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Let's round up a few morning updates from around the NL Central….
- Charlie Morton and the Pirates reached an agreement on a three-year extension yesterday, but the team has yet to discuss long-term deals with Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez this offseason, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Cardinals have discussed Brian Roberts as a potential target, but his injury history limits the team's enthusiasm, says Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- The last open spot on the Brewers' 40-man roster had originally been ticketed for Corey Hart, but now that Hart is headed to Seattle instead, Milwaukee is considering using that opening to pick a player in this morning's Rule 5 draft. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the details.
- The Cubs may end up selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft, but it sounds like the team is preparing to lose more players than it adds, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat (via Twitter).
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that he has interest in Raul Ibanez and Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, but says that he won't be in the mix for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka or Kendrys Morales. The O's will be out looking for a left-handed hitting left fielder or DH as well as pitching (link). Here's more out of Baltimore..
- The Orioles checked on the availability of Ethier and fellow Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but there were issues with the amount of salary that the Dodgers were willing to absorb, an industry source told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
- While he didn't shut the door on re-signing second baseman Brian Roberts, Duquette told reporters, including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, he is pleased with his options at the position, especially Ryan Flaherty.
- The O's will announce their signing of Ryan Webb today, but they're still in the hunt for a closer, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Webb agreed to a two-year, $4.5MM deal with Baltimore last week.
The Orioles have been one of the most mentioned teams on MLBTR with the club trying to decide whether to extend or trade Matt Wieters and approaching the Cardinals about a J.J. Hardy–Shelby Miller trade. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com weighs in on those and other topics in a "Because You Asked" column:
- The Hardy-Miller talks were just preliminary, but not unexpected because of the Orioles' quest for starting pitching and the Cardinals' need for a shortstop. Kubatko sees the O's acquiring a starter and keeping Hardy.
- Wieters is not untouchable and the Orioles are willing to trade him, but are not feverishly shopping the catcher. Financial constraints are compounding the Wieters situation, as the front office is trying to figure out how to accomodate within their budget the pursuit of free agents like Carlos Beltran and arbitration raises for Wieters and others (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $41.2MM for eight arbitration eligible players).
- There is no progress in negotiations with outfielder Nate McLouth. The Orioles are concerned with other clubs offering him a two-year deal. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted two years and $10MM for McLouth to which a person in the Orioles organization, when asked by Kubatko late in the season, responded: "Well, he won't be getting that from us."
- Kubatko suggests the Orioles swallow hard and give McLouth a two-year contract since they did so for Wilson Betemit. If re-signed, Kubatko doesn't necessarily see McLouth as the full-time starter in left, but a valuable fourth outfielder, occasional DH, pinch-runner, and defensive replacement.
- The Orioles like Carlos Beltran and see him as a great fit; but, will have to outbid some big spending teams, which they haven't done historically.
- One option worth debating to free up payroll space for Beltran, according to Kubatko, is trading Jim Johnson and his expected $10.8MM arbitration salary. The Orioles have said they intend to keep their closer.
- Kubatko spoke with someone in the organization recently who steered him away from Scott Kazmir, as if the Orioles have no interest. The O's, however, do have interest in Tim Hudson.
- There is a definite possibility Brian Roberts will return to Baltimore. If not, Mark Ellis is on the club's radar as an alternative because he won't command a three-year deal like Omar Infante.
Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette appears to have stepped back slightly from his declaration last offseason that the club wouldn't sign a free agent tied to draft pick compensation, Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun reports, potentially putting targets such as Ervin Santana in play for the O's. Connolly writes that Duquette seems to feel better about the club's ability to sign international talent, which might explain the less conservative stance on draft picks. Here's more Saturday night Orioles links:
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com examines potential free agent starting pitching targets for the Orioles, whose starters combined for a 4.57 ERA in 2013. The article profiles Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Santana, Dan Haren and Ricky Nolasco, noting that the O's have been connected with Nolasco in the past.
- In a separate article, manager Buck Showalter tells Melewski that the front office will indeed consider adding a free agent arm this offseason. However, Showalter says the team is also excited about young pitchers such as Eduardo Rodriguez, who finished up the year at Double-A. The manager added that while he's never been turned down by owner Peter Angelos when proposing a deal, he's "not a guy that asks a lot."
- Showalter sounds as though he expects Brian Roberts to return next season, Melewski writes. The oft-injured second baseman has appeared in just 133 games over the last three seasons, but we'd heard previously that he's among the free agents whom the club is most interested in retaining.
- In an article reporting on the O's decision to decline their $5MM 2014 option on Tsuyoshi Wada, which was announced earlier this evening, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com discloses that the team will announce next week that it has also declined its $3MM option on Alexi Casilla. The infielder is in line for a $200K buyout if that does come to pass.
Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com feels that while there is a growing sentiment among some Orioles fans that Matt Wieters should be traded due to his declining offensive numbers, the backstop is part of the team's core and should instead be offered an extension. Melewski points out that Adam Jones was extended with two years of team control remaining — the same amount of team control the Orioles currently hold over Wieters. He adds that Wieters is a durable clubhouse leader that is entering his prime years, all of which should factor into the team's desire to retain him. The x-factor that isn't discussed by Melewski is Wieters' agent, Scott Boras. Few Boras clients sign extensions prior to free agency, though notable recent exceptions include Elvis Andrus, Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez. More on the O's…
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Manny Machado's surgery to repair the medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee will take place today. The projected four-to-six-week timeframe for his recovery will have him ready sometime between the beginning of Spring Training and the early portion of April.
- From within that same piece, Connolly writes that Jason Hammel is behind Scott Feldman, Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts on the Orioles' "priority to re-sign" list. Connolly's assumption is that Hammel will hook on with another team. I could envision him signing a similar contract to that of Feldman last offseason — one year at $5-6MM with additional incentives based on innings pitched and/or games started.
- Lastly from Connolly, the out-of-options Danny Valencia figures to make the team in 2014 and could see more time in the field early on, depending on Machado's recovery. Connolly adds that despite Valencia's large numbers against left-handed pitching, a consistent DH who can get on base regularly will be an offseason priority for the Orioles.
It's been an incredible season for Orioles slugger Chris Davis, who has belted a Major League leading 52 homers as of Thursday. Davis is hitting .285/.368/.631, and he leads the league in total bases while sharing the MLB RBI lead with Miguel Cabrera as well. Under team control through 2015 via arbitration, Davis told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com that he's open to staying in Baltimore longer:
"This has been like a second home for me. This has been a place where I've really felt like I've been accepted, been loved and really appreciated. That's rare in this game to find a place where you can call it home. That's between obviously my agent and the front office, but I'd love to stay in Baltimore."
Here's more on the O's and Nats…
- Jonathan Schoop could be the second baseman of the future for the Orioles, but Melewski isn't banking on him being the O's answer to open the 2014 season. Melewski opines that Schoop probably needs a bit more minor league seasoning and speculates that such thinking could push the Orioles to pursue a one-year deal with free-agent-to-be Brian Roberts.
- Dan Haren has never had as much self-doubt as he had early in the season, the right-hander told Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. Haren said his first few months with the Nationals were embarrassing, and he struggled mentally and emotionally. Haren candidly admitted that the toll of being in a new city with no family around and few friends worsened those feelings, as he spent a great deal of time alone and thinking about his struggles. Haren has rebounded with a 3.57 ERA over his past 14 starts but knows that he won't have as much say about where he pitches in 2014 as he did when he chose the Nats last year. He did mention his affinity for the West Coast to Kolko.
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson tackles a host of Nationals-related topics in his latest Inbox column. Ladson feels left-handed relief and an improved bench will need to be areas of focus this offseason and believes that Adam LaRoche will be with the team on Opening Day in 2014 despite some speculation that he could be traded.
- Echoing Ladson's point, Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider says that "club officials have given zero indication" to moving LaRoche. Zuckerman speaks to the first baseman himself and Nats manager Davey Johnson about LaRoche's tough season.
- James Wagner of the Washington Post looks at the what-ifs of the Nationals season and wonders how things would have been different had they re-signed Tom Gorzelanny and gotten production from Haren from day one, among many other scenarios.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Orioles fans and fans all around the game were disheartened to see what looked to be a severe knee injury for ultra-talented third baseman Manny Machado in yesterday's loss to the Rays. Machado had an MRI today, and manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli, that he's optimistic and confident Machado will be able to play with the team early next season. According to Ghiroli, the radiologist's early opinion of the MRI is that the injury wasn't as severe as it initially looked. Injuries were the story of the game for the O's, who also saw Alexi Casilla suffer a likely concussion after an outfield collision. Casilla, a soon-to-be free agent, is likely done for the season, according to Ghiroli. Here's more on the AL East…
- Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) looks at the pending free agents who have boosted their value the most with strong 2013 seasons. Law feels that Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox is the most likely candidate to sign an extension that will "shocK everybody" this offseason due to the scarcity of quality catching options. Law also lists Orioles' hurler Scott Feldman, noting he has a much-improved curveball and could sign a contract in the range of three years and $20-25MM. Last week, I predicted Feldman would sign for two years and $17MM, with Jeremy Guthrie's three-year, $25MM deal being his ceiling.
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looks at the left field position for the Blue Jays, which could be a position of need this winter if they decline the option on Adam Lind or trade him, putting Melky Cabrera in the DH spot. After breaking down the internal options, BN-S looks at external options which include re-signing Rajai Davis and making a play for the likes of David DeJesus or Corey Hart.
- Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun shares the story of Orioles reliever Darren O'Day and his unorthodox background. O'Day, 31 in October, has a 2.19 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 67 relief appearances this season.
- Brian Roberts knows that his time with the Orioles may be coming to an end, and he's trying to embrace the remaining time he has with the team, writes Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. Roberts adds that he hopes 2013 isn't the end of his tenure in Baltimore but admits that he has o idea if he's in the team's future plans.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Players who have accumulated ten years of major league service time can't be traded without their permission if they have spent the last five years with their current club. Here's a list of players whose ten and five rights kick in in the near future (service time through 2011 in parentheses):
- Bronson Arroyo, Reds ( 9.150) – Arroyo will obtain ten and five rights late this month. If the Reds trade the right-hander, deferred payments are voided and paid up-front by his new team. It’s hard to imagine a trade involving Arroyo.
- Brian Roberts, Orioles (9.131) – Roberts’ ten and five rights will kick in by the middle of May. However, his contract already provides him with full no-trade protection and no team would trade for him at this point.
- Travis Hafner, Indians (9.009) – Hafner's rights will kick in this September, replacing the limited no-trade clause he currently enjoys. If the Indians retain Hafner for 2013 by exercising their club option or re-signing him as a free agent, he'll have full no-trade protection.
We've already published one batch of AL East Notes today, but there's plenty more happening in the division….
- "I think it's safe to say that he's not going to play for us on the field," Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman said in regards to Matt Bush. Speaking to media (including The Tampa Tribune's Roger Mooney) for the first time since Bush was charged with a DUI with bodily injury for his alleged role in a car accident, Friedman said he was surprised at the incident given how well the troubled Bush had performed in his battle with alcholism. Bush, the first overall pick of the 2004 draft, signed a minor league deal with the Rays in 2010 and has yet to reach the Major Leagues in his pro career.
- Travis Snider is becoming the kind of "devalued asset" that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos usually tries to acquire from other teams, writes Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi. Even if the Jays feel Snider won't be able to perform for them, dealing him for fair value will be difficult given that Snider's trade value is at a low point.
- Brian Roberts tells reporters (including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com) that the Orioles will put him on the 15-day disabled list to start the season as he continues to recover from concussion symptoms. The fact that it's the 15-day DL and not the 60-day DL is a positive sign for Roberts' chances of returning to playing.
- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine told reporters (including Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston) that he was satisfied with his roster and didn't think the club needed any new acquisitions before Opening Day. Valentine also denied rumors of a "potential rift" between he and general manager Ben Cherington.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America runs down each AL East team's international signings of the past year.
- In case you missed it earlier today, the Blue Jays signed Dustin McGowan to a contract extension.
It was on this day in 1985 that the Blue Jays and Dave Stieb finalized one of the more unique contracts in baseball history — an 11-year deal worth a guaranteed $16.6MM and (with incentives) possibly worth as much as $25MM. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times looked back at the contract in 2010, noting that while the Jays absorbed some criticism for the deal at the time, they got a bargain in the long run when Stieb developed into one of the best pitchers of his era. In 1991, the Jays reworked three years of the contract to pay Stieb an extra $4.35MM as a gesture of gratitude for his performance.
Here's some news from all around the AL East…
- Yankees closer Mariano Rivera denied a New York Post report from yesterday that claimed he would announce his possible retirement plans before the All-Star Break. Rivera told Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York that "nothing's changed" about his future plans and that he will "tell everybody what my plans are at the same time after the season."
- Brian Roberts isn't sure when, or even if, he'll be able to return to the Orioles following a series of concussions, he tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Roberts says he has stopped trying to guess when he may be able to resume his career, though he notes that his recovery is "progressing" and he "has more good days than bad days."
- Rays southpaw Matt Moore tops Baseball America's preseason list of the top 20 rookies in the game. Moore is the only AL East representative on the list, though former Yankee prospect Jesus Montero (now with the Mariners) clocks in at the #3 position.
- "We need some guys to step up on our pitching staff," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington tells MLB.com's Ian Browne. The Sox will be looking at pitching or outfield depth as they conduct their usual scouting of other teams' Spring Training camps. Also in this in-depth interview, Cherington discusses his first winter as a general manager, the difficulty in parting with long-time Red Sox stars Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield, and what he learned from Theo Epstein.
- The Blue Jays may be the only team that could be a fit for Derrek Lee, writes Fangraphs' Chris Cwik. Lee could be an alternative to Adam Lind at first if Lind struggles, or Lee could at least platoon if Lind again struggles to hit left-handed pitching. Though Cwik was pretty hesitant about Lee's chances of playing anywhere in the Majors in 2012, I'm not sure Toronto works as a landing spot either; the Jays have Edwin Encarnacion backing up at first, Travis Snider or Eric Thames as DH candidates, plus Ben Francisco and Rajai Davis as right-handed bench bats.