Casey Kotchman Rumors

Rays Notes: Bullpen, First Base, DH

The Rays find themselves in a difficult position as the 2011 season approaches. Forced to cut payroll, they've lost Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, (presumably) Rafael Soriano, and most of their bullpen to free agency, and traded Jason Bartlett as he approaches his final arbitration year.

Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times looks at some of the issues left to be addressed as the Rays begin bargain shopping this offseason:

Nationals Actively Pursuing Derrek Lee

The Nationals are "actively" pursuing free agent first baseman Derrek Lee, a baseball source told's Bill Ladson.  Another source told the Nationals beat writer Lee is the team's top first base target.  Ladson adds that talks "don't appear to be serious" between the Nats and Adam LaRoche.

Washington "may consider" Casey Kotchman if they fail to sign Lee, writes Ladson.  Lee was linked to six teams on Saturday, but the Padres and Diamondbacks are probably out.  The Orioles may be the Nationals' main competition.

Casey Kotchman Hits Free Agency

Casey Kotchman refused an outright assignment and is now a free agent, the Mariners announced. The move is essentially an early non-tender. Kotchman had zero trade value and would have been non-tendered in December, so the Mariners are allowing the first baseman to hit the free agent market a month early.

Kotchman, 27, earned $3.5MM last year and even a modest arbitration raise would have guaranteed him an unnecessarily high salary. He batted .217/.280/.336 last year in 457 plate appearances. Kotchman has a reputation as a good defender and he posted an .840 OPS in 2007, but he does not hit enough for a first baseman.

Non-Tender Candidate: Casey Kotchman

The Mariners acquired Casey Kotchman from the Red Sox in January, installing him as Russell Branyan's replacement at first base.  457 plate appearances later, Kotchman is a lock to be non-tendered next month.

Kotchman, 28 in February, hit .217/.280/.336 for the Mariners this year.  He's known for his defense, but more was expected offensively.  He earned $3.5175MM in 2010, but may have to settle for a minor league deal this time around.

There is some silver lining for Kotchman's bat.  In 2007 for the Angels, Kotchman hit .296/.372/.467 in 508 plate appearances.  Drafted 13th overall in '01, Kotchman had seemingly recovered from a bout with mononucleosis and broken through in the bigs.  He was the centerpiece of the Angels' trade with Atlanta for Mark Teixeira in July of '08, but his power slipped into reserve territory from that point forward.

Next month expect to see many of the up-and-comers of several years ago non-tendered, such as Kotchman, Conor Jackson, John Maine, Zach Duke, Jeff Francoeur, and Brandon McCarthy.

Odds & Ends: Darvish, Feliciano, D’Backs, Blue Jays

As the Padres face a big uphill battle in San Francisco this weekend, we look at some news items….

What’s Next For The Mariners?

The Mariners cashed in their biggest chip yesterday, dealing Cliff Lee to the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three prospects. With the team currently 34-52 and 16 games back in the division, it's reasonable to expect GM Jack Zduriencik to continue making moves geared more towards contending in 2011 than righting the ship in 2010.

Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times points out that with Smoak set to man first on an every day basis, the Mariners now have three players (Milton Bradley, Russell Branyan, and Michael Saunders) for two roster spots (left field, designated hitter). Bradley's sore knee buys them some time, and Saunders could also be optioned to Triple-A, but flipping Branyan to a contender looking for some pop is very possible.

Saunders was almost sent to Philadelphia in last winter's Lee deal before the Phillies' requested Tyson Gillies instead, and Baker says the Zduriencik regime "hasn't exactly been in love" with holdover prospects from the Bill Bavasi era. Saunders could again find himself on the chopping block.

Backup first baseman Casey Kotchman could go at any time, though it's tough to believe there will be much trade interest in his .208/.292/.344 batting line, regardless of how good his defense is. The same could be said of the currently injured Mike Sweeney, though he was hitting a tolerable .263/.327/.475 before his back flared up.

Jose Lopez is very much available, but Baker doesn't think either Brandon League or David Aardsma will be dealt. Both are under team control for the next two seasons, so the Mariners aren't feeling pressure to move them immediately.

The Lee trade basically represented the white flag, but the Mariners don't have much left to trade away beyond Lopez, some relievers, and possibly Branyan. More than anything, they need to start getting better production out of Chone Figgins (.235/.334/.277) and Bradley (.211/.295/.368) while Jason Vargas (3.09 ERA) and Doug Fister (also a 3.09 ERA) continue to establish themselves as viable starters behind Felix Hernandez.

Red Sox Roundup: Kotchman, Epstein, McDonald

With Red Sox Nation in full panic mode, a number of writers are surveying the wreckage in a 4-9 start that represents, to provide some clarity, just eight percent of the season.

Bowden Talks To Epstein, Zduriencik, Reagins, Wren

Jim Bowden's weekly GM's Corner video pieces for FOX Sports make for good viewing.  This week he talked to Theo Epstein, Jack Zduriencik, Tony Reagins, and Frank Wren.  A few hot stove highlights:

  • Epstein admitted that new third baseman Adrian Beltre would "have to have a big year" to achieve Type A status after the season, but finds at least Type B likely.  Epstein noted that there's the possibility of signing Beltre long-term if he proves to be a good fit.
  • Zduriencik told Bowden he was aggressive in pursuing Chone Figgins, and got the deal done within 48 hours.  Also, Zduriencik mentioned that the Brewers were one pick away from taking Casey Kotchman in the first round in 2001; they instead took Mike Jones at #12 overall.  I wonder if the Brewers still would've drafted Prince Fielder in '02 if they had Kotchman.
  • Reagins is "not really concerned" about having a limited number of lefties in the bullpen, after the Halos lost Darren Oliver to the Rangers this offseason.
  • Wren believes the Braves have "improved quite a bit" offensively, and talked up Nate McLouth, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, Melky Cabrera, and Troy Glaus.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Wednesday

With hearings set to begin, expect more arbitration settlements…

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Rolen, Sweeney, Twins

On this date in 1990, the Tigers signed free agent Cecil Fielder after he hit 38 homers as a member of the Hanshin Tigers the year before. Fielder went on to lead the league with 130 HR and 389 RBI over the next three years, landing a five-year, $36MM contract that made him the then-second-highest paid player in baseball history behind Barry Bonds. Believe it or not, Prince is already more than halfway to his father's career total of 319 homers despite having fewer than half as many plate appearances.

Let's see what's being written around the baseball blogosphere…

  • The Phrontiersman goes back in time to see how things would have played out for the Phillies if Scott Rolen signed a contract extension and was never traded away.
  • DRays Bay wonders if Matt Sweeney could take over first base for the Rays if Carlos Pena leaves as a free agent after 2010. Sweeney was acquired in the Scott Kazmir trade.
  • Fack Youk compares Vladimir Guerrero to Hideki Matsui to Nick Johnson, the three biggest DH signings of the offseason.
  • Lookout Landing says the Mariners did just fine to acquire Casey Kotchman, even though Adam LaRoche agreed to a relatively cheap deal yesterday.
  • Meanwhile, Jorge Says No! thinks the Mets may have made a mistake by not signing LaRoche.
  • Nick's Twins Blog wonders if Michael Cuddyer or Joe Nathan could be expendable as Minnesota's estimated payroll will approach nine-figures in 2011.
  • thinks the Tigers will regret signing Jose Valverde.
  • Pinstripes Published takes a look at the market for Johnny Damon, or lack thereof.
  • TurnTwo looks at all the movement going on with the Giants' defensive alignment.

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