Casey Kotchman Rumors
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.
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.
As the Padres face a big uphill battle in San Francisco this weekend, we look at some news items....
- Yu Darvish's likely posting fee could be around $25MM and the right-hander might look for a five-year deal from an MLB club, suggest sources of Matt Cerrone of Metsblog.com. The Mets, Yankees, Rangers and Braves are listed as four of the eight teams who have shown an interest in Darvish, and we know the Rays have watched him pitch as well.
- Pedro Feliciano's struggles against right-handed hitters will prevent the reliever from earning a big contract this winter, writes David Brown of Yahoo Sports. The fact that Feliciano is a Type A free agent will also hurt his cause, since teams will shy away from losing a draft pick to sign a limited relief pitcher.
- Rafael Soriano, Cody Ross, David DeJesus and Francisco Rodriguez are among several free agents or trade candidates that Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic thinks the D'Backs might consider acquiring.
- Bob Gebhard, the Diamondbacks' vice-president and special assistant to the GM, will survive the expected front office changes in Arizona this winter, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
- Nightengale also tweets that Tim Wallach is "picking up plenty of steam" in regards to the Toronto manager's job. The Rockies have granted hitting coach Don Baylor permission to interview for that same position, reports Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.
- The Everett Daily Herald's Kirby Arnold lists several Mariners who might not be with the team next season, including Jose Lopez, David Aardsma and Casey Kotchman.
- Dodgers assistant GM Logan White told Baseball America's Jim Callis that he hasn't been fired by L.A., and is "working for the team until...told otherwise" (both Twitter links). Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus tweeted about "rumors starting to swirl" that White and the Dodgers were parting ways earlier in the day. White was one of several candidates interviewed for the Arizona general manager's job that eventually went to Kevin Towers.
- The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore lists five possible replacements for Adam Dunn if the Nationals don't re-sign the slugger.
- In a chat with fans on Thursday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News predicted that the Rangers would announce contract extensions for manager Ron Washington and GM Jon Daniels within a week of Texas' final playoff game.
- Trevor Hoffman hasn't decided if he will play next year yet, but if he does, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy predicts Hoffman will look for "a situation in which he at least has a chance to be the closer."
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.
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.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier discusses whether the Sox would have been better off keeping Casey Kotchman than signing Adrian Beltre, noting that so far, Kotchman has notched a .963 OPS to Beltre's .668 OPS. However, Speier does hasten to add how early in the season it is. Before a recent 4-for-7 streak, Kotchman's OPS was just .717.
- Theo Epstein has no excuses for the start, saying, "It's just what it is. It's been bad baseball. We haven't played well. There are no excuses for how we've played."
- With the addition of Darnell McDonald for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury, however, moves will be trickier. McDonald puts the Red Sox 40-man roster at 40.
- And things may get worse before they get better: Mike Cameron, also on the DL with an abdominal strain, didn't rule out surgery to correct the problem.
- FoxSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi piles on, saying that the White Sox have "a better chance at a rapid turnaround" than the Red Sox do.
- In a minor league move, the Red Sox traded Andrew Dobies, a Double-A pitcher, to the White Sox for a player to be named later or cash.
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.
With hearings set to begin, expect more arbitration settlements...
- The Mariners reached an agreement with first baseman Casey Kotchman, reports MLB.com's Jim Street. Larry Stone of The Seattle Times tweets that he will be paid just over $3.5MM in 2010, which is exactly the midpoint of the two filing figures.
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.
- AdamAdkins.net 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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The Mariners officially acquired first baseman Casey Kotchman from the Red Sox for Bill Hall, a player to be named later, and cash. Jason A. Churchill of Prospect Insider says the PTBNL will be a minor league catcher. Churchill's colleague Chris Crawford first broke news of the Kotchman trade on Tuesday, with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeting the Hall element later.
WEEI's Alex Speier explained that this trade was closely linked to Boston's Adrian Beltre signing, and allowed the Red Sox to add Beltre without raising their luxury tax payroll much. The Mariners, meanwhile, have their regular first baseman and Russell Branyan replacement in Kotchman. In recent years Kotchman's defense has been strong, his offense subpar. He's arbitration-eligible this winter and figures to earn more than $3MM in 2010.