Bruce Chen Rumors
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy 92nd birthday to one of baseball's all-time great pitchers, Bob Feller. "Rapid Robert" piled up 266 wins and 2581 strikeouts in his Hall of Fame career. In tribute to Feller, it's only appropriate that we start this batch of news items with something from Cleveland...
- Infielder Drew Sutton is eligible for free agency after being outrighted to Triple-A by the Indians, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The article notes that Andy Marte is expected to be removed from the Cleveland roster before the Rule 5 draft deadline. Also from Hoynes (via Twitter), the Phillies claimed shortstop Carlos Rivero on waivers from the Tribe. Rivero has a .676 OPS in 2156 minor league plate appearances, none above the Double-A level.
- Hal Steinbrenner's recent comments about the Derek Jeter talks strike ESPN's Buster Olney "as if he's preparing the NYY fans for an ugly Jeter negotiation" (Twitter link).
- Now that the A's have exercised Mark Ellis' option for 2011, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that the team will look into an extension for the veteran second baseman.
- Buster Posey and Brian Wilson are the key reasons why the Giants have a chance to win another World Series, says Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. "How many teams can say, right now, they have zero interest in upgrading at the need-to-have positions of catcher or closer?", Morosi asks. He cites just the Phillies and Twins, and even those two clubs come with question marks.
- Mychael Urban of CSNBayArea.com thinks the Giants should sign Eric Chavez to a minor-league contract. (Twitter link)
- Bruce Chen wants a multiyear deal but the Royals are "unlikely" to make the left-hander such an offer, tweets The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton.
- It could be a bad omen for David Ortiz's $12.5MM option that another slugging DH (Vladimir Guerrero) had his $9MM option for 2011 declined by Texas earlier today, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
- Tampa Bay added Elliot Johnson to its 40-man roster, tweets Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Without the move, Johnson would've become a free agent. Johnson had a breakout minor league campaign in Triple-A last season, posting a .319/.375/.475 line and winning the International League MVP award.
- In response to a fan mailbag question about Adam Dunn, MLB.com's Bill Ladson warns about the dangers of the Nationals offering a long-term deal to a defensively-challenged slugger. He points out how fans were also wishing the Nats signed Alfonso Soriano to an extension, but in hindsight Washington made the right move.
- Nationals right-hander Collin Balester is looking for members to join his 'Movember' team. Click here to sign up and join Balester in raising money and awareness in the fight against prostate cancer.
While the relative strength of the National League compared to the American League is debatable, it's hard to deny that the Senior Circuit is more appealing to pitchers. Replacing the pitcher in the lineup with a designated hitter makes AL lineups more potent, as this year's offensive statistics showed - five of baseball's top six run-scoring teams in 2010 play in the Junior Circuit.
The difference may be negligible for certain players, but each year there are usually a few pitchers who switch leagues and immediately see their numbers rise or fall accordingly. After being dealt from the Indians to the Cardinals this season, for instance, Jake Westbrook posted a 3.48 ERA and 6.6 K/9, compared to his Cleveland marks of 4.65 and 5.1.
So although there's no guarantee that starting pitchers will enjoy more success playing in the National League, here are five potential free agents who may benefit from signing with an NL club:
- Javier Vazquez: Of all the pitchers who switched to the American League last offseason, Vazquez suffered perhaps the most drastic setback. After finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2009, the 34-year-old pitched so poorly this season that he lost his spot in the Yankees' starting rotation. Even taking into account his first two up-and-down years with the Expos, Vazquez's career NL numbers (4.02 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9) are better across the board than his AL totals (4.65, 7.9, 2.7). Vazquez won't be back in the Bronx, and his best shot at decreasing his 2010 longball rate (1.8 HR/9) and returning to form might come in the NL.
- Kevin Millwood: We heard earlier this year that Millwood could seek a pitcher-friendly environment for 2011, after years of pitching in Baltimore and Texas. The move makes sense for the right-hander; he still has some value as a veteran innings eater, but could potentially be much more than that in a park like Petco in San Diego. We don't know what kind of contract the 35-year-old will be seeking, so it's possible he could be too expensive for a team like the Padres. For what it's worth though, San Diego was thought to have interest in Milwood in August.
- Jeremy Bonderman: One of the youngest arms on the open market, Bonderman could be an interesting fourth or fifth starter for a team willing to take a flier on him. Though his 4.89 career ERA is uninspiring, he's a former first-round pick and will turn 28 next week. His career peripherals suggest that he still has potential, and he strikes me as the type of pitcher who would benefit from the tutelage of a pitching coach like the Cardinals' Dave Duncan. The Cards may re-sign Jake Westbrook or look elsewhere for starting pitching, but St. Louis isn't the only possible landing spot for the long-time Tiger, who could benefit from a change of scenery.
- Bruce Chen: The 33-year-old journeyman has experienced an unusual major league career, playing for six National League teams before arriving in Boston in 2003. Since then, he has played for four different American League clubs. Chen's career numbers are relatively similar in both leagues, but coming off a successful season in Kansas City, perhaps a return to the NL could be in the cards. While the left-hander has lost some velocity on his fastball since he last played in the Senior Circuit, he's gotten by relying more on flyball outs and less on strikeouts. For a team in a pitcher's park, Chen could be a worthwhile back-of-the-rotation addition.
- Rich Harden: Although a healthy season would help Harden's stock more than changing leagues would, moving to the National League certainly wouldn't hurt. While the right-hander excelled in Oakland when he was healthy, his second stint in the AL wasn't as impressive; his 5.58 ERA for the Rangers this year was by far a career-worst. Still, like Bonderman, Harden is relatively young, turning just 29 next month. He also had stretches of dominance in his time with the Cubs in 2008 and 2009, striking out 11 batters per nine innings and posting a 3.31 ERA in 212 innings over the two years. Again, health is the big concern with Harden, but an NL team may feel more comfortable taking the risk than an AL one would.
It will likely be "a relatively quiet offseason" for the Royals, writes Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. Here are some of the hot stove-related notes from Dutton's recent look ahead to the Royals' 2011 season.
- The payroll is expected to be in "the low $60MM range" next season, down from K.C.'s 2010 payroll of just under $75MM. This whole drop could be attributed to Jose Guillen's $12MM salary coming off the books.
- Speaking of Guillen, Dutton reports that "the days of shelling out millions to retread veterans for stopgap purposes appear over."
- There have been some rumors about Zack Greinke being on the trade block, but Dutton thinks the K.C. ace won't be moved this winter since his trade value will be higher at next year's trade deadline and in the 2011-12 offseason.
- Bruce Chen wants to re-sign in Kansas City and there appears to be mutual interest from the Royals. The club may "have too many promising left-handed prospects to offer Chen more than a one-year deal," but it's hard to imagine another club giving Chen multiple years.
- Dutton predicts the Royals will either deal or non-tender Brian Bannister. The right-hander made $2.3MM in 2010 and is entering his third arbitration year.
- With Jason Kendall set to miss part (or maybe all) of 2011 after rotator cuff surgery, Kansas City will be in the market for a cheap, defensive-minded veteran catcher.
- The team is looking for right-handed hitting and will probably "scour the bargain bins" for the likes of a Matt Diaz or a Cody Ross. Dutton notes, however, that if the Royals are particularly taken with a higher caliber of right-handed hitting corner outfielder, they would be "willing to shell out a few million for a good fit." Such a player would be all the more important to the club if David DeJesus is traded in the winter.
Several clubs were ‘kicking the tires’ on Scott Podsednik this summer, but until 24 hours ago, the Dodgers weren’t one of them.
“Ned Colletti and I spoke for the first time last night,” Royals GM Dayton Moore told reporters this evening.
Just 24 hours later, the clubs finalized the deal that sent Podsednik to the Dodgers for minor leaguers Lucas May and Elisaul Pimentel. The negotiation process with the Dodgers was simple and Moore can imagine tinkering a little more before Saturday at 3pm CST.
“There may be a small deal or two that we could do going forward,” Moore said.
“Guys in the final year of their contract, we’ll be more aggressive with potentially moving them,” Moore said.
Jose Guillen (who has drawn interest from the Giants), Bruce Chen and Willie Bloomquist are set to hit free agency after the 2010 season. The Royals have a $5.25MM option for Kyle Farnsworth in 2011, but he could attract interest before the deadline as well. The Royals lost a major trade chip last week when David DeJesus injured his thumb.
The Giants' search for another hitter has been well documented, but the team could be targeting more than just a bat. San Francisco is also looking into the possibility of acquiring Will Ohman, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Brian Sabean told listeners on his KNBR radio show Thursday that the team could use an experienced left-handed reliever, and Ohman fits the bill. Although the southpaw has had some control issues this year (5.1 BB/9), he has recorded a 2.57 ERA and struck out a batter per inning. He has also handled lefties well, holding them to a .531 OPS for the season.
If they don't acquire Ohman, the Giants could have a hard time finding another satisfactory left-handed arm for their bullpen. An already underwhelming relief market looks even more uninspiring when you consider the lack of lefties on the list. Besides Ohman and Scott Downs, whose price tag may be too high for the Giants, potentially available southpaws include Bruce Chen, Alan Embree, and Scott Schoeneweis.
According to a press release from the Royals, they've signed six players to minor league deals: pitchers Bruce Chen, Adam Bostick, Devon Lowery, and Francisco Rosario, as well as first baseman Ernesto Mejia and catcher Vance Wilson.
Chen, 32, posted a 5.78 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 3.6 BB/9 in 62.3 innings for the Royals this year. Wilson, 37 in March, hit .270/.342/.461 in 229 Double A plate appearances this year. He seems all the way back from Tommy John surgery and might warrant another look as an MLB backup.