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Here are a couple of links regarding potential free agent third basemen, with a note about an outfielder for good measure:
- Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez will be seeking a multiyear contract this offseason, according to his agent, Paul Kinzer, writes Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune. A-Ram hasn't ruled out returning to the Cubs, apparently, but he "would have been more likely to re-sign with [Chicago] if Jim Hendry was there," Kinzer said. This is the same sentiment we heard from Kinzer in the wake of Hendry's dismissal a week or so back. The Cubs have a $16MM club option for 2012 on A-Ram, with a $2MM buyout. He can decline the option, though, in which case he'd forfeit any compensation.
- Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd would be fine with it if the team decides to trade him this offseason, writes Paul Sullivan of the Tribune, but he hopes any such move would yield a good player in return: "If it's best for the organization to move me and bring back another piece because of my trade value, then (do it). But if they're just trying to get rid of me and get nothing back, I don't see that helping the organization," Byrd said. He's slated to earn $6.5MM in the final year of a three-year, $15MM contract, so I could see him drawing some interest on the trade market.
- Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake will undergo season-ending surgery to repair damaged nerves in his neck, writes Chris Adamski of MLB.com. It sounds like a fairly serious procedure, and Blake is 38, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Blake wants to continue playing. The Dodgers hold a $6MM option ($1.25MM buyout) on Blake for 2012, so there's a chance they could move on.
The tightest division race in the National League is happening out west, where the Diamondbacks have taken a two-game lead over the Giants on the strength of five straight wins. ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider link) likens Arizona to a No. 14 seed in an NCAA tournament, holding a lead late in the game and gaining confidence that they can pull off an upset. Here are this morning's notes from around the NL West:
- The D'Backs didn't go out and acquire a replacement for Stephen Drew when he fractured his ankle, and Willie Bloomquist is making the decision look good, writes Olney. Since Drew's injury, Bloomquist is hitting .295/.349/.423 as the team's regular shortstop.
- J.C. Romero tells Troy Renck of the Denver Post that his friend LaTroy Hawkins had good things to say about the Rockies' organization, which pushed the lefty toward Colorado. Romero will throw a bullpen and take a physical today, and could be added to the Rockies' roster if both go well.
- Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times wonders what's next for the Dodgers' Casey Blake, who is "not the least interested in calling it a career" and "has no desire in going out on some injury-riddled, less-than-fulfilling season," according to Dilbeck.
- The Athletics have called up two former members of NL West clubs, both of whom were involved in trades earlier this season, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Brandon Allen, formerly of the Diamondbacks, and Bruce Billings, acquired from the Rockies in the Mark Ellis deal, will join the A's for today's game.
Before the season, MLBTR writers identified 13 players who were set for 'make or break' years. These players had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for success in free agency.
We checked in on the players at the quarter pole of the campaign and let's do it again now that we're midway through the season (all links go to the MLBTR posts):
- Scott Kazmir - Kazmir spent time on the DL, made one appearance for the Angels and posted a 17.02 ERA with more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A before getting released. The former first rounder is now a free agent.
- Nate McLouth - McLouth's .225/.345/.330 line is better than it was last year and features a respectable on-base percentage, but his offensive production has fallen off considerably since 2007-09. He spent time on the DL this June.
- Grady Sizemore - Sizemore missed time with a knee injury, but he still has nine homers and a .231/.295/.448 line. However, he has a career-high 29.5% strikeout rate and a career-low 6.1% walk rate.
- Ryan Doumit - The switch-hitter has spent most of the season on the disabled list, though he has a .269/.333/.441 line when healthy.
- Jonathan Broxton - Broxton is on the disabled list with a bruised right elbow and he has had another setback, so there's no timetable for his return. If he doesn't pitch well later this season, he will be overshadowed by this offseason's strong crop of free agent relief pitchers.
- Joel Zumaya - Zumaya had elbow surgery in March and it's not clear if he'll ever return to the Tigers.
- Casey Blake - Blake has returned from surgery for an elbow infection and has a .243/.346/.386 line as a third baseman, first baseman and left fielder. The 37-year-old isn't in the Dodgers' everyday lineup anymore.
- Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez has a .298/.346/.497 line with 15 homers and could be en route to his best season since 2008.
- Edwin Jackson - Jackson, a free agent this winter, has a 4.30 ERA (3.31 xFIP) with 7.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 106 2/3 innings for the White Sox.
- Bobby Abreu - Abreu, 37, has a .277/.394/.363 line this year. A year after hitting his usual 20 homers, Abreu's power is diminishing, but his on-base skills still exist.
- Carlos Beltran - Beltran has a .285/.377/.503 line with 13 homers. There seems to be a good chance that he'll finish the season with another team, as he would agree to waive his no-trade clause under the right circumstances.
- Matt Capps - Capps has 15 saves, but his strikeout rate has fallen from 7.3 K/9 to 4.9 K/9 and his average fastball velocity has fallen from 94 mph to 92.8 mph.
- Jeff Francis - The 30-year-old left-hander appears to be headed for the second 200 inning season of his career. Francis, who battled shoulder injuries in 2009-10, has a 4.60 ERA with 4.4 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9.
The latest from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe…
- The Dodgers are not ready to become sellers quite yet, but Cafardo reports that the team's scouts are already compiling lists of other teams' better prospects. Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jamey Carroll are among the players who would be made available — Kuroda is already attracting the attention of several teams and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at Carroll's trade candidacy two weeks ago.
- Cafardo reports that the Indians looked into Casey Blake as a depth option at third base before Lonnie Chisenhall was called up. Blake, Jonathan Broxton and Jon Garland are all currently on the DL but would be shopped by L.A. if they can prove they're healthy.
- The Dodgers don't appear to be interested in moving higher-profile players like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or James Loney since "the feeling is Dodgers fans would rebel if some of their star players were sold off." I don't think Loney falls into this category at all — he has just a .678 OPS this season and could be a non-tender candidate after the season, so the Dodgers would love to get something back for him.
- J.J. Hardy will be "a major trade chip" for the Orioles if the two sides can't work out a contract extension before the deadline. Hardy would become the top option for shortstop-needy teams, particularly if the Mets don't shop Jose Reyes.
- "It’s no secret that [Wandy Rodriguez] is being watched closely by the Yankees, who have sent a few people to watch some of his starts," Cafardo writes. As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted a few weeks ago, the Yankees would want Rodriguez at the back of their rotation while the Astros would want a trade package befitting an ace, so there may not be a fit between the two teams. Cafardo notes that Brett Myers "also remains on the Yankees' radar."
- The Twins are more likely to deal Carl Pavano or Francisco Liriano than they would Scott Baker, though "there are teams that would love to get their hands on Baker."
- The White Sox recently sent assistant general manager Dave Yokum to scout some Braves games for pitching. Cafardo specifically cites Brandon Beachy as a starter the Sox were watching and says that Beachy or Derek Lowe could be shopped by Atlanta in exchange for a hitter. I think it's obvious the Braves would prefer to move the expensive Lowe rather than a young, controllable pitcher like Beachy, but if the Braves wanted to pick up a big bat like Carlos Quentin (as Cafardo speculates), Atlanta certainly has the pitching depth to spare.
The trade market is still developing at this point in the season, but it’s starting to take shape. Buster Olney outlines the plans for National League teams in a highly recommended insider-only piece at ESPN.com. Here are the details:
- The Dodgers can’t make long-term investments in young stars like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw because of their uncertain financial status. The Los Angeles front office is now gathering information about some of their trade candidates and taking calls on some players. No teams have called on Jamey Carroll yet, though the Rockies are interested.
- James Loney and Casey Blake have next to no trade value, as Olney explains.
- No team has called about Jose Reyes, who won’t be traded for anything less than a top prospect and a solid secondary prospect.
- Rival executives expect the Phillies to acquire proven veterans this summer.
- Though the Astros will listen to offers on Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez, they will be asking a lot for them.
- The Braves are checking out available hitters. Some rival executives have speculated on the possibility that the Braves will consider trading Jair Jurrjens, whose stock has never been higher.
- Some rival executives think B.J. Upton will be a borderline non-tender candidate this offseason. Upton will earn a raise from $4.825MM next year and he currently has a .223/.308/.396 line with 20 steals. I can’t envision the Rays non-tendering Upton, who would presumably have trade value if Tampa made him available.
- The Padres have told teams that they’re ready to take offers for Heath Bell and Mike Adams. Rival clubs believe Adams will be harder to obtain than Ryan Ludwick.
- The Rockies will wait a few weeks before deciding whether to buy or sell.
- The Giants are looking for catching help and Ramon Hernandez is a possible upgrade, as I explained earlier in the week.
- The Reds are concerned about starting pitching and will consider making moves for upgrades at left field or shortstop. Though rival teams don’t expect Reyes to end up in Cincinnati, GM Walt Jocketty may be aggressive enough to make a deal happen.
- GM Jim Hendry says there won’t be a fire sale, but the Cubs are “open for business,” Olney reports. Jeff Baker and Kerry Wood are “among the most coveted players in the trade market,” since they’re cheap and useful. Rival executives have mixed opinions about Carlos Pena, who is powerful but streaky.
- Wood is near the top of Arizona’s list of targets.
- The 40-39 Pirates will look for modest ways to improve and won’t be selling.
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Before the season, MLBTR writers identified 13 players who were set for 'make or break' years. These players had experienced ups and downs in their respective careers and were positioned to re-establish themselves as difference makers at the Major League level and set themselves up for success in free agency. Now that we're at the quarter pole for the 2011 season, let's check in on the lucky 13 players (all links go to the MLBTR posts):
- Scott Kazmir - Kazmir, now on the DL, has appeared in one game this year and he allowed five runs, five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. I'll be surprised if he signs a guaranteed contract this winter.
- Nate McLouth – McLouth was coming off a poor 2010 season, but the results are much better in 2011. He has a .262/.355/.379 line, though UZR/150 suggests his defense in center field has been poor since 2009.
- Grady Sizemore – After missing most of 2010 with a knee surgery that required microfracture surgery, Sizemore returned with a vengeance, only to hit the disabled list with an injury to his other knee. In 18 games before he got hurt, Sizemore posted a .282/.333/.641 line with six homers.
- Ryan Doumit - Though he has only stepped to the plate 82 times, Doumit has a healthy .278/.358/.458 batting line. The switch-hitter has been available in trades for a while and it wouldn't be surprising to see him dealt this summer.
- Jonathan Broxton – Broxton is on the disabled list with a bruised right elbow and there's no timetable for his return. If he doesn't pitch well later this season, he will be overshadowed by this offseason's strong crop of free agent relief pitchers.
- Joel Zumaya - Zumaya had elbow surgery a week ago today and is now resting and rehabbing. It's not clear that he'll return to the Tigers this year.
- Casey Blake – Blake required surgery for an elbow infection and could return to the Dodgers soon. Before he got hurt, the 37-year-old had a .956 OPS in 66 plate appearances.
- Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez is off to a so-so .287/.347/.368 start, but his power can sneak up on people, as it did last year when he hit 19 homers after July 5th.
- Edwin Jackson - Still just 27, Jackson has a 4.53 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 55 2/3 innings. His name appears multiple times on the leaderboard for free agent starters.
- Bobby Abreu - The 37-year-old doesn't have much power at this stage in his career (.327 slugging, .072 isolated power), but you won't find many hitters capable of a .377 OBP.
- Carlos Beltran - Beltran has rebounded in a big way this year. The way he's hitting (.286/.381/.564, 8 homers) he'll be among the most appealing free agents available after the season. I suggested this spring that he and agent Scott Boras could ask for a multiyear deal and that seems even more likely now.
- Matt Capps - Capps hasn't walked anyone in 18 1/3 innings and he has five saves and a 3.93 ERA. The 27-year-old's value doesn't appear to have changed much this year.
- Jeff Francis - Though Francis is 0-5 with a 4.83 ERA, he has averaged 6.0 innings per start for the Royals and has a respectable 27K/10BB ratio. The left-hander seems healthy after consecutive seasons with shoulder issues.
It's not quite as bad as Zambrano-for-Kazmir, but you have to think that Dodgers GM Ned Colletti would love to have a do-over on the trade that sent Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan to the Indians for Casey Blake and about $2MM in 2008. Two-and-a-half years later, Santana has developed into one of the two best young catchers in baseball while Blake finds himself at a career crossroads.
Following the trade, the now 37-year-old Blake hit .251/.313/.460 with ten homers in 233 plate appearances. The Dodgers re-signed him to a three-year, $17.5MM contract after the 2008 season, and Blake rewarded them in 2009. He hit .280/.363/.468 with 18 homers in 565 plate appearances, though he did battle nagging hamstring issues throughout the season.
Last season was a much different story. Blake came out of the gate well, hitting .273/.354/.482 in his first 39 games, but it all went downhill from there. His final 106 games featured a .238/.307/.378 batting line, and he struck out in 28 of his final 69 plate appearances of the season. The end result was a .248/.320/.407 line, a 99 OPS+ that was his worst in three years.
The Dodgers owe Blake a reasonable $5.25MM in 2011, then must decide whether to exercise his $6MM club option for 2012 or buy him out for $1.25MM. Given his declining performance and age, the latter looks more likely right now. The free agent market for players in their late-30's and relegated to the corner infield spots is not robust, so the best case scenario for Blake likely has him playing well enough that the team picks up that option.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
If there were any doubts about how much trade deadline acquisitions can affect the postseason, last night's Giants/Braves contest silenced them. A pair of former Royals, Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth, helped lead Atlanta to victory, while ex-Red Sox Ramon Ramirez gave up Ankiel's game-winning blast. As we prepare for another round of playoff baseball tonight, let's check out a few links….
- Casey Blake hit just .248/.320/.407 this season, but MLB.com's Sarah Morris thinks Ned Colletti has more pressing needs than finding a new third baseman.
- Meanwhile, Steve Dilbeck of The Los Angeles Times says that today's Matt Kemp-Nationals rumor won't be the last time the centerfielder's name comes up on the rumor circuit this winter.
- The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec expects the Orioles to buy out Mark Hendrickson's $1.2MM option for $200K. Hendrickson could return to the team at a lower price, according to Zrebiec.
- Carlos Matias (now known as Carlos Martinez) has received Visa approval and completed his $1.5MM deal with the Cardinals, reports Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes (Twitter link). The Dominican right-hander agreed to terms with St. Louis in June, and has been outstanding in the Dominican Summer League (0.76 ERA, 11.9 K/9).
- The Red Sox have outrighted Rich Hill to the minors, reports Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The lefty will become a free agent five days after the World Series.
- In his latest appearance on WEEI, Peter Gammons discussed Cliff Lee, Boston's bullpen, and how the purchase of Liverpool FC affects the Red Sox.
- As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, Billy Wagner's strained oblique will keep him out of the NLDS and, if the Braves advance, the NLCS. With the left-hander still planning to retire, Wagner may have made his final big league appearance last night.
It's been an eventful week for the Dodgers, with news that Don Mattingly will replace Joe Torre as the team's manager. Let's check out a few more updates out of Los Angeles, as the club prepares for the offseason….
- GM Ned Colletti says he doesn't intend to drastically overhaul his roster this winter, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. "A year like this makes you look at every aspect of the team and makes you more apt to listen [to trade overtures]," Colletti said. "But it won't make me aggressively tear it up."
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times thinks that Colletti would be right not to move Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier, but argues that the club should look into dealing James Loney. He also suggests that signing a free agent outfielder should be the Dodgers' "only big winter expenditure."
- According to Gurnick, Colletti would like to add a productive left fielder to replace Manny Ramirez. It's unclear whether the Dodgers will have the resources to bid on players like Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.
- Catcher and third base also may be areas that need to be addressed, says Gurnick. Rod Barajas will be a free agent, Russell Martin will be recovering from a broken hip, and Casey Blake could be shifted into a utility role.
- The team is expected to try to retain free agents Ted Lilly, Jay Gibbons, and Barajas. They could also attempt to bring back Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, depending on asking price and health.
- A few longtime Yankees weighed in on Torre's decision to step down, as Chad Jennings of the Journal News writes.
Links for Wednesday, after a roller coaster win by Joey Votto and the Reds…
- GM Doug Melvin told MLB.com's Adam McCalvy that the Brewers won't discuss an extension with Rickie Weeks until the season's over. Weeks, who will hit free agency after 2011, recently switched agents.
- Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Shawn Camp, Kevin Gregg and John Buck all hit waivers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). There's no indication that the Blue Jays intend on moving any of their players this month.
- Over at RotoAuthority, Tim Dierkes analyzes the seasons some top second basemen are having.
- Number 18 is an 'ace number' in Japan, so Daisuke Matsuzaka has a clause in his contract ensuring that he gets to wear it. Matsuzaka explained to Alex Speier of WEEI.com that a childhood idol of his, Masumi Kuwata, wore the number for the Yomiuri Giants.
- Ben Kabak of River Ave. Blues calls the Javier Vazquez trade a "true disappointment," but hesitates to label it a "true bust."
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues that the Mets should make decisions with the future of the organization in mind, instead of "letting a lame-duck manager make choices" to win as much as possible.
- Manny Ramirez isn't the only Dodger on waivers. As Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times notes (on Twitter), Casey Blake, Jay Gibbons and Scott Podsednik also hit the waiver wire today.