaver had a 3.65 ERA in 79 innings for LA last season.
- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com notes that the Tigers have only $33MM committed to their 2011 payroll, and would have a big chunk of money to play around with next offseason even if they scale their payroll back a bit.
- Bill Beane left the Winter Meetings late Wednesday afternoon according to MLB.com's Tom Singer, and is ready to get some serious work done. "You really do more productive work when you get back home, and can get on the phone away from the distractions," Beane said.
- Phillies' GM Ruben Amaro acknowledged that it's possible the team may move past Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre, says MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.
- MLB.com's Chris Haft wonders if the Giants could benefit from the Yankees' glut of outfielders.
10:48pm: Rosenthal says the Astros agreed to sign Lyon for $15MM over three years. That's too much of a commitment in my opinion, but congrats to Lyon and his agent, Barry Meister. The Tigers get a supplementary rounder (not from the Astros) in next year's draft.
10:35pm: Rosenthal hears from one source who says Lyon received a three-year $15MM offer, presumably from the Astros.
10:13pm: The Astros are making a "strong run" for Brandon Lyon, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. At least one outlet is reporting that it's a done deal. Mark Berman, the sports director of MyFOX in Houston reports that the Astros have agreed to a three-year deal with Lyon. It would be puzzling to see the Astros sign Lyon to a three-year deal the same day they lost LaTroy Hawkins to the Brewers because of their reluctance to go beyond a single year.