Bruce Chen Rumors

AL Central Notes: Chen, La Russa, Buehrle, Tigers

Justin Verlander was the big winner as the 2011 Players Choice Awards were announced today.  Verlander's peers selected him as both the 2011 AL Outstanding Pitcher and the 2011 Player Of The Year.  Could this be an omen for the AL MVP result in a few weeks?

Here's some other news from the AL Central…

  • Bruce Chen tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he has already received calls from two teams interested in the veteran southpaw.  Despite this outside interest, Chen says he wishes to remain with the Royals.  "Kansas City has expressed numerous times that they would like to sign me back,” Chen said. “We have a real good relationship, and we’re making progress." 
  • There is "some talk" that Tony La Russa could become a consultant with the White Sox, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (Twitter link).  La Russa, who managed the Sox from 1979-86, would work with rookie manager Robin Ventura.
  • Mark Buehrle is "wide-open" to the possibility of joining a number of different teams, his agent Jeff Berry tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Buehrle has said in the past that he only wished to pitch for the White Sox or his home-state Cardinals, but also said last month that he would be interested in pitching in the National League for the first time in his career.
  • Unlike last winter, the Tigers will take their time in perusing the free agent market this offseason, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck.
  • A few tweaks at third base, backup catcher and the bullpen could be all it takes to push the Tigers to a championship next year, writes Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press.
  • MLB.com's Jordan Bastian discusses the Indians' plans for third base next year, the chances of Kosuke Fukudome re-signing in Cleveland and other topics in a reader mailbag.

Red Sox Will Not Acquire Starter

4:46pm: The Red Sox have given up searching for starting pitching help and they'll rely on one of their own pitchers in the event of a play-in game tomorrow, according to Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (on Twitter).

12:17pm: ESPN's Buster Olney and CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam both find the Red Sox trading for a starter to be unlikely, to varying degrees (Twitter links).  Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star hears that the Royals and Red Sox are discussing Chen, but one official calls a trade a "long shot."

10:18am: Royals lefty Bruce Chen is among Boston's trade targets as they consider acquiring a starter for a potential Thursday play-in game, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Chen is scheduled to start tonight in Minnesota as he seeks to tie his career-high of 13 wins.

Chen projects as a Type B free agent, and an arbitration offer from Kansas City is realistic.  Red Sox GM Theo Epstein would have to surrender something significant to best the value of that potential draft pick, and he'd probably have to complete the trade before even knowing whether he'd need Chen for tomorrow.  At most, the Red Sox would be able to use Chen for that one game, as he would not be eligible for the postseason roster.  As Rosenthal notes, the lefty has already cleared waivers.  The 34-year-old Chen has a 3.98 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, and 35.5% groundball rate on the season.

In theory, Epstein could also look at fully rested starters such as Chien-Ming Wang, Rodrigo Lopez, and Aaron Harang, though Harang also may be a Type B.  If the Red Sox do not acquire a starter, they might have to use John Lackey or Tim Wakefield on three days rest should a play-in game occur Thursday at Tropicana Field.  Another option might be activating Clay Buchholz, according to WEEI's Rob Bradford.


Quick Hits: Wilson, Santana, Mets, Soto, Chen

When George Kottaras hits for the cycle, left-hander Tom Milone homers on the very first pitch he sees in the Major Leagues and the Tigers come back from an 8-1 deficit for a 9-8 win over the White Sox, you know it's been a wild day in baseball.  Let's end it off with some news items…

  • The Rangers should offer C.J. Wilson a five-year contract worth between $92.5 and $97.5MM, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor for ESPN Dallas, but not any more than that since Wilson isn't quite one of the game's elite aces.  If you think that Wilson isn't worth that kind of money, remember that unless C.C. Sabathia opts out of his deal, Wilson will be clearly the best free agent arm on the market this winter.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes thinks Wilson could even score a $100MM contract.
  • Kaja Whitehouse of the New York Post isn't impressed by the Mets' plan of offering ownership "units" worth $20-$30MM to several different investors.  She believes the club will find it hard to find investors willing to buy in without getting any say in the franchise's operations.
  • Johan Santana threw 30 pitches for Class A St. Lucie today in his first minor league appearance since July 28, reports Adam Rubin for ESPN New YorkMets manager Terry Collins didn't rule out the possibility that Santana could pitch in a Major League game this season.   
  • The Cubs' new general manager may have a difficult decision to make about Geovany Soto, writes Patrick Mooney for CSNChicago.com.  While Soto will have to rebound in 2012, it's hard to imagine any new GM immediately getting rid of a catcher who has performed very well in two of four Major League seasons.
  • Bruce Chen tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that he wants to return to the Royals next season, what he's learned from pitching for 10 different organizations and how he wants to be like Jamie Moyer.  Will MLBTR still be writing posts about Chen in 2025?
  • Juan Rivera's performance for the Dodgers has convinced the team that it needs another big bat for next season, reports MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.  That big bat is intended for first base or left field, which would mean that the Dodgers would part ways with either Rivera or James Loney


Players Who Cleared Waivers

This is a running list of players who have cleared waivers, based on published reports. Once a player clears waivers, he can be traded to any team (barring a no-trade clause). This list can always be found in the sidebar under MLBTR Features. Player names are linked to the source articles.

Updated 8-30-11 at 10:56pm

Starting pitchers

  • Aaron Harang, Padres - Harang's ERA is a respectable 3.92 with 6.7 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
  • Dontrelle Willis, Reds – Willis has bounced back with the Reds, posting a 4.10 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, and 56.8% groundball rate in 52 2/3 innings.
  • Carlos Zambrano, Cubs – Zambrano cleared waivers prior to being placed on the disqualified list.  He has a short fuse, lousy stats, and over $22MM remaining on his contract through next year.
  • Rodrigo Lopez, Cubs – Not surprising to see the journeyman clear waivers.
  • Chris Capuano, Mets – Capuano owns a 3.74 SIERA as of August 14th and earns only $1.5MM plus incentives, so it's hard to see why a few teams didn't place claims.
  • Bronson Arroyo, Reds – His peripheral stats haven't changed much, but Arroyo has a 5.31 ERA as of August 15th.  $15MM of his $35MM contract is deferred through 2021 without interest.  The deferrals are voided if he's traded, however.  At any rate, expect Arroyo to stay put.
  • Bruce Chen, Royals – Chen has his moments, but it's not surprising to see him clear waivers.
  • Jason Vargas, Mariners – Like many of the starters here, Vargas' fastball wouldn't break a window.  But he has less than a million bucks left on his contract this year and is under team control through 2013.  He'd fit nicely at the back end of several rotations.    
  • Chien-Ming Wang, Nationals – His three starts this season were his first in over two years, so it's understandable that contenders wouldn't jump to claim him.
  • Tom Gorzelanny, Nationals – Booted to the bullpen last month, the 29-year-old flyballing southpaw has posted strong strikeout rates in recent years but can't hold a rotation job.
  • Ted Lilly, Dodgers – He always has strong strikeout-to-walk numbers, but is prone to the longball.  With over 82% of his $33MM contract remaining ($27MM+), it's no surprise he cleared waivers.

Relievers

  • Joe Nathan, Twins - Nathan won't be traded, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
  • Chad Qualls, Padres – Qualls is enjoying a bounce-back season, though his strikeout rate dipped to 5.3 K/9 this year.
  • Bill Bray, Reds – Bray has been decent this year, and a little tougher against lefties.  He'll be arbitration eligible for the second time this offseason.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo, Dodgers – A dominant reliever last year, Kuo has dealt with a back injury and anxiety disorder as his control has eluded him.
  • Huston Street, Rockies – Between a recent triceps injury and the $9MM+ owed to him through 2012, Street was expected to clear.
  • Brian Fuentes, Athletics – He's owed over $6MM through next year, and has been mediocre for the A's.
  • Jon Rauch, Blue Jays – Rauch is affordable, but he's on the DL for an appendectomy and wasn't great before that.
  • Mike Gonzalez, Orioles – Gonzalez has been dominant in August, and against lefties.  The problem is that he's still owed almost a million bucks.
  • Kevin Gregg, Orioles – Gregg might be the worst reliever holding down a closer's job, and he's owed at least $6.4MM through next year.
  • John Grabow, Cubs – He's been ineffective even against lefties, and he has over $700K remaining.
  • D.J. Carrasco, Mets – The Mets signed Carrasco to a two-year deal in December – their biggest acquisition of the offseason - but optioned him to Triple-A in April.  He stayed there until mid-June.

Position players

  • Aramis Ramirez, Cubs – In July, Ramirez's agent said that his client would consider an August deal but he has since had a change of heart.  The Cubs hold an option on Ramirez's deal worth $16MM.
  • Alfonso Soriano, Cubs – This one was also obvious.  SI's Jon Heyman notes on Twitter that the Cubs are willing to pay a "major, major chunk" of the $58.35MM owed to the left fielder through 2014.
  • Lance Berkman, Cardinals – Berkman has said he hopes to re-sign with St. Louis after the season, when he hits free agency.  Still, it's a surprise to see him clear waivers.
  • Ryan Theriot, Cardinals - Theriot earns $3.3MM this year and will be a non-tender candidate after the season.
  • David Wright, Mets - It's surprising that Wright cleared waivers, but it doesn't mean the Mets have interest in dealing him. Wright earns $15MM next year and can void a $16MM club option for 2013 if traded.
  • Conor Jackson, Athletics – Olney notes that the Red Sox asked about the light-hitting 1B/LF/RF, but there doesn't seem to be any traction there.
  • David DeJesus, Athletics – DeJesus has had a rough year but could at least be useful against right-handed pitching.
  • Hideki Matsui, Athletics – The Athletics have several waiver trade candidates, and Matsui's hot second half and low salary (owed less than $2MM the rest of the season) could make him a popular target.
  • Jason Bay, Mets – With Bay being owed at least $38.8MM through 2013, this was expected.  It's only been 12 games, but Bay is at least having his first good month of 2011.
  • Willie Harris, Mets – The versatile Harris has less than $200K left on his contract.
  • Angel Pagan, Mets – It's been a dismal year for Pagan, who may be in line for a non-tender after the season.
  • Carlos Lee, Astros – No surprise here, as the 35-year-old is hitting .263/.321/.417 and is owed almost $23MM through next year.  El Caballo's ten-and-five rights kick in after the season.
  • Johnny Damon, Rays – Damon blocked an August trade last summer and 12 months later he's a candidate to be traded once again.

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Slowey, Royals, Lee, Reddick

For a while, it seemed as though we'd have a quiet trade deadline. So much for that – today we saw Ubaldo Jimenez, Derrek Lee, Orlando Cabrera, Rich Harden, Koji Uehara, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Jason Marquis, Mike Aviles, Jerry Hairston Jr., Doug Fister and David Pauley all get traded. Let's gear up for the deadline itself with another round of links…


Quiet Deadline Possible For Royals

Though Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies are drawing interest from several clubs, the Royals may hold onto all three and continue using a six-man rotation, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. The Royals continue to say they’re happy to hold onto the starters, who hit free agency after the season.

“Nothing has changed with our situation,” GM Dayton Moore told Dutton. “The guys we have, I think, are more valuable to us than the potential [return].”

Chen projects as a Type B free agent under our most recent projections, so the Royals could obtain a supplementary draft pick if the left-hander turns down an offer of arbitration to sign elsewhere. Francis and Davies, however, don’t currently project as ranked free agents, so the Royals can’t expect picks for them.

Kansas City appears to be seeking a number three starter (or close to it) for Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur. However, trades involving the two outfielders don’t appear to be brewing at the moment.


AL Central Notes: Indians, Francis, Chen, Buehrle

Jeff Keppinger was traded today as well as five years ago today. That's when the Royals acquired him from the Mets for Ruben Gotay. Here's the latest from the AL Central…

  • Grady Sizemore was placed on the disabled list with a knee issue, and SI.com's Jon Heyman says (on Twitter) the Indians have their eyes on Ryan Ludwick and Josh Willingham. They also called about Carlos Beltran, but his no-trade clause may be an obstacle.
  • Meanwhile, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian notes (on Twitter) that while the Indians prefer a right-handed bat, they haven't ruled out lefties with Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo out.
  • Royals GM Dayton Moore told MLB Network Radio's Jim Bowden that it's possible they'll move lefty starters Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen before the deadline (Twitter link).
  • South Side Sox notes that it's much quieter this year than the last time White Sox ace Mark Buehrle was scheduled to become a free agent.

Moore’s Free Agent Signings Playing Well So Far

There are lots of reasons to be excited for the future of the Royals and one of them will make his Major League debut tonight: Eric Hosmer. The first base prospect will join a team that’s been surprisingly good so far in 2011 (they’re 17-14), one that appears poised to become a playoff contender once its highly-touted prospects become Major Leaguers.

It’s never all about the future, even with rebuilding teams like the Royals. Managers need players to pencil into the lineup and fans need something to cheer for, so general managers sign stop-gap players to represent the big league club while prospects develop. 

So far, the four veterans GM Dayton Moore signed this offseason are more than earning their keep. Jeff Francoeur has eight homers and a .305/.346/.602 line (it’s not BABIP-inflated, either) and Melky Cabrera has a .293/.317/.466 line after yesterday’s three-hit game. They've both been pleasant surprises for the league's best offense.

On the pitching side, Jeff Francis has a 5.45 ERA (3.73 xFIP) in 29 2/3 innings with a strong 21K/8BB ratio. Fellow southpaw Bruce Chen has a 3.59 ERA (4.54 xFIP) through 42 2/3 innings with a 24K/14BB ratio. Neither pitcher replaces Zack Greinke atop the rotation, but they’re healthy and productive at the very least. The quartet of Francis, Chen, Francoeur and Cabrera has been worth a combined 2.5 wins above replacement so far, yet another indication that they're producing.

Moore signed the four players for a total of $7.75MM and didn’t give up a single draft pick in the process. It’s a promising development for Royals fans since every homegrown team needs to supplement its core players with free agents at times. Moore’s track record on the free agent market includes its share of blemishes – Jose Guillen for example – but this year his approach has produced strong results for minimal cost.


Royals To Sign Bruce Chen

The Royals and Bruce Chen have agreed to a one-year contract worth $2MM with another $1.5MM in performance bonuses according to SI.com's Jon Heyman (on Twitter). The deal is pending a physical per a team press release. Chen is represented by Scott Boras.

The 33-year-old is the second free agent lefty Kansas City has signed in as many days. Unlike Jeff Francis, Chen spent the 2010 season with the Royals, pitching to a 4.17 ERA in 140 1/3 innings. He struck out 6.3 and walked 3.7 batters per nine innings pitched, respectively. It was the second most innings Chen has pitched in a single big league season since 2001, as he's bounced around from team to team over the last decade. 

Chen has extensive experience both starting and relieving, so he'll provide the Royals with quite a bit of flexibility should some of the high-end arms from their top ranking farm system come up during the season. He'll also be a nice piece of trade bait at the deadline should he repeat last season's success.

GM Dayton Moore recently indicated that he was prioritizing pitching depth, and within five days he signed both Chen and Francis for just a $4MM guarantee combined. Those two won't replace Zack Greinke's production, but they'll give the team much needed innings.


Indians Inquired About Chen, Millwood

The Indians have talked to Scott Boras about two of his clients, starters Bruce Chen and Kevin Millwood, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.   The Tribe are looking for starting pitching help, but as Hoynes notes, the club is hampered by its financial situation.

"It doesn't really matter how much interest the Indians have in a free-agent pitcher…it's all about how much interest the pitcher has in the Indians," Hoynes writes.  "As for the second prong, unless ownership is overcome by an unusual circumstance, the interested pitcher would have to sign a minor-league contract."

Chen's solid 2010 season figures to earn him a Major League contract somewhere, but we haven't heard much buzz about the veteran southpaw other than some mutual interest between he and the Royals, though not for anything more than a one-year deal.  If Chen opened himself up to the possibility of a minor league contract, you'd think that would notably expand his market, and the Indians would likely get outbid.

Millwood might be the more realistic option for the Indians, though he has been connected with the Royals, Rockies and Yankees this winter.  Cleveland and Kansas City would give Millwood the best chance at regular innings and it would be easier for Millwood to rebuild his value for a future contract if he wasn't pitching in hitter-friendly ballparks like Coors Field or Yankee Stadium. Millwood pitched for the Tribe in 2005 and delivered a league-best 2.86 ERA in 192 innings before signing a five-year, $60MM free agent contract with Texas.

As for other free agent starters, Hoynes reports the Tribe's interest in former Indian Bartolo Colon "has cooled considerably."  Hoynes also says the Indians were in contact with Brad Penny before the right-hander signed with Detroit.