Cliff Lee Rumors
Six players signed deals worth $100MM or more last offseason and they've now completed one year since finalizing their respective deals. Here's a look at how baseball's newest $100MM players fared in 2011 (in order of contract value):
- Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, ten-year, $157.75MM extension - This deal, which was somewhat unexpected last offseason, is going as well as the Rockies could hope. Tulowitzki put together another tremendous season: .302/.372/.544 with 30 home runs at shortstop.
- Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, seven-year, $154MM extension - Gonzalez led the American League in hits and nearly won the batting title in his return to the Junior Circuit. He posted a .338/.410/.548 line and hit 27 homers on his way to an MVP-caliber season. His seven-year extension officially kicks in next season, though.
- Carl Crawford, Red Sox, seven-year, $142MM contract - Crawford posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage, saw his stolen base total drop by 29 and hit fewer home runs, triples and doubles than he did during his final season in Tampa Bay. The Red Sox still owe him $128MM, so they have to find a way to turn their left fielder's career around.
- Jayson Werth, Nationals, seven-year, $126MM contract - Though Werth doesn't like the idea that 2011 was a lost season for him and the Nationals, there's no denying that his numbers fell off. He had a .232/.330/.389 line with 20 homers and 19 stolen bases.
- Cliff Lee, Phillies, five-year, $120MM contract - We knew Lee was good, but it would not have been fair to expect this kind of year: he posted a 2.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 232 2/3 innings.
- Ryan Braun, Brewers, five-year, $105MM extension - Braun could win the MVP after leading the league in slugging percentage (.597) and OPS (.994). He hit 33 homers and stole 33 bases, posted a career-high .397 on-base percentage and made his fourth consecutive All-Star team.
Crawford and Werth were sources of excitement for their respective teams when they signed free agent contracts and the outfielders have since become sources of concern. The other position players - Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Braun - have turned in MVP-caliber seasons, while Lee should be a top-three finisher in this year's NL Cy Young balloting.
Some links pertaining to baseball's Eastern divisions for your Sunday evening reading:
- Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun wonders if the reason we've yet to hear anything regarding Thursday's summit involving Orioles owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is because Angelos has convinced MacPhail to stay with the club in an advisory capacity. MacPhail will give up his current title, but Schmuck believes Angelos would give him any title he desired short of co-owner to keep him around.
- Steve Melewski of MASNsports believes Buck Showalter should remain the manager of the Orioles, not take over the position of GM. That said however, Showalter needs to work closely with the new GM to honestly evaluate the organization on all levels to turn the franchise around.
- Rays manager Joe Maddon endorses his bench coach Davey Martinez wholeheartedly for the White Sox managerial opening, and told Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune that he'd "do somersaults" if Martinez got the job, despite how difficult he'd be to replace.
- It's probably implied by the five-year deal he's seeking, but Jimmy Rollins won't be offering the Phillies a hometown discount, according to this MLB.com report from Todd Zolecki, Brian McTaggart, and Nate Mink.
- Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes that Cliff Lee is one of the most popular athletes in recent Philadelphia history, and spoke with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the $120MM man himself about his decision to return to the Phillies last offseason.
- The Miami Sun Sentinel's Juan C. Rodriguez questions whether pitching for Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins and getting away from Chicago would make Carlos Zambrano a better citizen. While Zambrano could change in Miami, Rodriguez points out his declining K/9 and increasing WHIP as red flags that need to be considered along with his character.
The Phillies suffered their first sweep since August 2010 on Thursday night, but they got good news regarding the long-term outlook of one of their starting pitchers. More on that in this late-night grab bag of links ...
- Phillies righty Roy Oswalt's agent, Bob Garber, said that the 33-year-old is no longer considering retiring after this season, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Oswalt and the Phils have a $16MM mutual option for 2012, although Zolecki writes that it's unlikely the Phils will exercise their end of that deal. The Phils could bring back Oswalt on a lesser deal, however. In February, Oswalt, who has dealt with back injuries in recent years, said, "I'm going to play this year and see how it goes."
- Diamondbacks senior vice president of scouting and development Jerry Dipoto has played an integral role in Arizona's resurgence this year, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Snakes' former interim GM remained with the organization last offseason, even though he was a candidate for the full-time GM job and didn't get it. Dipoto was interviewed recently by Tim Dierkes as part of MLBTR's GM Candidates series, so be sure to check that out.
- Teams are moving closer to monitoring their players' physical conditioning year-round, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, although the players' union likely won't care for it. Some executives are growing increasingly frustrated by players who report to Spring Training out of shape or let themselves go during the season, according to Olney.
The Phillies shut out the Giants last night behind a complete game from Cliff Lee in a game that many consider a possible playoff preview. Here's the latest on the Phillies, who have the best record in baseball at 71-39...
- GM Ruben Amaro Jr.'s decision to add Lee to an already impressive rotation has "played out to perfection" so far, Jon Paul Morosi writes at FOX Sports.com.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looks back at the season John Mayberry Jr. has had and points out that the outfielder will be out of minor league options next year. That means the Phillies will have to expose him to other teams if they decide to demote him to the minors in 2012.
- As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer explains, Ben Francisco could be optioned to the minors this weekend.
- We heard earlier this morning that the Phillies hope to re-sign Jimmy Rollins this offseason.
The Mets lost to Albert Pujols and the Cardinals today and the Yankees will take on the Rays later tonight. Here's the latest news regarding MLB's two New York teams...
- The Yankees have some interest in Jeremy Guthrie according to SI.com's Jon Heyman (on Twitter), but they know Orioles' owner Peter Angelos will not trade with them.
- The Mets may have decided to keep him, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the Reds and Diamondbacks still have interest in Isringhausen (Twitter link).
- An American League contender called the Mets about R.A. Dickey and heard that the knuckleballer isn't going anywhere, according to Peter Gammons of MLB Network (on Twitter).
- The Mets have apparently decided to keep Jason Isringhausen, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- Even though Isringhausen would prefer not to be traded, he told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he has "unfinished business" in St. Louis. Cardinals sources tell Goold that they wouldn't rule out a reunion with Isringhausen at some point. The 38-year-old spent seven years with the Cardinals, saving 217 games.
- Freddy Garcia told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he hopes to continue pitching for the Yankees, though he understands he may get bumped from the rotation if New York makes a trade.
- Newsday's Ken Davidoff dares to wonder if Garcia and Bartolo Colon can keep pitching this well into October.
How's this for a fun defensive alignment? Adrian Gonzalez will play right field for Boston tonight while David Ortiz plays first base. Here's the latest on the Red Sox from WEEI.com as we wait for Terry Francona's heavily-scrutinized defenders to take the field...
- The pitcher who defeated Boston last night, Phillies lefty Cliff Lee, told Kirk Minihane of WEEI.com that the Red Sox had "nonexistent" interest in him last offseason. "I think they were satisfied with their pitching, they weren't looking for pitching," Lee said. "Nothing with any substance to it, they were never serious."
- MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons reported yesterday that the Red Sox don't have financial flexibility and he explained Boston's predicament in further detail today on WEEI's Mut & Merloni Show. "They’re not getting Carlos Beltran," Gammons said. "They’re not getting Michael Cuddyer." Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com has highlights of Gammons' conversation.
- Kevin Millwood, who recently decided not to opt out of his minor league contract with the Red Sox, tells Sam Dykstra of WEEI.com that he'd consider it "a great opportunity" to join Boston's big league team.
Every year a few select players join baseball’s exclusive $100MM club with free agent deals and mega-extensions. Last offseason was no different - we saw six players sign nine figure deals. The contracts were all for five years or more, so it’s far too early to call them successes or failures. But as the season approaches its halfway point, let’s check in on baseball’s newest $100MM players:
- Troy Tulowitzki, ten-year, $157.75MM extension - Tulo has slowed down after a scorching start, but he's still having an excellent season. His .274/.339/.491 line and 13 homers look especially good when you consider that he's a good defensive shortstop.
- Adrian Gonzalez, seven-year, $154MM extension - Red Sox fans dreamed of a season like this when Theo Epstein acquired Gonzalez from the Padres in December. The first baseman is a leading MVP candidate with a .350/.403/.603 line and 15 home runs.
- Carl Crawford, seven-year, $142MM contract - Crawford was heating up before he hit the disabled list, but his numbers are poor overall. He has a .243/.275/.384 batting line, just 8 stolen bases and his lowest walk rate (3.2%) since 2002, his rookie season.
- Jayson Werth, seven-year, $126MM contract - Werth is hitting just .233/.334/.409, though he has 10 home runs. Nationals fans may be consoled by the fact that Werth erupted in the second half last year and has traditionally produced better after the All-Star break.
- Cliff Lee, five-year, $120MM contract - The prize of the offseason free agent market, Lee has a 3.12 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 104 innings. The lefty is in the midst of another fantastic season and this time he doesn't have to worry about being traded.
- Ryan Braun, five-year, $105MM extension - Braun is having a monster year. He has a .310/.397/.555 line with 15 homers and a career-best 12.1% walk rate for the first-place Brewers.
It's fair to expect Werth and Crawford to turn their seasons around and produce as they did before signing nine figure free agent contracts. The other four additions to the $100MM club are justifying the deals, at least to the extent that it's possible in less than three months.
Happy birthday to Matt Wieters! The Orioles catcher turned 25 today, and he celebrated with a 2-for-4 performance in Baltimore's 8-3 win over Washington.
Here's some news from around the majors....
- The Rangers' offseason courtship of Cliff Lee is recapped by Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. Lee was brilliant against his former team today, holding the Rangers to just five hits and two walks over eight shutout innings in a 2-0 Philadelphia victory.
- The Mariners don't have any room, or particular need, for Russell Branyan, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Branyan was released by the Diamondbacks earlier today.
- The Orioles activated Alfredo Simon from the restricted list a day earlier than expected and he was available to pitch today against the Nationals, reports Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
- Terry Francona was Jim Hendry's choice to manage the Cubs had Dusty Baker not taken the job before the 2003 season, reports Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. Francona was also a finalist to manage the White Sox (along with Cito Gaston) before Ozzie Guillen was hired.
- Jamey Newberg of The Newberg Report looks at the Rays' cheap, effective bullpen revamp from this past offseason as an example of how the Rangers should approach improving their relief corps.
Another round of interleague play begins tonight, so let’s take a look at some players who switched leagues last winter and are off to hot starts in 2011. Here are a few of the players thriving in new leagues - and what it cost to acquire them:
- Cliff Lee - It cost $120MM in guaranteed money and a first round pick for the Phillies to reacquire Lee. He has a 3.84 ERA with a 68K/13BB ratio through 58 2/3 innings.
- Adam Dunn - After a slow start, Dunn has been hitting like his usual self this month and now has a .203/.321/.368 line. He cost the White Sox $56MM and the 23rd overall selection in this year's draft.
- J.J. Putz - Putz, one of many relievers to sign multiyear deals last winter, is living up to Arizona's $10MM investment. He has a 2.12 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 through 17 innings of work.
- Lance Berkman - Berkman wasn't out of the National League for long and he must be happy he's back. Though currently sidelined, the 35-year-old has a .349/.455/.683 line and is among the league leaders in many offensive categories. Well worth the Cards’ $8MM investment.
- Russell Martin - Easily one of the offseason's best bargains, Martin has a .268/.371/.480 line. Not only did he cost just $4MM, he's under team control in 2012.
- Jeff Francis - Francis has a 4.83 ERA with a 27K/10BB ratio through 54 innings and he cost just $2MM.
- Adrian Gonzalez - Gonzalez has a .314/.370/.560 line back in the American League, but he didn’t come cheap. The Padres obtained top pitching prospect Casey Kelly, former first rounder Reymond Fuentes and Anthony Rizzo, who is tearing through the Pacific Coast League. Rizzo has a .371/.443/.702 line through 174 plate appearances and it won't be long before he's making an impact at Petco Park.
- Shaun Marcum - Marcum is pitching better than ever for the Brewers and the Blue Jays are no doubt pleased with what 21-year-old Brett Lawrie’s doing to Triple-A pitching. The #40 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America, Lawrie has a .335/.395/.607 line with nine homers and as many steals.
- Matt Garza - Garza leads the National League with 11.0 K/9 and has a 3.72 ERA through 55 2/3 innings, though it took Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to acquire him. We've all heard about Fuld’s hot start and Guyer homered in his first MLB game.
Craig Breslow has a 3.02 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 through 146 innings with the Athletics. It was on this date two years ago that the A's claimed the left-hander off of waivers from the Twins. Here's the latest on the A's and their division...
- Tyson Ross is injured and Dallas Braden is out for most or all of the season, so the A’s could use rotation help. Assistant GM David Forst told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that the A’s are likely to fill the void in their rotation internally. "I don't know a lot of teams that'll give away starting pitchers this time of year," Forst said.
- As much as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports likes Cliff Lee, he thinks the Rangers are better off long-term without the left-hander. GM Jon Daniels tells Rosenthal that the Rangers still have depth, though they weren't happy to miss out on Lee last winter.
- The Rangers are interested in high school left-hander Andrew Faulkner for the MLB draft, MLBTR has learned. The 6’4” southpaw has an 88-92 mph fastball and a commitment to the University of South Carolina.