Casey Kotchman Rumors
Free agent first baseman Casey Kotchman is on the Indians' radar, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. Heyman says the Tribe is looking at every everyday first baseman aside from Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols. Earlier today, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted that the Indians are "focused on either a first baseman or complementary outfielder."
Kotchman was one of the year's best minor league signings, as he hit .306/.378/.422 for the Rays in 563 plate appearances. He ranked 36th on my top 50 free agents list.
Andrew Friedman spoke with the media today about the Rays' plans heading into the Winter Meetings. Here are some highlights, courtesy of Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times...
- Friedman stuck to only discussing the Rays and declined to comment on his connection to the Astros' open general manager's job. The Astros have permission to speak to Friedman and he is thought to be their top candidate.
- The Rays' are looking for help at DH and first base, so free agents Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon are "very much in the discussion" to be brought back, Friedman said.
- The club isn't looking to deal one of its eight starting pitchers but if one was dealt, Friedman says it would be for Major League players that could contribute right away. Topkin writes that there has "been heavy interest" in Tampa Bay's pitching from other teams.
- Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez are expected to handle shortstop, so Tampa Bay isn't looking to bring in another player for the position.
- Friedman is open to adding catching depth but isn't sure it will be available. The catching job will be split between the newly-signed Jose Molina and either Robinson Chirinos or Jose Lobaton.
- Since the Rays want to add to their offense, it doesn't seem likely that B.J. Upton will be traded this winter.
Here are a handful of items out of the AL and NL East ...
- MLB.com's Bill Ladson cites three different sources in reporting that Wally Backman, who currently manages in the Mets minor league system, was never offered a position with the Nationals' Major League club.
- Backman told Ed Randall of New York's WFAN radio that he will remain in the organization rather than accepting a position on another team's Major League staff, according to MetsBlog. Backman interviewed for the Mets' managerial vacancy before it went to Terry Collins last year.
- The Red Sox are not expected to interview former Diamondbacks skipper A.J. Hinch for their managerial vacancy, a source familiar with the situation tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com. Hinch is currently vice president of pro scouting for the Padres.
- The Rays are unlikely to make quick decisions on whether to re-sign free agents Johnny Damon and first baseman Casey Kotchman, writes Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. Tampa will look to improve its offense, according to Topkin, but that won't be easy without detracting from its deep well of pitching talent, which it won't want to do. Andrew Friedman will likely do most of his roster shuffling via trade, writes Topkin.
- As their core position players are getting older and dealing with injuries, the Phillies' window of opportunity may be closing, opines Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. One talent evaluator told Brookover that the Phillies should let Jimmy Rollins walk in free agency. "It might be time to find out about a guy like Freddy Galvis," the scout said. "I saw him this year and he really is improving. I don't know if he's ready to be an everyday player in the big leagues, but I just think they need to get younger."
- Former Yankees pitching prospect Brandon Weeden, now 28, has resurfaced as the starting quarterback of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, writes Tom Spousta of the New York Times (cap tip to Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues). Weeden was a second-round pick of the Yanks in 2002 (a compensatory selection for Tino Martinez signing with the Cardinals), but he washed out of baseball by 2007 due to injuries and ineffectiveness.
The Rays signed a middle of the order hitter last offseason, but it wasn't Manny Ramirez. After just five games with Tampa, Manny abruptly retired rather than face a second suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. The Rays filled Ramirez's roster spot by promoting Casey Kotchman from Triple-A, and five months later, he's the middle of the order bat the team thought it was getting in Manny.
Kotchman, still just 28, has stepped in and hit .312/.380/.429 in 487 plate appearances since being promoted. He isn't hitting for much power (just eight homers), but he's drawing walks (42) and putting the ball in play (55) while providing his usual strong defense. After years of struggling against left-handers, Kotchman is hitting a respectable .300/.336/.367 against southpaws this season.
There are reasons to believe that the improved performance is unsustainable, however. Kotchman's batting average on balls in play (.341) is the highest of his career (by far) even though there's been no significant change in his batted ball profile. More than half of the balls he puts in play are hit on the ground, just a quarter are fly balls, and fewer than one in five is a line drive. It could work, but it hasn't for him in the past.
Low power first baseman usually aren't in high demand on the free agent market, especially ones with the proverbial "one good year." That said, Kotchman could be a nice, budget friendly alternative to stopgap first basemen like Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, and Carlos Pena. The Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Dodgers could all be looking for help at first this winter, and of course re-signing with the Rays is always a possibility as well.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
Derek Jeter, Ryan Howard and Derrek Lee aren’t the only former CAA clients agent Casey Close will continue to represent now that he’s at Excel Sports Management. Close told MLBTR that he still represents Tyler Clippard, Michael Cuddyer, Alex Gordon, Jerry Hairston Jr., Scott Hairston, Casey Kotchman, Ben Sheets, Marcus Thames and Jamey Wright.
The Rays signed Casey Kotchman to a minor league deal and invited him to Spring Training, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. The deal could pay Kotchman $750K, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). Kotchman, 28 next month, provides insurance for Dan Johnson, another left-handed hitting first baseman.
Kotchman hit .217/.280/.336 in 457 plate appearances for the Mariners last year, adding nine homers and 20 doubles. He hit as many as 37 doubles for the 2007 Angels, but his production has dropped off since. The former first rounder has a .736 OPS against right-handed pitching and a .656 OPS against left-handed pitching in his career.
The Indians had interest in Kotchman as recently as yesterday.
On this date five years ago, the Indians sent Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for Jason Michaels and traded Josh Bard, Coco Crisp, David Riske and a player to be named later to the Red Sox for Andy Marte, Guillermo Mota, Kelly Shoppach and cash. January 27th 2011 doesn't figure to be quite as eventful for the Tribe, but you never know. Here are some Indians links...
- The Indians are interested in Casey Kotchman on a minor league deal, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
- The Nationals reportedly inquired on Fausto Carmona and Grady Sizemore, but ESPN.com's Buster Olney and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer both hear that the Nationals have not discussed such a trade with the Indians (Twitter links). Olney says the Nationals haven't called the Indians 'at all' about such a move.
- The Indians are looking for bargains and would like to upgrade their rotation and infield, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The team inquired on Kevin Millwood earlier in the month.
- MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports that some free agent relievers were hesitant to join the Indians this offseason because the Tribe has a number of promising young relievers.
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:
- The Rays have added some bullpen pieces in Joel Peralta, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, J.P. Howell, and Rule 5 pick Cesar Cabrel, but they'll still need someone to pitch the ninth and probably the eighth, Topkin opines. He lists some potential candidates as Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Kevin Gregg, Trevor Hoffman, Grant Balfour, and Chad Qualls as options. Remember, the Rays also have Jake McGee.
- There's not much in terms of affordable names for the Rays on the market. Some clarity will be brought to the issue once Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee sign. Topkin mentions Casey Kotchman as a speculative option. Dan Johnson is a fallback if the team can't find an upgrade.
- Johnson is also a backup plan at designated hitter, but the Rays have options at designated hitter, with Johnny Damon, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Giambi on the market.
The Nationals are "actively" pursuing free agent first baseman Derrek Lee, a baseball source told MLB.com'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 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.