Carlos Villanueva Rumors

Carlos Villanueva Explains Role With MLBPA

There’s not much overlap between the skills that earned Carlos Villanueva a spot in the Major Leagues and the skills that enabled him to represent his fellow-players in negotiations for baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement. Patience and attention to detail are prerequisites for any MLB player interested in representing his peers at the bargaining table. An Ivy League education is not.

Carlos Villanueva - Blue Jays (PW)

“We have guys there who are very highly educated and we have guys like me that signed out of high school from the Dominican,” Villanueva told me in a recent interview. “So you just have to have an understanding about the rules and what everything means for the players’ association and go from there.”

Villanueva, an alternate representative on the executive board of the MLB Players Association, flew between Miami and New York several times per week this past offseason when baseball’s owners and players completed the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. Following a season of constant travel, most players elect to slow down, but Villanueva chose to participate in negotiations, even though it meant more time on the road. His interest in MLB labor relations emerged in Milwaukee, when former Brewers teammates Craig Counsell and Dave Bush, two prominent advocates for players, suggested Villanueva become involved.

"I think he is intelligent and thoughtful about the game," Counsell told me via email. "He really cares about baseball in his country and I think he realized that the Latin players need to play a role in the decision making at the union, which I strongly believed. Labor relations get more complicated every year and I just think Carlos is the perfect guy to offer his voice and have a good grasp on all the issues facing every type of player."

The message stuck with Villanueva, a speaker of Spanish and English. He can communicate with the vast majority of players in their native language, and he's interested in labor relations. It's not a combination he wanted to ignore.

“I just took it upon myself since I had a little more interest, I could understand a little more and there’s really not that big of a barrier for me,” the right-hander said. “So I thought if I have the tools to do it, I feel like I would be letting the guys down if I was not there.”

The rest of the MLBPA’s executive board consists entirely of American-born players: Bush, Jeremy Guthrie, Curtis Granderson, Chris Capuano, Aaron Heilman, Ross Ohlendorf and Kevin Slowey. Counsell, now a member of the Brewers' front office, says other players should be glad to have Villanueva on their side.

"He is going to have an important role moving forward with the changing landscape in Latin America," Counsell said. "I'm proud of him for taking an active role; the players will benefit from having his voice in the room."

Villanueva, 28, says his willingness to travel and listen enabled him to effectively represent the interest of his bosses — the players. It doesn’t hurt to have Princeton graduates like Ohlendorf on side, but those who focus on pedigree are missing the point.

“You have to be interested in just a lot of sitting, listening and back and forth,” Villanueva said. “A lot of guys don’t have the patience for that. I like the back and forth, I like the negotiation and I like the paperwork. I like all of that stuff, knowing that I can make a difference in our world and in not only Latin America but the whole MLBPA.”

To a layperson, dividing up $7 billion in revenue between 30 owners and 750 players sounds like a great problem to have. But the negotiations aren’t always pretty, even in an era defined by labor peace and with experienced professionals Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred leading the way. Villanueva was present for negotiations and he says the tenor of the talks varies from day to day.

“It’s a little bit of everything. It’s more professional than anything. Some days it gets a little confrontational. Some days it’s just boring,” he said “Very boring. 

“They drag on. They drag and drag, but in the end we gave up some and we got some and I think it was a good deal for both sides.”

The relationship between players and owners was considerably more turbulent from the 1960s to the 1990s. Now that the sides are approaching 20 years of labor peace, it can be tempting for outsiders to assume negotiations are a formality and peaceful agreements are inevitable. But the possibility of a work stoppage exists, even today.

“It could have gone to that point this year, too,” Villanueva said. “But we worked hard for that not to happen. The MLB side didn’t want to stop, we didn’t want to strike. We know what issues cause strikes and this year we just wanted a fair deal for both sides. They didn’t go after anything ridiculous. They didn’t go after a salary cap. We were reasonable and I think we went at it the right way.”

When the current agreement expires five years from now, Villanueva hopes to be around, not only as a Major League pitcher, but as an advocate for his peers in the U.S. and in Latin America. 

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here.  Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing.  Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints.  Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM:


Trade Candidates Who Are Currently Playing Well

Players who have performed well this month are more likely to intrigue buyers for at least two reasons. First of all, strong performance is an indication of health. Secondly, MLB teams have diverted some scouting efforts from amateurs to the pros since this year’s draft concluded about a month ago.

As a result, it’s fair to say that players who have been performing well this past month are more likely to draw interest at the trade deadline than players with similar overall numbers who had hot starts then cooled off later in the season. Here’s a look at some players who have been performing particularly well over the course of the past 30 days:

  • Michael Cuddyer – The Twins aren’t prepared to sell yet, but Cuddyer would be a candidate to go if they do decide 2011 isn’t their year. He has a .378/.458/.633 line this month.
  • Melky Cabrera – Cabrera is under team control through 2012 as an arbitration eligible player, so Kansas City’s front office may decide to keep him around for another year. His .342/.374/.470 line this month would appeal to contenders, though.
  • Mark Reynolds – The slugger has ten homers in the past 30 days after starting the season slowly. He earns $7.5MM in 2012 and has an $11MM option for 2013 ($500K buyout).
  • J.J. Hardy – Like Reynolds, Hardy had a power surge this month. He hit seven homers and added a .269/.306/.600 line. The Orioles are negotiating an extension with the shortstop, so there’s a good chance he stays in Baltimore.
  • Coco Crisp – Crisp has a respectable .298/.364/.426 line this month.
  • Carlos Pena – Like Reynolds, Pena strikes out a ton and has a low batting average. But his hot streaks can carry teams and he hit ten homers with a .240/.306/.600 line this month. Tim Dierkes examined Pena as a trade candidate earlier today.
  • Livan Hernandez – GM Mike Rizzo says the Nationals will be buyers and sellers this month. Presumably some rival clubs are hoping the dependable Hernandez is available this summer, since he has a 3.62 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
  • Edwin Jackson – It’s not surprising that clubs are inquiring on Jackson given that he has posted a 4.05 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month. And his 2.52 xFIP suggests he has pitched better than his ERA indicates.
  • Ryan Dempster – Across town, Dempster could draw interest as well. The right-hander has a 2.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 this month.
  • Carlos Villanueva – Though he may not be a trade candidate in the traditional sense, Villanueva’s success in the rotation has presumably drawn the attention of front offices around baseball. He has a 2.84 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 this month.
  • Hiroki Kuroda – Kuroda will require compensation to waive his no-trade clause, but he is already drawing interest. The right-hander has a 2.30 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
  • Aramis Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Hunter Pence have been playing well, but it seems unlikely that they'll be dealt this month. I’m ignoring relievers, since many relievers have worked ten innings or less this month and that’s a minute sample size.

Quick Hits: Villanueva, Looper, Red Sox, Wilson

As the Giants raise their World Series banner with an assist from the Say Hey Kid, here's some news from around the majors…

  • The Brewers received cash, rather than a player to be named later, from the Blue Jays to complete the Carlos Villanueva trade, reports the team (and passed on by's Adam McCalvy).
  • The Cubs aren't considering trying to lure Braden Looper out of retirement, reports's Bruce Levine.  Looper retired when he didn't make Chicago's Opening Day roster.  With right-handers Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells on the disabled list, the Cubs have a sudden lack of pitching depth, but the team will turn to internal options like Casey Coleman, who will start on Sunday. 
  • The Red Sox got their first win of the season today, but there's still plenty of talk about Boston's slow start.  SI's Tom Verducci thinks there are legitimate reasons for worry, namely that Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka "have to suddenly reverse the downward trends of their careers in their 30s."
  • Ken Rosenthal of also questions Boston's pitching, pointing out that barring rebound years from Beckett, Lackey and Matsuzaka, "they’re essentially the same team as the Yankees — terrific offense, deep bullpen, weak back of the rotation."  Rosenthal, however, thinks it is far too early in the season for the Sox and their fans to panic.
  • Jack Wilson asked to be taken out of the Mariners' 7-3 loss to the Rangers on Wednesday, Seattle manager Eric Wedge told reporters today.  Wilson implied that Wedge had removed him from the game, which upset Wedge, tweets Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.  The Twitter feed of the Brock & Salk radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle reports that Wedge described Wilson's actions as "unspeakable" and wouldn't discuss the veteran infielder's status with the club.
  • Pirates right-hander Tyler Yates has a torn flexor tendon in his throwing elbow, reports Jenifer Langosch of  Yates hasn't pitched since 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, and Langosch reports that this latest injury might convince Yates to retire, a decision he's already considered earlier in his career.
  • The Diamondbacks are looking at Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Danny Hultzen with the third pick in this June's amateur draft, says Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.  Sources on other teams think this trio will be the first three players taken in the draft, though perhaps not in that order.  Arizona also has the seventh overall pick, and Piecoro notes that the D-Backs' priority with that pick is to draft a player they can sign.  Vanderbilt's Sonny Grey and high schoolers Dylan Bundy and Taylor Guerrieri are some of the players Piecoro hears connected with this pick.   
  • Doug Davis held another workout today, tweets Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.  Five or six teams were present, down from the eight clubs that watched Davis throw two weeks ago. 

Blue Jays Aim For Bullpen Depth

San Diego's relievers combined to strike out more than a batter per inning over the course of the 2010 season, while limiting hits, walks and homers. Manager Bud Black saw five of his relievers appear in 30 or more games and emerge with ERAs under 2.00 at the end of the season and the Padres' NL West rivals weren't the only ones to notice.

Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says he'd like to have a deep bullpen in 2011, like the Padres did last year. He says he's happy to keep more relievers than usual on his roster this year and that the acquisition of Frank Francisco doesn't mean a trade is imminent. The Blue Jays' plans for their relievers haven't changed.

"No impact at all," Anthopoulos said yesterday on a conference call to announce the acquisition of Francisco from the Rangers. "They're all quality relievers and we love having depth in the bullpen one through seven."

Or maybe one through eight. The Blue Jays have discussed the possibility of opening the season with an eight-man bullpen to accomodate their arms and provide manager John Farrell with a variety of options. Though the Jays could open the year with an extra arm in the 'pen, Anthopoulos said a traditional seven-man ensemble is more likely at this point. The Blue Jays' rotation is relatively young and inexperienced, so the team's front office would like to support starters like Brett Cecil and, possibly, Kyle Drabek with steady relief pitching.

"It's certainly part of it," Anthopoulos said. "We don't want to overtax our young starters."

The Blue Jays don't want to overtax their relievers, either. Anthopoulos says there can be a ripple effect when teams have deep bullpens. If every reliever is capable of performing in meaningful situations, no pitcher gets overused. But Anthopoulos has no illusions; even qualified, well-rested relievers struggle and the 2011 Blue Jays won't be any different.

"We all know that they will get hurt," he said. "Some of them won't perform. They'll have bad months."

Take Jason Frasor (pictured), one of the holdovers in the team's new-look bullpen. He walked nearly a batter per inning in April, 2010 and posted an 8.38 ERA through the season’s first month, but recovered from his turbulent start and put together a fine year. He'll join Francisco and free agent signings Jon Rauch and Octavio Dotel, the relievers Anthopoulos expects to compete for the Jays' closing job.


Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen and Carlos Villanueva are also right-handed relievers under team control for $1MM-plus in 2011, so the Blue Jays have a surplus of big league arms and could hear from pitching-starved teams before the season begins.

The Jays have seven established right-handed relievers, but Toronto's left-handers have considerably less experience. David Purcey, an out-of-options 28-year-old, was reasonably effective in 2010. He's a leading candidate to make the club, though his walk rate and fly ball rate have been high throughout his brief MLB career. Jo-Jo Reyes is also out of options, but he has made just 11 relief appearances as a pro. Jesse Carlson, who was a mainstay in 2009, could also crack the team's roster.

While their AL East rivals to the south, the Rays, had to lower payroll this offseason and rebuild their bullpen on a budget, Anthopoulos reaffirmed that he has the flexibility to ask for more money if necessary. The Blue Jays can continue spending on their bullpen, even as their young starters become more expensive.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.

Blue Jays Avoid Arbitration With Carlos Villanueva

The Blue Jays and Carlos Villanueva have agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.415MM according to's Jon Heyman. Villanueva was arbitration-eligible for the second time.

Toronto acquired the 27-year-old right-hander from the Brewers in December for a player to be named later. Villanueva pitched to 4.61 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 52 2/3 relief innings last season, though he's surrendering one long ball for fewer than every seven innings pitched in his relatively young career. Last season was his first as a full-time reliever.

The Blue Jays still have seven players still eligible for arbitration according to our Arb Tracker. The list includes Yunel Escobar, Jesse Litsch, Brandon Morrow, Casey Janssen, Shawn Camp, Rajai Davis, and Jose Bautista.

Blue Jays Acquire Carlos Villanueva

The Blue Jays have acquired Carlos Villanueva from the Brewers for a player to be named later, according to the team's Twitter page. The 27-year-old right-hander posted 11.4 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 in 52 2/3 innings of relief last year. He pitched exclusively out of the bullpen after starting games in each of his first four big league seasons. 

Arbitration eligible for the second time, Villanueva will get a raise from the $950K salary he earned in 2010.

Defense independent pitching stats suggest Villanueva's 4.61 ERA was inflated in 2010. That suggests his ERA could dip with a similar performance in 2011, but moving to the homer-friendly Rogers Centre could be challenging for Villanueva, who allowed more fly balls than ground balls last year. Villanueva has handled both lefties and righties successfully throughout his career.

Red Sox Have Explored Trades For Many Relievers

FRIDAY, 1:03am: Theo Epstein has discussed multiple possible trades with former Red Sox assistant GM and current Padres GM Jed Hoyer, according to Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Globe duo believes Boston could have interest in a reliever like Joe Thatcher, and, given the team's excess of outfielders when Jacoby Ellsbury returns, they may match up with San Diego.

THURSDAY, 12:59pm: Though they're on his no-trade list, the Red Sox asked the Brewers about Trevor Hoffman, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX SportsRosenthal adds that the Brewers are not inclined to move Hoffman.  Meanwhile they're getting calls on Carlos Villanueva and Todd Coffey.

12:05pm: The Red Sox are leaving no rock unturned in their search for relief help.  They've explored Rafael Perez, Will Ohman, Mike Gonzalez, Matt Capps, Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, David Aardsma, and Kyle Farnsworth, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  Cafardo says Scott Downs looks unlikely unless the Blue Jays back down from their top prospect requests.  On a related note, SI's Jon Heyman tweets that the Jays asked the Mets for outfield prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis and one other player for Downs and were denied. 

Marshall is the interesting name here.  The 27-year-old lefty has had a dominant year in relief, posting a 1.71 ERA, 10.4 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 52.6 innings with one home run allowed.  He's been especially strong against lefties.  Marshall is under team control through 2012 and would presumably be very difficult to pry loose from the Cubs.  Gonzalez is another surprising name, since he's spent most of the season on the shelf with a shoulder injury and is still owed good money.

Cafardo adds that the Red Sox have been shopping reliever Ramon Ramirez, and offers the opinion that a National League team might want to take a look at him.  Ramirez has a 4.57 ERA, 6.5 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 in 41.3 innings with six home runs allowed and is a potential non-tender candidate after the season.

Examining Milwaukee’s Rotation

When the Brewers effectively replaced starters Manny Parra and Braden Looper with Randy Wolf and Doug Davis this offseason, the rotation seemed better-positioned to carry the team than it was last year, when Brewers pitching was largely disappointing. 

Their starters posted a 5.37 ERA a year ago and their pitching staff as a whole allowed more runs than every NL club except the Nationals. GM Doug Melvin discussed trading for Kevin Correia, Jarrod Washburn, Doug Davis, Brian Bannister and others when the team was in contention last summer. The Brewers even claimed Davis, but they never made a major move. 

This year the Brewers are among the worst teams in the National League in runs allowed (14th) and home runs allowed (15th). Their bullpen has been disappointing, but the starters have done better than last year, combining for a 4.70 ERA. 

Yovani Gallardo has been fantastic so far, with a 3.07 ERA and 11.0 K/9. Wolf's ERA is below 4.00, but he's walking significantly more batters than he did with the Dodgers last year. Like Wolf, Dave Bush has an ERA around 4.00, but is walking far more batters than usual. Meanwhile, hitters are batting .415 on balls they put in play off of Davis. That figure should drop and drag Davis' 7.56 ERA down along with it. Rounding out the rotation, Chris Narveson pitched well against the D'Backs on Sunday, but he is no sure thing.

The Brewers have some options within the organization should their current starters falter. Carlos Villanueva has experience starting and this year he's throwing harder than ever. Villanueva, the team's pitcher of the month in April, is striking out more than a batter per inning. John Axford, ranked 23rd among Brewers prospects by Baseball America before the season, is pitching well in Triple A and could be called upon to replace Villanueva in the 'pen.

The Brewers have a solid but unremarkable rotation at this point, though they're surely hoping to see Wolf and Bush limit their free passes. We can expect Davis to improve and Villanueva could contribute, so the Brewers don't appear as desperate to acquire arms as they were a year ago. It may all be a moot point. If Milwaukee can't turn things around, they may become sellers and Jeff Suppan, Davis and Bush could be trade bait for other clubs.

Players To Avoid Arbitration: Tuesday

We'll round up any and all players that agree to deals today to avoid arbitration in this post, so check back in for updates…

  •'s T.R. Sullivan reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers have avoided arbitration with reliever Frank Francisco by agreeing to a one-year, $3.265MM contract.
  • The official Brewers Twitter site is reporting that Carlos Villanueva has agreed to a one-year contract.  The deal is worth $950K according to's Adam McCalvy (via Twitter).
  • The Red Sox and Jeremy Hermida have agreed to a one-year deal for 2010 to avoid arbitration according to a team press release. Michael Silverman of The Boston Herald reports (via Twitter) that Hermida will earn $3.345MM in 2010. Theo Epstein's streak of avoiding arbitration lasts another year.